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Transcripts: Patriots Conference Calls 1/8

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

CONFERENCE CALL
January 8, 2019

Q: What are the qualities that have allowed Philip Rivers to be this successful for so long?

BB: Yeah, he's really good at everything. He's very accurate on the deep ball, sees coverages well, sees matchups well, goes to the right place, throws the ball accurately. He's a big, strong guy that can stand in the pocket and handle himself with guys around him. He does a good job at the line of scrimmage of controlling the offense, the protection. Obviously, the offense runs through him and he does a good job of getting the Chargers either into good plays or out of bad plays, however you want to look at it. Obviously, his durability and his consistency – I mean, the guy has started over 200 straight games. That's pretty impressive. He does everything well.

Q: Is it particularly hard to throw a scheme or something at him that he hasn't already seen before? 

BB: Yeah, I don't think you're going to find something that he's never seen before, but at the same time I don't think you want to just sit in something and tell him, "This is what we're in. What do you want to do about it?" I think he'll make you pay for it. You've got to try to keep him off-balance. But yeah, I don’t think you’re going to come up with something he's never seen before. I agree with that.

Q: What does it say about the Chargers that they've been able to have so much success on the road this season?

BB: Well, they're a good football team. Let's start with that. They've been in a lot of close games and they've won a lot of close games. They’re a good football team. They're good on offense. They're good on defense. The kicker's had a great year. They've won a lot of games everywhere.

Q: What have you seen from the return units for the Chargers, especially with a guy like Desmond King? What do they do as a group that has helped them open up some big returns both in the punt and the kick game?

BB: Right. Well, King's done a good job for them as you mentioned. So has [Travis] Benjamin – he's definitely there if they need him too. So, they have good returners. They have a good return scheme. They do a good job of getting those guys started. Their corners do a nice job of holding up on the vice. They have some basic kickoff returns that really attack you in all three places – to the boundaries, to the middle and then to the field. I'd say it's really about good execution and getting the returner started, and having a good returner, once he gets started, that can make some plays with the ball in his hands.

Q: How do you feel like your coverage units have developed as the season has gone on here? How have those groups grown with some of the new in-season additions and where do you feel like they are at now?

BB: Yeah, well, we'll find out where we're at on Sunday. We're playing against a very good return team. So, again, it'll take a great team effort from everybody. No one guy is going to stop King. We're going to have to execute well as an entire unit. That'll be a big challenge for us this Sunday.

Q: How much work did you guys do on Melvin Ingram during the pre-draft process back in 2012?

BB: Yeah, I mean, obviously he's an outstanding player who can do a lot of different things, very athletic, strong, physical, good pass rusher. It was a long time ago. I'd say based on the way he's played in his career, he's had an outstanding career for that team. They're very good on defense with him and a lot of other good players.

Q: What do you remember about the one year you spent coaching Kliff Kingsbury?

BB: Yepa, right now I’m really just focused on trying to get ready for the Chargers and I think the people that aren’t involved in the game, we’ll talk about them some other time.

Q: How have you seen your linebackers improve in the passing game with covering running backs out of the backfield this season?

BB: Well, we spend a lot of time on pass coverage at all levels. All of the guys we have – linebackers, safeties, corners and so forth, we spend a lot of time on that all year from Day One. We work on it every week. Each week is a challenge and certainly this week it will be because of the quarterback and the running backs and tight ends that they have. These players are very skilled. They’re very athletic. They have a great quarterback and a great scheme to challenge every part of the defense so they can get the ball to their receivers, their tight ends, their backs depending on the coverage and matchup and how the play unfolds. They have a lot of options, a lot of good options and we'll have to be able to defend all of them. It'll certainly be a big challenge for us to do that.

Q: How big is the home field advantage for a team, in particular the kickers with the weather being a factor? How much time or planning goes into that part of the kicking game during the week?

BB: It's pretty hard to forecast the weather at this time of year. I wouldn’t worry too much about it until it gets pretty close to game time. Look, everybody’s good in this league. Every team has good players. Every team has good coaches, especially at this time of year. The eight teams that are remaining are all good football teams or they wouldn’t be playing at this time of year. Each player, each coach, everybody will have to do their very best. Certainly on our side of it we'll be doing our very best to have our best performance Sunday and that includes everybody. We'll see how it goes. We'll see what happens. It'll be two good teams and a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches competing out there for the right to play next week. Hopefully, it'll be us. We're going to do our very best to put our best game or our best performance out there. Again, that includes the specialists. It includes everybody.

