Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels
Q: I was wondering if you could take us inside what it's like to be calling a game in the final 45 seconds like it was on Sunday. I'm wondering if it's different from calling a game in the middle of the third quarter.
JM: Yeah, it's definitely a different situation. I think that you know the scenario, you know all the variables, whether that's timeouts that you have left, time on the clock, the down and distance that you need to get, whatever the situation might be. Certainly you obviously know what you need to get done on the drive. In that case, it was to score a touchdown. The different part of it is really as each play unfolds, then that entire set of scenarios and variables changes all over again immediately and it's a very fluid process. You go from first-and-10 at your own 35 to now it's first-and-10 at the plus-30. You're looking at the clock because you know how much time there is. You're also calling the next play that fits the situation based on the field position and trying to get that communicated as quickly as you can to the quarterback so he can distribute that information to the other players - any reminders that you might be giving him along the way - and then just being mindful of the things that you want to try to get done in those types of situations because time is obviously the factor that changes the entire dynamic of that setup. The first quarter when you're calling plays, you're not worried about what's on the clock. In that situation, you're almost entirely concerned about the usage of the time that you have left and trying to protect that as much as possible. Taking a short completion for two yards and getting tackled versus throwing the ball away and saving the time, there's a lot of little things that are going on in those types of situations. Obviously, our quarterback is very well-schooled and versed because of all the experience he's had in handling those situations. I think another thing that really is important in those situations is to stay calm and not let the eminent ending of the game - you know the game's going to be over shortly or at least the quarter's going to be over - to force you to do anything that you wouldn't ordinarily do. Stay calm, stay poised, think clearly, make good decisions and try to do the best you can to put the team in the right situation and let those guys go out there and play and do what they can to score and to win that situation as it comes up.
Q: How well would you say you guys did that on Sunday as a unit?
JM: Again, whenever we don't finish the drive, it's never good. You can put that right on me. Obviously, I didn't do well enough at the very completion of the drive. I thought we were doing really well moving the ball. We got it into the scoring zone quick enough that we didn't have to do anything dramatic, and I think we made it to the 10 or 11-yard line. And again, whenever you have any kind of negative situations, it kind of resets the whole scenario. We had a penalty there and it put us in a situation that's a little bit longer yardage obviously in that scenario. You know, each one of them is different. I have to do a good job, I have to do a better job than we did at the end of the drive to get that thing in the end zone and to give our team a chance to win the game. Hopefully, I'll learn from that one as best I can and try to apply it here going forward next week.
Q: How do you feel that you guys have done adjusting to what teams are doing to you in games? Tom Brady mentioned after the game on Sunday that the Steelers threw some new wrinkles at you guys that you weren't expecting.
JM: That happens every week. That's definitely not a unique thing for us to encounter nor is it a unique thing for other teams to encounter just as the nature of the National Football League. Not many teams are going to let you just practice against what you thought they were going to do and then they're going to do exactly that the whole game and let you feel comfortable with what you're seeing, et cetera. So, sometimes we get more of that, sometimes we get less. That's dependent on the team, the coach, the personnel they have available. We usually encounter that every single week, and sometimes the results are better than others. Sometimes you need to change more things than others to try to continue to have success. Whenever we lose and don't do well enough, there's so many things we could have done better, and again, that's my responsibility and hopefully I'll learn from Sunday and try to be better moving forward. But our staff does a really good job of identifying problems quickly, we get great information from the press box, our players give us good feedback during the game and we try to do the best things we can each week during the game as quickly as we can make an adjustment. If there's one that needs to be made, we try to make it and go out there and hopefully have as much success as we can on the next possession.
Q: I'm guessing James White's production and touches have gone down with the return of Rex Burkhead. Is it hard to now get him involved more in the game because you're trying to get Burkhead and everyone else involved?
