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Transcripts: Patriots Conference Calls 1/14

Read the full transcripts from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and Safeties Coach Steve Belichick's conference calls on Monday, January 14, 2019.


January 14, 2019

Q: What was the key to getting the run game started, and what is the fine line in a playoff game between being patient with what you're trying to accomplish going into the game versus perhaps moving on to something else if that isn't working?

BB: Look, I think Josh [McDaniels] is a great play-caller. He does an excellent job of attacking, keeping the defense off-balance, but most importantly doing the things that we do well so that we're running things that we can execute. He does a great job of that. It was really the key to the whole day. We ran a variety of different plays – dropbacks, play-actions, inside runs, outside runs, gap runs, zone runs. Ultimately it was great execution by our players and, again, a really nice job by Josh of keeping the defense off-balance.

Q: How do things change for a team when they're on the road? Does the crowd noise affect the calls and the timing along the offensive line?

BB: Yeah, I mean, we play half our games on the road, half at home. We've been in those situations, both ways, plenty of times as have all of our opponents. It is what it is. We'll deal with the conditions as they come up just like we always do.

Q: Some players mentioned post game the role that Nick Caserio has in assisting them throughout the week in a game-plan sense. Could you speak to what his role is in that aspect of preparation outside of his normal roles and responsibilities?

BB: Yeah, Nick does a great job. He does a lot of different things for us. I'm sure he does more than anybody in the league at his position in terms of his interaction with the team, the coaching staff and the college and pro scouting. He's involved in a lot of different things and does a great job at all of them. His job description would be several pages.

Q: How much was the weather a factor in the decision to take the ball after winning the opening coin toss?

BB: I didn't think the weather was a huge factor in the game. I mean, for the middle of January in Foxborough, we've certainly seen a lot worse elements than that.

Q: Was that at all a consideration in specific to the decision to elect to receive at the start of the game?

BB: We always try to do what we feel like is best for our team in all situations. So, whatever those decisions are, it's always what we feel like is best for the team.

Q: Are often is your defensive line working on some of the games and stunts that we saw yesterday? Is there an element of timing or a feel those guys have to have for each other in order to make some of those plays?

BB: Sure, definitely. I thought our pass rush yesterday, the players did a good job. Coach [Brendan] Daly does a great job every week with that. Joe Kim – those guys do a really good job of game planning, preparing the players and then most importantly making adjustments during the game as things unfold. Again, so much of that game is played in a very small amount of space that there's a degree of X's and O's involved, but a lot of it is really short-space matchups and technique and recognizing something quickly and being able to take advantage of it. I think all of that was a part of it. But no, we work on those things and sometimes – just like every other play in football – sometimes you get the look that you're looking for and sometimes you get something that's a little bit different than what you thought it was going to be or what their tendency was in that situation. I'm not saying you've never seen it before but maybe it's a little different than what you were expecting in that situation and then one or more players have to make adjustments to it and just how quickly you can recognize and adapt to that.

Q: What do you think of the job Sony Michel does of trying to stay patient and allow his offensive linemen to set up the blocks for him and picking his spots along the line of scrimmage to cut and try to make yards? It seems for a rookie he has a good maturity level as a runner to be able to do that well.

BB: Sure, I think Sony has real good run instincts. He's done that for a long time but it's always different when your plays are a little bit different. The defenders are a little bit different and your blockers are different than the group that he worked with in previous years. So there's a timing element and, as you said, a patience if you will, an adjustment part of that. But he does a good job of that. I think all of our backs have really tried to run the ball to help the blockers and that's an important thing to do, to try and put them in the best position they can to make the blocks so that you're setting them up and not putting them in a compromising position where they have a hard time making them.

Q: What did you think of the performance of the offensive line yesterday?

BB: I think overall, with a few exceptions on defense, but overall I thought we played a pretty solid game for three quarters. We didn't finish the game particularly well in any area, but if you look at the first three quarters, we were able to run the ball, adjust our pass protection. We were able to throw the ball which helped our running game and we scored in the red area, converted on third down and then defensively we stopped the run fairly well, converted on third down, didn't give up big plays, able to get the ball back for our offense, made a couple of plays on special teams with the fumble and punt returns to set up field position for our offense. We played a good complementary game. Unfortunately, in the third quarter we missed a couple of opportunities to offensively, get touchdowns, and defensively, well, we didn't move the ball very well in the fourth quarter on offense and gave up three touchdowns on defense. The offensive line and the entire offense played very efficiently, I'd say in the first three quarters let's call it.


January 14, 2019

Q: I wanted to ask you about the job the offense did in the first two drives yesterday and how important it was to establish tempo from the start, especially in the running game. How important was that to get the running game going?

JM: Well, I think in any of these games where you're playing a one-game season, it's always best to try to start fast, however you choose to do that – run, pass or some other way of doing it. It just so happened that yesterday – certainly we wanted to try to maintain our balance and we felt like we had a chance to do that effectively. I thought the guys were ready to go and knew the defense we were playing and understood how they played and the players they were going to be matched up against and went out and executed well. There's no magic plays and the guys know that and in order to start well, we have to play well. We try to give them a plan that they understand and can digest and really know well and go out there and play fast and be aggressive. They executed well enough certainly for us to go out there and get off to a decent start, which I then think lends itself to having the ability to stay with things and balance out everything as you go. If you fall behind, certainly it's tougher. But the better you start, the more chance you have to be patient and allow things to kind of develop as the game goes on. So I kind of think they go hand-in-hand, and again, our players deserve the credit for that.

