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Transcript: Patriots Conference Calls 11/14

PATRIOTS HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

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Q: How much of a factor was the altitude in the decision to stay out in Colorado Springs for a week prior to playing in Mexico City?

BB: Yeah, we looked at several options and in the end felt like this was the best one for a number of reasons. There are other people in the organization that did most of the work on it. We talked about some of the other options, but again, this was the best one. I felt like this was the best one for us. We're happy to be here.

Q: How much interaction are you having with the Air Force Academy football program and what has that been like?

BB: They've been very accommodating for us. They've done a great job of trying to give us all of the things we need, whether that's facilities or the weight room, equipment and so forth. They've been great - the entire coaching staff, the facility staff and so forth. Our main concern is just to really have a good week of preparation for the Raiders and everything else is good. We just need to focus on what we need to do, what we can control and be ready to go.

Q: Is there a correlation between improved offensive line play and maybe a stronger commitment to running the ball?

BB: Well, I think it helps the play calling. I mean, there's certainly advantages to being balanced, but in the end the most important thing is being able to move the ball and score points. If we have to do one thing more than another, we feel like that's a better way to move the ball and score points, then I think that's what we'll do and that'll be the priority. In the end, we're trying to score points. We need points to win, so however we get those, we get them. Whatever we feel like our best opportunities are, that's what we want to try and do.

Q: I know a lot of the guys on the interior of the offensive line are young but they do have a lot of experience now playing together. Can you see an improvement from them over these past couple of weeks?

BB: Yeah, they have. You're right. On the one hand they're young. On the other hand they've played a lot of games and they've played a lot of games together and they've had a lot of practices together. The communication, the footwork, the technique, just kind of seeing things the same way with those guys has really been good. Dante [Scarnecchia] of course, has always done a great job with that group. Those three players in particular, two guys in their third year, one guy in his second year just have worked together and have improved individually and improved as a unit in their combination blocks, which there are so many of those on the offensive line. Their ability to handle twists, and blitzes, and stunts and things like that, they are hard to do but those guys do a good job. They work well together. I think there's still a lot of room for improvement.

Q: What did you see from Joe Thuney on the play following Denver's touchdown drive where he was able to pull and put a block on Von Miller, which led to a big completion to Rob Gronkowski?

BB: Yeah, that play that you're referring to was a play that, obviously, has a hard run-action with a puller and a fake to the back. A lot of times the defensive end or the outside linebacker will kind of freeze for a second there while he has to figure out is it a run? Then it's a pass and then the guard is kind of on him and he has to restart his pass rush, so that's a play we've used in the past. Just mix up the protection a bit on a good edge player like Miller, but it's a tough block for the guard, as you said, to come across the formation and have to pass block on an outside rusher that he's not usually used to blocking the majority of the game. It's been the type of play that you can gain a little bit of an advantage on the defense but there's also some degree of difficulty and margin for error because it's a play that's probably a once-a-game block for an offensive lineman. Joe did a good job on that play. It was good ball handling and faking I think caused Miller to slow down a little bit and hesitate and that gave Joe a chance to get on him. Joe did a good job in the game. He was singled up quite a bit in the protection. He gave us a solid performance.

Q: How have you seen the kickoff coverage unit grow during the course of the season? How have you seen their communication develop as they've all gotten more used to each other?

BB: Right. Well, there really is a lot of communication on those plays. Not a lot of it is verbal. It's just visual recognition so that two or three of us running down the field together, we see the same thing and we know how we're going to react to it, how I'm going to react to it, how the guy beside me is going to react to it so that you have the lanes covered and you defend the return they're trying to set up. There's definitely a lot of, let's call it visual communication on those plays. Yeah, we have had some different combinations of people in there. Steve [Gostkowski] has done a good job. He's given us a lot of good kicks, a lot of great kicks to work with. Several of our touchbacks have been on balls that were a yard or two deep in the end zone whereas a lot of times you see those returned, but the aggressiveness of the team is probably a factor there. The players that are on that team - Joe [Judge] and Bubba [Ray Ventrone] have done a great job with them and given them the awareness of the blocking schemes and the types of returns we're going to face and given them opportunities to work off of each other to try to create space in the coverage so that we can get down there and try to penetrate. Those guys have worked hard at that. They do a lot of extra things on their own. That's a group that has had that communication that you just refereed to. They've played well for us all year. Our field position on those plays has been outstanding.

Q: What are your recollections of dealing with Al Davis or just working them as an organization in general?

