PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: How much of a pleasant surprise has Chris Hogan's presence been in the vertical passing game this year?
BB: Yeah, it's been good. We've gotten a number of bigger plays in the passing game, more than we have in the past, so that's been a big help to the offense and the team and he's been a big part of that. Of course that always comes with good execution, protection, throw, route, catch, so a lot of people can get credit on that. We've played a number of different guys. James White has given us a lot of catch-and-run plays and [Martellus] Bennett and [Chris] Hogan. It's been a big boost for our offense and Chris has done a good job. He's a good deep ball receiver. We've had some good production on that.
Q: Did you see much of that deep ball ability from Chris Hogan during his time with the Buffalo Bills?
BB: I think you saw some of it. They had a couple other big play guys like [Marquise] Goodwin and Sammy Watkins; guys they want to get the ball to. But you could definitely see Chris [Hogan]'s speed in the kicking game where he had a chance to run extended 40, 50 yards. So you could see that translating into speed in the passing game because you definitely saw more of him in the kicking game than you did offensively in some games last year.
Q: What do Devin McCourty and Dont'a Hightower mean to the team as leaders and how much do they do on and off the field to help others out and improve the team as a whole?
BB: They mean a lot and they both do a good job. Again, everybody on the team gives leadership but those two guys because they're in the middle of the defense, because they're experienced and kind of complement each other with Dont'a [Hightower] being in the front and also being involved in some pass rush. Part of our pass rush as well is the underneath coverage and Devin [McCourty] in the back. Those two have to work together and they do but between the two of them - the middle linebacker and your safety - on most every team those two guys are going to handle the high majority of the defensive communication, and therefore to an extent leadership similar to the quarterback and the center on offense. Those guys have done a good job and it's certainly a big responsibility for them and a big part of what we need done.
Q: How much of a role do they have in making on-field adjustments as a sort of 'coach on the field?'
BB: I don't know about that. I mean certainly that could come up from time to time if we have a mistake on a play within a drive and they see what happened to try to straighten that out on the field so that it doesn't happen again if the play or that situation, maybe it's a formation or whatever it is, repeats. Yeah, from that standpoint we definitely want to try to get that corrected but I think they're pretty consumed in doing their jobs and that really doesn't give them a great opportunity to evaluate everybody else and watch what everybody else is doing and make corrections and that kind of thing.
Q: Dante Scarnecchia mentioned that having some continuity on the offensive line has helped the offense execute some of those deep passes since the quarterback has time in the pocket. How do you feel the offensive line has done in that aspect of pass protection?
BB: Well I think, again, ideally that's always the way that you want to go, is to have that kind of consistency especially I'd say at the offensive line position where those five guys do work so closely together in terms of seeing the defense and having the consistency to carry out their assignments with each other. But again, that's not always possible but it's nice to have it when you have it so we'll take it. Yeah, certainly the protection to be able to throw the ball downfield including some of the deeper intermediate routes - comebacks, and in-cuts, and seam passes and things like that. That's very important and, again, like everything on our team there's always room for improvement. There are things that we could do better but we've had some success and some production so hopefully we can build on that.
Q: When you watch a team such as Seattle on film what stands out about them that shows you how mentally tough they are?
BB: Well first of all, I agree with those statements. I do think that the Seahawks are a very mentally tough team; mentally and physically tough. They compete very hard on a down-after-down basis. They never let up. There's never any slack in the line. I think that starts with Pete [Carroll]. I know Pete demands that and always has and certainly got that when he was at USC and with Seattle. We played them in 2012, 2014 and this will be three times in the last four years, calendar years, whatever it is. And I'd say that's one of the characteristics about his teams and about the Seahawks is how hard they compete. I think they have a lot of experienced guys that we've seen them in a lot of close games and how good they are at playing their best in critical situations. Defensively [Earl] Thomas, [Richard] Sherman, [Kam] Chancellor, [Michael] Bennett, [Bobby] Wagner, K.J. Wright; a lot of experienced guys there that have been in a lot of snaps. I mean honestly the team defensively isn't a whole lot different from what we saw two years ago, especially from the linebackers back. There are a couple of new faces on the defensive line but a lot of the linebackers and secondary players are very familiar to us and offensively of course [Russell] Wilson and the receivers. It doesn't really matter who's in there at running back; those backs run hard. They really are tough competitors, fight for yards. The offensive line is aggressive. Same thing in the kicking game - they're good kicking, very good on special teams. [Tyler] Lockett's given them a big boost there but I think even in the Arizona game you saw how hard they competed in that game with the blocked field goal and then putting pressure on and forcing a bad kick at the end of the game. Yeah, physically they're tough. They're a hard hitting team, they turn the ball over, they take it away and mentally I think they're tough to play in any situation no matter what the score or situation is on the game - playing on the road, playing at home, playing in weather conditions. 2012 playing out there in the rain they came back and made the plays to beat us in less than ideal conditions. Yeah, I think they prove it pretty much on a weekly basis and have a lot of players that fall into that category as well as their head coach and the coaching staff. They're well-equipped I think to pretty much handle anything.
