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Transcript: Patriots Coaches Conference Calls 1/22

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels, and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia address the media during their conference calls on Monday, January 22, 2018.

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

CONFERENCE CALL
January 22, 2018

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Q: Did you have a chance to watch any of the NFC Championship Game?

BB: Saw some of it. The coaches and I kind of watched the game on TV a little bit yesterday. That was a pretty impressive performance by Philadelphia.

Q: What are some of your initial thoughts on a Super Bowl matchup against Doug Pederson and the Eagles?

BB: Yeah, I think I really need a little more time on that one.

Q: Did anything stand out to you about the environment in the stadium last night? Several people have commented on how loud the crowd was.

BB: Yeah, I thought there was a lot of energy in the stadium. I sure did.

Q: How much discussion was there about the decision to punt twice in the fourth quarter on what seemed to be some manageable fourth-down attempts, and what went into ultimately making those decisions?

BB: Yeah, I don't think there was a lot of discussion. I just felt like that was the best thing for us to do in both of those situations.

Q: Did the way your defense was playing factor into that?

BB: Yeah, I guess so.

Q: What stood out to you on film about the way your run defense performed in the fourth quarter?

BB: I'd say we were just better at everything in the fourth quarter all the way across the board. We made plays in all three areas of the game. We just seemed to be at a higher level of execution in the fourth quarter. We were better offensively, we were better defensively, we made plays in the kicking game, kickoff coverage, punt return. Yeah, I think our guys are in good condition. They certainly seemed to have enough energy and stamina to go out and have our best and most productive plays in the fourth quarter when it mattered the most. I don't know.

Q: Can you describe the impact Ricky Jean Francois has had in the room for the defensive line given his experience and the fact he has been to a Super Bowl, and how has he been able to pick things up so quickly and have an impact in such a short amount of time?

BB: Well, Ricky does have experience. I mean, I don't think being in a Super Bowl has anything to do with it. We have a lot of guys who can say that. I don't really think that means much. Ricky's a smart guy. He's worked very hard to pick up our system. He's given us a really solid level of play in the running game and the passing game. He's a smart player. He's got good instincts. He recognizes plays well, especially sometimes from more difficult to recognize type of plays or plays that are designed to throw you off. His ability to see those is good. He's worked hard to learn our system and pick up the fundamentals and techniques that we've tried to utilize. I'm glad we have him. He's done a good job.

Q: How impressed have you been by Ryan Allen's consistency throughout the whole second half of the season and in particular this postseason?

BB: Yeah, Jim [McBride]; agreed, agreed. Ryan's done a good job for us in both the backed up punting when we need distance and net punting to really be maximized because of the field position, but also in the plus-50 type areas where it's a lot more about skill, and ball placement and hang time, but really ball placement and hang time are the two key things there in that area of the field more than obviously distance. He's done a real good job of that. He's been able to move the ball around a little bit, not always kicking in the same place and that's always tough on the returner and the return team. Yeah, he's done a real good job for us.

Q: What did you see on Danny Amendola's third-and-18 conversion in the fourth quarter and also what you saw from Stephon Gilmore's breakup on Jacksonville's final fourth-down attempt?

BB: Well, Danny, on the third-and-18 they were in a quarters kind of coverage, so he got behind the linebackers and safeties and kind of split the safeties. He got inside of the strong safety and there was a hole there kind of between the strong safety and the free safety that was a little bit in front of the safeties and a little behind the linebackers. Tom [Brady] made a real good throw. Tom stepped up and saw him and made a good throw. Danny went down and made a good catch on a low ball that probably needed to be thrown low because of the proximity of the defenders. It was just a really well-executed play by those two players. That was a big drive. Obviously, a catalyst on that touchdown drive. That was a big play to get us going on that drive.

Q: And what about on Stephon Gilmore's pass breakup at the end of the game?