Q: Is it even more important when you go on the road to make sure you have rhythm and you're dictating the pace of the game?

JM: It doesn't matter where we play, whether we play here or somewhere else in that regard. Playing well is more important than the venue, so if we can go out there and execute what we're doing and get out in front, then that's always a positive regardless of the site of the game. Look, we've played on the road half our games and there's noise in all the other stadiums. There's going to be noise in this one. We know that, we've experienced it before. But we know how to handle that, and again, it comes down to how well we play this week. It doesn't matter any other week that we've played, the last game we played them or there or some other place on the road. What matters is how our team this week can prepare and then go out and perform and execute on Sunday night. Again, hopefully we can go out there and play our best game of the year.

Q: Did somebody discover late in the year that something might have been flawed in Tom Brady's mechanics?

JM: No, I don't know what you're referring to. We talk about a lot of things each week but there's nothing – he's one of the, if not the, most fundamentally sound passers of the football that I think there's ever been. He works on his fundamentals and his craft every week, every day and we have a lot of confidence in that. I know he has a lot of confidence in that and his confidence comes from the work that he puts in. So no, no big changes.

Q: Just curious if Tom Brady might have gotten off his game a little bit and discovered something that was out of sync and fixed it because he's looked a lot sharper the last three weeks.

JM: I don't know. You'd have to ask him in terms of something specific to that. We work on a lot of things every week, part of that's fundamentals, part of that's understanding the defense, part of that's footwork, part of that's our game plan and the design that we have in place that week. There's a lot of things that go into having success on an individual play or in an individual game, many of which can be attributed to a lot of factors. So again, what matters is how we continue to try to work and perform as we go forward, and we're going to do everything we can to have our best game this week and I know Tom will too.

Q: When you are in the middle of a drive and you see there's six or seven defensive backs on the field, do you feel like you have to make the defense pay for playing that personnel by running the football?

JM: I think there's a lot of things that go into those decisions. Look, there's a lot of teams that play really well with nickel and dime defense on the field. The Chargers do, too, and they have had a lot of success this year doing that. You don't ever want the other team to dictate what you do because then you become predictable. But, when we put certain groupings out there, if you feel like you have an advantage one way or another, then you certainly want to try to play to it. I don't think that really happened yesterday necessarily. I thought we were just trying to execute our game plan. I thought our guys did a decent job of doing that, especially in the first half, whether it was a run or a pass. We actually passed the ball more than we ran it in the first half and the game in general. All in all, I think what matters is our execution and I thought our guys did a good job of communicating. We got a lot of different looks with different groupings on the field from them as the game wore on and that's a lot to sort out sometimes. Give Tom and David Andrews a lot of credit for really setting the table and distributing our blockers properly, not only in the running game but in protection. Then trying to just be sound and run good football plays and stay ahead on the down and distance, and I thought we tried to do that for the most part in both the run game and the pass game.

Q: I think we see from Tom Brady a really good ability to be able to use his eyes and look off defenders and not give up where he's going. Do you agree that it's something he's particularly good at and where does that come from? Is that a product of his experience, is that natural talent and how have you seen him progress in that area?

JM: Well, it's probably one of a million things that he does well and that's what's made him such a good player for such a long time. There's a lot that goes into that. His own preparation is important, obviously, and he works extremely hard at that to be ready to go and know the other team and in our meetings throughout the week to try to get to know the defense, the players, our game plan, what's going to make each play work its best. I know he really does a good job of studying that and listening during the week and digesting all of that information, and then he has the ability to go out there and execute it under pressure, which is the toughest part about all that. It's easy to sit and listen in the meetings and see things or hear things. It's completely different to be able to see them, hear them during the week and then go out there and apply them under pressure with a pass rush and disguise and weather and all the different factors that could come in on a given play or given day. It takes a lot of hard work and preparation and practice, and there's nothing more important that we do every week than go out there on the practice field and work at whatever it is we're going to try to do on Sunday. He's been a great practice player for a long time, and I think he knows and feels that if he can go out and get better and make progress every single day, that we have a chance to do that. And even as many years and season that he's played, that attitude goes a long way in being able to make progress at this stage in the season and this stage of his career. I think it's a great example for the rest of our team, and whether that's using his eyes or his footwork or throwing mechanics or play-faking or whatever it is, there's always some element that you can get better at or improve on, and he's willing to do that on a daily basis and we're lucky obviously to have him.

Q: When you are a game plan offense that changes weekly, what are the key characteristics that you need in your personnel that you look for? And what are your thoughts on this Chiefs defense?

