HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: What have you seen from Derek Rivers over the course of his snaps during the past two games?
BB: Yeah, I thought Derek played hard. He made a couple of real good effort plays in pursuit and it was great to have him on the field. Just good to see him out there. He's playing fast and he's playing hard, so hopefully he can continue to make contributions and help us.
Q: Are there productive elements of his game that don't necessarily show up in the stats?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. Defensively, everybody has an assignment and if they carry out that assignment - sometimes if you carry out your assignment well, that means somebody else is going to make the play. Yeah, we look at the whole thing. Look, it's a production business but production is being able to take care of your responsibility consistently. That's really what that's about.
Q: How important are the reps for him at game speed?
BB: Yeah, well, they're the best. It's great to practice and go through everything, but seeing it full speed - that's real football. That's what it's about.
Q: Are there some things you can point to as to why the red zone defense hasn't been as successful this year?
BB: Well, we've had our moments. That's for sure. There's times when it's been good. There are times like last week where it was good for a number of plays but ended up the final play got in there. They scored on the final play of the drive where we had made stops or stopped them in another effort. We've just got to be a little bit more consistent and be able to finish those drives if we get them into third down in the red area and be able to make the play on third down. We had an opportunity, had our hands on a couple of balls there in the end zone that could've possibly turned those drives into no points. We're close. We've just got to make those plays.
Q: Was J.C. Jackson being rotated into the cornerback group more a matter of trying to get him some game reps at this point in the season?
BB: No. It was done because we were trying to win the game.
Q: What did you notice from J.C. on those snaps?
BB: Well, J.C.'s done a good job for us in the opportunities that he's had. Obviously, he had a big interception, had a couple of penalties. Some good things, some things we need to work on and improve, but he keeps competing hard. He's getting better every week, so that's a good thing.
Q: Are there limitations when it comes to reviewing game film of the game at Soldier Field given the position and angles that the cameras are placed in?
BB: It's a low shot. Yeah, it's probably one of the lowest that we see. It's certainly useable, but the vantage point is lower on the sideline shot. The end zone shot is high like most of the ones we get. But sometimes on the far side of the field it's a little harder to tell sometimes what the leverage is or where exactly the relationships are with that angle.
Q: How much did you enjoy providing the voice-over for opening introduction for the FOX Sports World Series broadcast tonight?
BB: Yeah, it was awesome. I was honored that they asked me to do it. Yeah, it was great to be a part of that. I don't really have that much of a baseball background, but the World Series is one of the great sporting events in this country and has great tradition to it, especially with these two franchises. Yeah, I'm very humbled to have been asked to participate in that. I look forward to watching some of it.
Q: As you begin to transition to divisional play here, what stands out to you about this year's AFC East division in general?
BB: Well, I think there's quite a bit of continuity in some aspects. Certainly the [Buffalo] defense and in the Miami system, all of their coordinators stayed intact. There are always new players and there are some new coaches, but I'd say overall the Buffalo system, which is similar to the Carolina system on defense, has stayed intact through Coach [Sean] McDermott, similar to Miami. I haven't seen the Jets yet so I don't know about that. There have been years where it's been more turnover on the coaching staff which leads to more turnover with players which leads to more schemes. Here I think there's some degree of carryover.
Q: We noticed that Ja'Whaun Bentley made the trip to Chicago this week. How do you determine which injured players or non-roster players you take on these road trips?
BB: We decide on a case-by-case basis. It would depend on the player and the situation and so forth. What their role is in the game and that type of thing. There's a lot of things that would go into consideration.
Q: What value do you see in bringing Bentley on these trips?
BB: Well, that's something that I've talked about with Ja'Whaun. I think we'll keep that as a private conversation. Same thing with Danny [Etling]. Clearly I think there's a benefit for us and a benefit for them or we probably wouldn't do it.
Q: Can you speak the development that you've seen from James White over the course of his career? He seems to be such an integral part of your offense now.
BB: Well, James was a very productive player at Wisconsin and he filled both a running and a receiving role there over the course of his career. I think all of his skills were evident in college. He didn't really get a chance to play much his rookie year here. That was Shane [Vereen]'s last year. But he's always been a very hard worker, a very diligent guy, knows his assignments very, very well. Asks questions like a coach would ask them. Has an ability to think really far ahead of what problems could occur on certain fronts or looks or what have you. He does a great job of that. Always has, but as he's gained more experience he just knows more and is able to continue to push ahead, like Tom [Brady] has at his position or Devin [McCourty] has at his position or Patrick [Chung] at his position. [Dont'a] Hightower - guys like that. They start off good and they just kind of keep going. As they learn more and experience more, they're able to process more and do more and James has done that. He works very hard in the offseason. He works hard in season, works hard off the field, on the field, knows what his assignments or responsibilities are and does his very best to carry them out. You can't ask for any more than that.
