New England Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees addresses the media during his interview at Gillette Stadium on January 4, 2008.
Q: Can you talk about red zone defense? It had to be coming along and then it took maybe a step back in the last game.
DP: Oh, definitely a step back. We didn't do a very good job down there. We had a couple of individual breakdowns. I think overall, that's the way it's kind of been all year. It's been something [that was] one person, one place - but that's all it takes. I mean, that doesn't make it any better. We definitely have to get back on track. I thought we kind of had and then we just had some breakdowns in that game that we just shouldn't have had.
Q: Does it go to communication? I know the guys have said that communication is a really big part of…
DP: One of them did. One of them definitely went to communication. One of them was just poor technique. It was just bad technique on one particular play. On another one, it had to do with some communication. I think everybody got the call but one and that's all it takes. It only takes one play. Sometimes what happens down there - And I think on two of those, they were on third downs, so to say overall sometimes the red zone is not playing well isn't necessarily true. It is because it ends up being a score, but you stop them [on] first down, you stop them [on] second down and those were good plays, and then for whatever reason we have a breakdown on third. And that I really think, if we look back on the year, that's really been our nemesis, has really been third down in the red area.
Q: You mentioned technique. Have you been happy with the tackling in the last couple of games? Is that something that you guys have been working on yesterday and today, just really wrapping guys up?
DP: Right, I think - We see it a lot, I even watch it on film --It seems like it happens around the league and everybody kind of later in the year starts getting sloppier and sloppier, where you're working on it coming out of camp and all of that stuff so hard. We've certainly got to do a better job of that, and that's one of the things technique-wise, we just have to do a better job of wrapping up, especially against some of these backs we've been facing. If you don't wrap up [Brandon] Jacobs he's going to run over you. No matter who we face, they're going to have a good back, so we have to do a better job of that.
Q: So you still want to try to get your arms around a guy like Jacobs? I've seen a lot of people try to take him out at the knees, just to knock him down. That's not the way to go?
DP: Well, we had somebody try to take him out at the knees and he jumped over him, so that obviously doesn't work. When you tackle you have to wrap up, whether you tackle the legs, you tackle the guy high… You try to tackle different guys different ways. You try to know what their strengths are just like anything else and try to beat them at their weakness not at their strengths, but sometimes just cut-blocking doesn't get it done, which it didn't get it done with him. You have to wrap up when you're tackling.
Q: It looked like Ellis Hobbs had good coverage on Plaxico Burress on that bomb on the first series. Is there anything he could do differently there? I mean, Plaxico is 6'5" and he's 5'9".
DP: There was a little thing on technique, but see, I think sometimes - without getting into great detail - sometimes based on a coverage what you may end up seeing may be not the reality of what the coverage is. He should have had some help on that and he didn't get it. It's kind of like when you go back to the Steelers game and I know he was hit a little bit on the fact that [Najeh] Davenport caught that ball in the end zone. To be truthful, that wasn't even Ellis' coverage. He was close, trying to help somebody else, but he gets blamed for the coverage. So sometimes what you all may see from that stands or the media or from somebody else may not necessarily be what the breakdown was. Ellis had decent position on the thing, Obviously it could have been better if he'd knocked the ball down, but he should also have had based on the coverage that we had some help on that, so there was another factor there involved.
Q: So again, without being too specific, the fact that he was outside of him - That's generally where he was supposed to be and then the help would have…
DP: Would have been inside. Yeah.
Q: The last few weeks you've been employing a dime package with Randall Gay, Brandon Meriweather, Eugene Wilson, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samual and Ellis Hobbs. What have you been looking to accomplish with that group, because that's something a little bit different that we've seen coming in here the last few weeks.