JM: Any time you have multiple guys that play a similar position that are capable of doing good things in the game, you obviously have choices to make. Sometimes those choices mean more or less of something and other times, they are factors that are not necessarily in our control that affect overall production and ability to get one person the football. Certainly, James is a player that has been very successful and productive in his role and other teams are aware of that. He gets plenty of attention from other people and sometimes that means the ball needs to go somewhere else, and sometimes we can still find a way to get him the football and let him have the opportunity to make plays. I mean, he's obviously a very good player for us, has been tremendous in his role, is very valuable. So, the more he touches it, the more we can get it to him, we usually feel very good about those opportunities. Again, sometimes there are other things that determine whether we can or can't get it to him and there's usually - other than screen passes or run plays - there's usually other things available on the play. And based on what we're seeing and the coverage and so on and so forth, we try to do the best thing we can on each pass play if it is a scheme where there's a lot of guys out on the route. He needs to be involved, he certainly has been a tremendous player for us and the more he can touch the ball, the better off we all feel.
Q: Have you found that perhaps over the second half, teams are paying more attention to him when he is out there?
JM: I think that any time you have a player that is a productive guy in his role - I mean, other teams are very well-coached, other teams have players that are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our skill players and our linemen. They try to do the best things they can schematically or otherwise to neutralize some of those guys. So, I would say that James has seen some different looks. There's definitely been some teams that have tried to do things to limit the amount of times he can have it, but that always opens up opportunities for other people. So, there's production other places in the game that may be due to the attention that one or two other skill players are getting, and that's just the nature of football that they're going to try to put a lot of focus on one or two guys, and the other guys that are available in the pattern have to come through when their opportunities come up, and hopefully we can get the ball to them and make some productive plays, also.
Q: On the final play of the game, what went into the decision to take Josh Gordon off the field and have Cordarrelle Patterson come on?
JM: Yeah, we had just kind of run quite a few plays in a row. I know there was a timeout there before that. Both of those guys have worked at that spot and in that type of a situation, and based on what we were doing, we made the choice to go with C.P. at that point - no ulterior motive on that at all . Just put a fresh guy in to go in there and do something on the last play to see if we could get into the end zone, and it is what it is.
Q: Bigger picture with Cordarrelle Patterson, his opportunities are reflective of a player that has earned the confidence of you and the coaching staff to be in on the field in those critical situations. What have you learned about him this year the more you've gotten to work with him that puts him in position for you guys to put him on the field in those critical situations?
JM: Well, C.P.'s a talented guy. He's also an extremely versatile player and an unselfish guy. I mean, you guys have seen him do everything from be a lead blocker to be the goal line running back, and he's played receiver, he's a kickoff returner, he's played multiple positions on our team, and a lot of that is determined by the week or the plan in terms of what we think we're going to get defensively and how things are unfolding. But, he embraces his role each week. He comes to work with a tremendous attitude. He practices really hard and he's trying to get better each and every day that he's out there. So, I think he's earned all the respect that he gets from not only the coaching staff but the locker room, the players, and he's a tough guy who's unselfish and does anything that he can to help the team win, which is really all you can ask as a coach of any player.
Q: What are your thoughts on what seems to be a preponderance of dropped passes this season?
JM: You know, there's never really one reason for anything like that. I mean, there's a lot of types of pass plays. Again, I think as a group, we catch the ball well. They obviously work on it every day in practice, and we have a tremendous amount of confidence in our skill group. So, if there was one thing that kept showing up over and over in terms of a specific style of catch or the way our hands were placed or coming from left to right or right to left or over the shoulder or what have you, then that would be one thing. I do not see that. I mean, this is the National Football League. Guys are going to have opportunities that are tough catches, and sometimes they're going to make them and sometimes they're not. That doesn't mean that they don't catch the football well, because our group does. We've got a lot of confidence in them and we just keep working and fundamentally focusing on the things that you need to do well to catch the football consistently, and you go back out there and practice. Anything that you're not doing well one week, you may make an emphasis of and try to fix and do it better the next week, and that's what we're going to try to do.
Q: You mentioned fundamentals. I assume securing the ball is the first priority? It seems like a lot of those drops come from players turning up field before they actually have the ball secured in their hands.
