Read transcripts from the New England Patriots conference calls from head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia which took place on Tuesday, October 17, 2017.
HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
October 17, 2017
Q: Do you foresee Shea McClellin beginning to practice this week as he continues to work his way back from injury?
BB: That's a possibility. That's something that we'll talk about with the medical people before we start work this week and see where we're at. If he's ready then it's an option. If he's not ready then it's not an option.
Q: Is there anything that stands out to you about the Falcons as significantly different from a personnel standpoint than when you last saw them in Super Bowl LI?
BB: Yeah, I mean there's a few things. We always start the preparation all over again, so we'll just take what we have and go forward with that and some notes we have from the past that we can refer back to. We'll base our preparations on the games that we have this year. I mean, that'll be the most important part of it - those five games - and like I said, we have other information we can insert there but we'll start with what's current.
Q: How much research goes into a player's personality when doing player acquisition and how do you monitor the culture of the locker room as the year progresses?
BB: Well, every player that we acquire, regardless of how the player gets here, all of the qualities that he has comes with it; his vertical jump, his work ethic, his personality, his strength, his everything. You can work to modify some of those things once the player is here, but we each all have our individual characteristics physically, our personality makeup, emotionally, intelligence and so forth. All of those are each unique to every single person. In the end, you have one decision to make, one value to put on the player. You can't change a player's height and that's what it is. That's part of that player. So, you look at the total package and decide what kind of value you place on it and how you would want to or if you would want to and in what capacity you would want to add that player to your roster and it's basically the same for every player. It doesn't really make any difference where the player comes from. It's the same basic analysis.
Q: How do you then monitor that through the course of the year?
BB: Well, once you put your team together you try to make it the best team that you possibly can. After you've made your decisions in training camp with your final roster then you make the decisions on somewhat of a weekly basis, although sometimes it's a little longer view than that. You do the things you feel like will improve your individual players, each of the units and the three basic phases of your team - offense, defense and special teams. We talk about those things continually - how does each player get better? How do the position groups improve? How does the overall unit improve? How does the team improve? How do all of those things tie together? So, it's done on an individual basis. It's done on a group basis. It's done on the offense, defense and special teams units. It's done as a total team. We critique ourselves as a coaching staff - what are we doing? What could we do better? What could we do differently? How can we best utilize the time and the opportunity that we have? How do we make the most of it? That is something that constantly is going on throughout the course of the season.
Q: When a player like Johnson Bademosi sees a significant increase in his defensive snaps, like he did on Sunday, how does that impact the role he can see on special teams? Do you talk as a staff to monitor his reps in the kicking game since he becomes a bigger part of the defensive game plan?
BB: Possibly. Yeah, it depends on the player. It depends on his role. It depends on his conditioning or ability to handle the volume that we're contemplating him having. Some players on our team play a lot in the kicking game and don't play very much on offense or defense. Some players play a lot on offense or defense and don't play very much in the kicking game. Some players play on offense and defense and have a small role in the kicking game. Some players that play on offense and defense have a bigger role in the kicking game. There's a lot of things that can go into that; the players ability, the impact that he can have on various units, whether it's on defense, offense or special teams, his level of conditioning, his overall health, the type of game and the type of game conditions that we may be dealing with that particular week that those rules might be modified a little bit depending on the various factors and, of course, as always we have to be ready to adjust those in the game. It could change on one play, so you could go into the game with one type of a plan and the middle of the first quarter that could all be out the window. Something could change that would affect that, that you just wouldn't really be able to anticipate but you have to be ready for it. Those are all things that we talk about during the week that we have our contingency plans and sometimes we have to see how it goes during the week, evaluate how much a player will or won't be able to handle in his role as things start to become clearer for us with the game plan and the way that we anticipate the game going. But again, that can all change, too, so we've got to be ready to make in-game adjustments. You can think it's going to be a certain type of a game. You're going to be in a lot of nickel or they're going to be in a lot of nickel and for some reason you get into the game and it doesn't turn out that way. Those are all things that we try to prepare for and then once the game declares then we adjust to it and if there is a circumstance in the game that overrides that then we have to be ready to deal with that, too. So, it's a process. I wouldn't say it's like a five minute conversation of 'OK here's what this guy is going to do.' OK, there we go.' It's, I'd say, a little more in depth than that.