BB: I mean, it's a great franchise. Al Davis did a tremendous job with the franchise when he took over. I think it was in 1972 or whatever year it was he took over the ownership. I think he was there almost 40 years as the owner, had other roles with the team before that. I think that with [Reggie] McKenzie as the general manager, who came up through the Raiders system, he's certainly maintained some of the, I'd say, axioms that the Raiders were built on from a personnel standpoint. Al Davis is in the Hall of Fame, as he should be. His contributions and his success in professional football, both in the AFL and NFL, are very highly regarded, the great Super Bowl teams that they had, his development of players and uncovering of players, especially in the '70s and early '80s with some of the smaller schools. They became great players, Hall of Fame players, a lot of people had never heard of until they started playing for the Raiders. They have a great tradition, a great fan base and intensity. Those guys play hard. They play with a lot of passion. They're always a tough, physical team, which they are again this year. Al Davis - I've always had a ton of respect for him. I had an opportunity to talk with him on many occasions. He was always very insightful and [it was] a pleasure to be around the guy with his passion and love for football, the coaching part of it, the scouting part of it. He was very special.

Q: Will it help your offensive line this weekend going up against the Raiders given their recent experience handling pass rushers like Von Miller, Joey Bosa or Vic Beasley?

BB: Right. Well, look, it's the National Football League, so every team has good players. Every team has good coaches. Every team works hard. Every other week is a big challenge. It started back in training camp, in our preseason games, our preseason practices, working against each other. Every guys lines up across good players on the other side of the line literally every day, whether it's us or somebody else. All players have different skill sets and different things that they do so it's good to see that variety over the early part of the season because over the course of the season you'll eventually see it all. It really comes down to the individual matchups and the individual game plans. Every player is different. For the most part, although some schemes are similar, when you put players into different schemes then that affects sometimes what they do or how often they do it or what position that they're put in by the coaching staff and the scheme that's called. In the end it comes down to each week our preparation, knowing what we're doing, understanding the players that our opponents have and the way that they're utilized and the schemes that our opponents play and trying to, in this case, block them the best and as consistently as we can. That's a huge challenge every week, certainly this week, and each week our players have to meet that challenge and when it's over turn the page and go to the next team and meet it again. They're all good in this league. They're all good. Again, when you combine it with the scheme, it's never the same. Each week is different

Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia

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Q: What have you seen from Derek Carr this year? Is it any different post-injury than what you saw last year?

MP: Yeah, I mean if you watch Derek Carr [he's a] very efficient quarterback. [He's] a guy that has great command of this offense. Very strong arm. He does a great job of moving in the pocket. I know there's the whole question about the injury and all of that but as far as I'm concerned he's an athletic guy. I don't think he's looking to obviously put himself out there in too many situations but this is a competitive player that if he's got to run or scramble or do whatever he's got to do to get a first down or win that's what he's going to do. I don't really see a different from that standpoint. I see a smart, very accurate guy, great arm strength, great command, incredible poise out there on the field. Again, like I said, from an athletic standpoint you watch him move in the pocket, get away from the rush, evade a hit here or there and there's no problem whatsoever. Very smart player. [He's] a guy that is really very success in this system. He's got great skill players around him. He's a problem and he's got an incredibly strong arm. So with the skill players that he has and how fast they are and their ability to get vertical at the wide receiver position, the tight end position - [Amari] Cooper or [Jared] Cook at the tight end position, [Michael] Crabtree, [Seth] Roberts, [Johnny] Holton. All of these guys obviously - Cordarrelle [Patterson] - I mean those guys are extremely fast. When you think you've got a situation where you've got good coverage and then all of a sudden they get by you and he can just put the ball downfield and turn something that would be nothing into a huge play. 

Q: How did you think Stephon Gilmore fared in his first game back?

MP: I think for all of our guys as we looked at the defense there was some good plays out there, some plays where I thought we executed what we were trying to do really well and some plays where we didn't that I think we can improve. That would be across the board. I don't think there's anybody you can really single out there from that standpoint. I think Steph [Gilmore] did a real good job of trying to play physical and aggressive and some of the things we asked him to do. Certainly when you get out there and back up to live game speed it's going to be a little bit of an adjustment but certainly I think he stepped up to go out in a very competitive situation. Denver is an extremely talented team and those wide receivers that both he and Malcolm [Butler] were on and Pat Chung and the safeties, those are really, really good players. We were glad obviously. We wanted to win. We wanted to play well which was good but that's a hard game. That was a really hard game for us and I thought the players did what they had to do. Fortunately we came out with a win and we're moving on to Oakland. 