Q: How much will your matchup against them two years ago in Super Bowl XLIX play into your preparation this week and how much can that help you?
BB: Yeah, we'll definitely take a look at it. Again, there's a lot of carryover, especially on their defense, from many of the players that we played against but there is also carryover on offense. Certainly from some of the key players - the quarterback and the receivers - and the kicking game with the specialists so there's a decent amount of carryover. I would say that their scheme, what they do hasn't changed dramatically. Ours probably hasn't changed dramatically either. Again, we have a couple of different players but fundamentally we do a lot of the same things. I think there's definitely some relevance to that game. I'm sure they'll look at it. We've certainly seen it. I think it's relevant. Now again, there has been a lot of football played since then so I don't think it's - again, just one piece in the puzzle. I don't think it's the whole puzzle.
Q: What kind of respect do you have for Bobby Wagner and his importance to that team?
BB: Yeah, tremendous respect. He's a great football player, always around the ball, very instinctive, runs well so he gets to a lot of plays. He turns the ball over with strips and tackles, and again, just tipped balls, being around the ball. He and K.J. Wright - Wright is a little bit longer - but they're a good complement, a good duo there that are consistently productive and durable. They're on the field almost every play. They're there every week. Yeah, [Bobby] Wagner does a great job in both phases of the game; run and pass. They're both good blitzers and, again, I think you just see the competitiveness of those individual players as well as the whole team. No matter what the situation is they always play hard.
PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: How much of Chris Hogan's vertical presence in the passing game has been a pleasant surprise to you based on what you might have seen from him on film in Buffalo?
JM: I think Chris [Hogan] has made the most of his opportunities, wherever they've been. I know what we saw is a talented guy that was tough, caught the ball, made plays with the balls in his hands, willing to go over the middle, down the field, could do something with the ball in his hands once he had it, physical in the running game, unselfish, played a lot of different roles, moved to a lot of different spots. So it's just, I think Chris's role here and what he does changes a little bit from week to week. That's kind of part of our offensive scheme and how we operate, and I think he's done a great job with his opportunities. Chris is fast, he's got good size, catches the ball well and can track the ball down the field, so there's not much about what Chris has done here that is surprising to me because of how hard he works, and how much he cares, and how much he prepares each week to do the best he can in the roles that we give him.
Q: How much of Chris Hogan's ability to track balls down the field was something you had to see here in New England to really know he was capable of that?
JM: I think each guy that we evaluate, we try to put together an evaluation based on the things we've seen him do, and then really, once we have him here we really try to evaluate the things he could do for us in our offense and our system, and give him an opportunity to try some different things and create his own role. I think that's what Chris [Hogan] has really done in tracking the ball 40-50 yards down the field. It's definitely a skill. It's not something that's simple. There's a lot going on. You're running at a high rate of speed, you've got a defender that's easily in contact with you, or close contact with you. There's wind, there's rain, there's sun, there's the flight of the ball, there's the arc and pace that the ball is coming down with. There are a lot of things going on, so I think he's done a nice job with his opportunities, and again, he works hard at everything in his game. I'm happy that he's had an opportunity to help us and [we] look forward to the rest of the season.
Q: Bill Belichick mentioned in the 'Do Your Job' documentary that a strategy against Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX was going horizontal with your receivers - how has that changed in the last year and a half?
JM: I think there are a lot of things that have changed. Our personnel is different. They have some personnel that's different. As much as our coaching staff and scheme might be similar, I think each year is different and the way you try to attack a certain team hopefully will unveil itself to you as you study film and prepare for the game. I know this - they're as good a defense as we'll play. They've been that way for many years now and it's a significant challenge. Whatever you try to do in the game isn't going to be easy. It's going to take a great effort and a great week of preparation for us to be able to do anything successful Sunday night against this group. We have a ton of respect for them, and like I said, there are a lot of familiar faces and there are some new people on their defensive side. There are some people that have played them before with us and some people that haven't. We're going to treat this week like we do any other week. We're going to have to get familiar with this team quickly. We're going to have to make sure that we study hard and understand who we're playing against, how they play, the scheme that they like to use, and then try to learn what we're trying to do to make sure that we can minimize some of their strengths and try to maximize some of ours as we go forward.
Q: How has Dion Lewis looked in practice settings and behind the scenes?