DP: Really, it just goes from week to week trying to put the best people in the best positions. As you know throughout the year sometimes that's been dime, sometimes that's been nickel, sometimes that's been Rodney at the star position, sometimes Rodney inside as a linebacker. We've tried Meriweather, we've tried Gene [Wilson] - We really tried to use them all. It's not really something… It's mostly just based on how guys practice during the week and who we feel gives us the best chance to win with what we're trying to do that week. If some weeks we're trying to play a lot of man coverage, then we're going to try play the guy that plays the man coverage the best. If we're going to try to play a lot of zone coverage then we're going to try to play the guys that play zone coverage the best. So it may not always be the exact same guys in the same positions. Some weeks we want to pressure - Certainly you want to play the guys that can blitz the best, not some guy that can't blitz. It all just depends kind of on the game plan sometimes who plays.
Q: Can you give us a general idea of how Brandon Meriweather has fared?
DP: I think he's come along. He's worked hard throughout the year. I think he's progressed. He's got himself in a position where he's getting some playing time here as of late, so I just think he has progressed this year and he's playing certainly a lot better right now than he played earlier in the year. We're pleased with him, the way he's working, and he's learning all the time and getting better.
Q: I think it was the Eagles game when you mentioned that occasionally your downfield guys, your DB's were caught peaking in the backfield, assuming a sack, and then when it didn't happen they were a little bit out of position. Has that been an ongoing issue at all, in your mind?
DP: No, what's been an ongoing thing - What has happened a couple of times as of late - It happened during the Steelers game with the touchdown to Davenport and it happened in the two-minute situation with the Giants is that when the quarterback got outside of the pocket, we have had a tendency to cover the short guys and not the deeper guys. It's not necessarily we're taking our eyes off of somebody and maybe losing coverage - which is a problem if you're in man coverage, but in both of those instances we were in zone coverage. There was a short route open and there was a deep route open. The guy sees the guy in front of him flash in front of him. It's hard sometimes as a defensive back not to want to go take that guy, but you have to worry about the guy behind. For example, he hit the tight end, [Eli] Manning did, on that two-minute drill right before that half that ended up being a 20-yard gain when he scrambled out to his left. Well, if he'd run the ball it would have been an eight-yard gain. He threw it and it was a 25-yard gain and gave them a little bit of momentum into that two-minute drill on second down. That's what we have to guard against, is just doing a better job of staying back, understanding we're in a… We've got a potential bad play; don't make it worse. That's what we kind of try to preach to them, is that just sometimes even when a guy is running with the ball down the field, don't make a bad angle now and make a 20-yard gain a 50-yard gain. It's bad; don't make it worse. And we've done that a couple time and we have to guard against that.
Q: As a defensive coordinator, how different would it be playing a team that you've already faced in the first round of the playoffs verses maybe playing a team that you haven't played this year? Any differences in how you'll approach your job early in the week?
DP: No, not really, because you kind of try to look at - The only advantage is you have a bunch of games already broken down on them that you don't have to go back and break down, but you have to sit down and figure out if they're going to - what they've done since you last played them, have they changed, has the personnel changed. So, to me, when you play a team the second time you go in there almost like you're playing them for the first time. You have to look back at what they've done since you played them, have they won, have they lost, is the personnel different, are the formations different, are they using their personnel differently. You have to approach it differently. You try to think about, well now, we did this against them. How are they going to try to combat it? But sometimes you get into that [and] you end up changing a bunch of things that they haven't figured out how to fix them yet. You just treat it like it's a new game.
Q: So if you were to, say, play Pittsburgh, they don't have Willie Parker anymore. That would be a big difference in how you would approach them defensively.
DP: Well, maybe, but then again the offensive coordinator is the guy calling the plays, so he may still be calling the same running plays. Now the runner may be different but the plays may not be different, and you don't know that. They may use Davenport. The difference is, he may not be a bounce-out runner. He may be more of a downhill runner. Just like last week, if you had Jacobs and [Ahmad] Bradshaw. They're two different style runners, but the same guy is calling the plays so you have to do it based on what the offensive coordinator is doing and then know what the personnel is that you're playing.
Q: Now that Josh McDaniels is out of the picture, are you going to swoop in and get the Falcons job?
DP: I don't think that's going to be a priority. I don't think that's going to happen.