Q: Given Anthony Lynn's background working under Romeo Crennel, have any of the qualities you've heard about him been reflected in the way his team has played and overcome adversity? Between the relocation and the success we've seen them experience on the road this year they would appear to be a resilient group.

BB: Yeah, I haven’t had a lot of personal interaction with Anthony but I have a ton of respect for him as a player and certainly the job that he's done with the Chargers. As you said, relocating a franchise is not an easy thing to do. Dealing with all of that, all of the other challenges that normal teams have in the National Football League are difficult, but when you throw relocation and international games and some other things that have come up along the way on top of that, I think that that organization has shown a lot of resiliency, mental toughness and certainly a very high level of performance over a sustained period of time since they were 0-4, or whatever it was last year. This team has won a lot of football games and they’ve played well against a lot of good football teams in every area in all three phases of the game. They’ve won a lot of close games so I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Lynn, all of the coordinators out there, their staff and their organization. They’ve done an outstanding job. Again, best record in the AFC this year. That's not easy to do. They've earned it.

Q: A lot of the Chargers defensive players said they picked up on tells from the Ravens offensive line about how they would set their feet pre-snap. How often do you guys talk about that from either side of the ball, either looking for a tell or trying to prevent the opponent from finding one of yours?

BB: Yeah, I think a lot of that is – look, there’s a certain element of that every week when you study your opponent as much as players and coaches do in this league. You see a lot of that. A lot of film study and trying to find tendencies about formations, plays, individual tips and so forth and so on. Each game has its own; each game, each player, each unit has their own characteristics of keys and so forth. I think that’s part of football. There's certainly tendencies. I've never coached against a good team that didn’t have tendencies; I’d say pretty strong tendencies. Usually, that’s what makes teams good teams is they do something and they do it well and they can continue to do it even though you have some anticipation of what they’re going to do. But that’s what makes good football teams good. I’m sure that every team we play studies us for keys and tips just like we study them. There’s always things that you can learn or help anticipate. That’s part of the game is knowing your opponent and kind of giving yourself a little bit of an edge on some things you think they’re going to do. Ultimately, there are a lot of variables in that too. I think some of those things are a little bit overrated. Again, you’d have to talk to the Chargers about that game with the Ravens. I can’t really comment on that. I don’t know. But yeah, from our standpoint we try to be balanced in what we do. We certainly have tendencies. Some of which we want to try to balance out. Some of which we know are our tendencies but we do them that way for a reason and we're going to continue to do them that way. I would imagine that’s probably the way it is with most every other team in the league or any other team at a high level of football. There's an element of both of those things.

Q: We had a light-hearted moment yesterday during media availability where Trey Flowers mentioned he had a nightmare about not being able to set the edge. What does it say about him as a player in a contract year, where some players may look at sacks as their most important contribution, that he's having nightmare about making sure he plays the defense correctly?

BB: I don’t know. I’m not an analyst of nightmares. But look, I think our players certainly recognize the importance of our season and where we are with this season and what we've earned the right to do, which is to play in this game and it’s important for all of us to do our jobs the best that we can and perform well. That’s what we're here for. That's what we've worked all year to do is to be able to get to this point. It’s important to everybody just like I’m sure it’s important to everybody in the Chargers organization. I expect it to be a very hard-fought, tough, competitive game like it always is at this time of year between two good football teams and two good organizations. I’m sure everybody has, whether it’s in bed or driving or whatever, somewhere away from the facility, thoughts about the game, about each of our roles in the game and want to make sure that we do them the very best that we can so that we don’t let our teammates down and can perform well and help our team win. That’s what we're all trying to do. That’s what I’m trying to do. We'll see how it turns out but that’s what preparation for a big game is, is thinking about your job and preparing to do it well and going out there and executing it when you get the opportunity.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
January 8, 2019

Q: First of all, you’ve been through the head coach interviewing process. Having been through it so many times and then getting ready for a playoff game, how much of a comfort level is there? Can you also speak to the Chargers front four and what kind of challenges they present?

