PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: What did you see from your run defense last night, and do you feel that it has improved across the board in general?
BB: Well again, that's all about team defense [and] everybody taking care of their responsibility. I think the defensive staff did a real good job this week of fundamentally working on some things that we feel like we need to do better and I think some of those things showed up in the game. But really, it's being able to play good across the board. [Chris] Ivory and [LeSean] McCoy are both excellent runners that can beat you in a lot of different ways, so if anybody is not where they're supposed to be those guys can find them and make you pay in a hurry.
Q: How often do trade conversations or price points for players change significantly when you get into these last hours or minutes before the trade deadline comes and goes?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. That's a good question. Most of the situations all are different. Usually, Nick [Caserio] is involved in and handles a lot more of those than I do. I'm in meetings with players and staff trying to get ready for the game, so really we have other people on our staff that I would say handle the majority of those calls and that discussion.
Q: How have you seen Trey Flowers improve his ability in the run game since you started coaching him?
BB: Well, Trey's always been a pretty good run player. He does a very good job of using his hands and he's athletic. He's got good speed. I think the play he made there when McCoy bounced a run outside and looked like there was some space there and Trey was able to push him out of bounds after he only gained a couple of yards. His overall playing strength, technique and quickness and athleticism on the edge, on the end of the line – he does a good job with all of that. He really always has. I mean, certainly he's improved, like every player has and every player does that works hard and gets more experience. He did a pretty good job of that, really, his second year. His first year he missed the majority of the year and wasn’t all that healthy in training camp when he was out there, but from that point on he's been pretty good with it.
Q: Josh McDaniels mentioned that whenever a new player is brought into the system, it's always a good refresher for the coaching staff to be reminded of what exactly it is that they're trying to coach up from a ground level type of point. I'm curious of your thoughts and your perspective on the value of doing that, not only for the players, but for the coaching staff as well?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. I think any time you go through a process like that where you take a new player and you condense information and accelerate the time of the teaching that it forces you maybe to be a little bit more efficient. So there are things in our terminology, for example, that we've had through the years, and those of us that have been here and have used those terms are very familiar with them and they're kind of maybe ingrained, but they're not ingrained to a new player. Sometimes the teaching progression for a new player when you try to teach him things like that, there's no good correlation for it. The player is trying to learn it, but it's hard for him to learn it because it doesn't mean anything to him, whereas if you could use another word or another phrase that was more, let's say, synonymous to what the meaning of the play or the technique or the concept was, then it might be easier and quicker for him to learn. So a lot of times they'll come back on that maybe in the offseason and say, "We were going over this and actually it's kind of hard to learn. We know it, so it's easy for us, but for a new player it's kind of hard to learn. Why don't we see if we can take another look at it, streamline it and maybe change some of the verbiage around so that it's more consistent or there's a pattern to it or it's easier to remember.” The words have more meaning when they're said rather than just kind of being understood through experience and things like that. Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think that's true. I'd say that's where a lot of our upgrades in terminology or upgrades in our systematic teaching has come from, has been where we've had to try and teach it in a short amount of time so you have to be more efficient. Sometimes you have a lot of time. Even if you're inefficient you can still get through it and you don’t realize that maybe it's as outdated as what it is sometimes. Yeah, it's a really good point and I absolutely think there's a lot of value in that for us and then for the next new players that have to come in and go through the same thing.
Q: Does having the trade deadline fall on a short week create any more of a challenge for your or the coaching staff or even Nick Caserio?
BB: No, I don't think so. I think if you have a later game, like we had this week, then you use a little bit of the extra time last week to maybe check on a couple of things, or teams that want to communicate with us can and did do that knowing that we had a game on Monday night. They might have initiated conversation on Friday or Saturday of last week. Sometimes these conversations go back several weeks, so you just never know. Each situation is different. I don’t think there's any set formula. I don’t think it's that big of a deal. Everybody’s pretty accessible by phone, so we can get ahold of whoever we need to get ahold of. Anybody that needs to get ahold of us, they can do that too.
PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: How effective do you think the play-action pass game was last night?
JM: Yeah, we definitely got some plays out of it last night. You know, we try to get plays out of it every week. If you can marry the runs and the things you're doing in the running game with your action passes, obviously that helps you try to move the ball. Buffalo plays an aggressive defensive front, and as you saw last night, they're quick to try to get downhill and hit the line of scrimmage in the running game, and so we tried to find some space in there behind it. I thought Tom [Brady] did a good job of trying to decide whether we had it behind them or we had to dump the ball down to the backs a few times and made some positive plays there, too. So, the most important thing in all those things is just the overall execution by the 11 guys on the field. It doesn't always end up the way you hope it would at times, but if you can block it right and fake well and all the rest of it, give yourself a chance, and then you've got to have a guy like we do at quarterback to make good decisions and get the ball to the guy it's supposed to go to.
Q: How much would you say the success of the running game plays a factor in the success of the play-action passing game? Obviously, last night the running game wasn't hitting on all cylinders, but you were still really effective with the play action.