JM: Well, I think our offense is really designed around the players, and whatever the players can do well, we try to figure out what those things are. And we usually have a good idea when we bring them here, but we really get to know that as we go through the year – what they do best, what they may not do as well – and then try to tailor our game plans to allow those players to have success as much as we possibly can. Hopefully our system has enough depth to it and variety that we can accommodate a lot of different skillsets, which has definitely happened over the course of time. That's a good thing because, really, what you want is good football players who love football and are willing to work at it each week because this is not an easy thing to be successful at. Playing in this league is tough, and these guys do a lot to get themselves ready to go each year and each week. When you have a good attitude and you have certain abilities and are willing to study and work hard each week to digest the game plan that we're trying to use for this specific opponent that we play, then generally you're going to be able to fit in. Certainly, we don't have cookie-cutters at any position. We have a lot of different skillsets, a lot of variety and that's a good thing. Hopefully we can try to do the best thing each week to try to put those guys in positions to have some success. You don't look for just one thing. I think if they're a good football player, then hopefully we can find a spot in our system to accommodate that and then they can go out and help us win. And the Chiefs defense, we got an opportunity to play against them earlier and it's a different group now then what we played against. [Justin] Houston we didn't see earlier in the year. We know how good he is on the edge and the things he does and how much of an impact he makes on their team, not only in the pass rush but in the running game. We'll see about [Eric] Berry, but we've seen him back now in a couple of games. [Daniel] Sorensen's back off of IR – we're familiar with him but he's playing now. [Charvarius] Ward we didn't see much, and so there's a lot of changes that have taken place here. They're leading the league in sacks, really conscious of the ball, they do a great job of creating turnover opportunities for their team. [Chris] Jones is as good of a player as we've played in the front all year. This guy is tremendously disruptive, not only in the running game but as a pass rusher inside – this guy is really a talented player. [Dee] Ford's having a great year. We saw him in the first game and he's a very disruptive player on the edge, too. Their secondary plays a lot of tight coverage, they create a lot of opportunities for themselves because they're near the ball a lot and they've been able to take the ball away. Playing there on the road, certainly a different element, so there's a lot that's changed since we played in Week 6. This is the best team we've played all year obviously, and at this time of the year, if you're still alive, you're pretty good. They've demonstrated that over and over and over again, played really well the other day against Indianapolis. This will be a huge challenge for us on the road.


January 14, 2019

Q: What have you seen from Devin McCourty this year? From your perspective, has it been consistent from start to finish?

SB: Yeah, I think it's been consistent improvement every year, just like it was the past couple since I've been coaching him. Yeah, all players, we strive for everybody to get better every day. So, that's the goal for everyone around here, and I think Devin's done that. I think he's played at a high level all year. I don't think it went from bad to good; I think it's gone from good to better.

Q: What does Patrick Chung bring to the defense and what it is like coaching him?

SB: Yeah, he brings a ton to our defense both on and off the field, and he's a great player to coach. I love coaching all my guys, but Pat's awesome to coach. He's an extremely versatile player. He does a lot of stuff for us defensively, so obviously it gives me the opportunity to coach a lot of different techniques and stuff like that. So, yeah, working with Pat has been great. He's a smart player, he asks a lot of good questions, he makes you think as a coach, so yeah, I can't say enough good things about coaching Pat.

Q: How good is this group of players that you coach at not panicking and getting back to the sideline, regrouping and sticking to the game plan?

SB: Yeah, I mean, they're a mentally tough group of players and all the credit to them for trusting and believing in us and sticking with the game plan and what the coaching staff wanted to do. Those guys went out there and executed and just did a great job from top to bottom. I can't say enough good things about those guys and how well they played yesterday up until the finish, but yeah, it was a great game and credit to them for just continuing to battle and fight through adversity like they've done all year.

Q: Is that ability to keep calm particularly important when you go on the road and it's a hostile environment and emotions can be running high?

SB: Yeah, I can't even put into words how important it is – just keeping your poise, playing the next play. There's just endless examples of things that happen that no one thought would in football games. So, you've just got to play the next play, live the next down and give your best.

Q: With a guy as explosive as Tyreek Hill and some of the big games he's had against this defense in the past, how do you go about adequately preparing for a guy like that?

SB: Yeah, I mean, we've got to do a great job with him, as everybody else on their offense. I mean, they scored 40 points on us last time, so we have our work cut out for us. Yeah, this guy is just – explosive is an understatement for him.

Q: What stands out to you about the Chiefs offense that will challenge you guys?

SB: Honestly, everything. They do everything well. They're doing everything at a high level right now. I remember last time getting ready for them, [Patrick] Mahomes was completing left-handed passes for first downs. Now he's completing no-look passes. So, it just keeps getting more and more challenging with these guys. They're playing at a high level. They're the best team we've played, obviously, so we're looking forward to the challenge, but they sure do present a big challenge. 

Q: What kinds of things do you see from your defensive backs that allowed you to have so many pass break ups yesterday?

SB: I think those guys just working together out on the field, they were just communicating really well, working really well, playing on a string with each other, knowing where each other was going to be. I just credit those guys for working hard over the bye week, working hard last week, just building more camaraderie and communicating and playing together. I don't know if I could give one specific reason why it all works. It's a lot of hard work by those guys, individually and collectively.

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