JM: Yeah, it's great to have Dion [Lewis] around. Dion works extremely hard at anything he's doing whether it was his rehab, his preparation for the opponent, periods in practice, whatever it might be, his role in the game plan. Dion does a great job of preparing hard. He comes here ready to work each day. He puts in a full day and really cares about doing things the right way. I'm always excited to have any of our guys back out there on the field with us. It's the thing that we enjoying doing with them the most, working with them on the field. It's been nice to have him out there and we look forward to his progression here as he works back into it.
Q: Is it enough for Dion Lewis to practice and then when he's ready to go, use him as you normally would, or is there some element of waiting and seeing as the speed of the game picks up and he gets accustomed to that?
JM: I think our philosophy on that hasn't really changed. I think when Bill [Belichick] and the medical people tell us it's appropriate to put a player into certain periods, whatever those might be, whether that's individual, team, seven-on-seven, whatever it might end up being, then you try to do that based on the schedule that they tell you and then you let the player give us feedback on how he's feeling and we'll go from there. We always try to do the right thing for the player. The most important thing to us is the health of our guys and making sure that they're ready. We're going to do the right thing in that situation, and whenever it's time, it's time.
Q: Why has Danny Amendola been in more limited role this year and how do you feel he's handled that?
JM: I think Danny [Amendola] has always done a great job of embracing whatever role we've given him. Danny is an unselfish guy. Danny works extremely hard, prepares hard, he's a great teammate, and he always makes the most of his opportunities. He takes advantage of those whether it be on special teams or on offense. We just always try to do what we think is best for the team in every situation on early downs, third downs, red zone, two-minute, and some of that is making sure we make smart decisions as far as who is out there, who is not out there, and try to do it on a week-to-week basis. He's always prepared, we're always going to - we have a role for each one of our guys that goes to the game, and those guys work hard to be ready to go when their turn is up. Danny has done a great job of that so far this year.
Q: Although the Seattle defense has remained pretty much the same under Pete Carroll - have you noticed any changes since the last time you played them with the change in defensive coordinators?
JM: They do everything well. There's nothing that this defense doesn't do well, so I think that's been a continuation from what we've seen in the past. They've had a lot of really good coaches have opportunities to move forward, and that's been great. They've earned them. Coach [Pete] Carroll does a great job, Coach [Kris] Richard does a great job of continuing to put these guys in positions to play fast and make a lot of plays, but they're in the top 10 in basically every category and the top five in most of the important ones whether it's points, red zone, total yards; they don't give up any big plays, sacks, creating turnover opportunities. This is an incredible challenge. They do a tremendous job. We have a tremendous amount of respect for their staff, the organization, their defensive players and the scheme that they use. It's as difficult as any that you'll play and coach against, so we've got a full week ahead of us. It's exciting to have an opportunity to play against a team like this and we're looking forward to it.
PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA
Q: What are your thoughts on the number of Patriots' takeaways thus far and what would you like to see going forward?
MP: I don't think we focus on that number in particular. We're trying to make sure that at the end of the game we're doing everything we can to win that particular game whatever the circumstances may be. Just in general for us, we're always trying to do the best we can to get the ball turned over. We spend a lot of time on it and we always make sure that's a point of emphasis for us. Obviously the turnover portion of the game is part of the game. It's something that we always want to try to do at a very high level just kind of like all of the other situations that come up. Certainly for us we're always trying to pressure the ball to the ability to get it back to our offense whenever we can. It's kind of what we're trying to do.
Q: How has Malcolm Butler changed, if at all, since the biggest play of his career in Super Bowl XLIX?
MP: Well, I think just kind of in general with Malcolm [Butler] progressing through his years in the league is really what you're looking at as far as him trying to get a good grasp as far as how the league is, understand how to prepare, and how to attack each week game plan-wise. Certainly he's come a long way from that standpoint. Really our focus is trying to get him better. We do try to make sure he's improving in all the things he has on the field but also off the field - in the meeting room, being attentive, making sure we're studying the opponents and understanding the game plan, understanding big picture concepts - which is something that I think any young player, rookie, new player to our system, whatever the case may be. It's always going to take you a little bit of time to understand that holistic point of view. I think in general for us that is part of his growth as a professional football player and someone in our system is just to improve every week on and off the field - technique, fundamentals, seeing consistency in your play - are things that we're going to put an emphasis on. Then your study off the field and understanding the opponent and what they do. We'll get into a lot of situations where we'll play a team like Seattle who, like Coach [Bill Belichick] mentioned, we've played here now a couple times, have a certain system that they use and there are going to be a lot of things that relate from whether we've played them before or other teams that we've played against with similar offensive philosophies or backgrounds and trying to be able to tie that together in a big picture standpoint is really, at this point, what you're trying to get out of guys who have been in our system for a couple years. They can look at it and say 'This looks like this system' or 'This is this system' or 'These are the things we need to defend based on what they're doing' or 'These are their players that are really good and productive' or 'This is the type of quarterback they're playing'. Just things like that that they should be able to look at on their own and come back to us when we're looking at a team and say 'OK, this makes sense, this is how we're game planning, this is what we're trying to do'.