JM: Yeah, I think - you know, look, you've got to try to do both, and certainly they can play off of each other. I don't know that they're completely related at all times, but the fact of the matter is if they're stopping the run, it means they're usually coming downhill and playing good run defense. Sometimes the fact that you're not running it as well as you might like, which we didn't last night, sometimes that means it's because they're actually being more aggressive. So, you know, you've just got to play each game out and see each opponent for what they do and how they play and try to make the best decisions that you can in terms of trying to call the things that give you the most chance for success.
Q: When did you start seeing NFL offenses incorporate the jet sweep or the jet motion?
JM: Probably in the last few years here. I don't know a specific date or time for it, obviously, but the last so many years here, people have certainly done it and mixed it in there as part of their system. But, who did it first and how it came about and all the rest of it, I'm not sure I could pinpoint that exactly.
Q: What makes it difficult to defend?
JM: Well, if you can get it to a guy that has good running ability and get him out there around the edge and give him an opportunity in space to make some yards without having to block eight guys that are pretty good run defenders inside, it gives you an opportunity to avoid some of that and give your runner a chance with less defenders in front of him to try to make some yards with the ball in his hands.
Q: How good has Tom Brady been over the years at not forcing something that's not there, even when the scoring may not be as productive as you'd like? When he comes back to the sideline, how much do you guys talk back and forth about, 'Maybe there's something downfield, but I didn't want to force it because it's not worth the risk in a low-scoring game?'
JM: I think quarterback play is, in many ways, entirely about good decision-making. You know, I mean, the quarterback's got really two jobs - to take care of the ball and get the offense into the end zone. Neither one of those two things can happen without good decision-making. So, I'd prefer not to talk about the negative potential outcomes as much as we like to keep stressing the good qualities of good decision-making and what those good decisions end up resulting in and as long as we all understand - you know, look, football is a game of risks, no matter what play you call. There is a downside to each play. There's no plays you call and you say, 'Well, we have no chance of anything bad happening at all.' You know, you've got to block people, you've got to run, you've got to have an exchange, you've got to throw it, you've got to catch it, you've got to blitz pick-up, you've got to get open versus man coverage - there's a lot of things on every play that have to go right, and I have a lot of confidence in our players because they practice hard and usually whatever we do in practice has a chance to translate over into the game and become game reality for us. So, I trust Tom, obviously, implicitly with the football and making good decisions. Just because the game's a tight game doesn't mean you can't and you don't want to do things that give your team an opportunity to move the ball down the field and score points. I think we kept trying to do that as the night wore on. We didn't play as cleanly or as well as we would have liked, especially once we got into the fringe of the red area last night. But, I think the guys stayed with it and continued to try to execute against a good team and Tom made good decisions all night, took care of the ball and we come home with a division road win.
Q: With the trade deadline looming, as Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio are thinking about potential moves and talking to other teams, how frequently are they coming to you? How much input might you have if they're talking about an offensive player and how that player might fit in?
JM: They really handle all that, and we're really busy, obviously, quickly moving from our game last night against Buffalo into our preparation for Green Bay. Because we're a day short this week, so we're really into the Green Bay preparation hard, and that's where our time and focus will be all day today and all week this week. If they ever need, obviously, any input or ask anything of us, we're always willing to drop whatever we have to drop to contribute in that way, whether it be a small conversation or some type of a film evaluation or whatever they want us to do. So, they do a great job, obviously, of taking care of those things so we can focus our time and energy on the preparation that we have, which is in many ways, exhausting, coming off of a Monday nighter. So, the staff's been great, they're working hard, they've done a lot of work to get ahead and try to be in good position for today. So, that's what we're grinding on, and anything and everything that has to do with the roster, Bill and Nick, they'll take care of that.
Q: Because there is so much work for you guys to do to get ready for this next game, if there is a new player brought in, how much of it falls on you to try to get that guy up to speed? Or is that something that the individual position coaches focus on?
JM: It depends what position the player plays. Certainly, the position coach will take the lead on that. Our job - because we obviously add new players, whether it's practice squad or roster or whatever it is, fairly frequently throughout the course of the year - so, our job is to begin that new process with that new player. It's not to get him to know everything that Julian [Edelman] or Tom knows by the end of this week. So, we just start the process, and if there's a player that comes in new, we try to put one foot in front of the next and try to make progress each day and each meeting that we have with the player. If that player is eventually going to play for us this week or down the road, then whatever that player can do to help us, those are the things we're going to ask of them. And, it doesn't really make much sense to ask more than that because if we're going to put him in a position to do something he doesn't know how to do yet or isn't comfortable doing, then we're just putting the team at risk. So, fairly simple process. We'll all work hard to do that. The position coaches, especially, do a tremendous job of splitting their time when those things happen. Some of our younger quality control guys certainly do a great job of trying to help us caught up there - Jerry [Schuplinski] and Cole [Popovich] and Atif [Austin] and Nick Caley when he was doing that. Those guys have all spent extra time with these guys to try to get them caught up in terms of our system and the terminology and all that. So, that's actually a cool part, when you have to do some of those things, because it kind of takes you back to when you start your foundational teaching with rookies and new players, which we all enjoy doing. It's just you've got to manage your time well when that happens, and all of us have been through it, all of us have done it. Our staff does a great job when it occurs, and if it happens again at any point in time, we'll look forward to doing that with the next guy.
