Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 29, 2009.
Q: It seemed like the defense played with more energy. Did you notice that they brought a higher energy or sharpness to the game?
DP: Well, I think playing at home helps that some. Anytime you play at home it seems like you have a little bit more energy. I wish that wasn't always the case. I would say yeah, it appeared like it at times except for the start of the third quarter and the one drive in the fourth quarter. I didn't think we had too much energy, but overall I think we did. I think guys are kind of gaining some confidence back. I think they lost it a little bit there midway in the season. We had a couple rough goes at it and I think anytime that happens your confidence gets a little bit down, and I think once you start coming back and start having some success I think that confidence grows. And when that confidence grows, the energy grows and everybody kind of feeds off of it. But I also think that, as a team, the whole team knew what this game meant to all of us and so I think the whole team went out there with a lot of energy.
Q: Did you see it as any part of your job this season, when things weren't going well to try to restore some confidence? And if so, how did you do that?
DP: Well, I think you always do that. It's funny you mention that because when you watch the film, let's take the Saints game, for example, when you come in and you watch the film and I don't know, I'm just saying there's roughly 60-some plays in the game, there're really five plays that are absolutely horrendous and terrible. But there are 50-some other plays where maybe guys really didn't play all that bad. The film - you're never as good as you think you are when you get off the field, and you're probably never as bad as you are when you get done watching the film when you come off the field. So you come away from that Saints game and you're really down; you gave up a lot of points and yardage and we had too many miscommunications and missed assignments, which is typically not us. But there are also a bunch of plays in there when you take those five plays out - you can't take them out and you've got to correct them, but you've got to also substantiate the 50 plays that you did well. Just like in this last Jacksonville game, there are four or five plays in there that aren't very good, they just weren't horrendous plays that gave up 20-something points or a bunch of yardage. That was the difference. So when you watch the film when you come in on Monday, you're feeling real good, it's 35-7, but you probably didn't play maybe quite as well as you thought you did. Like I said, it's never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think, and it's up to us as coaches to always point out both sides of it, not only the negative, but, 'Hey, here're things that you're doing right. If you just do this, just correct this, we'll be fine.' And just keep pushing that.
Q: Is there one thing you can put your finger on as to why the pass rush has been more productive in the last three or four games? Is it individual performances? Is it something the team is doing collectively?
DP: I think it's a combination of several things. I think there're some things we've done schematically that have helped a little bit. The other thing that has helped a little bit is getting ahead and putting the team in a situation where they have to throw the ball and we know they have to throw the ball. The pass rush is usually never quite as good when the other team is either ahead or it's a very balanced game and you've got to play both the run and the pass. So I think it's a combination of a bunch of things. It's the way the games have kind of gone and I think it's some schematic things, and then I think, again, it's a little bit of a confidence [builder] once you match up and maybe you beat a guy one time. Then maybe you feel a little bit more confident the next time. And I think another thing is just doing the same things over and over all year [and] just improving. I just think each week you try to get a little better at doing the things that you do, that you started out fundamentally doing. We've still got some guys on this team that have been here for just their first year or so along with some veteran guys, and those guys are still learning too and developing and getting better.
Q: Can you share what improvements you guys have made schematically in the last couple of weeks?
DP: Oh, I just think putting guys in the best positions that they can be put in to succeed.
Q: Related to that, do you feel like you have the defense down and you're more confident in what works at this point in the season and what doesn't? It seems like you stuck with a lot of odd fronts - you had the three linemen inside with Myron Pryor, Jarvis Green and Mike Wright, and then you had the two guys on the outside. Do you kind of feel like schematically, you have down now what works and what doesn't?
DP: Well, you do for that game. Again, every week it's a little different. You know, like I said, we go into every week preparing and saying, 'Look, what are the things that you've got to stop on this team? What do they do best? How can we stop them? What's our best way to stop them?' You look at who you have available that week if there're injuries or whatever the case might be. 'Alright, where can we put this guy? What can he do best? How's the matchup?' [It's] the same way in coverage. 'Is this going to be a good matchup? Man? Zone? Two-deep? Three-deep? What's it going to be?' And I think you just try to put guys in the best position. I don't think we can sit here and say, 'This is what we're locked into. This is what we're going to do. This is definitely what we are.' It really depends on the team that you're playing and the guys that you have that week.
Q: You went through a transition into becoming a coordinator in the NFL a few years back. In light of that kind of transition going on on the offensive side of the ball this year, can you recall some things about your own transition and also whether having some experience doing that at the college level helped you?
