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Transcripts: Patriots Conference Calls 1/24

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia address the media during their conference calls on Tuesday, January 27, 2017.



Q: How quickly did you shift your focus from the AFC Championship onto the Atlanta Falcons and the Super Bowl?

BB: Well, you know, about as quickly as we could. We took our kind of normal day after the game routine and went through some things from the Pittsburgh game Sunday night. And then we have to do some logistical things for this game, but players and other members of our staff, a lot of members of our staff are working on that with our players and other people that travel. We're on to Atlanta now as a coaching staff. We're deep in the middle of them.

Q: Atlanta's General Manager Thomas Dimitroff is someone you have familiarity with from his time here in New England. Does it appear that he has left any kind of mark on that organization that compares similarly to your program in New England?

BB: Well, I go back a long way with Tom [Dimitroff] when his dad was a scout for me with the Browns and Tom was working in the organization when he was coming out of high school and into college in that kind of era. But he's a football guy, so it's in the family. He works hard. He knows the game. He did a real good job for us with skill players, defensive backs, receivers, linebackers, running backs, things like that. I'd say the stamp on the team, the thing that I would notice the most is just the speed, the team speed that the Falcons have. They have a lot of fast guys. Defensively they close up space very quickly. Their linebackers run well. Their defensive line, although they have a couple of big, strong, physical guys in there, overall they have usually nine or 10 players on the field that I would say are fast. They're either as fast or faster than probably what the average speed of their position is in the league. I'd say that's a big stamp that he has put on the team. They're explosive offensively and they have a lot of athletic players on defense and they play a lot of guys, too. It's a lot different than Pittsburgh who basically played the same players the whole game. Atlanta rolls those guys in and out of there quite a bit and they have a lot of players in their front. They use guys in the secondary, too, so they play quite a few players. They're fresh, they pursue hard, close space quickly and are aggressive. He's done a very good job with the Falcons football team. They're an impressive team to watch. They do a lot of things really well, but they look like they're faster than almost every team they play.

Q: Logistically speaking, will there be any similarities between this trip to Houston and the trip after the 2003 season for Super Bowl XXXVIII which was also in Houston?

BB: On paper it doesn't look like a lot, Mike [Reiss]. I think the NFC facilities are Rice [University] and the kind of facilities that we had - I don't think anybody is using the Texans facility, well, we're not - and we're at the University of Houston, so I think it's kind of flipped a little bit from what it was in that '03 Super Bowl [Super Bowl XXXVIII]. To tell you the truth, I haven't spent a lot of time looking into those comparisons. Really kind of right now the first thing is just, well, getting things up at the University of Houston, which that is important for us, but just kind of logistical stuff like taking care of various things with our team regarding tickets, transportation, hotel rooms, etc. We have a staff that's doing a great job of handling that, but sometimes there are some decisions or situations that I have to get involved in or make a decision on. There are also certain obligations that we have from a league standpoint, and so just trying to schedule and coordinate some of that. Again, a lot of the media stuff has changed from the last time we were down there even in 2014, with Monday night being more of a media day as opposed to Tuesday during the day. Our time schedules are different in terms of when we have that obligation on Wednesday and Thursday. It looks like there are going to be quite a few differences.

Q: Do I remember correctly that you started the week in 2003 practicing at Rice University and then moved to the Texans facility?

BB: Yes, that's correct; yes.

Q: How do you feel Alan Branch performed Sunday night in the AFC Championship game and how unique is his skill set compared to other defensive tackles you have had in your time in New England?

BB: Yeah, Alan [Branch] has done a great job for us, and along with his play which is certainly significant, one of the things that's really been impressive about him has been his play time. So in addition to his overall production he's played a lot more than he has in quite a while in terms of number of plays. From a production standpoint he's got, again, quite a few tackles, tackles for loss. It's hard to measure the disruptive plays but he's certainly got his share of those. He's played very well for us in the running game. He's given us a presence in the pass rush of a long, physical player in the middle. That's all been really good, and he's played more plays so all of that is good. How unique is it? I mean, yeah, guys that weigh 350 pounds and are athletic and long like he is; I mean they don't grow on trees. They're hard to find. Ted Washington had that kind of length and size. Ted was 6' 5", but Alan moves better than Ted does, or did at that point in his career. We've had some other longer guys like Richard [Seymour] or guys like that, but they weren't 350 pounds. There's not too many of them. Gerard Warren was a big guy that ran well. Money [Gerard Warren] was a very athletic player who wasn't quite as long as Branch but moving into that range.

