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, September 26, 2017.
HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
September 26, 2017
Q: What did you see from Malcolm Butler on Sunday? Do you feel like he performed up to the standards he has for himself?
BB: Yeah, I think Malcolm did a good job. I mean, all of our defensive backs I thought were pretty competitive. We had some scramble yardage and loose plays and things like that. But I mean, the normal passing game we were pretty competitive on. But like anything else, there are certainly a lot of things we can do better. I'm not saying it was perfect or great by any means. We've still got a lot of things we can improve on.
Q: What are some of the things that Cassius Marsh has going for him and what have you learned about him in the short time he has been here?
BB: Well, Cassius is smart. He works hard. He picks things up quickly. He's really done everything that we've asked him to do and worked hard to get it right. He's athletic and has some experience. He's played for us in the kicking game and defensively. I think he's making progress. Again, we've got a long way to go, but making progress.
Q: Is what you are asking him to do very different from what he was doing in Seattle, or are there some similarities between the roles?
BB: I think there are some similarities. There are certainly some differences. Our defense has some game plan changes on it from week to week, so even if we did something this week next week it could be something a little bit different. It's just kind of a week to week thing there with what the roles are, what the jobs are, by game plan, by the specific opponent in the matchup. We just have to take that on a week-by-week basis and I think players obviously understand that, but that's what it is.
Q: How much does confidence play a role in various players' performances? Can their overall performance suffer if they have a bad play and it forces them to lose some confidence?
BB: Well, I think it goes a long way. We all do things in our normal lives. Things that we're confident in we do more aggressively, we do quicker, we do with probably better overall execution than things we're not confident in, that we maybe have to wait and have that little bit of hesitation to make sure that something's right or make sure you're doing the right things. It's a fine line there between confidence and overconfidence and taking it for granted, as opposed to just being right in that sweet spot of having an edge, having confidence, being alert and aggressive, but not too far that way that if something happens a little bit differently that you're caught off-guard. We just try to find that sweet spot in there for it.
Q: Is the number of points you've allowed this year an accurate reflection of how your defense has played?
BB: We're always looking to give up as few points as possible, so there's a lot of things we can improve on in all three phases of the game; plenty of them on defense, plenty of them on offense, plenty of them on special teams. We can score more points, give up fewer, have better field position, don't turn the ball over, take it away more. We need to work on all of those things.
Q: How unique of a running back is Christian McCaffrey, and do you regard him as an equal threat in the passing game as you do the running game?
BB: I mean, he's definitely a passing threat, and a running threat and a return threat. He's kind of a running back to receiver, but they can get him the ball in a lot of different ways. Some of those passes that are in the receiving category are really, I'd say, pretty close to runs. But regardless, he's a very explosive player, a dangerous player. [Curtis] Samuel is the same thing. He's more kind of a receiver than running back. They both can return, so whenever either one of those guys gets their hands on the ball they are dangerous. We have to first of all find them, and second of all make sure that we have them properly defended. Sometimes they use them as decoys to open up other parts of the offense, as well. They have a good group of skill players and a great quarterback, running back, a big receiver, a couple of specialty players in Samuel and McCaffrey that they've added to the team. They've got a little bit of a different twist to their offense in the way that they use those guys with specialty plays and with [Cam] Newton's ability to improvise and have running plays where they run the option, things like that. That's a lot to get ready for and they have a lot of good players.
Q: Were you made aware before the game that some players would be kneeling during the national anthem? Did any players approach you about that issue?
BB: I don't have any other comment on that. We're really focused on getting ready for Carolina. Last week is last week. This week is what's ahead of us and that's where our focus and attention will be.
Q: Who would be a comparable player to Christian McCaffrey? Is he like a Darren Sproles type in the way that they utilize him?
BB: Yeah, I don't know. Those guys that are unique like that kind of have their own skills. But I mean, look, he's a very talented player. He's got speed, quickness, good hands. He's a smart player that's versatile and they can do a lot of different things with him. You can find him in different locations. Call him whatever you want, but it changes from play to play through the versatility. Even though it's the same number and the same jersey, where he's located and what he can do from those locations is different defensively. We have to be aware of where he is and what the possibilities are from those spots. They move him around or put him in motion and sometimes they go from a running back to a receiver location or vice versa on the same play. We have to make those adjustments. They do a good job of utilizing their skill players and making it hard on the defense and forcing different adjustments out of different personnel combinations, so that will be a big challenge for us this week.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
September 26, 2017
Q: Do you believe that there is such a thing as a clutch player? If so, does Danny Amendola fall into that category?
