Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his conference call, on Tuesady, December 7, 2010.
Q: What do you think was the key to the offensive performance last night?
NC: Just the overall execution. I think in the first half we scored on the first four drives, and then we had the two three-and-outs before the end of the half. There were positive plays. We had some conversions that came up in some critical situations. The fourth down play was good execution by the players. The execution was good by the players. We minimized the number of negative plays that occurred, [and] took advantage of some plays - the pass interference to [Rob] Gronkowski down the sideline ended up being a big play as a part of the drive - and taking care of the football. Those were important. We were able to capitalize on some things in the first half. In the second half [we were] able to take advantage of the turnovers created by the defense and create points. We talk about playing complimentary football around here quite a bit and we were able to do that. I think the overall execution, minimizing the number of negative plays, and no turnovers ended up being positive for the offense for that game.
Q: Were Brandon Spikes' ball skills for a linebacker in college one of the things you liked about him?
NC: Brandon did a lot of things. He played the run well. They actually used him as a pass rusher in certain situations with some of their sub packages. He did a lot of things well. I think part of it goes back to his instincts. He reads the quarterback well and, for a linebacker, he was able to make a few catches on some interceptions. He's an instinctive player who was around the ball a lot. For the most part that's carried over and he's been able to make some positive plays for our defense.
Q: Can you talk about the effectiveness of the receiving corps in terms of yards after the catch?
NC: Yeah, sometimes those yards are some of the hidden yards that you don't see, but anytime you can gain more yards - maybe the play that lost four [yards] turned into a five-yard catch that turned into additional yards - those are the types of plays that can keep drives moving forward, [like] on a couple of Wes' [Welker] catches there in the red area even earlier in the game, just an additional two to three yards. And then the run after the catch, really, you have players that are good with the ball in space so you try to get them in space, but it also entails blocking down the field. On some of Danny's [Woodhead] plays there, Deion [Branch] threw a few key blocks. Brandon Tate had a key block on a run down the left sideline late in the game. I think it's a combination of things. It's a combination of players that are good with the ball in their hands, that are good in space. Then taking advantage of maybe some tackling or miss tackles in the secondary. Your teammates coming into play to chip in and give you a block. I think it's a combination of things, but anytime you can get additional yards after contact it certainly bodes well for the offense and at times can keep drives moving forward. I think it's come up in different points, even in the Minnesota game you go back, Woodhead made the catch on third down in a critical situation where he's able to gain extra yards. Those hidden yards end up factoring into the continuation of drives. It's certainly positive when you have more of those types of plays.
Q: Does that impact play calling and the ability to attack a team?
NC: I think you call the play - whatever the play is called - and the play unfolds and the quarterback reads it out. Once they have the ball in their hands then it's up to the player to see what he can do after the catch. There are some guys that can do that whether it's Aaron [Hernandez], whether it's Woody, whether it's Deion, whether it's Wes. Even Gronkowski. There's a different component to a guy like Gronkowski who you wouldn't associate with run after the catch, but he's a big guy who's hard to tackle and hard to bring down. It can come in a number of different shapes and forms, even in a running back [with] a guy like BenJarvus [Green-Ellis]. Get yards inside to gain maybe three or four additional yards after contact. A lot of that is the players and their skill level. We're going to call whatever plays we feel are best for that down and distance for that game. What the player does with the ball in their hand, then that's how it unfolds.
Q: Would it surprise you to know that the highest quarterback to receiver rating in the NFL is Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski?
NC: It's hard to overthrow the guy. He's 6'7, whatever he is, and has a large wingspan. It's kind of hard to miss him, so you can't throw it over him and Rob can go down low and catch the ball. He's got a good skill set. He's big, he's fast, he's strong, and he's a good blocker. He has inordinately large hands as well. Hopefully he doesn't miss too many of those and it's hard to throw it around him. He's made some plays in tough situations. The catch last night [Drew] Coleman was draped all over him and he managed to make the catch. It was a big play. It was a third down conversion that kept the drive going and continued the momentum offensively in the second half.
Q: How close were the Patriots to signing Julius Peppers and how involved were you in that process?
NC: I think Julius is like any other free agent that was out there. There were a pool of players in the market; he was one of the players at the particular position. We evaluate him just like we do a lot of other players as far as how detailed and how involved we were in the discussions. That's something that we keep between ourselves and the player and the representatives, whomever they may be. Julius is a good football player, there's no question about it. He's been productive for Chicago this season. Not only him, but they have a pretty formidable front four. They play a lot of guys whether it's [Israel] Idonije, [Matt] Toeaina, Anthony Adams, and Marcus Harrison. There are a lot of guys in that front four that pose problems. Then you go to the second level with two of the better linebackers at their respective positions in [Lance] Briggs and [Brian] Urlacher. Julius is a good player, he's been a productive player in this league for a long time and that's continued. We'll certainly have to account for him along with some other folks next Sunday.