PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA
Q: How do you adjust when sideline communication doesn't work?
MP: I think Coach [Bill] Belichick hit the question pretty good. Just for my sake and for our preparation, we always try to assume that at some point during the game, because it usually comes up at some point during the game, we're going to have a lack of communication via the technology that's provided. So, you know, we're just ready to go with our old school methods trying to make sure that we can communicate to the players out on the field. We have a couple different ways that we can do that that we practice throughout the course of the offseason, training camp, during the week, and just make sure that we're prepared. So it's part of our weekly process. We're always ready for it because more times than not, it's usually going to come up during the game, like Coach said, whether we're home or away. We're always trying to make sure we're ready for that.
Q: Does it involve extra time on your part not only preparing to stop 2-point conversion attempts, but also to potentially score (defensively) on that play?
MP: Just in general with some of the changes in the rules taking place and some of the interpretations of things that happen on the field right now, defensively our mentality is always: if there is ever an opportunity where the ball is loose, or out on the ground, or whatever the case may be, we are going to try to get after it and then try to return it, try to score and score on defense and let them sort it out after the fact. We have the same mentality whether it's a two-point play or any particular play out there on the field. We're going to try to get the ball if it's over just lying on the ground. As far as the two-point play in general, we've got to prepare for it and certainly teams like Pittsburgh that's aggressive with that situation and they want to try to get those extra opportunities to score. We have to obviously plan and prepare for it. We play it and prepare for it every week because of these situations that have changed within the rules for it. It's certainly something that we've got to spend time on and see if there's anything that maybe they've done before, but also the two different philosophies that Coach [Bill Belichick] talked about - that we have to be prepared for something that we may have never seen before. Hopefully we can handle it on the field. [It's] certainly a big part of the game. It's a much bigger part of the game now that we have to be ready for. I would say in the past that it was more of a situational type of thing that might come up based on the score more towards the end of the game, whereas now it's actually happening at the start of the game.
Q: What are your impressions of Le'Veon Ball as an overall threat, both running the ball and catching the ball?
MP: I mean, I think their running back position with both [Le'Veon] Bell and [DeAngelo] Williams is really a very difficult tandem to handle. [Le'Veon] Bell is a very multiple player. He's extremely good in all down-and-distance situations. Very athletic, very quick in space, shifty, has real good moves to kind of get away from defenders whether it's guys trying to tackle him or guys trying to cover him. It's really the same situation. You can just see him out in space; he's a very good space player. As far as the run game, he is extremely patient with the reads. They do a real good job up front of covering guys up. They're extremely large from an offensive line standpoint. Big, long, tall guys that really just cover up defenders and they allow [Le'Veon] Bell and [DeAngelo] Williams to be able to sit back there and find some space. You know, hit it through the hole or bounce out outside and get really good yardage by the time the defenders get a chance to get off the blocks and find him. They've gained some substantial yardage there. Both of them I think are running extremely well right now in their offense. But like you said with [Le'Veon] Bell and [DeAngelo] Williams, both of them will catch the ball. [Le'Veon] Bell they'll put out there a little bit more as a receiver type and actually split him out of the formation and try to design the plays a little bit more to get him the ball when he's out there in space. But [DeAngelo] Williams does a great job when he gets the ball whether it's the shorter passing game or they have a designed route to get him the ball in the passing game. Both of them are extremely hard to tackle. They're both very quick; short space quickness and [they] have good speed. If they can get the ball out in space and put a defender in a one-on-one tackling situation, it usually turns out pretty well for them. I think that's what they're trying to do with them when they're in the passing game but like I said, the combination of the running game and the way those guys are running right now with the blocking of the offensive line, it's really, really difficult to kind of handle both of the scenarios.
PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: What have you seen from some of the key veteran players on the Pittsburgh defense, particularly Arthur Moats, Lawrence Timmons and William Gay?
