Sunday night marked the Patriots most impressive defensive performance of the season.
Not only did New England hold Aaron Rodgers to just 17 points in the victory, but the defense came up with big, game-changing plays in the fourth quarter to ignite the win.
Lawrence Guy’s forced fumble that was recovered by Stephon Gilmore stopped a would-be Packers scoring drive and jumpstarted the Patriots own touchdown march.
Then, Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn combined to close the door on Green Bay with a third-down sack to end the visitor’s ensuing drive.
It was one of many plays made by Flowers on the night as the defensive end has made impact play after impact play over the last couple weeks.
Tuesday afternoon during New England’s weekly conference calls with the local media, linebackers coach and defensive play-caller Brian Flores had plenty of praise for Flowers’ important role on the New England defense.
“You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who works harder than Trey,” Flores said. “Really, on the field, in the weight room, in the training room, really across the board this guy works incredibly hard. He’s like a, we call him the Quiet Storm. You don’t hear much from him but then he plays…he’s been a warrior for us. He’s played lights out for us really since he’s gotten here. Everyone in the building respects him. He leads by example. Again, he doesn’t say much but he works extremely hard. He works at his technique. He works at his craft every day. And he makes a lot of plays for us. He’s a joy to coach and a joy to be around.”
Beyond the praise for Flowers, here are some of the key a takeaways form the afternoon conference calls with Flores, Bill Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Veterans Day “very important”: Belichick’s respect for veterans and active military personnel is well documented. Growing up around the Naval Academy where his father was a longtime coach and scout certainly affected the younger Belichick’s feelings for the commitment that military personnel put forth. Not only is the NFL in the midst of its Salute to Service month, but Sunday the Patriots will play in Tennessee on Veterans Day. It’s not often that New England has a game on Veterans Day, and Belichick admitted that it was “absolutely” something that special to him.
“As they say, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, those are the holidays that make all the other holidays possible,” Belichick said. “So without the sacrifices that people have made ahead of us and the ones that are currently making them today for us, we wouldn’t even be playing these games or having any holidays or anything else. So we certainly recognize those men and women in our armed services and the sacrifices that they’ve made. We’ll do that. We always do it. The Salute to Service was a great thing last weekend and then the actual Veterans Day holiday itself come this weekend, we’ll certainly talk about that. We have a veteran on our team, which is pretty special too. I think everybody appreciates the sacrifices that Joe [Cardona] has made and continues to make as part of the reserves. Many of us have family members that have served or are serving throughout the organization. So it’s a very important day for me, for our team and really for our country.”
Preparing for former Patriots: There are a lot of connections between the Patriots and Titans. Plenty of former New England players will suit up for Tennessee, including Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Dion Lewis and Josh Kline. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel obviously played the bulk of his career in New England, while Tennessee defensive coordinator Dean Pees spent time as the Patriots linebackers coach (2004-5) and defensive coordinator (2006-09).
So, McDaniels was asked if there were similarities between the defense he must prepare for this week and the ones that Vrabel and Pees ran in their respective times in Foxborough.
“I think there’s definitely some carryover,” McDaniels admitted. “We adjust as we go through the course of many years here on all sides of the ball so certainly they’ve adapted. Whatever they were doing here they’ve adapted it to their personnel. They’ve had years away from New England to put in new things, try new things, create different things to try to give the offense problems.
“I would say the No. 1 thing that I can say about both of those guys and the way that this defense plays is that they’re well coached, they are very sound, they are very physical and aggressive. Which is something I think we always try to be here. They don’t give up many big plays. They are very, very good in the red zone, the best team in the league. They’ve given up the fewest points allowed in the league this season. All of that sounds familiar to me.”
Malcolm, go!: Those were the famous words that then-safeties coach Flores yelled to send Butler onto the field in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks leading up to one of the greatest interceptions in NFL history. Now, Butler has moved on to the Titans and has struggled a bit in his first season as a high-priced defender in Tennessee.
But, Flores will forever have great respect for the man who was a key championship contributor in New England.
“It takes me back to a great memory,” Flores said when asked what ‘Malcolm, go!’ means to him. “Obviously, I have a good history with Malcolm. I think he’s a great player, incredible player. He was a joy to coach, a joy to be around, really looking forward to seeing him this weekend and I wish him all the best always.”