Q: With Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn being a former member of the Seahawks' defensive staff, do you see any similarities between them and his defense now in Atlanta?

BB: Yeah, sure, they have some of their own characteristics and of course the players are different, so that makes it different. But schematically there is quite a bit of carryover. I think just kind of at first glance it might be a little more pressure from Atlanta than Seattle ran, but you know, Seattle did some of it, too. I think overall the schemes are very similar, so the players that you can relate to those schemes are - both teams have them - [Kam] Chancellor and [Keanu] Neal. Go right down the line. They're similar. They play a similar position in a similar defense so that's the player. I'm not saying their skills are the same, but that's what they do. There's probably a similarity to the skill sets. But yeah, it's pretty similar. Ricardo Allen plays in the deep part of the field like [Earl] Thomas did, so that type of thing.

Q: Is there anything about that last Super Bowl trip to Houston for Super Bowl XXXVIII that was particularly memorable for you?

BB: Well, it was kind of a crazy game. The game started off - it didn't look like anybody was going to score. And then there was a lot of scoring right before the half. Then things settled down a little bit in the third quarter and then there was a lot of scoring at the end of the game. It kind of seemed like whoever had the ball last was maybe in better position in that game. We lost a couple of key players there around halftime and in the third quarter. That hurt us in the secondary. Carolina hit a lot of big plays. I mean we handled the running game pretty well on the first half, which was very good. The Panthers were a good running team, and then they hit a 'wham' on us right before the half. There was a big matchup against our kind of 'no-name' offensive line and a very good defensive front that the Panthers had. Yeah, kind of like the one before that, it just came down to the last kick, a couple of big plays by Troy Brown, Deion Branch right at the end there.

Q: The 2001 team is memorable for getting hot at the end of the season and winning it all, especially considering what was going on in our country at that time. The 2004 team was just a wagon that came back and dominated on their way to repeating as Super Bowl champions. What would you say was kind of the imprint that the 2003 team left when you look back on it with a little more perspective now?

BB: Yeah, you know, I don't know. That's a good question, but in all honesty I haven't really thought too much about the '03 team lately. Nothing against them; I love that group and that team. But I'm just really trying to zero in here on Atlanta. We've got so much work to do on the Falcons that it is pretty consuming.

Q: How much do you feel like the lacrosse background has helped Chris Hogan enjoy success in football and do you see those skills needed translating between the two sports?

BB: I don't know about that. I'd say the one thing that Chris [Hogan] does well that maybe is related to lacrosse is just his conditioning. He's in good condition. He runs a lot of deep routes, but he has real good stamina and he can keep going. That's probably something that carried over there, but the skills are pretty different. That'd be a good question to ask Steve [Belichick] and Mike Pellegrino since both of them covered him. They probably could give a better answer to that then I can. One of these days we're going to have to see who can score on who.

Q: How do you feel that Eric Rowe has improved over the course of the year?

BB: Well, as you know, Eric [Rowe] came to us right at the start of the season but wasn't with us in training camp, so from learning the defense, and adjustments, and communication and things like that, there was a catching up process, but he worked hard. He's a smart kid. He's played multiple positions in the past. He played both corner and safety in college, so he has a pretty good understanding of just overall defensive concepts. He missed a couple of games this year but he's continued to work hard and get better through the course of the season. He made a big play for us there Sunday night. But he has good talent, and can run, and has good length and good ball skills. I think if he continues to work hard, and is diligent in his preparation, and in the weight room, and in his training and all of that, he has a chance to be a good, consistent player in this league.


Q: How well have you seen Nate Solder play this year and how important has his stability been for you guys?

JM: Yeah, Nate [Solder] has been a very consistent player for us. I mean [at] that position you usually match up against a premier rusher or multiple rushers each game that really do a good job of trying to get some pressure on the quarterback or disrupt you in the running game. I think Nate has really done a nice job of run blocking, pass protection and all the things we ask at that position. He has really been consistent, detailed, he works hard, always tries to do his job to the best of his ability, he's a great teammate, he's very well prepared. Nate will have to have a great two weeks of preparation just like everybody else on our group will so that we can play our best in a couple weeks here.