JM: They certainly have - they have a good mixture of experience and then they have some younger guys that are very talented that are fitting in really well with their defense and the scheme that they've used for a long time. [Lawrence] Timmons has got a lot of experience, very versatile, has played in this system for upwards of 10 years now, and a good blitzer, good cover guy, gets them into the right set. They have some different things that they do based on the formation that he and the other linebackers are responsible for. [Arthur] Moats is a guy with a high motor. He's got good quickness and speed. They all play physical, the whole defense is physical. It has been for many years. Every time we play them, it's the same group. They're going to make everything tough. They're going to challenge your ability to pick up the blitz. They're difficult, stingy against the run. They tackle well; they don't give up a lot of big plays. You mentioned [William] Gay, also. Obviously, a tenured guy, played in the system a long time, understands their defensive scheme. He has really done a nice job over many years of fitting in to what they ask their corners to do; good tackler, baits the quarterback in some of their pressures, has created some takeaways and turnovers; gets his hands on the football in the secondary. This is, again, a really good group. It's always challenging to go there and play; one, because they're well-coached, they've got good players; they've got a good defense. It's a great atmosphere to play in and we're looking forward to really getting familiar with all these guys as we get going here tomorrow with the players.
Q: What has stood out to you about the start Tom Brady has been off to in his first two games of the season?
JM: I feel like Tom [Brady] has prepared hard, been very consistent with the way he's approached his individual preparation and the way that he's approached our game plan. He's worked hard in practice both weeks here and has continued to try to improve in different areas of his game, and also work with some of our players on different elements of our offense that we're trying to get better at and mesh during the course of these weeks that we've had him. It's just been a consistent approach. I think he's stayed within himself, he's played within the game plan, he's really tried to execute what we've asked him to do; read the defense, throw the ball to the open guy. It doesn't matter which person that is. Our guys are all capable of doing things with the ball and he's tried to distribute it correctly. He's done a nice job in the running game of managing his reasonability there as well, so just a consistent approach for him, trying to execute his job, which is really what we ask all of our players to do. Hopefully we can take another step forward this week, continue to improve in practice and use the three days that we have this week to be even better.
Q: What kind of a difference to guys like Cam Hayward and Ryan Shazier make, and how much have you seen the Pittsburgh defense evolve under Keith Butler in the last year-plus?
JM: Well, there's no question that [Cam] Hayward and Ryan [Shazier] are very good players. They've got a lot of guys we're going to have to keep track of. They have guys at all three levels of the defense that have been disruptive. Hayward is certainly one of their better players as a guy that's been consistent both in playing the run and getting after the quarterback. He understands their scheme, he plays it very well. [Ryan] Shazier has got great speed, he's very long, he gets his hands on balls in coverage. He's a very difficult guy to handle in blitz pickup because of his quickness and his speed. He's also powerful and he'll strike you, so those two guys, we're going to prepare hard for them. If they play, they play, but we're going to assume that they will. They've got a lot of other guys, like I said, at all three levels that we're going to have to get to know here and really be prepared for. Their scheme has been fairly consistent for multiple years. They do a great job of not beating themselves. They force takeaways; they create pressure on the quarterback with their blitz scheme. Coach [Keith] Butler has continued to spin that dial and it's very difficult to go there. You're going to deal with noise. You're going to have to stay on top of your assignment and what you're doing for four quarters, because not only do they have good players and they're well-coached, but they have a lot of different things that will really challenge us schematically. We're going to need a great week of preparation here to go there and really handle all the things that they do and try to play our game.
Q: How have you dealt with all the challenges your offense has faced through the beginning of this season and how exciting has it been to still have success despite those obstacles?
JM: I always enjoy what we do. We football coaches love to coach football. Our guys are great to work with. They come here and work hard to learn what we want them to learn this week. They put a lot of time and effort into it and do a great job of listening and also giving us information and communicating with us. It's a team effort and we really enjoy that environment and that atmosphere. It's really helpful for us to go out there and try to get better each week when we're doing it with guys that approach the game and practice and their preparation the way that our players do. We're fortunate to have that. Each week for us is the same - we take the variables that we're given and that we're playing with and look at the variables that we have to deal with on the other side of the ball against the opponent and try to come up with the right formula for us for our players to have success on Sunday. We won't change anything this week. We'll be excited again to get started on Pittsburgh tomorrow with the guys.