JM: Well, there's defenders involved, there's people flashing in front of them and all the rest of it. Again, we don't make excuses for any of those things. If our guys had an opportunity to catch the football, they'll be the first ones to tell you that they should secure it. Again, there's nothing more important to the team's success than taking care of the football. So, whether we have it and we have to keep it or the ball's being thrown to us and we have to secure it, that's obviously paramount to our success offensively and as a team. So, it's something that we'll continue to try to work hard at and improve if we can. I know our guys take a lot of pride in that, and like I said, we have a tremendous amount of confidence in our group.
Patriots Cornerbacks Coach Josh Boyer
Q: Bill Belichick said that J.C. Jackson has improved steadily this season. Would you agree with that, and what did you see that gave you the trust to put him on JuJu Smith-Schuster on Sunday?
JB: I would say the thing with J.C., he's been pretty consistent as far as being a hard worker. And I think the things that you're seeing from an improvement standpoint, he's made the most of the opportunities he's had when he's gotten on the field. As far as matchups and stuff like that go, ultimately we try to put all of our players in a position that they can have success, and that's easily a week-to-week decision on how those things go. But, the ultimate key is to put them in a position to have success. J.C.'s done a great job of continuing to work to get better.
Q: Is there anything you can point to in particular that has allowed him to play more snaps in the last few weeks than he did in the beginning of the season?
JB: Well, I think there's a comfort level of him understanding what we're asking him to do and then doing that at a better level. So, I think over time, there's been a steady improvement of that, so I would say those would be the key factors there.
Q: Some of J.C.'s veteran teammates have been impressed by his ability to track the football, but there are times where he's admitted he could have done a better job. How difficult is it to learn that aspect in games? What's the biggest factor when it comes to being more comfortable in terms of turning your head around away from your guy to try to find the football when it's in the air?
JB: Well, I think there's a number of factors that go into that. One, no two plays are usually the same and guys can be in different positions, the ball can be under-thrown, it can be over-thrown, it could be thrown on the outside shoulder, it could be thrown inside, so there's different situations that those guys face week-in, week-out. And then they've got to get a comfort level with where they're at on the receiver and usually is that, 'Do I have time to turn? Do I not have time to turn? Can I turn? Where am I at in relationship to the receiver?' There's a lot of things that go into those little decisions. I think there's a level of instinctiveness that some players have. It's different for each individual. Those are things that we drill on to try to get guys a little bit better at it. I would say J.C., he's made some pretty good plays and took the most of some opportunities at times, and there's other times where there's things that we can still work on and still improve.
Q: Stephon Gilmore said after the game that you find out a lot about yourself playing corner when you have a tough matchup and they keep throwing your way. With a young player like J.C., do you pay any mind to how he handles that moment and responds to that throughout the course of a game? Do you watch how he reacts to that challenge and responds to it mentally?
JB: I think as a coach, we try to look at all of our players in the positions that we put them in and to see whether they're having success or not, and if not, is there something that we could do to change it or if the reason is maybe scheme or maybe the matchup. I think, as a group, we just try to look at it and say, 'OK, are these guys in a good position to make plays?' And if they are, that's great and how are they responding. I think we pretty much track that on a play-by-play basis every game.
Q: How does somebody get from the South Dakota School of Mines to New England?
JB: Well, my football career really started with my father in Ohio. Ohio is a pretty big football state. My dad's a high school coach, so I just started going to practice with him at a young age, and then I ended up playing high school and college in Ohio. After I graduated college, I decided I wanted to get into coaching, and then I just worked real hard at all the jobs that I've had. The first job I had is really the only one I had to interview for. From there, it just kind of went from place to place. I think the most important thing is to work hard at the job you have and love the game of football, and that probably got instilled in me at a young age, probably around 3, 4, 5. I mean, the minute I could walk, I was going to football practice. So, I hope that answers your question, but that's kind of the path that led me to here and led me to South Dakota and led me to other places.
Q: You don't see many people go from the NAIA to the NFL. Do you carry anything with you in terms of accepting that challenge? Is that something that can translate to players to some degree?
JB: I think the thing you try to stress with your players is you control the things that you can control and do the best that you can with the situation that's given to you. That's kind of what we preach with those guys. Not everything is going to be perfect all the time, but you've got to do the best that you can in any given situation. I give our players a lot of credit. Those guys work really hard at doing that.