Q: What sticks out the most to you in the moments leading up to Malcolm Butler's interception in Super Bowl XLIX? What might you have learned in the closing moments of that game to help you going forward as a coordinator?
MP: For me, as far as that question is concerned, I think that's something you and I can talk about 30 years from now. I think it's kind of not really respectful as far as what the Seahawks are right now and what we're getting ready to defend. That game was obviously a great game in our past and all of those things are good but unfortunately I'm staring at a really good Seahawks team that is different in a lot of ways and similar in a lot of ways. You know they have a great quarterback, Russell Wilson. We've got to be able to contain and make sure we have him handled in both the run and the passing game. And the run game with [Christine] Michael back there, [they] do a good job of being able to exploit the defense. The receivers - [Doug] Baldwin, obviously doing a great job for them, [Jermaine] Kearse, [Tyler] Lockett and then the addition of Jimmy Graham which brings a whole different element to their offense. That's really where my focus is right now. It's on their team right now getting ready to defend against them here coming up and obviously a lot of respect for what they do week in and week out. Coach [Pete] Carroll does a great job preparing his team and I just want to make sure that's where our focus is.
Q: What are your thoughts on Doug Baldwin? What makes him tricky compared to some other receivers you see that work out of the slot?
MP: Yeah, great question because they'll move him around a little bit, too. He's definitely a guy that's one of the core guys on the offense, leads the team in catches and targets and all that. [He's a] really good route runner. He's got this great burst that allows him to separate from coverage when you're in man-to-man situations. So it might be you're in tight man coverage and he just has this ability to break away from you at the last minute and create enough separation where the quarterback, who is obviously a great player, can get the ball in. So he changes speed very quickly and creates that separation. He finds the space in zone coverage, he understands when to sit down and allow the quarterback to put the ball on him and just an extremely good, dangerous player with run-after-catch, a guy that is very good with the ball in his hands. Someone that I think they've done a good job, Coach [Darrell] Bevell has done a good job of game plan, implementing some plays to get him the ball out in space and be able to be productive. They move him around a little bit. They put him in some different positions to get him the ball. [He's a] versatile player. Really, really good in their offense right now.
Q: What does Jimmy Graham bring to this Seahawks offense? How does it compare to the player you guys saw with the New Orleans Saints back in 2013?
MP: Yeah, I'll just speak on the present as far as him right now. Very big, long, receiving-type tight end who has actually improved a lot as a blocker. Obviously this offense will spend a lot of time with the run game, something that he's definitely improved on. He's got great length, great size. They put him in some different positions, they do some things formationally [from a formational standpoint], you'll see him on the back side of a lot of formations whether he's attached to the formation or split out which kind of puts the defense in a little bit of a bind. Back there on the back side he obviously becomes a matchup player. You can identify if he's singled up on the back side or if he has help which allows the quarterback to be able to get a pre-snap read as far as what they're getting on the back side. I think he's someone who is trying to become an overall better player in both the run and the passing game and I think just another challenge for us defensively to have to defend. Like I said, with his length and his size and the situational plays that he gets the ball in, it just becomes a big problem for us. I see a very solid player, very good player for them, someone that's in a different system, a different offense, but has adapted very well. You know there's a lot more plays in Seattle where the pocket may move, [Russell] Wilson may get out of the pocket whether it's an extended-type play or a particular design like a boot or something like that. When you have those bigger type of tight ends that can push the ball vertical down field, those become very difficult plays for the defense to handle and where you'll see him have a lot of production also.
Q: Is Russell Wilson's mobility something you still have to be concerned with or has his style changed this year versus the last couple when he was such a dynamic run threat?
MP: Yeah, I mean this guy is a very dangerous player in both the run and the pass, particularly with the run game. I think he's just doing a great job of reading the plays that are given to him. An element of that that is a post-snap read, he has to decide whether or not it's a good decision for him to keep the ball or not. A lot of the case is teams are very aware of him as a player, as a runner and are going to do the best they can to defend him from keeping the ball. There are certainly situations where you think the defense has him defended, he keeps it, and still gets out and gets it, whether it's a third-down conversion or whatever the case may be. Certainly in those situations where it's a critical type of play you have to be even more aware of him to just be a great playmaker in that situation. I think again if you look at Russell Wilson in general, he always seems to really pick up his game and be able to be more dynamic in the second half of the season. You've got to look at his full body of work. This guy is a very dangerous player, especially when he can get out in space. We know that first hand.