Q: How much of finding open spaces in the defense is instinctive and how much of that is what you teach them to do when they get a defensive look? How much of a challenge is that against a defense when the space is so compressed?

JM: Yeah, the red area is obviously the toughest place to throw the ball on the field because you have less space. The windows are tighter, the throws are going to have to be more accurate, a lot of times you're going to have to make some contested catches and sometimes if people drop more than six or seven into coverage it can be really, really tight windows down there. I thought the guys worked hard on both of those plays. The plays actually got extended a little bit. Look, sometimes the design doesn't really do much for you and then kind of the scramble rules take effect and you start moving and trying to find some space and stay alive for the quarterback and I think that our guys have learned to try to do that. I think a big part of that is understanding where the other people are in the pattern so that you don't end up with too many people in the same area or the same spot because then obviously you can have one defender cover two people. Tom [Brady] did a good job of keeping his eyes up the field and staying patient and then the guys continued to try to work to create some space for themselves in an area that is not always easy to do that. Sometimes things work out the way you design it and sometimes guys extend the play and really work hard to try to find some space after the fact and I think in both of those cases the guys worked well together and found an opening and Tommy [Brady] found them in the end zone.  

Q:  How special has the team's bond off the field been this year? Do those types of relationships help with the on-field product?

JM: Well I think we have a group that will work hard. They have one common goal in mind and that is to try to do our best each week to do our part on offense. We try to go out and score points and play a complementary game with the defense and the special teams and take care of the ball. The guys have an unselfishness about them that's unique and I don't really think they much care who gets credit or who creates statistics or what have you. That's not really a big topic in our building. It's certainly not something that we hang too much - we don't talk too much about that. Our guys are excited for other's success and when they get their opportunities and their turn they're just ready to go and do whatever they can to help the team win. I think to me that attitude is - it's a great environment to come to work in, it's a great environment to go out and practice hard and enjoy practice because you really enjoy being around your teammates and your coaches and, again, I've said it a number of times, we're fortunate to have a group like that to coach. It makes our job so much fun to come to work and try to help them improve and get better and then ultimately go out there and watch them do their thing on game day. You know, this is a long grind of a season and the more of a bond you have off the field, on the field, the more you enjoy being around each other and the time you spend with one another. I think it just makes coming to work that much more fun and we're just going to try to compete as hard as we can to do our best every week and that will be no different the next two weeks. 

Q: How did your four-receiver grouping pair for you? Do you feel good entering a game like that because you have this vast array of things you can call?

JM: Well I think in general terms the guys that went out there in all our groupings tried to do what we were asking them to do and be productive. The four receiver grouping, I don't know how many total snaps it was off the top of my head, we knew we wanted to do a few things out of some different groupings that we felt like could help us move the ball, make first downs and score points. I think they went out there and did some things, were able to convert on a few third downs I believe and help us move the ball. I think each week we go into it and we try to look at a group of players that we've got a lot of guys that can help us be productive on offense in a lot of different ways and in different roles. You look at what you have available to you and you look at how the other team plays you or you think that they're going to play you in those groupings and then try to make the best decisions you can to gain the most advantage. That's why sometimes certain things are - maybe it's more of a fullback and two tight ends and another week maybe it's three receivers, a fullback and a tailback - there's a lot of different things that you can use and hopefully there's a rhyme and a reason for all of it because, again, I think the most important thing is you're trying to put your guys in a position to have some success doing things that they do well. The defense and their matchups, that's always a critical component of making those choices. Whatever it's going to be the next two weeks, I don't know. We're still in the process of learning this defense that we're getting ready to compete against and studying them very hard to get to know their personnel and their scheme. Hopefully we make some good decisions about how to utilize our guys. We've got a lot of guys that can contribute in a lot of different ways and they'll be ready to do so as we head into our preparation for Atlanta. 

Q: How much does it help your preparation and game plan knowing that you have had the same five guys out there working together on the offensive line for almost the whole season?