JM: I believe in guys performing under pressure, and some may tend to do that maybe more. But, I also believe that a lot of the plays that people make in critical situations or at the end of games are generally the result of a lot of people doing good things. Certainly, guys have to make – everybody sees the person that catches the ball, but I would also there's a lot of things that are happening that maybe don't get the same amount of recognition in those types of situations that are just as clutch, if not more in some cases, that allow the play to happen. There's no question that I think Danny Amendola has demonstrated his ability to make plays under pressure, perform in critical situations and help us win games. I have a lot of confidence in him. I have a lot of confidence in our entire group that they're going to be able to do that when they're called upon in those types of scenarios.
Q: What types of challenges do Luke Kuechly and this Panthers defense present?
JM: He's an exceptional player. The first thing I'd say is that I'm not sure we'll play against a better field general, a guy that has command over what they're doing on defense and obviously is well prepared. You can tell. It jumps out on the film that he's done his homework. He works extremely hard to be prepared for each opponent that they play. He has a lot of responsibility. He generally has an idea of what may or may not be coming offensively. He's very fast. It's hard to outrun him and the entire linebacking core. He gets to the football – run, pass, screen, draw, however it may be. The guy just finds his way to the ball and plays extremely hard. Never, ever is there ever a lack of effort on this defense. I think he's a great example of that, and he's probably the best pass game linebacker that we play because he's such an exceptional reader of the quarterback, he's got great hands and instincts. He understands route concepts. He's a tremendous player. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for this guy. Their defense, obviously, is – I think they're ranked first in the league in total defense. They're in the top five in points, third down, short yardage. I mean, they're top 10 in sacks. They do basically everything well. They're very strong up front. They play a lot of people. They'll play upwards of eight people on the defensive line, so the guys that are in there are big inside, create a lot of issues inside, they have good edge players and they rotate multiple guys out there with [Mario] Addison, [Wes] Horton, [Charles] Johnson and [Julius] Peppers. They're difficult to move. They all can pass rush, whether that be speed, power, some type of games or inside moves. The linebacking core is as fast as we're going to play against – [Thomas] Davis, Kuechly and [Shaq] Thompson. They're all as fast as many safeties, and maybe more in some cases, that we play. So, it's very difficult to outrun those guys. They've got great team speed there. The two safeties that we'll see the most of, [Mike] Adams and [Kurt] Coleman, have great experience. They know exactly what to do, good in terms of getting everything lined up and communicated, never out of position, do a good job of reading the quarterback, disguises are good. And then the two young corners that they drafted last year – big, physical guys, long, they get their hand on balls, good tacklers. It's a good tackling defense, period, and they don't give up big plays. So, they can rush the passer, they can stop the run, they force you to drive the ball 10, 12 plays at a time to get points on the board. They're good on third down. They're good in the red area. I mean, this is as good of a unit from top to bottom as you can play.
Q: Was James White's reduced role on offense a result of the Texans taking him out of the game?
JM: It was a lot of things that James is responsible for. I think James was very much in the game. He might not have showed up in terms of statistically of having a high volume of catches, but [he] did a lot of things in the game that we needed him to do to help us move the ball and score points and win the game, ultimately. So, sometimes they pay more attention to him in the pass coverage game. Sometimes he was in protection. There's a lot of things that we ask of the guy, and he performed his role and did his part. But, again, we try to figure out the best way to try to win. Sometimes that involves different elements based on the position you play. Last week, James did his role and helped us win the game.
Q: The offense seems to have more success in the vertical passing game each week. What has gone into that?
JM: The players deserve the credit for all of that. They work extremely hard at their timing and the accuracy and the ability to track the ball, and they also take some intermediate plays and try to make them deeper plays as they catch and run with the ball, too. So, we've always worked hard on that. We've always tried to spend time on that. It's something that we continue to spend time on. It's just taking advantage of the opportunities when they're presented to you on game day, and our guys have done a decent job so far. We still have plenty of room to improve in that area, and we're going to continue to try to get better. But, they've capitalized on some opportunities thus far this season.
Q: Can you speak to Rob Gronkowski's impact as a blocker and what that allowed you to do against the Texans?
JM: Yeah, Rob – he has a lot of roles that he fulfills. We ask a lot of our tight ends in different games, whether that's to run block and run behind him or pass protect, as he did a little bit on Sunday, or get out there and catch the ball and make some plays in the passing game. He's valuable in all those roles. Generally, the tight end position has as much responsibility across the board as any other position because they do a lot of different things. They're route runners, they're run blockers, they're pass protectors, they blitz pickup. There's a lot of things that they're involved in. It's a complicated skill position to play, and Rob generally makes a positive impact in all those areas. Whatever he was asked to do Sunday, he tried to do it the best he could, and I'm sure that he'll do that again this week.
