New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels addresses the media during his press conference on Thursday, October 9, 2008.
Q: Do you think Sunday's performance is something that you can build off of?
JM: Definitely. We made some strides from the Bye Week. We worked on some things that we put a lot of attention towards during the Bye Week. We had some progress in those areas in the red zone and we ran the ball more effectively. We worked on some things in the passing game that showed up on Sunday. Anytime you have a chance to work on things where you don't have a certain opponent to prepare for, like we did in the Bye Week, it gives you a chance to really focus on yourself. I think we made some strides as an offense and I think we will build on that this week.
Q: Do you like how the committee approach running game is going so far?
JM: Yes. We have confidence in all of our backs. We never go into a game with a certain amount of carries for any one of them specifically. We feel good when they're all in there. Some things like Kevin [Faulk's] production in the red area last week, I am not sure anyone could have predicted that. That's the way the game went and the style the game ended up playing out as. Kevin was there to do what we asked of him. But all the backs, we feel good when they are in the game whether it is a passing situation or running situation. We feel good when we give them the ball and expect them to do their job.
Q: Laurence Maroney seemed a bit tentative in Sunday's game. Is that attributed to his shoulder injury?
JM: I think there were some situations in the game where there wasn't much there on a few plays and then there were some other plays, not just singling out Laurence, that there was more yards - there is always that in the running game. When you carry the ball 44 times there is going to be plays where there is more yards than you gained and there is going to be other plays where maybe you didn't gain as much as you blocked it for. I didn't really notice much difference. He practiced yesterday. He practiced fine. The backs are all running the ball well and we expect that to go forward.
Q: How much in-game instruction does Laurence Maroney get on the sideline when he comes off the field?
JM: Hopefully he is getting a lot of instruction on every play. We look at the pictures to see how it was blocked or where the cut or hole might have been, or how they are playing a certain technique on defense and try to coach our guys on every play. Some of that was directed toward Laurence. I know I was coaching my butt off in certain areas to other players. We all get instruction. All the players get instruction and hopefully we can go back out there and if we see the same look again, we can make that correction that we tried to do on the sidelines and make it work better.
Q: Matt Cassel said he does what the coaching staff tells him to do in terms of deep passing routes or not deep passing routes. Was it in the game plan to throw more deep passing routes last game?
JM: Every week we try to attack all three levels. Some weeks we end up throwing more down the field than others but that's a product of the defense. If the defense gives us the opportunity to attack that third level down the field, than that's what we would instruct our quarterbacks to do every week, not just last week. They gave us a few opportunities to go ahead and attack down the field and try to gain significant yardage or create field position for our offense. He is coached to try and take the big play if they give it to you and if not you have to find someone at the second level or use the backs at the check down. We always try to have enough of those in the game plan. It just so happened that last week we had a few of them.
Q: The 66-yarder to Randy Moss - you said Matt Cassel is coached to take what's there, Randy was double covered, was that a case of a calculated risk?
JM: It really wasn't a double coverage. It was a blitz zone situation and Matt did a really good job of stepping away from were it came from on his backside. The safety happened to not get as much depth as I'm sure they probably would have liked, Randy ran a really good route and Matt saw him at the right time. He felt like the safety wouldn't get over the top in time and he made a great throw and Randy ran underneath it. We expect plenty of double coverage on our outside wide receivers because we see that off and on over the course of the year. I am sure they were coached to be a little deeper on the route than maybe they were and we were fortunate that we got behind them. Cassel saw that, made a good read and a great throw.
Q: From a coaching standpoint how has this week been - everything from breaking down film on Sunday's game, meetings, and practices from your perspective?
JM: We are trying to keep it as much the same as we can. There is a little difference in terms of traveling to and from practice and the meetings situation but our meeting time is the same, our meetings start and end at the same time. The players have been in good spirits as far as the film, being there and not having to go from here back to the east coast. I think it's been good. We have a really good set up here and it's been a smooth transition for us.
Q: San Diego defensively without Shawne Merriman, what's different this year?
JM: The style of defense is the same and they have good players that have stepped in for him - [Marques] Harris and [Jyles] Tucker have both done a good job and both have sacks. They both rush the passer similar, not the exact same, to Merriman. Their attack is pretty consistent. You've got [Shaun] Phillips who is a good pass rusher and a really good front seven that is strong against the run. Their secondary - they have some experienced players there and they have some talented corners. The style and defense that we see from them - it's almost like you are playing a division opponent - we've played them so many times in the last couple years so we are familiar with them. They play physical. They play aggressive and they try to get after you. That really hasn't changed without him in there. Obviously he's a great player and anytime you lose a guy like that there is a little bit of a drop off but those guys that have filled in for him have done a great job this year.
Q: Do you take some of the reins off Matt Cassel on Sunday - did he have more freedom to take some chances?
JM: He's getting better every week. We try to do every single week what we think our players are capable of doing. He did a really good job in the running game. We ran the ball a tremendous amount of times and he got us in the right play every time. We used some 'check-with-me's' and he handled those exactly the way we would have wanted him to. He's getting better every week and with that game experience and play experience he's gaining on a weekly basis, I think that he is growing and maturing. With that comes with a little more here and there. He's handled a significant portion of our offense for a number of years now. He's capable of doing it. We feel comfortable with him doing it and he can run it and execute it well - that's what we expect him to do.
Q: Would you like to see the sack numbers go down?
JM: Yes. I think there are different reasons for that. It's not all one thing or the other. Obviously we don't want sacks and we really don't want hem in the red area where we had them last week. It's a combination of blocking them long enough, reading it quick and getting it out to the people who can catch and run. You definitely don't want to have four or five sacks in a game and we would like to cut down on that.
Q: Is that an area where Matt Cassel doesn't have a lot of experience compared to Tom Brady - with adjustments at the line?
JM: It's really not an adjustment at the line thing. I think it's a comfortability with sliding in the pocket one way or another while keeping your eyes down the field and finding the next receiver sometimes in the progression. Or, there are certain plays when you have to know the journey is over; you have to take off and run or throw it away in some instances. Again, it's a team thing. The quarterback certainly plays a part of it. The protection certainly plays a part of it and a lot of times the routes are an important part of sacks - you have to be open for someone to throw it to you. There has to be cohesiveness that has to go on to eliminate sacks and cut those down. We are really working hard to try and do that.
Q: Can you comment on Antonio Cromartie?
JM: He's an extremely talented player. He has great length and great speed. If you are sloppy with the ball around Cromartie than he's probably going to have it. We have to do a good job of understanding where he's at and how he's going to play in different coverages. He's one of the premiere corners of the league, obviously we saw that production from him last year and he's playing at a high level right now, as is [Quentin] Jammer. They have two of the best corners that we are going to see on the same field that we'll probably play all year. Both of them are playing at a high level. Cromartie has picked up where he left off last year and we definitely have to be aware of him and alert to where he is because like I said, if your not then he'll have the ball. .