JM: Yeah, I think continuity in that group is always important. I think continuity in football is important. It sometimes can be overrated in terms of thinking that you can't go out there and have success splaying with somebody that you haven't necessarily played with all of the time. But I think in general terms, communication is such an important aspect of the game of football. Trust, working together with the guy that's beside you, or it could be a receiver and a quarterback, it could be a running back and a tight end in blitz pickup or it could be the five guys up front working in tandem with one another in the running game or in pass protection. But I think ultimately this game is about fundamentals and technique and communication and being able to do your job and trust that the other guys on the field with you are doing theirs at the same time the way that they've been coached to do them. The more repetitions you get with the guys that you're going to be doing it with under pressure in games against really good teams, I think the more comfort you develop with those guys. Hopefully that allows you to play well. Again, it doesn't mean that you can't play well with a guy that you haven't had a lot of repetitions with. I just think the more you work together, the more things you do together, the more trust you build with one another, and ultimately if you communicate well and you trust the other guy, I think you're confidence in what you're doing will be high. You go out there and try to play aggressive and fast and understand that it might not all be perfect but you believe in the guys that you're around and you go out there and do your best. I think the group that we've had has been fortunate to be healthy. They worked hard to take care of their bodies and try to be out there for each other and for our team each week. I think they've acquitted themselves very well.

Q: How special was the moment on the field following the AFC Championship victory where you were able to celebrate with friends and family?
JM: Yeah, those moments are - I never take them for granted. I was able to have my oldest two there and fortunate that they were down there with us after we were able to win. This game - we spend a lot of time away from our families and away from our wives and away from our kids and put a lot of time and effort into this. That's a sacrifice that we make to be part of something like this. So for us as coaches and players to be able to share those moments with the people that we love the most and we care about deeply, that means a lot, because you don't know when you're going to have the next opportunity to do those things. To be able to share those things with them is incredibly special. I was grateful that they were able to be there with us.

Q: Was the decision to use some more no-huddle offense in the AFC Championship game a move made before the game or was it more of an in-game adjustment? Likewise, was the decision to go no-huddle near the goal line your call or something that Tom Brady saw and adjusted into?

JM: Yeah, I think, again, I think the big thing for us is there's a lot of ways to look at getting ready to play a game. You try to evaluate the opponent as best you can and be very thorough with your preparation and your study and your research and you look at your team and where we're at and what we think we can do best, and then you kind of put it all together and try to figure out exactly what you need to do to try to win the game. Again, Bill [Belichick] does a great job of identifying for us how we all fit together and play into a team game that can result best in success. So there's a lot of things, like I said earlier in the call, in terms of whether it's personnel or formations or tempo, maybe sometimes it's throwing the ball down the field, maybe sometimes it's throwing the ball shorter, maybe it's running outside [or] running inside. There's a lot of variable that you could use but ultimately you're trying to make the decisions that you think can give you the best chance to succeed. Whether, like I said, four receivers on the field, tempo or many other factors that go into the game, I think those are all decisions we try to make in terms of what's best for the team. Then those things can change during the course of the game. Maybe you didn't plan on doing something a whole lot then all of a sudden it's either working or not working and then you have to shift gears and make adjustments. These are the best teams that are left in our league and they're all very well coached, they all have great players and schemes and challenges that they present and one thing is not going to work forever. Then make adjustments quick and they challenge you to make adjustments back. I think that all goes into those decisions about how to play the game and how to implement your game plan and how to try to help your players be successful. Ultimately it all comes down to what our guys do on the field. Whether we go fast, slow, huddle, no huddle, small personnel, big personnel, if we can block them well and run well and throw and catch the ball and protect the football, usually we're going to have a chance to have success and like I said that credit goes solely to the players. In relation to the goal line or short yardage, there's a lot of different ways that could happen. Obviously our quarterback, he has got great perception of what's going on on the other side of the ball. If for whatever reason we feel like going quickly is the right thing to do, then that may happen or sometimes we might call it but it could be a combination of the two things. But again, none of that ensures success at all. What is really important is how we execute whatever it is that we're doing because you can go fast and go nowhere in a hurry and then you just come off the field and give the ball back to the other team quickly. So there's a lot of ways to go about that. We've tried it and have been very successful and other times the other team may have executed better than we did. The other night we were fortunate to be able to get it in in that situation down there. 