Q: Has the change in offensive coordinator for Atlanta changed their offensive approach at all this season through five games?
BB: Yeah, well again, I'm not really trying to compare too much to what it was. I think what we're dealing with more is what we have right now in front of us. They're a very good offense, a very explosive offense. They run the ball extremely well, almost five yards per carry. They throw it well. They have a lot of receivers, tight ends and running back options in the passing game. They spread the ball around and obviously [Julio] Jones is a huge target and a great player, but there are a lot of other good options there. They have a very experienced offensive line, so they do a lot of things well. They don't always do the same thing as you would expect. Again, we're only five games into the season. How much of that is dictated by whatever the circumstances were in the first five games, how much of it is different coaching philosophy? I don't know. I think basically there are more similarities than differences to last year - let's put it that way - in all three phases of the game, but there are certainly some differences.
Q: Do you view the personality of the team as something that also needs to grow throughout the course of the season and is by no means a finished product at this point in the year?
BB: I'm not sure I understand the personality question, but what I would say is that each day really, and breaking it down into weeks, each week your team goes through a new experience, one that they have not been through before, so whether that's the first week of training camp, it's the first preseason game, it's the first road preseason game, it's the first regular season game, it's against each different opponent. Those weeks are all different. They're all a little bit unique. They're all experiences and challenges that the team faces on a daily, but let's again break it down to a weekly basis, that they have to go through and as you go through those experiences collectively as a team you have interactions between players, coaches and circumstances that affect your team. If you played the same six games and you won all of them there would be different interactions and a different experience that your team would go through than if you lost all of them even though it's the same players and it's the same schedule but because of the results or other circumstances that can happen during the course of the week or the results of the game or, again, whatever it might happen to be. Those make each week unique and they make them different and you grow together as team based on those experiences; some good, some bad but learning from all of them. I mean, we've only had one roster change since the start of the season but that's certainly on the low side. I would anticipate that there would be roster changes during the course of the year like there always are for every team and so that affects the makeup of the team, the interactions of the team. Maybe that's the personality you're talking about. I'm not sure. Chemistry - whatever that is - but those things all affect it. I can't tell you what they're going to be next week, next month or in December. I have no idea but we'll take them as they come. We play a game in Mexico. We've never played a game in Mexico before, so that's different. It's something that's unique to this team. We've played on the road before. We've played an international game before but not that game, so again, there are just things that happen over the course of the year that your team reacts to and that's what formulates the team, those experiences and the interactions of the people that are on it. We have new people that are on the team this year that weren't on the team last year. Next year we're going to have new people on the team that weren't on the team this year, so it's always going to change and evolve and in the end as a coaching staff and with the captains and the overall makeup of everybody. Look, everybody's a shareholder on the team. It's not one person's team. It belongs to all of us and we try to make it as functional, as affective and as competitive as we possibly can. So, that's what the goal is, to win every game that we play and to have a good season and to make the most out of every day and every opportunity that we have. I don't know if that answers the question or not but I'm trying.
Q: Using the first kickoff of Sunday's game as an example, are you finding that there is more incentive to use the kickoff coverage that almost forces the team to take the ball out of the end zone and try to win the field position game?
BB: Well, again, I think it depends on what the philosophy of a team is and what you're trying to do and that certainly could change from week to week. It does with us. I'm sure it does with a lot of teams. The decision on what you want to try and do on the kickoff, kick it as far as you can, not kick it as far as you can, kick it into a certain [area], kick it directionally and how you want to cover it and what type of return they have and what type of returner they have and what the conditions are, which sometimes override whatever it is you want to do, kick in a direction, kick long. Maybe it's just not going to go very far because of the conditions. All of those things play into it. I'm not sure that there's one set of rules. The rules are what they are so nobody's going to change those. They've been that way for enough games that I don't think that's really a factor anymore. It is what it is. You make the best decision that you can based on the factors and what you're trying to accomplish. Some of that is field position. Some of it is maybe how you want or don't want the ball handling to go based on what your opponents are doing with the return game. I'd say for us there a number of factors that go into it. We talk about it and it's not the same for every kick in the game either. That could change from quarter to quarter based on the conditions or the game situation could certainly dictate. I'm not just talking about onside kicking on the last play of the game, but the game conditions can definitely change the way that you're thinking about that, especially after you see how it goes after you kick a couple and maybe have a better feel for what you want to do after a couple of kickoffs than you do going into the game not having any against that team. Again, I would just say that, look, when we have a good play that's good, like the opening kickoff last week, but I don't think that's really, in the end, has a lot to do with this week. This week is based on this week and we want to do the best thing that we can in this game, whatever that is, and it's a different team and a different situation than what we dealt with a week ago. I don't think we can worry too much about that.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
October 17, 2017
Q: Do you have any experience calling plays from the booth? Why do you prefer being on the sideline as opposed to having a higher view like some coordinators prefer?