Q: The defense has allowed fewer than 20 points for five consecutive games now. What would you attribute to the recent success and this run that your group is currently having?

MP: Well you know what, again, I think we addressed a lot of that stuff during the bye week. For us it was a chance to look back and what we need to do going forward and tried to go out last week and play at another high level. I think the guys, like I said earlier in the year, this is a process. We go through a process every year of trying to develop and get better each week and that's really our main goal. There's certainly a lot of things from the game last weekend that we have to improve on and we have to get better at and Oakland is going to provide a huge challenge in those areas. We're just trying to, again, get out there and hopefully do a little bit better than we did last week and improve our techniques and our fundamentals and it's so critical at this time of the year. We don't have as many practice opportunities in pads like we in training camp and we can get out there and actually work on those fundamental skills whether it's in the run game or in the passing game. There's a lot of fundamental and technique work that goes into coverage and it's a big opportunity for us to get that done when we can during practice and the run game like I said. So that's what we're going to try to do again this week. 

Q: Where do you feel that Stephon Gilmore is in terms of understanding all of the communication that you guys do in your system on the back end?

MP: I mean I think all of our guys are continually - communication for us and execution is something that changes week by week and it's something that we have to continually work on and improve. There's some good communication and some that's not so good and it'll be the same each week. I would say everybody is really in the same boat right now and we're headed here into November and we're trying to get that stuff better than it was the week before. The touchdown is just a play that obviously they had a designed play there. They were trying to get the ball front side and the quarterback made a great read coming back and we've just got to execute better in that situation. I've got to get the awareness out there better from my standpoint and coach it up and hopefully try to improve that this week. 

Q: In addition to your work, what are you personally looking forward to the most while at the Air Force Academy? What do you think you guys can get out of being where you are?

MP: You know where my focus is going to be. I really hope what we get from being out here is a great week of work and preparing to play the Oakland Raiders. So that'll be my number one concern. I might have a eye to the sky if I see a jet flying by that might be pretty cool for me right there. I love planes. It's one of my passions obviously with my degree and my background. Any time I can see a military plane flying around I tend to enjoy that. Hopefully we'll get to see that. It's obviously a great place. We're very lucky to be here and appreciative of the Air Force Academy to have us and allow us to use their facility and everything and hopefully that'll help us get ready to beat a very good Oakland Raiders team. These guys are extremely tough and pose a lot of problems here offensively that we have to deal with.

Q: It feels like total number of big plays allowed was higher earlier in the season compared to what we've seen in recent weeks. Do you agree with that? What would be your assessment in terms of the ability to limit those?

MP: Well I'd say our goal is always try to eliminate big plays whenever we can. Certainly from last week's game, very dangerous skill players that are a huge problem for us and they had some big plays out there and it's going to be the same thing this week with the Raiders between [Amari] Cooper and [Michael] Crabtree and [Jared] Cook and Marshawn Lynch and [Seth] Roberts. Big plays are always a part of it and we're going to try to do the best we can to limit them. Sometimes situationally there might be a situation where I'm okay with something that we see or I'm not okay with something that we see that may be a big play or may not be a big play. Those just change. The variables change on them. It's more or less just making sure we understand the players we have to play and how dangerous they are and those guys that have that big play ability when they're out there that we have a great awareness of them and where they are. That's really what we're trying to improve on each week. 

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

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Q: What have you seen from Martellus Bennett since his return? How quickly has he been able to re-acclimate to your system?

JM: Yeah, Marty had a good foundation from last season being here. He's a smart guy, so it hasn't taken him long. He's working hard at it. He's studying. He studied hard just to be able to contribute some the other night, and he's doing the same thing this week. [We are] looking forward to continuing to build on the foundation that he had and just get him back into the fundamental aspects of playing in our system, and a good practice week will help all that.

Q: What does James Develin bring to the offense? Also, what do you think you and team can get out of the experience of being in Colorado Springs for the week?