BB: Yeah, we were in a man-to-man coverage. Those over routes can be tough routes against that type of coverage because the receiver has a lot of space and can kind of run away from the defender. The defender doesn't really have any leverage. About all the defender can do is keep up with the route, which a lot of times a good throw and a good catch can result in a completion there or undercut it and make it a tougher throw and a tougher play to execute for the quarterback. Stephon's got a good feel for that. He's got a lot of experience doing it and he's got a good feel for running with the receiver or trying to undercut the receiver based on the route and the individual skills of the receiver and the quarterback and so forth. I thought he made an outstanding play. He was in really good position and then he's long. He's got good length and was able to pretty easily reach out – not easily – but I mean he didn't have to leave his feet. He had enough length to run and stretch and make the play on the ball. It was just an outstanding play. I thought Stephon played well for us yesterday.

Q: On the final offensive drive of the first half did you decide to go up-tempo once you reached the red area to prevent Jacksonville from getting its goal line defense on the field?

BB: Right. Yeah, well, there wasn't a whole lot of time left at that point. I don't know what they would've done. I don't think they would've put goal line out there unless we had put our goal line out there. I mean, I don't know that for sure but I don't think they would've done that. We just felt like there was an advantage to moving quickly on that. Josh [McDaniels] did a good job of getting the situation set up. Tom did a good job of executing it and getting things set up to the line of scrimmage and making sure we had a good play when the ball was snapped. Sometimes when you go fast on a play like that you can end up running right into something as much as you can end up running away from it. Just really pretty well executed all the way around and James [White] made a good run. But I don't think they would've been able to or would've even wanted to sub in their goal line unless we had done it first. Remember, in the two-minute situation there's no defensive match, so any subs you make in a two-minute situation you're on your own, whereas at any other time – the other 28 minutes of each half – the umpire will step in there and give the defense the opportunity to match the subs, right? In a two-minute situation there's no match, so trying to sub a goal line unit on if they're not subbing, if the offense isn't subbing, is kind of a risky thing to do. You could do it anyway and struggle with the tempo of the play, but with no hold up at all by the umpire, just the ability of the offense to go right to the ball and snap the ball, to go to the line and snap the ball, that would really make it tough. That could really make it tough to make that substitution. That's what it looked like to me.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA

CONFERENCE CALL
January 22, 2018

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Q: It seemed like there was more pressure brought from the secondary in the second half. Also, James Harrison seemed to be used off the line of scrimmage, almost as a middle linebacker at the initial alignment. Would that be an accurate characterization and what was the thought process on that?

MP: It's probably a pretty good mix of both the first half and second half. I can't really pin down the second half was more one thing than the other. I think really if you look at it I just think those guys executed everything a little bit better than what maybe we had done earlier in the game. Obviously, they gave us some problems early in the game that we had to try to handle. Really a lot of it for us was just trying to settle down, play the game, communicate and be aggressive and play our fundamental stuff a lot better, which I finally think we started to get to towards the fourth quarter obviously as we were moving into the game. Might've appeared that way maybe but I think it was pretty balanced overall.

Q: In situations where you do decide to bring a defensive back in pressure, what is it that makes Patrick Chung a good choice to be that guy?

MP: Well just in general, you know Pat is one of those guys, like we do with a lot of different players, that's in the box area or he might be close to the line of scrimmage. So if you're trying bring guys, whether they're defensive linemen, linebackers, safeties, corners, whatever it is, you're trying to bring guys that in general may be close to the line of scrimmage. So in some of those situations he's down there a little bit. Some of it is just Pat being a great football player. He's just a great football player. He's a natural. He has great instincts and he does a lot of really good things out there on the field for us. We try to do a balance of a lot of different things. We try to do the best we can to execute at a high level. It's really nothing more than trying to play better.

Q: There were a few pictures taken after the game where you were on the field lying in the confetti. What was going through your mind in that moment?

MP: Well after the game, after the game was kind of over and everything kind of settled down, actually I had my son here at the game. He hasn't really been to a lot of games. He's been to two. So that was kind of his second game and he wanted to go play in the field. So we played a good game of touch football. He beat me four-nothing so he kind of out-ran me there a little bit and made some good plays on me. I couldn't catch him. Just fun to have him out there running around and just seeing the excitement that he had to be out on the field. That's always just kind of a special little moment for myself and him and my wife.

Q: What makes Trey Flowers so special when it comes to stamina and keeping his level of play so high?

