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Josh McDaniels Conference Call Transcript: Vikings have good players at all levels of the defense

Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, September 9, 2014.

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Q: ** What challenges does the Minnesota defense pose?

JM: All of Mike Zimmer's defenses that I've had an opportunity to go against are well coached, they are disciplined within their scheme, they play very fast and aggressive and they rarely make a mistake and give up many opportunities to create big plays, which forces an offense to do a good job of being disciplined and driving the ball. You're going to have to convert some third downs, and I think this is one of the best third-down schemes and groups that you're going to see. They rush the passer well. Their front is very active and aggressive. They have a really good blitz package that is challenging. Like I said, they've got good players at all three levels of the defense that are active and make a lot of plays. You can tell they're playing with confidence, they're playing fast. They played really well against St. Louis this past week, and this will be the first home week, so you've got to add that in there too because I'm sure there will be plenty of noise.

Q: From a fan's perspective who doesn't know the nuances of the game and only saw Tom Brady getting pressured on Sunday, what went wrong, and how can it be corrected?

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Team photographer, Keith Nordstrom, offers his best photos from the Patriots game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, September 7, 2014.

JM: ** I don't think there was one thing in particular. I think you have to do a good job of being technically sound in terms of your protection to avoid pressure on the passer, obviously. Give credit to Miami; they deserve it. They did a good job, not only with their personnel and what they did in their rush schemes, but just the effort they played with. I thought we had definite stretches where we did a good job, and then there was certainly an element of the game in the second half that we'd love to stay away from, which is we're not looking to go into any game and throw the ball 50-plus times. We've got to do a better job in general, coaching, playing, managing the game and putting ourselves in better positions than what we did in the second half because we didn't do much of anything to help ourselves.

Q: Bill Belichick said after the game that the plan was to play all of the offensive linemen. Is that the plan going forward, or will you narrow the rotation?

JM: I think each week will be different. We'll look at the personnel situation that we have and the health of our team obviously would affect that, and just what we feel like is the best thing for us going forward. Certainly on opening day down in Miami, it was hot. I believe every offensive player for us contributed offensively, and obviously a lot of those guys had to play in the kicking game, too. I think that will be a week-to-week thing and we'll try to make the best decision that hopefully gives us a chance to play well on Sunday.

Q: What were your observations on what Rob Gronkowski was able to give you?

JM: It was good to have Rob out there. He did some things that certainly helped us and probably some things that he hadn't done in game action in a little while. That was good to get out there and do some things in the running game. He was in in pass protection some and then released into a pattern as well. [There were] just a lot of things to build on, hopefully, for Rob. It was a limited number of snaps, and I thought he tried to do his job out there as best as he could. Hopefully, it's just something for us to build on going forward.

Q: What is the most impressive trait in Matt Cassel that has allowed him to become a starting quarterback for two teams after leaving New England?

JM: Matt has a lot of good qualities. He worked extremely hard when he was here and was patient but didn't change the way he prepared each week, each offseason, each OTAs and each training camp. I'm sure that hasn't changed. If you play quarterback in this league, it's going to require a lot of preparation, time, and he definitely had that. He's a bright kid, very talented, and it doesn't surprise me that he has gone on and had a career in two other places and done a nice job.

Q: Tom Brady put the blame on himself for the offense's performance on Sunday, saying he needed to get rid of the ball more quickly. What did you think of his play?

JM: I think Tom did some good things. Whenever you don't play a full good 60 minutes in the league against any team, especially a good one on the road, it usually means there is a lot of responsibility to be shared for why it didn't go the right way. Definitely all of us can do a better job, starting with me. We've got to do a good job of playing the game the right way and having control of the game, which we did for a good stretch in the beginning of the game in the first half. And certainly in the second half, that's not the way we want to play the game or any game. There is a lot all of us can do better. Our focus is going to be on improving and trying to be a better football team this week than we were last week. We have a lot of film and things that we can correct from the Miami game and a very difficult preparation in Minnesota, a good team that's very well coached to get ready for. Our full attention will be on those things, and hopefully we'll make progress this week.

Q: Julian Edelman had a great first half, but he did nothing in the second half. How come that happened?

JM: Any time a player has a productive stretch – I'd say maybe a very productive stretch in a game – certainly there are elements on the other side that they may change to force the ball to go to other places. We've dealt with that before with different players, whether it had been [Rob] Gronkowski or our slot receiver or whoever it may have been. So, I think sometimes where the ball needs to go based on the plays that are being called and the routes that are being run forces the ball to go some other places. And I think we had some opportunities that we didn't quite connect on in the second half too where Julian was in the pattern and certainly involved in the play and we just didn't quite get it to him or went somewhere else on the play. We don't necessarily go into a game saying, 'We have to get this one guy the ball or these two guys the ball.' We try to do the best thing based on what the defense does. We have a quarterback who does a great job of that. Hopefully we can continue to give him a lot of options and be productive as we go forward.

Q: Mike Zimmer's defensive scheme is similar to the one you faced last week. Is it a positive that you guys just recently played against a similar scheme, or is it a negative because the scheme presents some matchup problems for you?

JM: Like I said before with Coach Zimmer, he's a really good defensive football coach and obviously he's on his way to being a really good head coach. He always does a great job of having his group prepared. They don't make a lot of mistakes, which I think is a hallmark of any good defense. They don't give up a lot of big plays, they apply pressure to the passer, it's not an easy group to run the ball against in terms of the front seven and at times, eight, with Harrison Smith down there. It's just a matter of getting prepared. It's not a team that's going to trick you a whole lot. You have to be able to execute and be disciplined. You can't do it for one stretch and then stop and think you've done enough. You have to continue to do a good job of being precise with the details and staying in control of the game by doing a good job of staying ahead of down and distance and taking care of the football. They've certainly got a lot of players and a lot of different things they can do to try to disrupt you offensively. We have to focus on improving our own game. It is similar in a way to what we faced last week but it is not the same entirely. There's obviously a totally a different group of players that we don't really know that well that we have to do a great job of studying and getting a great handle on this week before we get up there on Sunday.

Q: How do you see Tim Wright's role evolving now that it's been a couple weeks? How does he look in terms of the scheme?

JM: Tim is a bright guy. He's done a good job of picking up our stuff and played a considerable number of snaps the other day in the game. We're looking at the people we have available and active for the game and we'll try to match it up based on what the defense does to give ourselves the best opportunity to move the ball and make first downs and score points. Tim has done a good job so far of acclimating to our system and fits in well with our team and is an unselfish guy. Hopefully we can, like with all of our guys, is take steps forward this week, improve, really focus on getting better at our own game and our own offense and our execution and at the same time really do a great job of preparing for a difficult defense that we don't know very well on the road in a second straight away game here.

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