HEAD COACH, BILL BELICHICK
Q: Can you take us through the decision to challenge the ruling on the field that Jameis Winston had gotten a pass off late in the fourth quarter that was eventually overturned and ruled a sack? That seemed to be a big play at that point of the game that put their offense in a tough spot after the call was overturned.
BB: Right. Well, yeah, it could've been but we ended up giving the yardage back. Yeah, I thought really that one was a pretty easy one because we had timeouts and there was only two-and-a-half minutes to go in the game, or something like that. I think that's one of those that even if you think it's a little less than 50/50 you still might throw it, try to throw it late so that it didn't give them any extra time to try and get it out there before the ball is snapped. If you get it, you get it. If you don't, I mean there's really not a lot of downside. It didn't feel like the timeouts were that valuable at that point. You never want to waste them but we had them to use. I thought he was down when I saw it live but that's always hard. We had him around the leg. Yeah, I didn't think that was a hard decision. As I said after the game, I thought for example the fourth-and-three was a lot tougher for me than that one was.
Q: What are your thoughts on Danny Amendola's performance last night and his clutch play converting first downs?
BB: Yeah, I thought Danny gave us a lot of critical plays in the game. He gave us punt returns, some catches and he blocked well. He had a couple of key blocks in the running game, as well, so I thought he really did a solid job for us in all the areas, in all of the things that he was asked to do, which he usually does. He's one of our best and most dependable players.
Q: Dion Lewis seemed to have a bigger role in this game than in previous performances. What did you see from his performance?
BB: I thought all of our backs gave us production. Dion and Mike [Gillislee] ran hard. James [White] had a few carries and had a couple of big catches, a catch on the wheel route down the sideline was a big play. We have confidence in all of those guys and whichever one of them is in the game they're usually productive for us. I thought he did a good job. I thought all three of them did.
Q: James White appeared to flash his hands out at the last second to make the reception on that wheel route completion so as to not tip off the defender that the ball was arriving. Is that a skill that James is taught or does instinctively as a skilled pass catcher, or is that something that is pretty common throughout the league among pass catchers?
BB: No, I think James White's receiving skills, not just catching the ball, but his savvy, and route running, and blitz pickup, and getting out and knowing when to slow down; he'll go across the defender, when to pull up, when to break out, when to break in. I mean, those are a lot of critical decisions in the passing game that receivers make. Every time a pass is thrown those kinds of decisions come up for them. It's not as common for backs, but I think James does an excellent job of that. I think he's probably one of the better backs in the league at all of those things, whether it's route running, the blitz pickup release part of the game, catching the ball, hiding the catch until late so he doesn't give the defender an opportunity to put his hands in and strip the ball. He's good at all of those things.
Q: How much did the wind in Tampa Bay play a role in the decision making on your end last night? Was that a key factor in the decision to punt the ball deep in their territory in the fourth quarter as opposed to attempting the long field goal?
BB: Yes, I thought that, as I said, not only the - the wind was a crosswind. It was blowing from their bench to our bench. I don't think it was really favoring one direction or the other. Maybe a little bit towards the pirate ship end, but it seemed like mostly it was blowing across, but it was gusting. It wasn't consistent. It would at times die down and you wouldn't feel much and then other times it would kick up and was much more noticeable. I think that's always the toughest situation for a field goal kicker and it's tough for the punters on the drop because you think the ball is going to drop flat but it gusts and then it might not. Then you have a hard time hitting it properly on your foot. I don't think it affected the passing game too much. Those balls are a lot lower and are less affected by that type of wind. The kicking game, for sure, and then the way they had that field marking there, too, kicking off that flag where the field is dyed, same thing in the end zone, just a little different surface than what it is on the grass part of it with the paint or however that's done. It's just not quite as consistent of a surface there all the way around. Yes, that played into that decision a little bit. The wind, the distance and the surface all combined. Look, Stephen [Gostkowski]'s kicking the ball great, so he probably would've made those, but if you were to miss one there then you give them the ball at the 42,43, 40-yard line - whatever it is - and then compared to being able to have an opportunity to down the ball, let's say around the five or so. You give up 35 yards of field position. That's what the risk is for the three points, but when we gained that - whatever it was - five or six yards there on the last play to get it from the 35 or 36 - whatever it was - from a 53-yard field goal to, like, a 45-yard field goal, so it would've been 52, 53 to 47, right? Forty-eight - whatever the last quick was. That was a big five yards in the decision process.
