PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge when determining how to best defend the running backs and tight ends in a matchup? It seemed like you had Patrick Chung in coverage for most of those, especially when covering Nyheim Hines.
BB: Well, I'd say first of all, you're defending the whole offense. You're not just defending one guy. So you have to take a look at your total in all of your matchups and all of the things you have to take into consideration when stopping an offensive unit like the Colts' that is pretty efficient and pretty potent. Hines, he had 45 yards receiving so it was what it was. But those other guys are good players. We had different matchups depending on where the call was and where the help was and what defensive grouping we were in. It was mostly a multiple defensive back game. They were big targets with a good quarterback with a lot of other weapons. The receivers are a problem, too. You just try to do the best you can to defend all of it. You can't just stop one guy. There's too many other guys out there.
Q: How valuable is Patrick Chung in those matchups?
BB: Yeah, he's very good. Pat's quick, he's instinctive. He's a smart player, a really good tackler. That's a key part of that. I think when you look overall at Hines' production, I mean, he caught seven balls with one interception. He certainly had a little bit of production. I'd say a lot of guys had more production than he did last night. I thought we did a reasonably good job on him.
Q: It looked like he had a lot of catches but not a lot of yards which I thought may speak to Patrick Chung's ability to tackle in space.
BB: Yeah, I mean, I think there were a lot of plays in this game that were similar to the concepts that we saw in the Super Bowl from [Corey] Clement. A lot of wheel routes, a similar type of game plan. Hines, who's a very good player - I'm not taking anything away from him - I'm just saying his production last night wasn't anything close to what Philadelphia had in the Super Bowl running those types of routes. But again, there were some issues other places.
Q: What's the schedule like for your staff over the next few days and does it allow for any self-scouting like you might have during a full bye week?
BB: We self-scout every week. We try to stay on top of that every week. Sometimes if you have a little bit more time you do a little bit more of it. Yeah, we're definitely aware of our tendencies every week and where our production is good and where it's not as good and do we need to change something or get rid of something or add more of something that's being productive for us. We know that our opponents are studying our tendencies every week so we don't want to go into a game and have an obvious tendency that we're not aware of. Look, a Thursday game to a Sunday game, it's just not the same. We've had two games in five days. Everybody's tired. Everybody worked hard the last five days then playing a late night game. Honestly, it takes you a couple of days to get your feet back on the ground after a game like that just because you put so much into the Monday through Thursday, there's no chance at all after the game to have any kind of catch-your-breath. You just get right off the treadmill and jump onto another one and it's already going pretty fast. It definitely takes a couple of days I think for everybody to kind of unwind and get your feet back under you and catch your breath. Then by that time it's Sunday and now you're starting to get ready for Kansas City. It's not exactly like these two days, today and tomorrow, are like normal after a game. It's been a lot that's been packed in the last five days.
Q: How much consideration did you give to challenging the Sony Michel run on second-and-1 knowing that you could potentially convert on third-down?
BB: Well, I think to me it's whether or not you think you can win the challenge. If you think you can win the challenge then you challenge it. If you don't, then you wouldn't challenge it regardless of where the ball is. I'd say the replay that I saw on the play, it looks like the ball may be across the goal line. The question is whether his knee is down or not. It's hard to tell. There's a ton of bodies in there. It's similar to the play that was kind of taken back to the 1-yard line there at the end of the game that Indianapolis had. The angle that I saw and then I asked up in the booth from the coaches and they said the same thing. The angle wasn't clear. Again, there was no goal line shot. There was a goal line shot but we didn't see it and so if you're not sure, then depending on the magnitude of the play, if you're not sure about the play and it's a critical play, a game-changing type of play, then maybe you take a shot at it. If you don't feel it's that and you just challenge it for the sake of challenging then there's a cost to that.
Q: On the last drive before the half when Stephen Gostkowski kicked the 45-yard field goal, would you have liked to see the clock come down a little bit more before taking that timeout?
BB: It probably depends on what you're trying to do. Yeah, possibly.