JM: I have no experience calling plays from the booth, so it's hard for me to comment on how that would or wouldn't affect me yet because I've never done it. I've been down there since I started and it's been something where I've always coached a position at the same time. I've been a quarterback coach at the same time as I've been the coordinator, so to have that communication and just the ability to interact with the quarterback on the sideline has been important for me. But, I don't really have any experience with the booth in terms of calling the offense, so it's hard for me to say.
Q: How much versatility does Rob Gronkowski add to your offense, both in the running and the passing game?
JM: Yeah, Rob, he does a lot of different things for us. He was in protection the other day. He did some good things in the running game. He was at the point of attack on our goal line run. He certainly makes an impact in the passing game, also. But, Rob's a guy that he's involved in most aspects of the offense, whether that be run blocking, pass protection or pass receiving, so he does a lot of things. We ask a lot of things of him, and he certainly makes an impact when he's out there.
Q: Why do you think the offense has struggled with closing out games in recent weeks?
JM: Well, you know, you have to execute what you're doing, whatever that may be - run, pass, pass protection, routes, throws - on whatever the play is in that situation. If you want to finish the game on offense, which we always try to do, you're going to have to get first downs and possess the ball, and the defense is trying to get the ball back for their offense. It's usually going to be tight coverage. It's usually going to be a lot of people down near the front, and we have to do a better job of executing in those situations so that we can finish the game with the ball, which is always a goal of ours when we have a lead. But, yeah, it's frustrating when we don't do that. All of us can do better - I can do better, every position group can do better - to try to impact those situations in a positive manner.
Q: Would you say it's a combination of things that have contributed to the offensive struggles late in the game, or can you put your finger on one thing?
JM: No, there's no one thing. I mean, we scored multiple touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Carolina. We scored in the fourth quarter against Houston. We've done some different things during the course of the year where we've executed well and had stretches where we've done a lot of good things and certainly have had stretches where we didn't. We're in the process of trying to improve and get better. We need to make progress and we talk a lot about our best football being in front of us, and we need to start playing that way.
Q: How important is the Super Bowl LI game film in preparing for this game? What do you see from the Falcons' defense that presents challenges for your offense, whether that's similar or different to what you saw the last time?
JM: I think you study a lot of games when you prepare for an opponent. Some may go back to last year, and you certainly study all the ones that you have this year to look at. That was the last game we played last season, so just to look at some of the things that took place in the game and really just evaluate and self-scout what happened for us. We've already done that. We took care of that, and now we're really focused on looking at the personnel that they have on their team now, which there's definitely some new faces, some new people. There's a few things that they're doing differently schematically, and they've evolved. I mean, this is 2017 for them, too. We have new players. They have new players. There's a few things that they're doing differently. We're doing some things differently. So, really the focus is on trying to get this team ready this year to play against a team that we see on film now as we study Atlanta this season. They're obviously a very disruptive defense. They're fast. They put a safety down near the box. [Keanu] Neal is going to be down there basically the entire game. They play with great effort, hustle. I mean, it's hard to find a team that will play harder than this one. Historically, they've always talked about getting the ball and taking it off of people. They turned the ball over on us last year, and this is a team that certainly can do that if you're not careful. You've got to be really good in terms of taking care of the football because that's the hallmark of their defense. It always has been, and they're physically tough, fundamentally sound, they play really fast, they're a fast defense from front-to-back, they challenge you with plenty of man coverage, and they'll mix zones in there, also, and then they have some different schemes that they try to throw at you in situational football that will certainly challenge your ability to communicate, protect and do those types of things well, too. Very well-coached, play the scheme extremely well, fly to the ball - I mean, it's a challenge in every regard we could discuss with this team defensively. So, looking forward to our preparation. It will be exciting to get out there and start practice tomorrow with our guys.