Q: What skill set do you see from Julio Jones that puts stress on a defense and can you compare him to another player he might be similar to?

MP: Obviously with the quarterback position, Matt Ryan, and then Julio Jones and all the skill players that they have, they have tremendous dynamic weapons, but Julio Jones is just, to me - we saw him a couple of years ago and studied him. He's probably just one of the most dynamic players in the league. I usually don't wind up comparing him to other people; I wind up comparing other people to him just because of his skill set and his ability. The things that he does for them and what he can do is he does a great job of moving around into different positions. Coach [Kyle] Shanahan puts him in different spots. He'll try to get him working different positions to get a matchup that he likes, or a particular formation that gives the defense problems, and then they'll really use him in a variety of ways. He can run underneath routes, he has great speed, he has great hands, he has great body control, and he's very, very strong. A bigger corner, smaller corner, whatever it is, he can push on the [defensive backs], lean and be able to play physical at the line of scrimmage, plus physical downfield with them, and still come up with the ball. He does a great job of tracking the ball in the air, can go up and high point it and get it. He's got great hands and like I said, does a great job after the catch. Just his ability to get the ball, get vertical into the defense towards the end zone, stiff-arm a defender, break a tackle, run away from guys, it's just he's such a dynamic player in that aspect that he can give you a lot of problems. He'll go vertical, he'll run the intermediate routes, he's very good at the top of the route, he does an unbelievable job of stemming and using his skill set to get separation at the top of the route in both man-to-man, and he does a great job of seeing zone coverage and sitting down. He and Matt Ryan have great chemistry where the route might be changed [because of] something that was called but because of the coverage, they've adjusted it and he's been able to work himself into open space and then Ryan will get him the ball. He's a great player. 

Q: Did you have much of a connection with Thomas Dimitroff when he was in New England?

MP: Absolutely, I mean, [he is a] great guy. From a standpoint of, obviously I was in a younger part of my career, so we didn't really spend a lot of time in the working side of it and that aspect of it, but he's someone I have tremendous respect for and someone that, I think as Coach [Bill] Belichick mentioned, did a great job of identifying personnel and people that were brought on to our team at the time. He was definitely someone that I would try to pick his brain a little bit and what he would look at when he would go scout and look at guys and players to try to help my development as I went forward. He's someone that I've been able to maintain really a great relationship with every time I get a chance to see him, so just a really great guy. 

Q: LeGarrette Blount had a sweatshirt on after the game Sunday night with an image of you with a headset on - how do you feel about having a sweatshirt devoted just to you that the players are wearing?

MP: Well, I mean we have a very special team with great relationships and LeGarrette [Blount], he's great. He's absolutely great. He's one of the guys I look to everyday to kind of - he loves to play, he loves to work at the game and he does a great job for us. He's something that kind of, you can go to and he picks you up every single day. That's kind of all I've got to say about that. 

Q: Did it make you laugh a little bit?

MP: Yeah, totally, totally. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the Falcons running game, particularly Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, as their passing game usually gets the most attention offensively?

MP: I think it's a great point. With this offense, what they've been able to do, with as much attention that goes into the passing game, rightfully so, it's allowed them to run the ball extremely well. They do a great job up front blocking. Alex Mack is in the middle there and he kind of controls everything. They do a great job of kind of identifying the fronts and getting the ball run through, I'll call it the space of the defense, and both of these backs [Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman] have an explosive ability to see the scene, get downhill quickly, get into the defense quickly. They run with good pad level, good body control, very good short-space quickness, and then some long speed too or speed you'd be able to get outside if you don't have the edge of the defense in a good force positon. They kind of - it's a one-two punch. They both have some good power. There are some slight differences between the two and some quickness and some short space stuff. They read the blocking scheme very well. Atlanta does a great job of just kind of running their runs. They practice the particular running style, the stretch game that they run. They do a good job of creating separation of the defense both horizontally and vertically, so as those backs take those angles and really get the defense to run kind of in a sideways manner, they open up those holes where these guys, they stick that foot in the ground and they just come downhill and they hit that thing at 100 miles per hour. That's very difficult to defend, especially if the front may be a little bit light, depending on what you've got to put on the coverage aspect of it to handle the passing game. Then there are certain situations with the backs and their quickness, they do a good job of setting up the defenders where the defenders may throw off to a particular side and these guys can dip in and dip back out. They have that speed and burst to kind of dip back out into space, and when they're in space is when they're the most dangerous. They create mismatches in tackling and like I said, just their center of gravity and the way they can really get low to the ground, it's pretty unique. 