Q: How do you think the team handled this stretch of three games in 12 days? Oftentimes it seems that you can get a pretty good idea of the mental and physical makeup of a team after a tough stretch like this.
BB: Well, I thought they handled it well last week. I thought we had, in the short amount of time that we had to prepare, I thought our players were focused and did a good job on it. Were we as well-prepared as we would've been on a Sunday game? No. Was Indianapolis? No. It is what it is. It's a short week, a very compressed time to prepare. There's some things that probably came up in the game for both sides, both teams, that had it been a little bit of a different week might've been executed better. It's the same for both teams. It is what it is so you just go ahead and roll with it. I think those games come along once a year. Every team has one. You get through it and you move on. I'd say that's where we're at right now. I think there's a lot of things that come up in a week like that. Going back and overanalyzing t right now, I don't know how productive that is. We're not going to have another Thursday game this year. There's some schematic things obviously we can improve on and learn from. I'm not saying that, but just the overall schedule during the last - however many days it is, 12 days or something - yeah. Look, every team in the league has one of those so you deal with it the way you deal with it and do the best you can. The next one we're going to have is sometime next year.
Q: Is Danny Etling a guy you've given any special projects to while he's on the practice squad?
BB: Well, I mean he plays a position - there are a lot of things that happen during a game that are different than the ways that you're talking about in the meeting room or in a walkthrough or settings like that. It's just part of the whole experience and so forth. He does some things for us during the game and I also think there's an opportunity for him to learn and see things at real game speed and live action and the way they happen in the game, the way we have to play the game. We talk about a lot of things in meetings about how we're going to do this or how we're going to do that, but sometimes in game situations it plays out a little bit differently for one reason or another, or things get changed for one reason or another. Just having a full understanding of the process I think is good experience for players at that position.
Q: How consistent are scramble drill procedures for wide receivers across offensive systems? Are the rules pretty standard everywhere or are there rules that pertain to certain systems in those situations? How encouraging was it to see how Josh Gordon handled that situation last night on his touchdown?
BB: Yeah, Phil [Perry], I can't really say what everyone else is doing. I think you'd have to talk to other teams. I don't know exactly how other teams are coaching those types of plays. But I would say, fundamentally, I would imagine that everybody has a certain set of guidelines because you don't know exactly who's going to be where on a particular route, and if you end up in a certain place to where the quarterback is scrambling or away from where the quarterback is scrambling and depending on where you are on the field, then you probably have a basic rule or a basic guideline of what you want to do, what you should do so the quarterback at least knows what the second route is going to be. From there I think a lot of quarterbacks have their own individual preferences. Coaches probably have some of their own preferences. Sometimes those get merged together or one overrides the other depending on circumstances and then it goes from there. I think that's probably how it gets put together. Again, in our case we have an element of all of those. Each one is different, but you want to try and help the quarterback, not hurt him. So the receiver's doing the best thing they can do in that situation - I shouldn't say the right thing - but the best thing to try and create the best opportunity and option for the quarterback with the play already broken down to a certain extent. Those are the guidelines that we ask them to follow. It's honestly no different than punt coverage or punt return or kickoff return. You can draw lines on a piece of paper, but when the game starts and the play happens the displacement of the players and where the ball is kicked and so forth, its guidelines. Nobody's exactly where the line is drawn on a piece of paper. Then you follow your rules or concepts that we've taught in those type of reactionary plays to try and pull it all together. You coach those concepts so that players can adjust to a free-flowing type of play or a free-flowing type of situation. I'm sure it's similar to hockey and basketball and lacrosse and sports like that where there aren't very many set plays so to speak and so lot of it is just movement based on space and where the ball is and which way the ball is moving and so forth. Those are the general principles involved there.
PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: How much does Julian Edelman's presence change the offense and the rhythm of the offense?