Q: What is it like to practice against Malcolm Butler? Do you feel like his competitiveness helps your receivers when they face a similar opponent?
JM: Yeah, Malcolm's a good player. He makes things tough. We get a chance to practice against him quite a little bit, and he's competitive, he's physical, he's always near the ball and he's a good football player. You know, we've got a lot of those guys on defense that challenge us. Hopefully when we go against one another in practice, the intent is to get better and improve as a team. Those competitive reps are always valuable to us.
Q: When Dion Lewis is picking up the blitz as well as he is, what kind of flexibility does that provide you as an offensive coordinator?
JM: Yeah, Dion did a good job the few times that they pressured the safety on Sunday. He took care of his responsibility and handled that well. You know, we ask all our backs to really do a good job in blitz pick up, whatever down that is, whatever the protection may be. It's difficult to play in pro football if you can't block blitzers as a running back. So, we ask all our guys to be prepared to do that. Some guys have to do it on different situational downs. James White usually does it on third down or in two-minute situations for us and does a really good job of that. You know, the guys that play on early downs, like Dion and Mike [Gillislee] and Rex [Burkhead] and Brandon [Bolden], those guys, there's a different set of blitzers and packages sometimes that you've got to be ready for. But, I thought they did a good job of being ready and prepared for those things when they came up on Sunday. It certainly helped us in the game.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA
October 17, 2017
Q: How would you describe Malcom Brown's level of consistency this season?
MP: I would say for Malcom Brown I think where we're at right now and what we're trying to do with everybody is to improve every week and I think Malcom has done that. I think he has really trying to get better each week. Certainly we're trying to work on staying consistent with our technique and being able to play the run game and the pass game better than what we're doing. But Malcom is a guy that works really hard at his craft. He's really trying to be consistent with the things that he does. He comes in and he studies. He's been out there every day really trying to work to make sure that his technique is fundamentally sound, his pad level is low, that he's using his hands in the proper placement, all that little finer points of detail that we've got to make sure that we can do play in and play out and every single snap. We try to get the most we can out of our - especially our padded practices, which unfortunately we don't get a lot of those anymore. So having an opportunity to get out there in pads and to work on the technique that we're doing is really valuable to us. I think Malcom is trying to do that the best he can as with all of our guys.
Q: Is Malcolm Butler's competitiveness and willingness to play to the whistle something you've always noticed in him or is that something that has been coached up since he's been here?
MP: No, Malcolm is a very competitive individual. I think it's one of the things that you come into a program and you're a free agent or whatever the situation is and one of the things you're going to do is you're going to fight and you're going to compete and you're going to try to do everything at a high level the best you can. Whatever your skill set is you're going to make sure that you're competitive all the way through. I think he's someone that - Malcolm's always been competitive from the standpoint of competing all the way through the play. It's something we stress obviously, also fundamentally that we want to do and he's been able to do that and sustain that. I would say he's a competitive guy.
Q: What kind of challenge does the Falcons running game present with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman?
MP: Yeah, great question and I would say that these guys on tape and their team as a whole with the offensive line, this run game is real explosive. Both of these guys are running extremely strong, big play after big play as is indicative of their average per carry. [Devonta] Freeman is an extremely quick guy. He does a great job of getting into space and taking advantage of defenders' leverage. He's explosive. He can really get the ball downhill fast. He's got great feet, vision, balance, jump cut and one of the things where he's improved his game is he's got a great spin on contact and he breaks a lot of tackles with that spin. [They've] just really done a great job in the run game with him. Then [Tevin] Coleman is another guy who's a very strong runner. He's got excellent speed. He really does a great job of making the defense commit and then either try to cut it back behind the over pursuit or just be able to get to the edge and get outside and bounce it out there and beat everybody around the corner. So two guys that to me on tape that are running much better than they have in the past. [They're] guys that have really improved the run game and their ability to control the game with the run. The thing that makes these guys so dangerous is now, obviously, their ability to get out into the passing game. They do a great job. Coach [Steve] Sarkisian does a great job of getting them into space, whether it's from the backfield or motioning them out or putting them into empty formations now where they can get the ball in like a catch-and-run scenario or a screen or something where they get the ball fairly quick and they can just use their talent to be able to make people miss and run with the ball after they get it in their hands. There's obviously a couple real dangerous plays on film where these guys go vertical in the passing game also and really try to take advantage of the matchups that they have their too. Two extremely talented backs, both in the run and the passing game. They're doing a great job of just getting them the ball which just combined with obviously the rest of the talent that they have in their skill positions - the tight ends, the wide receivers, Julio Jones obviously is a big, big challenge for us.