MP: I'll say this just in general about Trey and you can really attribute it to, I don't know if you want to call it stamina or work ethic or whatever you want, but his continual grind at the game, the way he approaches it and the way he works at it. There was definitely a point in practice this week I distinctly remember where we kind of offset periods with the offense and doing some different things there and you look all the way across the field and there's Trey Flowers working on his fundamental technique. He's going through the drills by himself and then that starts to catch on and guys want to get down there and they want to do the same set of work. Just him and his continual work ethic that he portrays every single day in the building and preparing for the games on Sunday. That's really what I think in the end helps him when it comes to game time. It's just his approach during the week to try to make himself the best that he can and the most prepared that he can to play that game.

Q: On the series that ended with Stephon Gilmore's pass breakup, Marquis Flowers had an impressive pass breakup on a ball intended for Leonard Fournette down the sideline. Then on the James Harrison sack, I was wondering if you could tell me what you saw and how that developed?

MP: Certainly that last series there they had a big play to kind of move field position on us, got the ball down there on the plus side of the field. In that situation we had to really try to do the best we could to get on them and defend what they were doing at that point. Certainly the sack, that was a great play for us to really try to get them into some negative situations there and get them off track. Just think it was some good combination of some rush and coverage of those guys doing a good job of executing the rush. Through the course of the game doing a good job of studying the opponent and making sure that they knew where they were at at that point and just to be able to get some pressure on the quarterback, which they did. I think the coverage was obviously a part of that too. Those guys did a great job of executing that and getting some tight coverage on the receivers. Again, just with the play on Marquis, just to do a good job with the fundamentals there to take the [running] back. They're obviously a dangerous offense. They had some really good scheme plays and some ability to get the ball out in space and take advantage of some matchups which they were definitely going after. Marquis did a good job of understanding what the situation was. Not all situations are the same so in that deal he kind of recognized what it was looking like and where they were trying to go with the ball. So that was good. 

Q: What's the biggest thing that stands out in terms of the difference between this year and last year headed into the Super Bowl?

MP: Well you know it's pretty easy for us. We never compare. So I mean last year's team is last year's team and they wrote their own story and they did a great job of it. This year's team is completely different. Each year you build and try to create something different as the year goes. You go through different things as a team. You go through just different things during the game and through the course of the season everything changes differently. So it's not really fair to compare. I would just say for this year, for these guys, I'm obviously very excited for the opportunity to be able to play another week. I think they really fought and they battled through the game yesterday. It's definitely a very difficult game. It's hard. That's a great team, Jacksonville. They played extremely well and they gave us a lot of challenges and I just really compliment our players for hanging tough and being able to persevere and fight through it and stay in the course all the way through to the end. We're just lucky that we have another opportunity. We obviously have a huge amount of work in front of us here. We're going to get ready to play the best team we've played all year with Philly. So huge challenge in front of us but I mean just our guys, the way that they approach every single week, the way that they come in and try to prepare and get ready with just that re-focus. They put it all out there every week and they empty the tank every week and they really do everything they can each week to beat that opponent that we're playing. You've got to refill the tank as we go here and we're going to have to try to do that one more time. 

Q: Is it going to be a rematch with your son at the Super Bowl?

MP: He's pretty good. He's pretty quick. I might have to try to get in better shape before that happens. We'll see. We'll see. I might have to take the physical game to him.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
January 22, 2018

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Q: What did you see in terms of the tempo of the fourth-quarter offense versus the first three quarters of the game? It seemed like the tempo increased as the game became more urgent.

JM: Yeah, I thought that the execution increased. I don't know that the tempo did. We played with some tempo throughout the whole game, but I thought our execution was what was, I would say, significant at that point in the game. But, obviously, look, when you're playing in these games that you either win or you're done, there's urgency from the beginning of the week and it carries through the end of the game. I thought we all had urgency; the players certainly did and they executed under pressure when they had to, which is the most important aspect of the game at the end when you needed to make those plays. The guys did their jobs very well and came up with the critical plays that helped us win on offense. 

Q: How did the game plan change once Rob Gronkowski went out of the game, especially when you were down by the goal line with just one tight end in uniform?