Q: Was there a point in the season you felt your linebacking core gelled or became comfortable with their role?

MP: Yeah, something we kind of talked about all the way through the season is that process. That process and point we get to in the season where you're just trying to be improving every week and get guys into familiar situations. For us we just always target different points of the year, and I think maybe around the Thanksgiving time I told them, we said, 'Alright, we've really got to start making sure that we're improving each week and we are pushing forward in the direction that we want to go.' That's definitely a mark for us that we look at and say, 'Hey, we've got to get going here and we've got to make sure that everything is kind of lined up and in the right.' As a defense as a whole, that's what we look at. From the linebacking core, it's all kind of the same from that aspect. I think once we got past the Thanksgiving mark and guys kind of were in routine and we kind of had a good flow of things, I would say that's probably the area that we target from the season standpoint where we're trying to improve. Then look, you get into obviously, December and hoping to push towards January and every week you're just trying to be steady and consistent. That's the biggest thing for us, just trying to be consistent, consistent with our preparation and our process, really at that point in the season if that makes any sense. 

Q: How can the team's closeness and camaraderie off the field help with the product on the field?

MP: It's a good question because all teams are so different. Every year it's different - different players, different coaches, different season, different travel, different teams you're playing, so all of your experiences are kind of unique to that season. There are some years where I'm sure everything is business as normal in the building and the product on the field is good, or there are years when the guys are different on and off the field. It's probably a good question for them, but I would say just as far as in the building and the work day and the process, the guys - just from observation of the general communication in the hallways and the interaction, if you play at this point in the season, you play this late in the season and you're blessed enough to do that, I think the guys just have that kind of special bond. They have a good time with each other but they also know when we're in the meetings, we're grinding, we're working, we're studying. I think, hopefully some of that carries over when you're at your locker, you're in the meal room, you're in the hallways, and those questions that are constantly trying to come up as far as, whether it's the game plan or an opponent, maybe more of that conversation flows freely at that point. You're asking guys about, 'Hey what do you think about this guy or what do you think about this call or this situation?' When those guys communicate like that and they have that kind of open dialect back and forth, I think it just kind of enhances everything that goes on, hopefully, when you get out to the practice field and to the field itself. 

Q: Aside from the running game, what do Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman bring as receviers?

MP: I think it's part of the system too if you look at Coach [Kyle] Shanahan and what he does with Matt Ryan. In other words, there are a lot of skill guys that you've got to be alert for, obviously. They play a lot of receivers. [Mohamed] Sanu is someone we have a lot of familiarity with. He's a great receiver for them. Julio Jones and [Taylor] Gabriel will be out there for them and they'll spin the other guys through - whoever it is, [Aldrick] Robinson and all those guys. With as much attention sometimes, as you're watching the film and you take a look at it, that's maybe put on the back end of the coverage, you're going to see a lot of space underneath. That's when it's a great opportunity for the quarterback to get rid of the ball, get it down to [Devonta] Freeman, get it down to [Tevin] Coleman, and now these guys have the ball in their hand in space. It could be underneath or it could be out wide. They'll get them the ball in different areas depending on the routes or how they scheme it up. Like I had mentioned before, even in the run game when these guys get in space, well now you get them the ball in the passing game in space, and they're dangerous again because of the one-on-one tackling problems and their quickness and their speed that they have out there. A lot of times it's really just very smart decision making by the quarterback. It's good scheme, but smart decision making by the quarterback to get the ball to these guys because he sees what the defense is, he understands what the coverage is and he knows that, 'Hey, I'm going to take a profit here. I'm going to take the shorter play because it's in a more manageable situation, keep the sticks kind of moving and keep the control of the game in favor of the offense.' So there's a huge element of that which they're doing a great job of, of course, and then there are certainly some situations where they'll motion them out. Coleman will get out there and they think they have a good matchup whether it's on a linebacker or whoever it may be. The quarterback understands the coverage, he understands what the look is and if he's got a favorable a look, he's going to put it up there. Obviously he has a lot of trust in these guys as receivers to go out and make a play. 