Q: Is it fair to say that Alan Branch being inactive is based on his performance thus far, and that since you can't activate everyone his play needs to improve to be included on the 46-man roster on game days?
BB: Well, the basic process is the same every week. If there are players who are unable to play in the game because of their physical condition, injuries and so forth, then that eliminates those players, so they're on the inactive list, however many players that is. Then however many extra spots you have beyond that - let's say you have, just to pick a number, 50 healthy players, three injured players - well, then you can activate 46 of those 50. Three of them there is truly no decision to make, or whatever that number is. That number obviously varies. So, you take the players that you feel are best for that game that you think will have the biggest impact or give you the most depth that you feel like you need at that game. That's what we do every week. So whatever players are inactive, you can put the same players in that same conversation. This isn't about one player. Whatever players are inactive for whatever the reasons were, a combination of reasons, we felt like the players that we activated were the ones who gave us the best chance to win the game, which is ultimately what we're trying to do.
Q: What is the reason behind the increased pressure on the quarterback this season despite the continuity from the offensive line carrying over from last season? What are some areas you think could improve in that aspect of the game?
BB: Well, I think I've said all year in all five games, I think you can go back to preseason, but call it a regular season game, every week I think I've been saying that there are a lot of things that we need to work on in all three phases of the game and I still think that's true. There are things that we need to coach better, maybe scheme differently and execute better. We're working hard on all of those things, collectively, coaches, players. However else it unfolds, signal callers, coordinators, I mean, position coaches, techniques, wherever they happen to fall - we're all working hard to try and do a better job in really every area. We'll continue to do that.
Q: Danny Amendola has improved his catch percentage in each of the last few seasons? Is there a reason to point to as to why he has become so reliable in catching the ball when targeted in the passing game?
BB: Well, I think Danny's been one of our most dependable players since he's been here. He catches the ball well, returns kicks, blocks well, has good run-after-the-catch and return ability. I mean, he's made those plays every year. You go back to the Buffalo game, the opener four years ago, the plays he made in that game - I don't think we would've had much chance to win without the plays that he made on the last drive in Buffalo. Whatever the numbers are, they are. I mean, I know that's a big thing, to look at all of the numbers, just like the last question was about numbers and all that, but I think when you look at a player like Danny you see a pretty dependable, consistent performer that gives us good plays every week, and just like any player, every player on our team, every coach, every player I've ever coached, there are always plays that could be better. I mean, every receiver has dropped a pass. Every quarterback has thrown an interception. Every defensive player has missed a tackle. Every field goal kicker has missed a kick. We've all had them. Every coach has made bad calls, so we've all had them. You're going to find them. Even the great players are going to have them, but I would say Danny doesn't have too many of those.
Q: Dont'a Hightower appeared to play more in the middle of the defense last night as opposed to on the line of scrimmage. How does he change your defense when playing in the middle like that?
BB: Well, it depends on, again, what we're doing and who we're doing it against, and so forth. Again, the long and short of it is we try to put our players in the best position that we can for that situation, which the situations change, to help give us the best opportunity to win a game. Dont'a's a very versatile player. He's played a lot of different positions for us on the line, off the line, linebacker, coverage, rushing inside, rushing outside, but I think last night he probably played as many plays as he's played all year. He was in for more plays and he had an opportunity to do more things and be used in different groupings and roles, and so forth. I think that's, honestly, about what I would expect out of him or really any other player like that. If they don't play very many plays then they're probably going to play those plays in a more specific role. As the volume picks up and they're in on more groupings and in on more situations, then a versatile player like that would be used in multiple ways. But I really thought this week that, since you asked about Hightower, I thought that High and [Devin] McCourty really gave us some great leadership defensively and our preparation and having the right attitude to go down and play in the game and what we needed to do. It was a short week. I thought they really stepped up from a leadership standpoint in that group and did a great job for us. It's always good to see. I just wanted to recognize it because I think sometimes you just see it play out on the field. Obviously, they're very, very important but there's a lot of things that go into how it all comes together and I thought those two players defensively did a real good job for us this week.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, MATT PATRICIA
Q: What did you see throughout the week from veteran leaders like Dont'a Hightower and Devin McCourty that may have helped the defensive unit?