JM: Yeah, I mean, you have to make some adjustments. We always go into the game with a certain idea of how we want to try to play it. It certainly doesn't always play out the way that you wanted it to or that you had hoped to or designed it to, but that happens in every game. Very few times do you ever get the chance to do that. So, whether it's an injury, a scheme change on defense, something happens that forces your hand a little bit, I think that the players and the coaches on our staff are used to making some adjustments like that. How many or how many plays or what we had to do – I mean, look, we had plays in the game we could certainly run with just one tight end, plenty of those, and that's kind of what we went to, and I thought Dwayne Allen was ready to go and stepped in there and did his job very well after Rob left the game. So, everybody understands that that's part of the game and when that happens, you just have to embrace whatever role you need to take on to help the team win. 

Q: Where do you rank Danny Amendola's fourth-quarter performance last night against some of his other great games? Does anything stand out to you about the environment in the stadium last night?

JM: I don't know about ranking because there's been a lot of really good ones in terms of team performances and those types of things. But obviously, Danny – I've said this a number of times before – what he does in the most critical situations in the game makes him who he is. That's a guy that's dependable, that does whatever the team needs of him, whether it's a punt return, a critical catch, blocking somebody down the field on a screen play. Danny does everything to the best of his ability and he wants to win and he competes hard and he's a tremendous, tremendous teammate. So, we're fortunate to have him on our team. I've said it before, it's a privilege to coach him and many of the guys that are like him that we have playing here. We're lucky. The locker room that we have is special. Just happy we have another two weeks to get to do the same thing and work with them, coach them and try to go out there put our best performance on the line here in two weeks. And the stadium, I thought, was amazing. I've bee
n here for quite a few great big games, great atmospheres, and they were tremendous. We needed their support, and I thought they really stepped up. It was a great evening to be a part of and a fun environment to play in. That's why you work so hard during the course of the season to try to earn the right to play that game at home. I thought that really stood out. 

Q: Can you talk about the call on the third-and-18 play and how it worked out the way that it did? Is that something that Tom Brady decides at the line of scrimmage?

JM: Well, yeah, look, when you need 18 yards, I don't have many calls on the call sheet that are specifically designed to be perfect calls for that situation. I mean, you have to have a couple maybe, but that's not a very ideal position to put yourself in on offense with what you did in the first two plays. But, look, if you're in that situation, you've got to have people that go at least to the distance you need or maybe beyond it and maybe somebody that's a little shorter for a potential catch and run, which James [White] and Dwayne were underneath and we sent the three receivers down the field a little bit and Danny had some space in there to work in the middle. I thought the protection was the critical element of the play. It almost always is on third-and-long, and James and Dwayne kind of bumped the edge and then the guys did a really good job of holding up. Tom moved a little bit in the pocket subtly to really try to buy himself an extra second or second-and-a-half, and then Danny found the space and Tommy found Danny. So, a lot of little things have to happen on plays like that in order to make them successful. Our guys really did a good job of executing in that situation under pressure and making the play that we needed to make – a huge play in the game.

Q: A number of Danny's big catches have been in the back of the end zone. What characteristics does he demonstrate in terms of awareness of spacing and being able to find an opening in a relatively tight space?

JM: Danny plays a position where you have to have instincts and awareness and a feel. It's hard to explain that, it's hard to coach that, necessarily. You try, but Danny's position by nature, playing in there as a slot receiver, you work around a lot of different body types and you see a lot of different coverage schemes, and so you have to kind of – you know, there's some maneuvering in there, there's some settling in zones. You have to have your eyes ahead of you and see what's in front of you, and if there's nothing there, maybe you keep going, like he did on the touchdown previous. So, there's a lot of little things that go into that, and you have to make split-second decisions and react the same way that the quarterback would see it, too. I think Danny's just shown the ability over and over and over again in these critical situations that he's going to do the right thing, the quarterback has tremendous faith and trust in him, he's very dependable and obviously he's got tremendous hands. And so, when you throw the ball to him in those types of situations, you have great confidence that he's going to do the right thing and he's going to make the play that you need him to make, and he's proven it over and over again that he'll do that. So, he's been clutch in those moments before and he certainly was against last night.

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