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Transcript: Coaches Conference Calls 12/19

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia, and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels address the media during their conference calls on December 19, 2017.

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

Conference Call
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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Q: Do you have a rule for your players when it comes to handling the ball on the goal line and whether or not to extend the ball out to cross the goal line?

BB: Yeah, we talk about it. We talk about everything that's football related, so situations, ball security, all of those things. We go over all of the situations. There are a lot of different ones. They're not quite all the same, but we cover them and make sure that they understand what we would want them to do in different situations. As I said, there are many different things that could happen on the types of plays that you're describing.

Q: Having been in the game as long as you have, do you like that particular rule from Sunday that overturned the would-be touchdown catch by Jesse James?

BB: Well, I think that's really a conversation for people like Al [Riveron] and the league and so forth. But, there's always been a philosophy in the league and it's gone back several decades of philosophically whether you want to have a catch and a fumble or an incomplete pass, and the philosophy has always been incomplete pass. Otherwise, you'd have a million catches and fumbles. I agree with that. The catch in the end zone is very clearly stated, so you've got to complete a catch. It's pretty clear. Whether there's a better way to do that, I don't know. It's a tough rule. It's a bang-bang play. It could go either way, so I think you have to have a philosophy and whatever philosophy you have then there will be people on the other side with a different philosophy and then it really gets back into that whole discussion. I think if you've got a better way to do it, suggest it and let somebody take a look at it and we'll talk about it. I don't know.

Q: When Kyle Van Noy is missing time, how does the coaching staff balance whether to fill his role more from the safeties or from the remaining healthy linebackers?

BB: Well, every week you try to take the players that are available to you and the options that you have and match them up against your opponent and what those challenges are and how you want to try to, in this case, defend it. It's a comprehensive question. It's not just one guy or one play. There are different personnel groups. There are different situations. Maybe you try to keep it all the same. Maybe you split up and do it in segments. There's a lot of different potential options. You just have to decide which way you want to go and then once you chart the course, you practice it and get it ready to go that week.

Q: What has it been like working with your son, Steve Belichick, coaching up the safeties? What have you observed from him?

BB: I mean, it's great. It's great. It's great to be able to have him here every day. I think he's done a good job with the group. Those guys are good players. They're some of our best players with the five guys that we have at that position. There's been a lot of continuity there. It's unfortunate that we lost Nate [Ebner], but they've all been productive. They all are strong players both in the kicking game and defensively. It's been a strength of our team.

Q: Do you still envision using the 'designated to return' roster spot off of Injured Reserve this season or is it too late essentially at this point?

BB: Well, it's still available for us, and if we feel like it was something that could help us and there was an opportunity to use it then we would use it. It's still an option.

Q: After an emotional win like last Sunday, a team sometimes needs to refill the tank in order to play their best following such a big win. Where does that characteristic rank in importance among some of the great teams that you've coached and had success with over the years?

BB: Yeah, well, each team has its own chemistry and its own personality that the players on that team form every year. Really, every game is different. There's constant change in the emotions and in the makeup of the team. We'll see how we respond each week with this team. I know that the other teams were what they were. Some were great, some weren't quite as good. But, this team will write their own story and none of us know how it'll come out. We'll see, but it's one of the weekly challenges that we face, one of the many challenges and it's certainly present this week.

Q: How do you feel that this particular team has done turning the page on a weekly basis?

BB: Some weeks better than others. I don't think it's perfect. It's certainly not all bad, but really it doesn't matter. This week is about this week, so we'll have to do a great job this week against a good Buffalo team that's in the postseason picture, has had two big wins the last two weeks. Really, pretty much controlled the Miami game. Certainly something we couldn't come close to doing. As I said, we know that'll be a big challenge for us.

Q: How important are the veteran players when it comes to helping newly acquired players adjust to the organization as they're brought in during the course of the season?