Q: What have you seen from Matt Ryan in terms of growth since the last time you played him and what kind of challenges is he presenting this year?

MP: Yeah, I mean he's a phenomenal player. Obviously, the last time we played him it wasn't very good for us in that regard, fortunately, the end was. He's a very smart player, a guy that really does a great job of analyzing the defense and sees the reads and sees the plays. He does a great job with the offense that Coach [Kyle] Shanahan has put in place and he understands it I think very well. He does a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly. I would say that he doesn't take a lot of unnecessary risks. There are a lot of things, just from the growth of a quarterback at this point in his career, he's doing a great job of controlling the ball, not turning it over and not putting them in bad situations. He does an excellent job of moving in the pocket. He's very athletic and there are just times where he sees the space or feels the rush and he can get out of trouble and extend the play, and now he's got all of his skill players in a mode where the play is extended and the defense is trying to adjust based on the play being moved, whether he's out to the left or out to the right, whatever the case may be. Then he's got an ability to run the ball, too. I think you saw it obviously most recently in his ability to just take off, make a decision and run and get the yardage or get the first down or have that ability to move, so that's a whole other element from a trying-to-defend-a-quarterback standpoint, that's a huge problem. I think he just really, he's in rhythm, progressed in this offensive system. He understands his skill players that are around him. He understands the control of the game and just trying to play that really smart brand of football that I think is one of his trademarks. 

Q: What do see from Matt Ryan in terms of his release and his decisiveness as far as making quick decisions and accurate throws?

MP: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's exactly what you just said right there. I think he's a guy that goes back with the ball, does a good job of understanding the defense and sees the receivers, sees the coverage. He'll make a quick decision, he'll get rid of the ball. He's not trying to hold it and get hit in the pocket or take any of those chances back there. He just sees it, analyzes it, gets rid of it and then moves to the next play very quickly. It's just that methodical kind of rhythm of an offense that when he's really in it, he's got it and he's rolling. He's got a tremendous arm, so he can throw short, he can throw deep, he can throw inside, he can throw outside, he can make all the throws. It's not any question of that at all, it's just him just kind of reading it, reading the coverage, understanding the routes, understanding where the weakness of the defense is, and getting the ball to his players as soon as he can.  

Q: What have you seen from Elandon Roberts?

MP: Yeah, I mean Elandon [Roberts], since very early on that we've had him here, he definitely has an explosive power to him and he does a great job of using his leverage. He has some really good natural leverage that he can use to play that physical brand of football and be able to come downhill and get into some guys and separate and find the ball. He's very instinctual, too. He's definitely someone who's worked very hard in our program to kind of understand what we do, but he has some great instincts as far as just the ball and the plays and seeing things and analyzing and being able to react real quick.

Q: What has allowed you to have success against the run in a nickel defense, and how has Patrick Chung led to a lot of that success?

MP: A lot of different factors there, I'll try to get it all answered for you the best I can. I think in general if you look at football in general and where offenses are, a lot of it is offenses dictate what some teams do on defense. The more three-wide-receiver sets we see and multiple different looks of skill positions, then for us I think defensively just kind of in general, this is just general conversation and throughout the league, we naturally wind up in more sub-type defense. There's certainly a whole offensive wave of the no-huddle offense and a lot of that has multiple skill players on the field, so you're going to be playing a lot of those teams in different packages. But it certainly doesn't mean that. You can play it, everybody kind of does different variations of playing fronts or personnel packages, so it's hard to say it's just this particular look. I think with regards to your question on Pat [Chung], I think Pat's a guy for us that does a great job of kind of week in, week out, of whatever we're asking him to do in those positions. He's a guy that's been around our system for a long time and understands some of the different coverages that we run and the different positons. He's a guy for us that we can kind of put in some different spots and put a lot of responsibility on as we're trying to do different things week in, week out. He's a guy that's worked very hard, a guy that's a dependable player for us that can tackle really well. We've put him in some tough assignments at times and he really steps up to the challenges. He's just that unique guy that you have on your football team that not a lot of teams have that's been around the team for a while and understands some of the different things that you're doing and you're able to kind of use him in some variety of ways, if that makes some sense. 

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