MP: Well I think those guys obviously from a leadership standpoint, they do a great job of trying to get everybody focused in on that particular week. It's in a short week in the situation that we had last week where we've just got to really move on very quickly. You've got to get into an opponent that we don't necessarily know very well on a short week, dive into their personnel, understand their system, their scheme. There's a lot of studying that has to take place and really just turning the page as fast as these guys were able to do that is just a credit to their ability to study and prepare. I think High [Dont'a Hightower] and Dev [Devin McCourty] right from the start just kind of said 'okay right after the game [we need to] step right into preparation for Tampa Bay and meetings, film, walk through.' They really just kind of took it and said 'we've got to cram this entire week of preparation here into just a couple days so let's start right now.' So that was the start of the week with them.
Q: Do you feel like the defensive unit improved this week? If so, in what ways did you see those improvements?
MP: We're trying to improve every week. I would say this week on a short week I thought there were some really good things that came through. I think there were some situational things that were good. There's certainly a lot to keep pushing and keep improving on and that's really the main focus that we've got to handle. I would say for the most part I thought on the field the guys were really focused into what Tampa Bay does, the players that they go to, the quarterback, how they run their offensive system. I thought the preparation from that standpoint was really good. I think from a general standpoint of playing aggressive I think was good. I think the guys put themselves in position getting lined up when you have a week where you may not necessarily get a live practice in that week because of the time crunch. Sometimes the alignments or the adjustments or anything like that it's hard unless you see it live in practice first. I thought they did a real good job of that and just being ready to go. We've certainly got a lot to improve on. There's all areas of the game from last night that we've got to get cleaned up which we'll start that today.
Q: Last night Stephon Gilmore said he felt really comfortable covering Mike Evans in a one-on-one scenario. How much do you take into account what a player is comfortable doing when you're creating your game plan? Do you try to play towards his comforts?
MP: Obviously last night was good from that standpoint. [There's still] some things we can improve on. But I think in general for us, we're trying to do whatever it takes to win that week and it's going to be different week in week out. Our guys do a great job of understanding that. It's got to be 11 guys working together and then offense, defense, special teams all kind of working in conjunction for that particular game because every game is different. Every situation is different and the team that we play and the way that they play as a team changes. So when we go into the week we're going to try to do the best we can to incorporate everybody's skill set, everybody's things that they do well. Some weeks it's going to be harder for some players and when we ask them to do that we're certainly trying to ask those guys to do something that we think they can handle for the benefit of what we're trying to get done. Some weeks it's going to work out for guys to be able to be a little bit more in their comfort zone. There was a lot of good plays last night and players that play in a position that did a good job of stepping up into those roles. Like I said it's different based on who we play.
Q: Patrick Chung seemed to show up quite a bit in this game. What did you see from him?
MP: Yeah, I mean there's a great example of a guy who really tried to go out and play a role that we asked him to play in a position. I think he competed extremely hard. Pat [Chung] plays really hard for us. He has to play a couple different positions in the defense and he really attacks those. So there's a lot of studying involved with that. There's a lot of position alignments and adjustments that he has to handle. He had some really good plays in some critical situations on third down. He some good pass breakups and things like that in the intermediate range. [He] did a real good job with the adjustments and the motions [and] communication. It was good. It was good just to have him be able to be out there and play in a couple different positions and help us out. I think he really worked hard to get that done for us. But like I said, Pat is a good player for us. [He] does a lot of different things and thought he really tried to step up to the challenge this week.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR, JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: Do you feel Dion Lewis was underutilized early in the season? What have you seen from him these last two weeks?
JM: Yeah, Dion's always been a productive player for us. He makes plays when he has the ball in his hands, and he's a guy that has played for us in the passing game and the running game and made the most of his opportunities. Yeah, I mean, any productive player you want to give him opportunities. He's one of a few guys in our backfield. Certainly, all our guys have done good things with the ball this year, and we want to continue to get them all involved. So, we'll try to continue to do that as much as we can.