BB: I think there are players that can help on that. I think our players do a great job of welcoming new people into the organization, as they were at one time, and trying to help acclimate them to whatever particular part of the season it is that we're at. But, each player has a very important job to do and he can't do somebody else's job while he's still trying to do his own, so there's a limit as to how much they can – not how much they can help – but in the end it's up to the new player, and the coaches, or the unit that he's working with to help that player along, but that player has to also take on a lot of responsibility and accountability himself to do that. Eric Lee is a good example of a player who's done that. A lot of people have tried to help him and given him words of encouragement or tips or whatever it might be, but Eric's done the bulk of the work. He's put in the extra time. He's put in the extra hours and really tried to embrace and learn all of the things that he's been asked to do and that's what he should do. He had an opportunity and he took advantage of it. Other players that have that opportunity get the same opportunity to capitalize on it. It's good for the players to help them. That's a good thing, but it's, I'd say, a small percentage of the overall picture. The bulk of it really needs to come from the player who's been given the opportunity and has to quickly get up to speed with his responsibilities. 

Q: What does Matthew Slater bring to the team when he's back out on the field, and what did he also bring to the team when he was injured throughout stages of this season?

BB: Yeah, Matt's done a great job for us, as he always has. He's got great leadership ability, is very much invested in the team and the success of the team and has a good perspective. He's played a lot of football. He's been in a lot of different situations. He's actually played in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – so he has a good background to help just about anybody. His presence on the field is good. He sees things and can help Joe [Judge] and Bubba [Ventrone] on the sidelines, or help a particular player with a blocking scheme that they use against us on our kickoff coverage, or the return that they're using against us on our punt team, or things like that, that he can see the way a player is playing it or what they're trying to do. So, he has good insight and he has good leadership and is a positive influence, so tough situations and whether he's playing or not playing he's a great competitor and does an excellent job of knowing what the right thing is to do and doing it or helping somebody else do it that helps the team. That's really what it's all about is doing what's best for the team. He always does that. It comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes, but in the end, what he does is so good for the team, so he's a very valuable person for us in that context.

Q: What did you see from the missed extra point last Sunday? Was the whole timing just thrown off due to the snap?

BB: Yeah, well, there are several things that could've been better on that play, obviously. It's the National Football League. We've got to be able to execute that play better than we did. Obviously, need to coach it better, need to execute it better. We've just got to do a better job on it.

Q: In general, have you been satisfied thus far with that operation on your team?

BB: I think we've had a lot of really good plays there. That wasn't one of them. Again, we've just got to do a better job of coaching it, preparing the players for that type of situation and being able to execute under not perfect conditions but, as I said, we're in the National Football League. We've got to be able to execute that play.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

Conference Call
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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Q: Because of the risk involved, do you coach players to not reach the ball out when they get to the goal line?

JM: We try to cover all those situations. Really, Bill [Belichick] does a good job of covering those starting back in the spring and then going through training camp and then continuing on throughout the course of the season, whether they come up in our games or other game league-wide. Awareness, I think, is the most important thing because there's a time and a place where you may have to try to do that, and then there's a time and a place where it's not really worth the risk, if you will. So, whether that's an early down play, a two-point conversion, a fourth-and-goal, all those scenarios are different, and we're trying to make our players aware of those so that they have that information, and hopefully they can process the situation that they're in in the moment and then do the right thing with the ball and make sure that they always protect the team and do what's best for us. 

Q: What are your early impressions of Kenny Britt? What traits does he have that make you intrigued to work with him?

JM: You know, Kenny's been productive in our league. Now, it's a matter of – he's a guy who has some unique skills. He's a big guy, he can run and catch and has got a lot of size to him and can present some issues there – blocking the running game, do some things in the passing game that will help us. Now, it's just a matter of getting him caught up. Certainly, when you come in at this point in time in the year, you're never going to start from scratch and learn everything from the bottom up. You've just got to kind of move from one game plan to the next and then try to fit your role into your preparation each week, which is what Kenny's going to do. He did a good job last week of really pushing hard to try to get that understood and learn it, and we'll continue to work real hard with him this week to try to increase that and what he can do and what he understands about our offense and how he can help us win.