JM: Julian, you know, he's played in our offense, in this system, with our quarterback for a long time. So, the strengths that he possesses and the things that he does well certainly allow us to do some things offensively. When we do them well, obviously it helps us move the ball and score points and try to get into a good rhythm. We always try to get into a good rhythm regardless of who we're throwing it to, but our overall execution yesterday - you know, he helped us at the beginning and certainly made some plays throughout, but I'd say there's plenty of things we need to improve on. But, it's good to have him back.
Q: Julian did not seem satisfied with the way his leg felt during camp. Did he at all surprise you with his quickness and ability to stay on the field for a better part of the game?
JM: Jules works hard, and he's always worked hard. I mean, you'd have to ask him about his legs or whatever he said, but I know during camp, in the preseason games and the things that he did with us, I mean, he was there for the whole duration of that and made progress and was doing everything everybody else was trying to do, has worked to get ready and prepare for the season. So, I wasn't really concerned about that and I think he held up OK.
Q: We've seen the spread passing game over the years from you guys. Where would you say the origins of the system came from and what is appealing to you about the spread passing game and opening it up?
JM: I don't know if I could speak to the origin of who created that or where the idea came from in terms of doing it initially. I know that there's been many teams that we've certainly seen do it over the years. We've done it here off and on for a long time. Honestly, I think every game is its own game, and every opponent, as you study and prepare to play against the next opponent, you're really looking at the best ways you can to try to move the football and be productive on offense and score. And so, some weeks, that may or may not be the best thing to do. It doesn't mean that we always make the right decisions, but as we try to figure out exactly how to approach each week and each opponent, we certainly try to take into consideration all the factors at play, whether that's our personnel, their personnel, the weather, the pass rush, their secondary, the coverages that they use, how much do they blitz, what do we feel about our run game, how do we feel about this - you know, there's so many things that go into trying to make decisions about how to play and approach each week. And, certainly, spreading teams out has become much more the norm in the National Football League than it isn't, and we certainly want to be able to do a lot of things well and right offensively. When we choose to do that, there's a lot of people that have to do a lot of things right in order for it to go and be productive. When you spread out, the offensive line doesn't have a lot of people in there near the tackles. You sometimes tell the defense what types of protection systems you're using. So, there's a lot of things that go into it. The offensive line certainly did a decent job of pass protecting last night, and it was one of the things that we were trying to do to move the ball and score points. I'd also add that there's a lot of things that we didn't do very well last night that we need to make progress on and improve on, and that's really where we're going to be focused moving forward.
Q: Attitude, purpose and vision - I'm curious to get your feel for how Sony Michel has used those three or felt more comfortable with those three elements in the running game as he's progressed from Week 1 to Week 5?
JM: Look, Sony works hard and practices hard. He's really attentive in meetings, wants to learn, has a great approach to his preparation. He's got really good people in his room to look at and model that part of his professionalism after. You know, James White is a great example, James Develin, Rex Burkhead - I mean, we've had a number of guys in here that have helped show him how to do it right and I think he's really doing a good job of taking note of that. He's always run hard, and we liked his vision when he came out. And, look, he's only played four games in pro football. He missed all the preseason, and he just works hard to try to get better and we're trying to work with him to do that. He's certainly helped us and hopefully will continue to improve as we go forward.
Q: Is there something to be said about running with confidence? Do you see that more and more from Sony?
JM: Yeah, I can't speak exactly how he would or wouldn't say he feels. I mean, I've always felt good about him running the ball. It's his first year. He's only had a few games in our league, and he's trying to make the most of his opportunities, but he's never given me the impression that he's not confident. He's always been aggressive when he has the ball and [I] like his run style and he's certainly helped us, contributed significantly here in the first four or five games.
Q: We've seen Danny Etling take on a role on game day. How helpful is he in that role, and what have you seen from him as far as progression on the mental side of the game?
