Listen to highlights from Patriots player conference calls with Rodney Harrison, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris which took place on Monday, October 6, 2008.
SAFETY RODNEY HARRISON
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the interceptions you guys had yesterday? You were involved in two of them and they were all on tip drills and came at key points in the game.
RH: Our point of emphasis all week really was that we had to handle some balls and really start creating some more turnovers and be more aggressive. So, we came out with that in mind and we knew that [J.T. O'Sullivan] was a scrambling quarterback and he wanted to scramble to throw the ball. I read the play that I had been studying film off of for two weeks and made a good break and came up with it, as well as Brandon [Meriweather], he just made an incredible catch, and Deltha [O'Neal], we ended up getting him a good interception. The main thing was not to give up big plays, and eventually we came out and gave up some big plays and then calmed down a little bit. We settled down and were able to play some good, solid football.
Q: How much easier is it for a defense when your offense is controlling the ball for that long? You're able to get a little break and also have some time to adjust.
RH: It was good, because it gave us the opportunity to get some rest. I think that from a defensive standpoint when we came out and got down early, there was some extra time to get on the sidelines and get some adjustments taken care of. It gave us the ability to calm down, because we were all over the place. With the offense controlling that possession time, it gave us the chance to calm down and get things together.
Q: You guys did a good job on third downs. I know that had been a point of emphasis. In your mind, what was the difference yesterday as compared to other points in the season?
RH: I think that coverage is a combination of pass rush and covering down the field. Our guys up front gave us an opportunity and gave us some time to cover. I think the guys were a lot more aggressive. We knew a lot of the routes what they were trying to do and we were able to just play aggressively and make some plays on the ball. We went out there and competed.
Q: How much of that was that you guys were able to put them into third-and-longs, slow down the run and really take Frank Gore out of the game?
RH: I think every week your number one thing, with any NFL defense is the fact that you have to take away the run and not give them an opportunity to pass the ball as well as run the ball, especially with a guy like Mike Martz. His offense deals with so much trickery. Deep routes. Intermediate routes. Screen game. It's so tough to try to dictate what he's trying to do. Our point of emphasis was to take away the run, number one, and then be very competitive on the passes down the field. Eventually we weren't, but as we calmed down we played a lot better.
Q: Rodney, there were a lot of different people involved in the dime package - [Terrence] Wheatley, [Jonathan] Wilhite, Gary Guyton - how did they acquit themselves in the time that they were on the field.
RH: I don't know. I mean, you'd have to ask Coach Belichick that. I'll let the coaches coach them. That's not really for me to judge.
Q: How about that dime package in general? It seems like we saw that more in this game than in the previous three. How did you feel in that package? Did it allow you to attack a little bit more or just cover better?
RH: When they have their four athletic guys out there at wide receiver, we have to have a number of athletic guys to match up with them. Sometimes you win those match-ups and sometimes you don't. Like I said before, it's a matter of us going out there and being competitive. I thought our guys, Ellis [Hobbs], Deltha [O'Neal], Jonathan Wilhite and myself, we competed against those guys. This was a good team. They have a lot of skilled players and are very underrated. To be able to go out there and compete with those guys, that's huge. They're good. People across the country may not think so, but they're going to win a lot of ballgames this year, with Mike Martz, with his expertise in trying to showcase certain things and route combinations and things of that sort. I think the guys overall, we did a pretty good job.
Q: Rodney, is it nice to have a relatively normal week to prepare for a team like San Diego?
RH: No question. I think to play a game like [yesterday], such a physical game and a long and grinding game and then have to fly back six hours to the East Coast, try to get yourself re-acclimated and get some rest, then practice a few days and then fly right back, I thought that was the dumbest thing we could possibly do. For us to play a game and then come back here and be able to sleep in, get our rest, hydrate and get the bumps and bruises taken care of … It's really nice to be on a regular schedule, one that you don't have to fly six hours and anticipate that when you're playing a football game, like, "God, we have to fly six hours after the game to the East Coast." I think it's great for us. I'm 35 years old so I need to feel as good as possible.
Q: Rodney, just the way you guys played, you felt like you were a little bit helter-skelter. Was it encouraging to be able to make those in-game adjustments in this game as opposed to the last game you played where there was some difficulty making those in-game adjustments?
RH: Once again, I think we were playing on our heels. If you study film, you understand that Mike Martz … you never know what he's going to do. They could come out with a four wide receiver package, a five wide receiver package or regular base 21 personnel. I think initially we were trying to find our way and dip our feet into the water, testing the water instead of jumping right into it. If you play football, you can't test the water. You've got to go out there and jump right in and play very confidently and just play football. Once we settled down, I think we did a pretty good job of making adjustments and communicating and just making plays on the ball.
RUNNING BACK KEVIN FAULK
Q:Do you think you will be the darling of fantasy football since you scored twice on the goal line yesterday against the San Francisco 49ers?
KF:I have no control over that.
Q:You passed former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn for fifth on the team's all-time receptions list. When you first became a Patriot did you ever think you would be that high on the receptions list as a running back?
KF:You don't think about anything like that, you just think about helping your team - that's all it is. Helping your team win games and continue on.
Q:How good was it to have success scoring touchdowns in the red zone yesterday against the San Francisco 49ers?