Q: What has stood out to you about Brandin Cooks as he has immersed himself into the program? And what stood out to you about the offensive line's performance against the Texans?
JM: Yeah, that was a good front and our guys hung in there. Look, whenever you play a good defense, a good team – which every team's got them in this league – it's not going to be a 12-round fight where you win all 12 rounds generally. You've got to hang in there and keep working together, keep battling and fighting, and ultimately, you do your job as many plays as you can better than the opponent does. Our group communicates well together. I thought their communication was very good, especially against some of the difficult looks that we received the other day. I thought they distributed the blockers between Tom [Brady] and David [Andrews], and the guys up front did a good job of doing that and obviously battled in the running game, battled in pass protection, hung in there. It was a hot day, played a lot of snaps and was a big part of why you're able to move the ball down there and make some plays, ultimately, to help us take the lead. Look, they get better every week. They work hard. They're extremely well-coached. Dante [Scarnecchia] does a tremendous job with them. They care deeply about doing their assignments right on every play, and we look forward to just continuing to try to work with our whole group offensively to improve each week. And, Cookie [Brandin Cooks] – he's got a great attitude, he's a great competitor, he cares about doing things the right way, he's a great teammate, he's very smart, he's got a great work ethic, he's been out there every single day since we got him. So, this guy loves the game of football, practices hard, plays hard, will do whatever you ask him to do to help the team win and has been a tremendous addition to our team and to our wide receiver group.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA
September 26, 2017
Q: What challenges does the Panthers offense, and specifically Christian McCaffrey, present to the defense?
MP: I mean [Christian] McCaffrey is definitely someone that has I think has expanded their offense in general in what Coach [Mike] Shula has been able to do on the offensive side of the ball utilizing him in really kind of a multiple role position, both in the backfield, out of the backfield, some motion, some different things they've aligned him in. Wildcat would be another one that he's had a role in too. He's just a very elusive player. [He's] got great burst, acceleration, good vision, really good space player, can catch the ball extremely well. [He] definitely is a guy that can turn big plays out of nothing and just really an overall huge part of dangerousness that their offense now has with him out there on the field. I think what they've tried to do with Cam Newton obviously being the threat that he is, both as a quarterback in the pocket, quarterback out of the pocket and also in the run game. When you mix kind of the element of him, McCaffrey with [Jonathan] Stewart in the run game, from that standpoint you have three different points of attack. There's often times where all three of them will be out there together, both backs will be out on the field together and you've got to be able to handle the different types of run packages that they present. Then along with that what they can do is move the formation or they can spread it out and put you into a bind from a passing standpoint because now with McCaffrey either releasing from the backfield or out of the backfield he's in a really threatening position of wide receiver or receiving standpoint also. It's a really difficult combination to handle, to match up against. You're talking about three excellent players there that are going to be in close proximity or can also spread you out in space situations too. I'll tell you in general as an offense, I think right now their skill players are extremely fit for the system that they're running. Kelvin Benjamin, [Devin] Funchess – two very large receivers. [They're] guys that can push the ball vertical downfield, have great hands, they're long, they can really cause some problems from the standpoint of coverage where the quarterback can throw the ball up. Obviously the quarterback is a very strong-armed guy, a guy that can get the ball vertical downfield so now he's got big targets to be able to throw the ball to. A couple other guys that you're going to see in there too, obviously [Russell] Shepard will be in there. [Damiere] Byrd, who is extremely fast. This guy is a very explosive guy who can get downfield quickly and then [Curtis] Samuel who's kind of another new addition that they have that brings a whole other element to their offense. Again, [he's a] very fast player, explosive, like Coach [Bill Belichick] had mentioned there, similar to McCaffrey in terms of being in different positions and different roles. [He's] another guy that's a real dangerous weapon that when he comes in can change the element or the dynamic of the offense. Certainly at the tight end position [Greg] Olsen was obviously a great player for them. With him not being out there now, [Ed] Dickson is really increasing his role out there in the tight end position. [Chris] Manhertz would be the other tight end. They'll run multiple tight ends and then they'll get into some extra offensive linemen packages also with those tight ends now that Olsen is not playing. They're going to give you enough stuff in the front. They're going to try to really try to run the ball at you, try to beat you up up front, try to push the ball and really try to use their passing game to not only now go vertical, but then use some of those skill players to get the ball out into space quickly and attack you that way also.