JM: James - he's an incredibly hard worker, he's a great teammate, he's very tough, physical. He adds an element of that to our skill group in the position that he plays. We ask him to do a lot of different things in our offense. He obviously is a lead blocker in the running game, he pass protects, he caught a couple balls the other night and he plays in the kicking game. So, [he is] a very unselfish guy, really embraces his role and his responsibilities in terms of adding and element of toughness and physicality to our group, and it's a pleasure to coach a guy like that, and we have a lot of them. Really, James did a nice job for us the other night and has done a nice job all year. I think these weeks, it's just a great opportunity to be around each other a little bit more than we would normally be around one another. You know, you're eating your meals together, you see each other in the hotel, you travel to and from practice together. Any of the guys that take the opportunity to do some of the things on their off day, again, it's just another opportunity to spend time with one another as teammates or as coaches and teammates, and these have always been great experiences for us. You know, you remember them kind of fondly. It's a change of your routine, so we're so routine oriented in what we do and where we do it, and this is just a different feel when you're not in your home base and you're not in your office or you're not in your normal squad room. You have an opportunity to just be around one another, enjoy one another's company. Maybe you'll learn something about somebody that you didn't already know. But, all in all, I think it's a great opportunity for us to just get ourselves focused on the tasks that we need to get focused on this week, which is a really good defensive football team, and get ourselves prepared to play our second game in a row on the road. So, a lot of good has come out of these trips in the past and we're looking forward to this week, also.

Q: When the offense is able to catch the defensive substituting with too many men on the field, is that something that Tom Brady sees, you see and communicate to Tom, or does that start with someone up in the booth relaying it to you?

JM: I'd say it's probably all of the above. It's a unique opportunity that you're referring to. It doesn't always present itself in each game, where we're not trying to substitute or what have you and the other defense might be. But, it could be something you see on the field as a player, and Tom's certainly done a good job of that in his career, or it could be something that somebody sees from the booth or the sideline. But, again, it's not something that we've done extensively, and it just so happens it might have happened a couple times in the last couple weeks, but there's a lot of circumstances that go into that. If we're substituting, obviously, we really can't do that if they're not substituting. You know, there's a lot of different factors that go into it - the down and distance, what you're trying to get done, etc. So, if all the things line up and you end up with multiple groupings trying to sub in and out on the other side, you eventually may end up getting a situation like we've had in the last couple weeks where the defense maybe has a different personnel grouping on the field than they want to have.

Q: How much of a luxury do you consider it to have a group of tight ends that can perform so many different roles on your offense? Why is it so important to you to have that versatility in that group?

JM: We ask our tight ends to do a lot of different things. They are obviously integral to what we do in the running game, but they catch passes, they pass protect, many of them contribute in the kicking game, which is an important aspect of being there at the game, and they learn multiple positions because when you've got more than one of them in the game at the same time, they're not playing the same role. They back one another up, they provide depth at a position that we use quite a bit and they do a lot of different things in our offense. They don't line up in the same location each week or each play, and those guys put an awful lot of work in. I've always thought that the tight end position is as demanding as most others in terms of being a big part of not only the physical part of playing on the line of scrimmage, but also the skilled aspect of route running, reading coverages, they've got to pick up blitzers. There's a lot of different things that they have to be aware of, and it takes a strong week of preparation each week for the new opponent that we're playing for those guys to be able to go out there and execute their roles the way that we would like them to. They work really hard, Nick [Caley] coaches them really well, they've got a group together that studies hard, prepares for the opponent, and by the end of the week, they really know what we're asking of them and they go out there and try to do the best they can to give us a great performance. We like the group that we have. We've got a lot of good groups on our offense. That's just one of them.

Q: Is LaAdrian Waddle's increased playing time this season a result of his performance improving remarkably? Or was it just a product of circumstance that he wasn't on the field much before now?

JM: Well, we were fortunate to have our guys healthy most every single snap last year up front, and that's always a blessing when you get the opportunity to play the same group that's familiar with one another. So, that happened. It doesn't happen often in our league, but that was kind of a coincidence last year that it did. But, he's played for us in the past, and L.A. works really hard. He's improved. He improves each week. He works really hard to do that. Coach Scar [Dante Scarnecchia] does a great job with all those guys that they're all involved in the game plan and they're all involved in practice each week. They get plenty of reps for the opponent, whether they're a starter or somebody that's providing depth at the game, and he's always been a very unselfish guy, works really hard, takes his preparation seriously, really good teammate and he's focused on improving a lot of things in his craft. He's going to have a huge challenge ahead of him this week as we are offensively with this group. The pass rushers that they put out there, they're as good as any we play, and we've got to do a good job of taking care of our responsibilities again this week. So, LA, again, he's done a good job of staying patient, working hard, waiting his turn, and now he's trying to make the most of his opportunities and he's done well so far. 

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