KF:Every game that you play you try to improve. This week we tried to improve our red zone offense and I think we worked hard on it and it showed. You just have to be consistent with it and keep moving.
Q:Coach Bill Belichick said that yesterday might have been the first time you scored two touchdowns in a game since the fourth grade. Is he correct with his research on that?
KF:That might have been one of the few times that Bill [Belichick] was a little incorrect. I think it was in college that it happened.
Q:Do you remember the last time you scored two touchdowns in a game?
KF:No I don't remember. That is kind of far back for me. I can barely remember what happened a couple of weeks ago.* *
Q:I know you were joking about Bill Belichick being a little incorrect but is he not a big SEC [Southeastern Conference] football fan because he said you haven't had a two-touchdown game since the fourth grade?
KF:I think he is a big SEC [Southeastern Conference] football fan because he has a lot guys from the SEC.
Q:You are a big part of the offense's two-minute package. How do you feel quarterback Matt Cassel did in running the two-minute offense yesterday against the San Francisco 49ers?
KF:I think it is just about everybody doing their job, getting everything done correctly and just not trying to do too much. I think that is what we have to understand as an offense and a football team.
Q:What did you see from quarterback Matt Cassel in that two-minute drive because that is probably one of the toughest things for a quarterback to do?
KF:Well, like I said it was just him doing his job and with everybody else doing their job everything should pan out.
Q:How well do you think quarterback Matt Cassel did on selling the bad snap on your direct-snap touchdown run?
KF:By looking at the film it looked like he [Matt Cassel] did a good job. It was about him faking it, the offensive line blocking and me finding the right hole to run to.
PATRIOTS RUNNING BACK SAMMY MORRIS
Q:Watching Matt Cassel drive the offense down the field in the last two minutes of the half, how much confidence does that give you in Matt [Cassel] to be able to pull off that type of drive?
SM:I think it reaffirms the things that we already thought of Matt. He's had limited opportunities between the preseason and practices but I think we're all confident in Matt. He's got a lot of ability, strong arm and he's accurate as well. I think it just reaffirms our view of him already.
Q:This team has taken different routes over the years of getting the running game going. When Corey Dillon was here he was the horse. Right now you guys seem to be sharing the load a lot. It seems to be effective, how do you feel about your role in that?
SM:To use that type of backfield effectively you have to have the right kind of guys to do it, in the sense of, not [being] selfish, putting the team first and we're not focused on stats and that stuff. I think we have that here. Aside from the on-field talent we have in the backfield I think it speaks for the characters of the guys we have doing that. We're all our biggest supporters when the other one is on the field.
Q:Do you see anybody taking a lead role in the backfield or does it look like it's going to go as situations dictate?
SM:I don't think anybody is looking to see, I don't think it plays a factor in the way we approach practice or games. The biggest thing in finding the quote-unquote leading role is for the media guides and programs. Once the game gets there we let the coaches make that decision. In order to do that you have to have the right character guys in the mindset of 'we're all looking to make the most of our opportunities when we get them in the game and like I said, putting the team first is our biggest focus.
Q:On the blockers up front did anything stand out to you? It seemed like when you ran off tackle or to the tight end there were some openings. Was there one blocker that was pretty consistently opening up holes for you?
SM:Collectively they all played well up front and I think you have to include the tight ends and Heath [Evans] in that as well. Matt Light did a great job. He's such a powerful and quick guy so he gets on those blocks pretty quickly and that makes our reads a lot easier. Then Logan [Mankins] and Billy [Yates] on the inside and Dan Koppen as well, there are times when the zones come through the middle where getting their blocks quick and either keep moving them, pushing them back, or at least keeping it on the line [of scrimmage]. I think they did a good job up front of making our reads easier. I know a couple times with Nick [Kaczur], the right tackle, he's on the right side, they were running a stunt and you have to make a quick read and he was able to get his body into it and hit the guy out of the way. It clears up a lot of reads for us.
Q:Can you expound on the tight ends in the blocking game?
SM:I think with Ben [Watson] and Dave [Thomas] they've been doing quite a bit of blocking from a fullback set as well so I think that really opens it up for us in terms of their blocking but they're also receiving threats back there. A lot of times Dave [Thomas] is coming through and making blocks that Heath [Evans] will usually make and Ben is doing the same thing. That's not the path that they usually take to get a block but like I said they've adjusted well. They're very athletic and they're doing a great job of that as well.
Q:How much did that early bomb [66-yard touchdown] to [Randy] Moss open things up for the running game yesterday?
SM:It was huge. I think whether we hit that pass or not obviously any defense has to respect the fact that Randy Moss is out there and he's got blazing speed out there but to actually hit it, to connect on the pass is even more in there psyche. You have to honor that. You have to wait, even if its just a second or two longer, to make sure it's a run on the play action or you have to make sure that it is a run before the safeties start coming up quick. The second thing is that it gives you more time to eat up the yards.
Q:When it comes to developing a running attitude, how much does gaining short yardage help? Meaning if you need one yard even though you might run for two it's a successful run. How much does that help the team have a running attitude?
SM:That's situational football. That's one thing that Coach Belichick is always emphasizing. If it's third and one and you get two yards it's probably not good on the average but it keeps the drive going. I think short yardage and the goal line, those types of runs are close to 90 percent attitude and heart just to be able to find a little seam or a little crack and force your way to the first down and keep the drive going.