Q: What does it mean to ask questions like a coach?
BB: Well, if you were talking to another coach about a play, the coach would think ahead to what are the problems that could come up on this. If they do this, if they do that, if they do something else, what if this guy lines up here instead of there? Those are the kinds of things that a player, like all of the ones I just mentioned, [Matthew] Slater in the kicking game, [Nate] Ebner in the kicking game - they ask those same kind of questions. It's not just, "What's my assignment?" It's "OK, well, what if these other things happen? How do we handle it? Are we going to switch it? Are we going to stay with it? Can I make this call? Can I make that call?" I think when you talk to a coach about a play that's the way a coach looks at it. He sees the whole play, sees all the issues, "Here's what we're trying to do but if they took that away from us, what would we do? Would we go to a different play or would we adjust this play? How would we adjust it?" Things like that.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: How easy is it for you to find mismatches with James White because of his rounded skill set as a runner and receiver?
JM: Well, James [White] offers you a lot of flexibility because one, he's worked hard to make himself a good player, and two, he is always well-prepared for the games and allows you to do whatever you'd like to do with him if you think it can help us have success. It's not like the defense is going to get caught out of position all the time on a running back. However they want to defend our guys, they're going to defend them. I think that comes down to individual execution and that credit goes to James White. He's the one that runs the routes, he's the one that makes decisions and cuts in the backfield if you're handing it to him, and he's the one that catches the ball wherever you put him on the field. I don't really think it's as much about finding a bunch of mismatches as it is just a player in those types of situations. He's using his techniques and fundamentals that he's worked hard to build for those moments when the game comes down to a one-on-one type of situation, and then you hope you can rely on those techniques and fundamentals that you've worked hard on all year to help you win that matchup on that play. That's really any player is really going to get caught in that situation has to rely on that, and James obviously does a good job when he's in those scenarios and he's been a productive guy for us.
Q: Not sure if you caught the Giants-Falcons game last night but the Giants went for two and Pat Shurmur said analytics contributed to that decision. How much do analytics factor into your play-calling and decision-making?
JM: I did not catch the game and I would say that Bill [Belichick] really - there's a process that I think we all go through in our own areas to make decisions about what we want to try to do in certain situations. Some of those are specific to numbers or statistics. Some of those are specific to other factors in the game - personnel, injuries, field position, wind, weather. There's a whole lot of things that obviously could impact any decision in the game. As far as whether you want to run this play, run that play, anytime we're talking about going for two or going for it on fourth down, those decisions are all - Bill makes all those decisions and I'm sure that there's a number of things that go into that, but you'd have to ask him exactly that question in terms of what he relies on there. But, look, there's a lot of statistics and a lot of information available. I think there's a lot of numbers that you have to look at and you do look at on a weekly basis, but you also have to look at how those numbers got to be because certain circumstances in games could obviously dictate analytics saying one thing or another and it might not necessarily just be cut and dry. Maybe one team, they had a bunch of injuries and played more nickel defense and base defense and so they gave up more of this type of production than that. So, there's a lot of different things that go into it. I think you have to take all of that into consideration as you plan each week and hopefully you make the best decisions that you can when those situations arise.
Q: When you're considering what skills players to call upon at the end of games, how much do you rely on how much they've played in the game to determine how fresh they may be?
JM: I think that depends on the player and if the player may or may not be coming off of some type of extended time off, did he just come off an injury, are we trying to work him back in? There's a lot of different situations that would dictate how much we would or wouldn't use somebody in a game. I think we would rely on that as we're going and we're very aware of where our guys are at in terms of how many snaps they've played, what number of snaps it is at certain times in each game, wherever we're at in the game. Then we've got to rely on good communication during the course of the game between the players because sometimes when maybe a guy's under the weather a little bit and feeling something a little bit more than he would at another time - you know, good communication, telling you that he's a little tired here and there. There's a lot of factors that go into substitutions, different personnel packages, and we trust our guys if that's the case to tell us they need a blow or a couple plays here or there and just try to do the right thing at the right time when you have that information. I would say there's a lot that goes into that. Hopefully your guys are in great condition. I think our team in general is in really good shape. They've worked hard to get to that point. They put a lot of work in the offseason, training camp, after practice, during practice, to make sure that we're ready to go however many plays we're able to be out there on the field, and we have a lot of confidence in that part of our game.
Q: How much background or connection did you have with Josh Gordon before he joined the Patriots? Did you have any connection with him?
JM: No, just I mean, obviously aware of the player just from seeing him from afar. But no personal - I hadn't met him, nothing like that, before they got him in Cleveland and then had an opportunity to meet him when he came here.
