For the past two days, the Patriots have been delighting in their dramatic AFC Championship Game victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City. The team arrived back in Foxborough shortly before dawn on Monday and players have been mostly resting and recuperating from that successful road trip. They’re expected to be made available for media interviews on Wednesday and scheduled to be back on the practice field this Thursday.
In the interim, head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and defensive line coach Brendan Daly took time out this afternoon to field several questions on a conference call with reporters.
Here’s one item that stood out from each coach:
Belichick – Respect for McVay
When it was pointed out that Belichick will be facing the youngest head coach in the league in Super Bowl LIII, the 66-year-old gushed about Rams second-year head coach Sean McVay. At just 32, McVay is less than half Belichick’s age, but his relative inexperience compared to Belichick’s decades in the NFL belies what BB called an “outstanding” young football leader.
“I have a ton of respect for Sean,” he began. “I think he’s done a great job in the two years he’s been with the Rams. His teams have performed at an extremely high level. They’re very consistent. They’re well-coached. He has a great scheme.
“He’s got a great coaching staff. Offense, defense, special teams – they’re good in every area. Coach McVay’s done a tremendous job out there. He’s got a great team. They’ll be very hard to beat, but we’re going to compete against them and do the best that we can to be ready to go a week from Sunday. I think he’s done an outstanding job. I have a ton of respect for the way his team has played and how well they play and what he’s accomplished out there, and in his entire career, but as a head coach in the last two years.”
McDaniels – Balancing the preparation challenge
Belichick and his own staff have a fortnight to prepare for McVay and his Rams, which would seem like an eternity to go over minute details and endless scenarios that could play out in Super Bowl LIII.
McDaniels, however, cautioned against going overboard with studying and risking analysis paralysis. Having had this Super Bowl experience numerous times in his career, McDaniels believes he understands what works best for him and his players during these most important days of the NFL calendar.
“I think that’s one of the challenges of this preparation, is to be well-prepared but not overdo it,” he explained. “There’s really only one other situation that you can compare this week to and that’s even a stretch to say that, and that’s the first game of the year where you have so much time to prepare for the opponent because you’re not really sure what they’re going to do.
“This one, same thing, you’ve got a lot of time to prepare for them but you’ve got to be careful because you start getting into over-coaching and too much information and you overload the players. Now we’re not playing fast and aggressive, we’re thinking and trying to do too many things that are out of character or not in our nature. I think you want to try to strike the right balance with them like you do every week.
“You just have more time so you’ve just got to distribute it properly, make sure you don’t overdo too many things in one area so that they know what to do and can go out and do it properly, the way that you’d like them to. That’s really the goal. What matters is how well we prepare this week for this opponent who’s the best team we’ve played all year – what we’re able to do in 12 days out there on the field in terms of performance. That’s what we’re going to strive for and hopefully we have a great two weeks of preparation and go out and play our best game of the year.”
Daly – Pleased with defensive front
In their two playoff games this month, the Patriots have generated significant pressure on opposing quarterbacks with their up-front players, particularly the defensive line, which Daly oversees. He remarked that he’s been happy with the production of his players in this regard, which he credits to their effective pre-snap communication.
“I would say one of the best things that we’ve done over the past several weeks – I’ve been impressed with our communication and those guys’ ability to communicate with each other, get everyone on the same page in some very critical and difficult situations and be effective and productive as they’re all in the same coordinated call.
“It’s a group of guys up there that has all performed well together. We’re going to have to continue to do that,” Daly maintained. “We’re going to have to walk that fine line again this week in terms of dealing with [Rams QB] Jared Goff and his movement in the pocket and also they do a great job in terms of their protections, particularly in some of their play-action stuff, and give you some challenging looks where it’s difficult to rush against, to be quite honest.”