Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, September 29, 2009.
Q: What's been the key to being more productive on third down this year? Last year you were 26th in the league. This year is significantly better. What have you done to improve that?
DP: Just playing the plays better. I don't necessarily think it's a lot of different scheme things. It's just playing better than what we did last year. Whether it's changing the call, whether it's not changing the call, guys just seem to be doing a better job playing the plays and understand what we want out of it. So far, in certain situations, we got the job done. We have been significantly better in third down situations this year, but we can be even better than what we are.
Q: When you sign a guy like [Terdell] Sands who is 6'7", 315 lbs. or whatever he is, do you have to release two players to make room for him?
DP: Because of his size? Is that what you're saying? I don't know. You'd have to ask Bill [Belichick] about that one. He's a big man, I know that. I saw him in the hallway the other day. I didn't actually see him; I saw this shadow going down the hallway.
Q: What do you see from this Ravens offense?
DP: Very explosive- Cam's [Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron] always been a guy that's had a lot of schemes and a lot of plays and a lot of variations. Whether it be personnel, formations, motion, unbalanced lines...whatever it might be. The whole group - the quarterback [Joe] Flacco's playing well, seeing the field and making good decisions. [Mark] Clayton and [Derrick] Mason have been around awhile. Derrick made a big play last week - a 72-yarder for a touchdown. He's just a very explosive player. [Todd] Heap's one of the best tight ends in the league. These running backs can all play - [Willis] McGahee, [Ray] Rice, [Le'Ron] McClain played tailback last year and had a bunch of yardage. I can't remember eight or nine hundred yards playing tailback and he's a fullback. So, the biggest thing is that they can all catch the ball and run. They're good up front on the offensive line and they're very very impressive and very explosive.
Q: How proud were you with the job the defense did on [Tony] Gonzalez?
DP: I am proud of them - all of the guys - because it not only takes guys covering him [Tony Gonzalez], but also pressuring the quarterback or it takes guys being able to play other positions. If you do something for one player, you have to be able to hold up another player. It's not only that, it's always a team effort, always a whole defensive effort. So I was proud of a lot of guys. Obviously, he was a big concern as were other guys. You're always pleased when you're able to take something away and we did - for the most part - we did.
Q: Did it shock you when you heard [Jonathan] Wilhite would not be able to play?
DP: Everything always comes as a surprise when you find out somebody's not playing. Whether guys go workout before the game then find out they can't go. But you're also ready for it because it happens all the time. You always have contingency plans. It's one of the things you work on during the week. It's one of the reasons why we talked about players knowing so many different positions so you don't get stuck in a situation where you say, "Jeez, what are we going to do now?" Somebody else has to step in and do it. The players try to be flexible and try to know enough positions that you make some adjustments. You move this guy here, you move that guy there, you move a guy up - whatever you need to do to make the whole defense work. Sometimes you even have to change scheme if you lose a certain guy, but that's one of the things you are always going to deal with every week.
Q: Does the same go for preparing whether or not you'll have [Vince] Wilfork?
DP: Somebody has to step up. Somebody has to play. I don't know that there have been many games when you can say, "We have everybody this week and we're ready to go." You're always making a plan for what happens. Even if everybody is ready to go, you still have to have a plan for it in the game. What if you lose this guy or what if you lose that guy? Does it change the scheme? Do we have a guy that can step up and move into that spot and we don't have to change anything? You always have a contingency plan based on personnel. It may involve scheme. It may not involve scheme. Most of the time, it is just depending on a player to step up and take over that other guy's job.
Q: What kind of growth or development have you seen in Joe Flacco from last year to this year?
DP: I think anytime you look at any player from any position - usually from their rookie year to the next - you see them doing more things. On offense, where they might have not done as much with him last year because he was a rookie, so they don't put him in certain situations. I think he's got pretty much control of the offense. They can do whatever they really want to do with him. He's their quarterback. I think he's doing everything they ask him to do. He's doing all those things better that a quarterback does on offense.
Q: When they switch running backs, do you see a difference in plays they run depending on who is back there? Or is it same plays, different style?
DP: I think it's both. Just like any good offense they're going to design plays that suit a certain player better. But at the same time, they're not going to go so far out of their scheme and out of their play-calling. It's not going to be a whole new package. Every running back is different. Some guys like to bounce the ball outside and get the edge. Some guys like to run downhill with power. Some guys are cutback runners. Some guys are jump cutters. They may run the exact same play and it may not look at all the same because of two different backs and the two different styles. In San Diego for example, you can have [LaDainian] Tomlinson run a play and [Darren] Sproles run a play. They can be the exact same play and not look anything alike because they're such different style of players. That's the same for any team and when they have a multitude of running backs that play...
Q: Did you ask Derrick Burgess to do anything different this week? He was out there standing up and we have not seen him standing up a lot.
DP: Again, we've asked him - like we've asked all our guys - to do certain jobs. Whether it be to stand up and play outside backer, whether it be a defensive end. We've had guys that are stand up outside linebackers that end up putting their hand in the dirt for certain downs. The more he's here, the more he feels comfortable with our system, the more he's able to do. We're just trying to utilize him in the best way we can.
Q: With the double coverage you put on Tony Gonzalez and defending Roddy White, did you feel vulnerable over the middle?
DP: I wouldn't necessarily say it was just those routes over the middle. When you're double-covering somebody, you're singling somebody else. You just have to do a good job to hold up there and the guy has to be made aware whether they have help and if they have help, where the help is. Sometimes that could be over the middle. Sometimes that could be to the outside. You never try to make it the same way all the time. So I wouldn't necessarily say that we left more of the middle open. I know we got hit on the one pass down there, but it wasn't necessarily because of a double coverage or anything.