Q: What have you noticed from Gordon behind the scenes that has helped him emerge? And secondly, what do you see from the Bills defensively that will challenge you?
JM: Josh has, since he walked in the door, he's worked hard. Chad's [O'Shea] done a tremendous job of being with him in terms of getting him caught up with our system, with the terminology, the things that he obviously needs to know at receiver. He's been open and able to communicate with myself, with CO [Chad O'Shea], with Tom [Brady] just about different things in the passing game and what we're looking for, what he's done before. Just been a good worker, hard worker, put a lot into his preparation and eager to get in and do as much as he can to help the team win. So, really excited about that and hopefully looking forward to continue to build as we go forward here. And then the Bills, this is a division game on the road - there's nothing harder than this - and then tack on the fact that it's Monday night in Buffalo and this is an experience that you should look forward. This will be an incredible environment, it's a difficult place to play and our challenge is significant. A force on defense and yards, they don't up many big plays, they force you to be patient and disciplined and execute a significant number of plays to drive the ball and finish drives with points, which has kind of been the hallmark of this team. They're in the top-10 in turnovers and sacks, which when you put those two things together, force you to drive it a long way, and then really do a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback and taking the ball away. I think that's why you see them having the success that they've had now under Coach [Sean] McDermott for multiple years now. It's tough to do all that when they play that way. So very disciplined group, challenge you with a lot of different schemes, different pressures, different coverages. They do a good job with that, all of that stuff. They do a good job with disguising those types of things. They've got very disruptive players, I'd say, at all three levels. [Jerry] Hughes is really a difficult edge rusher. Kyle Williams obviously we've played against a number of times, very disruptive. [Lorenzo] Alexander creates a lot of issues in the backfield. The rookie playing middle linebacker, [Tremaine] Edmunds, has got speed and length and you can tell he's getting more and more comfortable as we go. And their secondary, obviously last year was tremendous at turning the ball over and they've kind of picked up where they left off last year. So, a lLot of challenges in terms of going on the road and playing a division team on Monday night in this type of an environment. We lost 70 yards, I think it was, the last time we were in Buffalo through negative plays, sacks, penalties. We didn't play very well, didn't handle it very well last year on our side of the ball. We've got to do a lot better than what we did. This is a significant opportunity and a significant challenge and we're looking forward to starting our preparation with them tomorrow.
Q: How much have you seen James White learn the offense over the years and how much more can you do with him now because of how well he knows it?
JM: James White, since the day he got here, all he's done is work his butt off in every area of being a professional football player. I'd say his physical preparation, what he does in terms of his body, weight training, his conditioning, his ability to get stronger, his health, taking care of his body after each week, making sure he's ready to go for the next week, studying the opponent - knowing who he's playing against, the people that he has to block and blitz pickup, the defensive front that he's running the ball against, the players that he's going to challenge in terms of route-running - he studies them, understands their tendencies, knows what he's dealing with. And then he does a tremendous job of digesting and jumping into our game plan and knowing it inside and out in terms of his overall preparation. There's not many guys that we've had that have done it to the level he's done it, and we've got a lot of great guys that we can talk about. This guy's a really special guy in terms of how hard he works, the type of preparation he puts in and the type of teammate he is. He's extremely unselfish, he'll do anything you ask him to do, doesn't matter what it is. He wants the team to win and he always puts the team first. He comes to work every day ready to go, notepad open, takes notes, makes sure he understands what's being asked of him and then goes out there and practices hard every single day to make sure that he's on top of his assignments and he's doing the things that he has to do in our game plan to help us win. So couldn't ask anything more from a teammate than James White.
Q: There was a chance even until Sunday that Rob Gronkowski might play. From your perspective as the play caller, when do you start to adjust the game plan?
JM: I don't think it's as dramatic as sometimes people make it out to be and sometimes it sounds. We're one play away from any player in the game not being in the game anymore, and so whatever position you're talking about, you have to have a depth to the game plan, whether that be at the same position or you're using other positions to back up whatever that it. So, like last week, we only went into the game with one tight end. So, if Dwayne Allen would have gone down with an injury, then obviously we would have had something ready to go to play the game minus a tight end. And that happens every week. You have to have enough depth and volume to your game plan to account for an injury at any position that could take out of a number of things across the board. Sometimes that means you're practicing more than you can call, but I would say that that's probably a regularity in the National Football League because you hardly ever have everything perfect the way that you want it after the season begins. We have smart guys that are versatile, we talk about that a lot, we ask guys to learn more than one role so that if something happens and we need to juggle some people around, then they go in there and they play that role. They have to know multiple positions. That's why they work so hard each week to not only know maybe their initial position or their primary position but also a secondary position if that was needed to be called on during the course of the game. It's always a matter of what week we're talking about, what personnel we have available to us and where the depth in our game plan is going to come. Is it going to come because we have four tight ends at the game so if one of them goes down, it doesn't really affect the personnel grouping, you just put the next guy in? Or sometimes you go to the game and you lose an entire personnel grouping if you lose a guy. That's just the nature of the business, and our coaches do a great job of preparing our players for multiple scenarios like that and our players do a tremendous job of being ready to go. They never flinch when hat situation comes up and they know that that's part of their role and they accept that burden and they always rise to the occasion when they're asked to.