Q: With the Falcons change at offensive coordinator from last year to this year, what are you noticing that stands out as different in terms of what they're doing schematically, if anything at all?
MP: Well, again it's hard to just straight compare let's call it game 19 to where we are currently in the season. We're just kind of going off of what they're doing right now. Obviously, taking a look at what they did last year there is a lot of carryover to the offense and there's a lot of skill players that are back, the quarterback. I think Coach [Steve] Sarkisian has done a great job implementing the system that was already in place plus adding his own variation to it and his style of offense too. I would say what they're doing right now is just a great job of a balanced attack, both in the run and the passing game. The ball is coming out really quick then they're also pushing the ball downfield with their shot plays which are very dangerous with the speed that they have at the skill positions [with] both of the backs like I mentioned and then also with their receiving corps. Julio Jones, he's just an unbelievable, incredible player. This guy is an amazing wide receiver and a huge problem. [Mohamed] Sanu, when he's been out there and we expect him to be out there, [is a] great player for them. That's a guy that they depend on to really make the offense go and they do a lot of different things with him, whether they put him in the slot or outside or put him in the wildcat quarterback position. They're going to do some different things with him there to kind of put you in bind. [Taylor] Gabriel, obviously his speed, his ability to make big plays. You saw [Marvin] Hall here against Miami with his speed and his ability to get vertical also along with the tight ends - [Austin] Hooper, very effective, very efficient player for them, great hands, the whole deal. They've done a great job of marrying up their run game, which is outstanding, with their play action game where they've been able to push the ball downfield along with their drop back game. Everything goes through [Matt] Ryan, that's the quarterback, who's an extremely smart player, gets the ball out fast, like I said deciphers the defense [and] the coverage very quickly. He can check at the line of scrimmage, change plays, get his offense into the best play possible versus the coverage you might have or the front you might have in the run game and really try to take advantage of all the different looks that he sees.
Q: Matt Ryan has uncharacteristically thrown six interceptions in five games this season. What have you seen from him in terms of that?
MP: Well I think really you've got to look at some of those particular plays where the ball is either tipped or necessarily not caught clean or bounces a particular way. I think for us we're looking at those ones he has completing, the big plays that he's getting the ball downfield and his ability to get the ball to the receivers and they're ability to go up and get the ball. So that's really where the focus is. There's outstanding plays by this offense and you can't take anything away from that.
Q: Are you more satisfied with the level of energy and professionalism coming from your players and your sideline at this point in the season?
MP: I'm not really sure what was mentioned previously. I'll say that I think our guys are really trying to attack each week the way that we want them to. We came off of a - we had a short week there with the Tampa game which is always very difficult in a season but I think the guys did a great job of trying to really prepare and get ready for that like I had mentioned last week. Then certainly with the game this past weekend, it's a very tough divisional game going down to New York having to play in the stadium against a really good offense and a really good team where you're in a hostile environment which is great, it's fun. So you get a good opportunity to kind of bond together, stick together and go out and play hard and aggressive. We're trying to do that every week so we're going to have to have that same energy certainly this week. Atlanta is going to be a huge challenge for us. Our guys are going to work hard like they always do and prepare and study. They're great professionals from the standpoint of their attitude and their approach to the game each week. It's something that each week it's very difficult in the NFL. You put everything into it each week and you unload it on Sundays then you've got to pull yourself back together on Monday and fill the tank back up and get ready to go again. Every team is difficult and every game is different and hard and certainly the Falcons, this will be a huge challenge for us.