JM: Yeah, I think everything that Danny does is just another opportunity to learn. There's so many things that happen, especially for quarterbacks, whether it be during the week as you're preparing for an opponent, as you're preparing for their personnel, as you're getting to know their secondary, linebackers, as you're learning our game plan. It's just great experience and good exposure to him as a young player, who many of these things he's doing for the first few times here. And, being around on game day, seeing how that operation works, just being around that and an experienced quarterback and talking with Brian [Hoyer] and Tom [Brady] and being able to watch and gain experience through just seeing somebody else do it and go through it I think is invaluable. You know, he works really hard. He tries to do everything he can to help us prepare for the opponent each week, tries to do everything he can to help himself get ready to know what we're doing, practices hard, has a great attitude and has a good approach to each work day. So, happy with what he's doing, and he's just got to continue to improve and work at his craft. He does that on a daily basis.
Q: Tom set an NFL record last night by throwing a touchdown to his 71st different receiver over the course of his career. How indicative is that statistic of your approach offensively and Tom's approach as a quarterback?
JM: I think that speaks to how good he's been for how long he's been good. I think whoever's called plays for him, he's always been the same guy in terms of how hard he's worked, how much he's put into his preparation, how much he cares about playing this game at the highest level and how much he wants to win. And so, I think that speaks a lot more to he and his teammates and what they've put into it and that commitment and how hard that is to do. I mean, that's obviously an incredible achievement, and there's a lot of people that have certainly played a role in that. He would be the first one to tell you his offensive line and receivers and the other side of the ball getting us opportunities - those things are all really important, and he's taken full advantage of every one of those teammates that he's thrown touchdowns to. I don't think he much cares who he throws it to; he always tries to do the right thing with the ball. If the guy can get open and create separation and give us an opportunity to be productive, Tom's always been willing to do that and there's nobody I'd rather coach than him.
PATRIOTS LINEBACKERS COACH BRIAN FLORES
Q: Devin McCourty said last night that the defense didn't do a good job once it became a two-minute game. I'm curious how you improve that going forward? Is it just based on communication?
BF: I think, like anything, that starts on the practice field and in the film room. Obviously, we'll take a look at it. We've taken a look at it and just kind of getting an understanding of the mistakes we've made and some of the things that we can do better. They've got a good quarterback and they made a couple of plays there. But at the same time we could've played some of those things better, so we'll work to improve those areas, the two-minute. Really, but not just that - two-minute, third-down, red zone, there's so much we can improve on. Obviously, it starts with coaching, putting our guys in good positions to make plays and we'll continue to work to do that.
Q: Is it frustrating to you to see how dominant you were in the first half and then have the letdown in the second half?
BF: Well, it's always a goal to be consistent all the way throughout the game. It's like what I tell our players - there's never been a perfect game played of football. Obviously, that was the case last night. We didn't play as well in the second half. We've just got to do a much better job. Once the game changes like that we've got to be able to adjust better than we did. Hopefully we learn from that and the next time we get in that situation we'll be better.
Q: As a play-caller, how comforting is it to have so many experienced players in the secondary for you?
BF: I think that's, for me, I really enjoy coaching that entire group, whether it's Jason [McCourty], it's Stephon [Gilmore], to [Patrick] Chung to Devin [McCourty] to [Duron] Harmon to Jon Jones, that whole group, to include the young guys that have come along for us - J.C. [Jackson], Keion Crossen, Nate [Ebner]. There's a lot of experience in that group. We can come to the sideline and change a matchup, change how we want to play a bunch formation. We can do a multitude of things with that group because they're so experienced and because they work well together. It's comforting for me to be able to just walk over and say, 'Hey, look, we need to make this adjustment.' And just talk it through for a couple of minutes and they've got it. As a coach, that's all you want. You want to be able to make those types of adjustments and have the guys execute it on the field and those guys, they understand that those adjustments need to be made. I should say that. They do a good job of trying to execute on the field.
Q: Is the speed of the defense about where you expect it to be and what improvements do you think could be made in that area in regards to flying around and getting to the ball?