DEFENSIVE LINE COACH BRENDAN DALY
Q: Derek Rivers had 24 snaps on Sunday. What Bill Belichick said he noticed on film was some high-energy, high-effort plays that led to production by other players, but he can see progress in Rivers. What is your impression of what you've seen from Rivers and how he's moved along?
BD: I would say Derek has, since the day he got here, been an extremely hardworking guy. He's had a great attitude. He's got tremendous energy and attention to detail, and that was the case all the way through his injury and his rehab process a year ago, but that's been the case this year. You know, it's a difficult situation when you're inactive for a period of time or you're maybe active then inactive - that emotional roller coaster can be difficult on guys. I would say it's been impressive to watch him and his ability to sustain a high level of focus and commitment to what we're doing through that process. It was good to see him get an opportunity and do some good things on Sunday - probably a few more snaps than what he's played, had a really exceptional play in effort and pursuit, I thought. I thought he did a nice job in some of his pass rush, being very disciplined over on the left edge after we had had some contain issues or quarterback scrambles issues. So, didn't necessarily show up from a major production standpoint, but definitely pleased with what he's done and impressed with how he's handled his situation.
Q: How important are these game reps for you as a coaching staff to see what you have in a player like Derek whose playing time has been limited up to this point?
BD: Well, I'd say they're important, but I mean, we see him every day in practice. So, he's been out there, he's been working, he continues to work to get better. You know, you have an evaluation of the player based on what you've seen in practice. There is an element to seeing it in a game that's important, but we're with him every day.
Q: When it comes to the struggles you've had defending mobile quarterbacks this season, are there any commonalities you've been able to point to between those struggles?
BD: Well, I'd say, it's a challenge week-in and week-out, no question. There seem to be more and more of these guys that are on rosters or that we're asked to defend, and they've all got different challenges to them. I would say the biggest issue that we've had is simply consistency. I feel like we've done a very good job, at times, on some of these guys, and then at times, we obviously haven't. And, I would say there's a number of factors for that inconsistency. I would say there's definitely some execution, there's definitely some scheme things. There's definitely some things that we can do on the coaching end to help minimize some of the issues that we can potentially get into. But inevitably, when you're playing good players, good players make plays. We've got to be more consistent in what we're doing, more disciplined in what we're doing and do a better job from a communication standpoint and then also from a coaching standpoint on making sure that we minimize the number of situations that we create just from a scheme standpoint.
Q: Are there certain rules for the defensive linemen in terms for maintaining that rush lane integrity? When somebody breaks out of the pocket as much as Mitchell Trubisky did, do those rules kind of go out the window?
BD: Well, I think there's definitely rules. I think there's also a lot of variables within those rules in terms of where the rushers are coming from, how many rushers do you have, are there any stunts involved in the call, things along those lines. You know, there's also things in terms of just maintaining leverage and not allowing the quarterback or runner, ball carrier, whoever it might be, to reverse field or double back and things along those lines, and then you get into pursuit angles and pursuit lanes and tackling. So, ultimately, there's a lot of fundamentals involved is what I would say. I don't know that it's more complicated than just pure, basic fundamentals, and I'd say we definitely need to do a better job in all of those areas.
Q: What does Lawrence Guy contribute or add that the layman might not see, but someone with your view really sees as critical for the Patriots?
BD: Well, I would say this - you're right, he's certainly not underappreciated from my standpoint personally. He's done an excellent job for us. I would say one of the things that Lawrence does is he's got a tremendous amount of experience and football knowledge and IQ, he asks very good questions and he is going to make sure that he understands exactly how you want something done and, to the best of his ability, do it exactly that way. If there's any gray area in terms of how we want something played or what we want done, he does a great job of making sure that he understands it fully and goes out there and executes it to the best of his ability. He's been, honestly - the other element that stands out to me about Lawrence is, particularly with the younger players that have come in the room, or even this year having been a guy that came from another organization or have been around the league for a while, the new guys that have come in the room - the Danny Shelton's, the Adrian Clayborn's from other teams - or even the younger players, [he] does a tremendous job in terms of mentorship, in terms of leading those guys, in terms of helping them understand some of the things that we're asking them to do. He's been a great help and a great resource for me in that regard.