Q: What has allowed Kyle Van Noy to establish himself in the middle of the defense and be a guy who really doesn't come off the field right now?
MP: Yeah, I think just from Kyle's standpoint in general, when he first walked in the door for us I think he was a guy who really cared about the game, a really competitive player, a guy that wanted to be out on the field, a guy that really just wanted to do anything he could to have a role and to be out there and make a difference and be impactful on this defense. I think that he had the opportunity now to go through an offseason and through training camp. He kind of established himself as a guy that can handle a lot of information, put himself in some different spots, a guy that can handle the communication part of it from the linebacker aspect of it. [He can] run the defense, understand the checks, the adjustments and the different things that we require the linebackers to know not only in coverage but also with the front. I think he has embraced all that. He's really trying to improve as a player, trying to get better which we've got a lot of room to do across the board there. But [he's] just a guy that works extremely hard at trying to make himself better and understand our system and have a key role in it.
Q: What were your thoughts on how you defended Deshaun Watson and his ability to make plays with his legs?
MP: I think Deshaun Watson, again like I had said last week, we had a great opportunity to see him in training camp and practice. I would say his improvement from training camp until Week 3 is incredible. I think the guy just keeps getting better, better and better. As a player he's obviously a proven winner. I have all the respect in the world for him. I think he did a great job against us. We obviously had some struggles there and we need to do a better job. The unfortunate part about it for us is Cam Newton is next up. This guy is just so dangerous – his ability to get out of the pocket, his ability to escape tackles. He's big, he's strong, he's athletic, he's deceptively fast. [He's] just very experienced, calm. [He's] just a very savvy player. [It will] be a huge challenge for us. This guy is an outstanding player.
Q: Was over pursuit one of the issues on defense against Deshaun Watson on Sunday?
MP: I think in general we just have to do a better job overall with all of the assignments that we need to do. The different defenses require different fundamentals on the quarterback and whether it's a situation where we've got one guy or three guys or four guys or five guys that are in those situations. Coach [Bill] O'Brien, he does a great job mixing the run game with the passing game and the threat of a running quarterback with the passing situations. It really puts some defensive linemen in a bind. They've really got to try to decipher and some of those situations that came up by down and distance it wasn't so easy to declare. So we obviously just have to do a much better job. I would say number one, we're always going to have to tackle better. I'm always going to go back to fundamentals. We're going to go back to playing our technique better and making sure we really understand what kind of player that is and we're going to see another one this week. I would say that would be the first type of guy with that athletic ability that we had faced this year. So we're going to have a stretch here with a couple of these guys that are real dangerous. [They're] real, real dangerous when they can get pressure in the pocket and get away from it and then when they get out of the pocket and I think that's what we've got to understand.
Q: How is Cassius Marsh immersing himself into your program so far?
MP: Cassius [Marsh] was a guy that we spent some time coming out the draft taking a look at and spent some time with. We kind of had a little bit of a head start from the standpoint of we thought what he was as a player and what he could do and transferring that into our system. He hasn't been here that long so he's kind of under fire here a little bit to learn. I think he's doing a great job of trying to work hard and learn how we do things in our defense. It's a little bit different I think than probably what he had done before. The guy really cares about it. He's trying to get better. You can really see some improvement that we have to have there from the standpoint of some of our defensive techniques and things like that. But [whatever] the situation is we've got him out there and we're trying to get him to execute at a high level and he's really working hard to try to do that.
Q: Was Malcolm Butler's performance on Sunday more representative of the player that he is or can be?
MP: Just in general I would say this; it's obviously very early in the season. Again, I think we had mentioned that last week and we're just trying to get guys to play consistent and get guys to improve. I'll certainly say, man, I thought Malcolm [Butler] played really well. We certainly didn't play great at all as a defense. I'm not saying that but I think the guy really tried to go out and play extremely hard. This is a very competitive guy. Malcolm steps up to the challenges that you place in front of him. He goes out and competes, he works hard, he tries to do it the right way and he really tries to get better every week. Look, we had a productive week last week for him and working through. But it's a new week and we're going to try to get the same consistency every single week and that's what we're trying to do. That's really what we're trying to go after. I really thought in the game, I thought he really tried to do what we asked him to do and do it the right way. Week in week out it's different for us so sometimes that's hard. It's not always easy to change maybe a technique or change a coverage or change a responsibility or an alignment. It's going to be different so sometimes that stuff comes together a little bit better than others. But I thought he really tried to do it the way we wanted to and it'll be a different deal this week so we've got to make sure we get that going.