Q: What is the process like of getting Mike Gillislee back in rhythm after being inactive for several weeks?

JM: I think all of our players know by now that they use the practice week to prepare themselves for the game, and we rep everybody. Everybody that's out there is going to get reps, and they're working hard to get themselves ready to play whatever role it is that we're going to ask of them on game day. Sometimes that's bigger, sometimes that's smaller, but in each case, everyone's important, every role is important, no matter how many plays you play in offense, defense or in special teams. They're all critical plays to us to help us win. So, the players have all been in a rhythm going through their process week-to-week. Some guys that are inactive, they get just as many reps as some of the other guys do that are active some weeks. So, I think ultimately, it will come down to just a good week of preparation for our group on offense, and however the actives fall they fall. But, Mike's done a tremendous job of working hard. He's had a great attitude. He's on top of what he needs to be on top of, and if that's a role that he's going to play on Sunday, I'm sure Mike will be ready to handle it.

Q: What kind of impression has Dwayne Allen made as the season has progressed?

JM: Dwayne's really grown in our system. He came from Indianapolis and really started in the spring working on what we do and what this culture's like because no two places are the same. He's just continued to develop and improve. His attitude has been tremendous. He's a great teammate. He's unselfish. His role each week is different, and we ask some things of him that maybe we don't ask of some other people. He's been tremendous about learning his role, he embraces it, I know he's contributed in the kicking game and he plays a lot for us on offense – blocks, caught the ball, pass protection, run plays. Whatever it is, Dwayne's unselfish and really just wants to do whatever's best for the team. I mean, I don't know how much more you could ask of a teammate than to prepare hard each week, embrace his role in the game plan, know what to do, go out and play hard with great effort, toughness and try to do everything you can to help his teammates. It's been great having him, and we're looking forward to trying to continue to work hard to improve each one of our guys. Dwayne certainly will do that himself.

Q: How important are Allen and Rob Gronkowski in the tight end room in the development of a player like Jacob Hollister?

JM: Well, I've said it more than a few times – the tight ends, it's not an easy position to play. It's one of the few that's really involved in so many different aspects of playing offense. You block in the running game, you have to pass protect, understand protections and different adjustments to those protections, you have to understand coverages and adjust your routes based on the different defenses we see – short routes, deep routes, reading the coverage, post safety, split safety, man, zone. There's a lot of different things that those guys do on a weekly basis, and it takes a little while to get all those assignments understood and what those all entail. I think that our tight end room, which includes also James Develin, is a tremendous room. If you're a young player trying to learn how to get ready to play each week in the NFL, that's a great room to be in. We have a lot of really good rooms, and that one's also pretty special in terms of just looking to the guys, how they prepare, how hard they work, how well they know their assignments by the end of the week and how intent they are on doing the right things every single play that they're out there to help us win.

Q: What stands out to you as you revisit the Bills defense? From your time in the league, where would you rank the ability to refill the tank on a weekly basis, especially after an emotional win, as something that's a key ingredient for a successful team to have?