BF: I would say we want to be a tough, aggressive, fast team. There's always room for improvement in those areas. I think it's something we talk about every day. It's something we harp on. We want the guys to play fast. We want them to play free. We want them to play aggressive. I think we've gotten that at a more consistent level, but I think we're always looking for more. We're always looking for more improvement. We're always looking for more consistency. We'll just continue to coach that. I think our coaches, the staff does a great job of conveying that message I'd say and then we try to get that out of them in practice. It's shown up in the games and hopefully it continues to do. Again, it's something that, again, you can talk about it, you can say this is how we want to do it, but we've got to be obviously be able to execute and perform on the field on Sundays or Thursdays, as the case was last night. That's the goal every week and hopefully we continue to play that way and we can play by that way.
Q: There's a fine line between playing fast and staying true to your responsibilities within the defense. Do you think the guys are getting more and more comfortable with that?
BF: I mean, obviously you know the mantra around here is do your job. So, we need those guys to do their job, but we need them to do it at a fast and aggressive and violent pace. So, that's kind of the way we talk about it and how we frame it is, 'Look, everybody's got a responsibility. Let's do our job.' That's everybody - that's coaches, that's players, that's trainers, everyone - but let's do it on the field. Let's be fast, let's be aggressive, let's know what we're doing, let's fly around, and that's kind of how we want to play. In order to do that, we've got to have great communication and we've got to have everybody on the same page, all 11 guys - which, again, in football, that's a tough thing to do is get 11 guys on the same page play after play after play and do that consistently. But, if we can do that, which we've done in pockets, that's when we're playing at our best.
Q: It looks like Kyle Van Noy has played more on the line of scrimmage the last two weeks. If you agree with that, how do you feel he's adjusted to that and what have you seen from him in that role?
BF: I'd say Kyle's probably one of our most versatile players. He can play a variety of roles, and that will change week-to-week, but I'd say he's playing really well. Again, Kyle's a guy who works hard, he's smart, he's committed to the team, he's selfless, it's important to him, it's important that he does his job for this team. I mean, that's something he talks about all the time. He's really taken on a leadership role for this group, and I really appreciate the way he works and the way all our guys work. But, again, we've had some guys kind of step up and take on more responsibility, more roles, more leadership. He's definitely one of them, and it's really important to him, so I'm happy for the success that he's had and hopefully we continue to move in that direction.
Q: Have you gotten into Kansas City at all yet, or are you still cleaning things up from the Colts?
BF: Well, today's about, obviously, cleaning up the Colts, but I've taken a quick look at those guys. So, I mean, they're obviously a very good team, very good skill players - [Travis] Kelce, Tyreek Hill, [Patrick] Mahomes. I mean, these guys are playing at a high level right now, so that's going to be a big challenge. So, I've taken a quick look at them. I haven't dove into them just yet, so that will be the rest of my day.
Q: Have you seen enough of Mahomes to give a thought on what stands out to you or is it too soon for that?
BF: One word would be dynamic.
Q: Is Patrick Chung ever involved in linebacker meetings? Just how stabilizing of a presence can he be in the middle of the defense based on his experience?
BF: Again, similar to the conversation we just had about Kyle, Pat's as versatile of a guy as we have - again, safety, star, he's played a little bit of linebacker. Another guy who's stepped up and played a big role on this team for a long time. So, again, based on game plan, Pat's role changes with a week-to-week thing, but his versatility is obviously critical to how we want to play defensively. Again, he's smart, he's selfless, he'll do whatever it takes to help this team win. If playing linebacker is what we ask him to do, I'm sure he'd have no problem doing that. If it's safety or star or whatever the case may be, he's done a good job in every role. We're lucky to have him.
Q: How have you seen Jason McCourty adjust to some of the different roles he's had this year? He started at cornerback, got some work at safety and now he's stepped up and emerged as a starter.
BF: Jason - he's been terrific. As a player, he's come in, like you said, he's played a few different roles. But, again, this is a team guy, selfless, really just wants to do whatever it takes to help this team win. So, again, whether it's corner, whether it's safety, I think he's an experienced guy who is smart, he can make adjustments, he knows the strengths and weaknesses of each opponent. This guy spends a lot of time watching film and understanding the opponent, what they're trying to do, so he really does a good job of putting himself in a good position to make plays and help this defense play well. So, I've been really pleased with him.
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