Q: When you add new players to the backfield, is there an element of trying to figure out each player's role and how the pieces best fit together?
JM: Well, you're always evaluating what's best for your team. And again, we're not perfect in that regard, either. Sometimes it's a process and how you start the season, certainly, often times is not how you end it. We're just trying to do what we think is best and get these guys all involved in the game. It's the same thing in the passing game. Sometimes guys catch six or eight balls, and sometimes they'll catch two or three. Sometimes that's either the design or what the defense did to take them away. So, there's a lot of things that go into that, but certainly we're all for getting the ball to our guys that can do things with it and make a lot of yards. Dion's certainly one of those guys, and we need to continue to give him an opportunity.
Q: What did you see from Danny Amendola last night?
JM: Well, basically the same thing we've seen from him all year and for many years. The guy, he's a great football player and he does a lot of things well - he's tough, he always makes an impact when he's in there, he blocks hard, he gets open in the passing game, he catches the ball, he's hard to tackle, he returns punts, makes big plays in the kicking game, he's a great teammate. There's nothing I don't love about Danny Amendola. Every time he's out there, you feel good about what may happen if the ball is headed towards him, and he always comes up big in the biggest moments or biggest games. Danny's having a very good beginning to the season, and we want to continue to try to do that.
Q: How do you think Danny handled playing fewer snaps last season?
JM: Yeah, Danny's a great teammate and he's a great team player. All I know is that he's ready to go each week, he always does his role to the best of his ability and he makes an impact for us on offense. So, I know he's doing a great job for us. Obviously, we love having him and it's a great part of our job to have an opportunity to coach guys like that.
Q: Bill Belichick mentioned that you did a good job of preparing two game plans depending on Rob Gronkowski's availability. What are some of the challenges of that, and do you have to ask a lot of the personnel to be ready for different scenarios?
JM: Yeah, our staff did a tremendous job and our players did a tremendous job of preparing in a short week with that circumstance being kind of in question. Because sometimes we've had either Dwayne [Allen] or Jacob [Hollister] going to handle that role that Rob might have filled, and other times it was going to be a receiver and, at times, potentially even a back. So, as you're preparing in that short of a time frame and you're not 100 percent sure exactly what's going to happen, the coaches had to do a great job of backing things up that potentially would be changed due to availability. I thought the players were incredible - worked really hard, were ready to back those things up if need be, did a great job during the week in our walk-throughs. And, we knew kind of going in what our plan would be if that was the case and we needed some guys to really do a good job of learning dual roles and changing positions if needed, and they did a great job. Again, the staff did a tremendous job, and the players were awesome - really embraced the challenge of being ready to do that if we needed to. Again, we certainly didn't play anywhere close to perfect yesterday, but I think the effort and the intention was there, and the attention to detail during the week was really good. They were the ones that stepped up and filled the role that they needed to fill.
Q: How would you assess how the offense has done in short yardage and goal line situations? Secondly, what have you seen from Jacob Hollister that has helped him create a role in this offense?
JM: The short yardage and the goal line - any, really, one-play situation plays in our offense - it's something where you have to get familiar with what you want to do, which could change from a week-to-week basis based on how you anticipate the defense playing you. And, really, this isn't like a drive. Those plays are all - they all come down to one play and your execution of that one play in that situation. Certainly, we've got to do better overall in that area. I need to do a better job of putting us in a great position to execute something that we feel really good about, and we're going to work really hard moving forward on all those situational plays, whether it be an end of a second quarter, out-of-bounds play, short yardage, goal line, drive starters - there's a lot of one-play situations that we need really good execution and attention to detail. We need to improve in a lot of areas, and short yardage is certainly an area that we can improve and we want to. We're going to work hard to try to do that. And then Jacob, he's a young guy that does a lot of things that can help you on the field. He runs well. He's been able to create some separation in the passing game. He's learning still how to handle all the different coverage variations that you see at the NFL level, what you need to do versus zone, versus man - you know, all of those things. He's continually working extremely hard, and he gets reps in practice and works hard with those reps to try to make progress each week and feel like that he's a guy that as you move forward into the year, hopefully you see a lot of improvement, and he can really help us and make some plays as we move forward.