JM: Let's start with the Bills. We had a tough game up there. They're a good defense, challenge you with a lot of different things, whether it's players or scheme, do a good job of taking the ball away – I know they're one of the top teams in our league in terms of creating turnovers. They forced a turnover in our game, also. So, they do a good job of taking away the ball from the opponent. They play very good in the red area. They're a team that challenges you with different looks up front. Their safeties and their secondary do a tremendous job of disguising coverages and trying to hold their rotations, whether that's to include blitzes or not. They really force you to be disciplined and see what's going on after the ball's snapped because they're extremely well-coached. I mean, Sean [McDermott] and Leslie [Frazier] do a great job and they have their group playing really well. They know the system, they know how to play within in, they know how to adjust it to whatever formations or personnel groupings you're playing with and they've got a lot of good players. So, this will be a big challenge. Playing them twice in a relatively short span is always a good challenge for you when you're playing a division opponent because they know you so well, you know them, and it's about execution and who has a great week of practice and goes out there and executes our assignments and plays with great toughness and does the little things well for 60 minutes on Sunday. As far as coming off of one game and going to the next, you're in a routine by this time of the year, for sure – hopefully much earlier than right now – but we are definitely in a routine. Really, our process is what we kind of hang our hat on each week. In our league, you can't sit there and look back. You've got to look forward. Win, lose or draw, you have to take what you can learn from the game you just got done playing and you apply those lessons to hopefully make your team better or your unit better as you move forward and really get your focus turned to the next opponent and the next task at hand as fast as you can. I think our team does a really good job of that of really getting onto the next team, the next challenge that we have in front of us. In this case, it's a significant one with Buffalo – a team that knows us better now than they knew us three weeks ago. It's obvious they're playing for a lot, we're playing for a lot, and every game matters. Every game is really important this time of the year, and hopefully the motivation is the same each week – to try to reach our best potential, play our best football and continue to get better and improve so that we can play our very best each week as we continue to move through the season.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA

Conference Call
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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Q: What has it been like working with Coach Steve Belichick and the safety group this year?

MP: Well I mean obviously as a group that's a great group for us. They're an extremely strong, experienced group. I think from a standpoint of the play on the field and their production and their leadership and the way that they handle and approach the game is something that I think everybody can learn from and follow and model themselves after. It's a great group and everything that you want out of your players comes from that room. I think Steve has done a great job with them. Obviously I've been working with Steve for a while now and coming up and through and I think he's really done a good job to improve his overall coaching and his command of the position and his understanding of the defense. [He] really works extremely hard to get the full concept of what we try to do and then obviously go ahead and teach that to a position that needs to understand that out on the field. It's a very complex position to coach and it's a complex position to have to try to understand the different facets of the defense. From the front and how it all fits together and ties together into the back end, whether it's run game or coverage or communication, whatever the case may be. He's obviously done a great job of getting all that to those guys, that information taught and communicated. It's one of our stronger groups on the team along with the linebackers that really kind of hold everything together from the front end to the back end. I think it's been great. Absolutely great. 

Q: With Buffalo and LeSean McCoy coming to town, can you talk about the challenge of that perhaps why you've been struggling to stop the run lately?

MP: Yeah, obviously Buffalo [is an] extremely, extremely talented program and offense from the standpoint of their skill players. Starting with their run game. Starting with [LeSean] McCoy. Obviously [he's] a very dangerous player. [He's] a guy that can turn any play into a huge play at any time. [He's] extremely quick, fast. He's an explosive ball carrier with speed. I think they do a great job of getting him the ball into different runs that fit the way that he can create plays. The offensive line does a good job of covering guys up. He really has done an excellent job of being able to both run outside and inside. Really when you get him the ball in his hands, everyone's got to be ready for the ball to come to them. Tackling is extremely important with him Their run game has been great. It's been really good for a long time. He's really hard to defend. You may think you have him caged up and then he breaks loose and gets out of there. [Travaris] Cadet is another guy that will come in. He runs the ball extremely well too and I think he fits exactly the personality of what they're looking for from that standpoint. [It's a] huge challenge for us from that standpoint. Like I said, the offensive line, again, this is a group that has been healthy, working together for a while here now. I think when you've got a group like that that has a confidence in the back and the run game you can really see it come through in how they try to control the game. Tyrod Taylor is obviously another facet to the whole run dimension of the Bills and what they do with him and his threat in general. When they get into the shotgun position, the backs offset and they do run some of the zone schemes where it is a possibility where he could keep it and run it and they have some different option plays off that also. Then you're just kind of into a triple threat mode of trying to defend what they do. They really do a great job. I think Coach [Rick] Dennison does a good job of mixing it from the standpoint of the run game and the pass game and keeping it moving from that standpoint. Certainly that will be a huge challenge for us this weekend.

Q: I'm guessing you'd like to see a little improvement getting off the field on third down this week?