DP: Obviously, I had been a coordinator at the college level for over 20 years and been a head coach at the college level, so that certainly helped me in the situation, at least on game day. I'd been in situations where I'd called defenses and had to make calls within a few seconds and all those situations that come up in the two-minute and things like that, where if you'd never been a coordinator, the first time around those things can get you pretty excited. So I think that was certainly helpful having that background coming here, and then the second thing was being able to be here for two years with Romeo [Crennel] and with Eric [Mangini] and just kind of seeing how the whole thing operated and how Bill [Belichick] operated and how things were done game day, but also during the week and the whole deal there. It wasn't like OK, I came out of college and all of a sudden I was named the coordinator here and boom, it's thrown at you. Again, the background from college would have been good, but it was so much better having been here and the transition for me I thought was easier because when Bill hired me, he made me the linebacker coach and I had all four linebackers, both outside and both inside, which means that you've got almost half of the defense that you're in charge of as a position coach, which means you're involved in both the passing game and the running game. You're involved in every aspect of it because those linebackers are. And so that really helps you - helped me - transition into the coordinator role.
Q: Are there subtle differences between doing that at the college level and at the pro level that you couldn't really prepare for?
DP: I suppose there are some, but there are a lot of similarities. I mean, there are some things at the college level that are actually harder than here, and there are things here that are harder than at the college level. The amount of things you see at this level and the types of players that you see and the speed and the - hey, they're professionals; they're the best of the best - all those things and the quarterback reads and all of that kind of stuff. It's really hard to really trick somebody at this level, where maybe at the college level you can trick a quarterback that's not very experienced. It's really a lot harder to do it at this level. At the same time, back to the college level, sometimes you're dealing with option football and Wishbone football one week and things like that, where you're not dealing with that in the NFL. It's different and it's the same. It's the same kind of on game day and the organizational part of it. It's just kind of different maybe [in] the approach of the teams that you're playing.
Q: When you look at a guy like Andre Johnson and the way he's been connecting with Matt Schaub, what's the biggest challenge and the best way to attack that?
DP: Well, he's a dynamic player and Schaub - this guy is really a good football player. We thought he was a really good football player when we played him a couple years ago in Atlanta. We thought he was outstanding. But Andre Johnson is special and I mean, this is a guy that you've got to devote a lot of attention to and you know, if you don't, he's going to get you. And so how we're going to necessarily do that, we'll have to wait and see here and see what we can do. He's special. There's no doubt about it. He's as dynamic a guy as we've seen all year. We think we've seen some darn good receivers all year, but he may be the best or at least among the best, that's for sure.
Q: You used to coach Josh Cribbs who is the only guy in the league who is leading the Pro Bowl fan voting at two different positions - kick returner and special teams. He's a guy you recruited and coached at Kent State University. Did you have any indication that this was going to happen with him at the NFL level, particularly since he was a quarterback when you had him?
DP: I don't think anybody could have - I don't think I could, in my right mind, say I thought this was going to happen, that he was going to be this good. Just kind of like James Harrison, too, who was at Kent. I didn't think he'd be the MVP of the NFL on defense. But at the same time, I knew they were both - especially Josh - was a special player. He was really special for us at quarterback, and I'm not sure he wasn't even a better defensive back than he was a quarterback if we would have wanted to play him there. The only reason I got him to Kent was because I promised him he could play quarterback and that's how I got him. But we knew if he had an opportunity, with his drive, not only his athletic talent, but his want to, his worth ethic and all of that stuff - that if somebody would give him an opportunity he would really do well. That he would do this well? I don't think anybody could have predicted that. It's just been phenomenal to watch him.
Q: Is part of it the kind of kid he is, because he seems like a real leader there?
DP: He's a great kid. He's got a great family. He's a great kid and he was a fun kid to recruit. He's honest, upfront, had a great high school coach. I mean, there's nothing I can say negative about Josh. He was a team leader. Some weeks we would do some things that maybe sacrificed him running the ball maybe as much as he really wanted to, but hey, whatever it took to win. What you see with Josh is what you get. He is really a remarkable kid.
Q: I know tackles are kind of like sacks in that they don't always tell the whole story about a performance, but Jerod Mayo had 15 or so against the Jaguars. Is this as good a game as he's played?
DP: It was probably one of his most productive games, I will say that. There were actually some times - I don't know if it was his best game; it was one of them and it was certainly a very productive game, which we needed from him. Whether or not it was his best, I don't know. He's had some other games where maybe he didn't have as much production, but maybe because of what he was doing or what we were doing with him, people were devoting more attention to him and letting somebody else get some more play or more tackles or whatever. We were very happy with the production and want to see that continue.