Q: How much of a relief is having a guy like James White? On the third-and-7 play on your touchdown drive last night, it seemed like the other receivers were covered and you could check it down to him and he makes the other guys miss to get a big first down. Is it a relief as an offensive coordinator that even if the play doesn't go according to plan, James can sometimes bail you out?
JM: James is a very dependable guy. Whatever it is we ask of him, we count on him to do a lot of things, and he usually does those things very well. It's good to have a lot of guys in your offense that can be counted on. He's certainly one of them and made a lot of good plays for us last night and has throughout his career. So, he's always been a big contributor to what we're doing, and he's got a lot of teammates that try to do the same thing.
PATRIOTS SAFETIES COACH STEVE BELICHICK
Q: What kind of threat does Aaron Rodgers pose for your secondary?
SB: Just getting started on those guys this morning. He poses a big threat, obviously, as an elite passer but also as a runner and extending plays and can throw the ball all over the field very accurately. He poses a great challenge. We're looking forward to it.
Q: Are you expecting him to be as mobile as he has been in the past given the problem with the knee?
SB: Yes, I think he looks just fine, and I think he'll be ready to go Sunday night. I'm definitely not underestimating him or his abilities, and I'm sure he'll be ready to go. He's proven that over a long, long period of time.
Q: The speed on Devin McCourty's interception returned for a touchdown stood out to a lot of people. I'm curious if that's something you've seen from him for years or does his speed still take you aback?
SB: Yes, I've seen Devin run like that a lot. The first play that comes to mind - obviously, not a good one - is him making the play on the Kansas City kickoff return, running that down. But Devin's always had tremendous speed and tremendous desire. You could tell as soon as the ball got in his hands, he wanted to get to the end zone. It was a great play by him and he turned on the jets and it didn't look like anybody was catching him. His brother was gaining on him a little bit, but I don't think he would have caught him.
Q: As the position coach for that group, how does Devin's leadership help you?
SB: I've been extremely fortunate to always have Devin in my room and I've always been on this team with Devin. I can't even say enough of the amount of leadership that he brings to this team in so many different areas on the field, off the field, in the meeting room, in the weight room, walkthroughs and then obviously on the practice field. He's a guy who's been around for a while. He's done a lot of things at a very, very high level for a long period of time. If I was a young player, I would want to follow his lead as well. I do as a coach, so I think everybody looks up to Devin in one aspect or another.
Q: When your group is facing a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers is there any emphasis on being strong in your fundamentals and not trying to do too much?
SB: Every play in order to be a good play starts with good fundamentals. Each week and each play, there's an emphasis on good fundamentals. It doesn't really matter who the opponent is, it always starts with your own game and your own individual technique. If you don't have good fundamentals, regardless of who you play, usually those plays don't turn out too well for our end. I always try to stress fundamentals - especially as the season moves forward, practice time cuts down a little bit. So, I always try to keep a stress on fundamentals regardless of who you're playing. But to your point, absolutely, just got to keep pounding it in their head, fundamentals and technique.
Q: Have you seen progress in that regard from the unit as the season has gone on?
SB: Yes, absolutely. Like I said, we try and put an emphasis on it every day. So yes, I wouldn't be doing my job if it wasn't improving.
Q: Devin said that he and Patrick Chung had an exchange before Devin's interception and that they had an idea of what they might get and to bait the quarterback into making that throw. How often do those exchanges happen between Devin and Patrick and what does it say about their ability to process information so quickly that they were able to have that kind of result?
SB: That's a testament to those guys recognizing something on the field and doing something about it - making a productive play for our team out of that - and kind of a follow up on the fundamentals question, communication's one of the most important fundamentals that we have here. You don't know what to do without being told what to do, so getting everybody on the same page. There's really nothing more important than communication to know what techniques, what fundamentals apply to that play so we can get all 11 guys on the same page. I absolutely try and stress communication with those guys, not that I had anything to do with that play - that was all them. But, always try and reinforce communication. It makes it a lot easier on the field when you talk through it and can work it out that way instead of just trying to read each other's minds and guess what the other person is going to do.
Q: Given the versatility of your safety group, do you feel like you have to have versatility as the position coach as well?
SB: I don't know, I've never really thought about it like that. I guess it's kind of all I've really known. I just try to teach these guys to be better football players. Safeties can line up all over the field - linebackers, all positions, they can line up anywhere. Just good fundamental football techniques, they apply to all plays regardless of where you align. So, I try to take techniques that are more applicable to certain position rooms that don't always come up for the safeties and implement those into the safeties' games. But, at the end of the day, you've just got to be able to make the plays when they come your way and hope the techniques that you've taught the guys can apply to that situation. Versatility's a huge part of football and you need to be able to handle different situations and different plays, different adjustments. It's absolutely important to be versatile - you don't want to be pigeon-holed into one position. I don't know if I've ever thought of it as being a non-versatile or versatile coach. But, it's definitely important and I definitely try and stress the importance of versatility. I haven't really thought about it on the other side of it.
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