MP: Well you know for us we're trying to improve every week in all areas – third down, red area, technique, fundamentals. All of that stuff is what we try to make sure that we're operating at a high level. Certainly that's a big part of the game. Third down is critical from the standpoint of down and distance along with, like I said, those other areas. Certainly that is our goal to try to get off the field as soon as we can. The longer we're out there obviously then the more opportunities the offense has to do something with the ball. Every week that's a big priority for us. We're trying to make sure that we can get that done.

Q: When Joe Webb lines up in the wildcat for the Bills, does he bring a different dimension than your typical wildcat quarterback because he's had so much experience relatively as a quarterback?

MP: Yeah, I mean every wildcat is different. Every player that goes behind center has a different skill set, whether it's a wide receiver or running back or a quarterback for that matter. I think Joe Webb is obviously a guy that's very dangerous. [He's] extremely good with the ball in his hands. I think from the standpoint of being behind center in that quarterback position he's very familiar with that set or that position so he really does a good job of being able to read the entire defense. Whereas you might have some guys that go in the wildcat position and they're just kind of focused on the particular play or maybe just kind of a one or two, three-play package that they have that week. Whereas with Webb it's kind of a little bit more wide open. You have to be ready to defend a couple different things. Obviously they had a great pass scheme set up in the first game out of the wildcat alignments that they had with him, along with his ability to run the ball. Then put all of the other skill players that Buffalo has on the field with him and it just becomes much more of a wide open game that you have to defend from sideline to sideline and then obviously vertical with the threats downfield with his ability to read coverage or read defense and throw the ball. Then as you saw, his ability to run the ball too and to make those good reads from that position – something he's obviously done his entire career. [He's an] extremely dangerous guy that you've got to be ready and alert for when he's in the game.
Q: How much to you practice not only sudden change plays (interceptions, fumbles) but the execution of defenders who now become blockers to enable you to get a quality return?

MP: Sure. We're trying to score. I mean those guys get the ball in their hand they're trying to get that thing back in the end zone. I think all those guys are probably former offensive players at some point in their career, whether it's high school or whatever the case may be. Those guys want to try to score too. We definitely try to make sure we tell them where we want them to run with the ball and they're going to look for teammates and the guys that we're going to try to block and things like that. Obviously as much field position as we can change when those situations come up we're going to try to do the best we can to do that. First and foremost for us is always going to be to secure a turnover situation first. Make sure we take advantage of that opportunity when it does come up and secure the football. Then obviously if we can do anything we can to try to score or change field position we're going to try to do that also, but the most important thing for us is securing the turnover.

Q: Is there time spent on the guys who actually block on those plays? Do you invest a lot of time in terms of making sure that they block to allow those guys the best chance to do something with the ball?

MP: All of it. Football fundamentals. You're trying to teach all of it. Certainly the good thing about defensive players is a lot of those guys are on special teams where they might be doing a lot of those same things in those units also. A lot of them are just really highly-skilled athletes and they understand from the standpoint of trying to get good body position and put themselves in between a potential tackler. Obviously our defender with the ball, they're pretty instinctual as far as that's concerned.

Q: You're coming off of an emotional, 'empty the tank' type of win. How long do you enjoy it and what is that process? When are you turning that page to get to the next one?

MP: Well I'd say for us we like to try to be in routine as much as we can. I think as coaches we have our best weeks when your Monday is a Monday and Tuesday is a Tuesday and so forth. But for us, for me personally, it just depends on where we are, if we're traveling, if we're home, what time the game is at. Things like that. I obviously love to get into the game as soon as I can that we just finished up and try to wrap that up so we can turn the page and get on to the next opponent as soon as possible. For us, for me personally, it's just kind of depending a little bit on our schedule for that particular week – where we play, when we play and things like that. [I'm] certainly trying to go back and look at the game. I think as a coach you want to see the game again as soon as possible and see what it looked like on film and get whatever you need to get corrected fixed as soon as possible. That way you can really turn the page ASAP on to the next opponent.

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