JM: Well, there’s a process obviously in place and everybody has to go through that at this time of the year and I think we’re all professionals and have to manage our time appropriately all year long and multi-task. If you’re going to go through one of those situations and you’re fortunate to have an opportunity to do so, you do the best you can with that while spending your time really on where it needs to be which is the current season and the team that you’re on and the opponent you’re getting ready to play. So that’s how I’ve always approached it and other people might do it differently. The Chargers defense in general is – this is the best group we’ve played all year. Their defensive front is extremely disruptive. They play a one-gap style of defense. That’s what Coach [Gus] Bradley’s always done and they’re really good at what they do, create a lot of issues for you with their penetration. They’re disruptive in the running game and create negative plays, which puts you into second and third-and-long which they excel at and then they can create a ton of problems then with their pass rush. The way that they play on early downs lends itself to them being able to turn it loose and really get after the quarterback in passing situations when they know you have to throw. It’s a group that’s got a lot of people that have created impact plays for them this year. I mean, across the board, inside and outside – everybody knows about [Joey] Bosa and [Melvin] Ingram but [Uchenna] Nwosu has done it, [Darius] Philon’s done it, [Damion] Square’s done it, [Brandon] Mebane’s certainly done it. So there’s a lot of people – [Isaac] Rochell – so I mean, there’s a lot of people that have created very disruptive plays in the front and they play as hard as any group that we’ve played all year. This is a tremendous challenge. Our ability to try to limit some of those negative situations and negative plays is going to go a long way in this game. We’re excited to get an opportunity to compete in this game and like I said, this is the best team we’ve played all year.

Q: Have you spoken to the Cleveland Browns at all about their head coaching vacancy?

JM: No sir. I have had no contact with them.

Q: How have they managed to mask their injuries at linebacker and have such success with sometimes four safeties and a lot of times, three?

JM: They’re a deep group in terms of their overall depth on the defense. I think that they’ve done a great job of adapting, which you know, credit their coaching staff, Coach Bradley and their coaching staff for being able to adjust. They were a little bit more of a nickel group earlier in the year, now they’ve really become much more of a dime group with at least six defensive backs in the game quite a bit. [Adrian] Phillips’ playing down there near the line of scrimmage when they go to that grouping, [Derwin] James is down there near the line of scrimmage. Both those guys are 210, 215 pound guys that can run and hit and they’re physical players. So they play similar styles to a linebacker and then they have a very good nickel back in [Desmond] King that plays physical. He’ll tackle. He’s disruptive in both the run and the passing game. He can blitz. They have depth in the secondary that they have now spilled over into that second level of the defense and the linebacking group by becoming more of a dime grouping. It’s just obviously very smart in terms of trying to use your best players as much as you can and that’s what they’ve decided to do. As I said, the front’s disruptive but you’ve got – this is as deep a group and as talented as a group as we’ve played all year. All of them have made plays whether that’s near the line of scrimmage or in the secondary in coverage. We’ll have our hands full. Excited to get started on them but this is a great challenge for us.

Q: Do you anticipate interviewing for any more head coaching opportunities or have you kind of closed the book on that for now?

JM: Yeah, the book is closed. It’s always a humbling experience to have an opportunity to interview with anybody for that position and I was thankful for the opportunity to meet with Green Bay. It always gives you greater insight into another organization and how they do things. It’s been very educational for me every time I’ve gone through it and I’ve appreciated every single one of them. That was great but no, I’m completely focused on the Chargers and our season and finishing it strong and I’ll be here moving forward.

Q: Do you feel as though what happened last offseason with the Colts impacted you with other teams at all for potentially getting other opportunities?

JM: I have no idea, Phil [Perry]. You know, you’d have to obviously ask them if that had anything to do with anything like that. I’m grateful for the opportunity that I had but obviously more importantly, thankful for the opportunity that I have here. I’ve said before, I think I have one of the best jobs in the world and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue competing this week against the Chargers.

Q: When you look at the body of work, what stands out to you about your group of wide receivers this year?

JM: Versatility, unselfishness, adaptability and really, the way that they go out and practice and work every day to get ready to compete. They’ve all served in different roles this year. When you have a group that’s willing to do what the coaching staff thinks is best for the team that week and they don’t question it or second-guess anything, it’s really a great thing as a coach to come into the room and say, “Look, this is what we think we have to do to win the game,” and they embrace their role. That speaks to their character, how much they want to win and how much they care about doing what’s best for the team. I love the group that we’ve got. Really excited for them to have an opportunity to compete this Sunday in this game and they’re going to have to play very well for us to be able to do the things we need to do to move the football on this defense and try to score points.

Q: When you guys drafted James White, is his role as that third-down back the one you envisioned him filling when he joined the team?

JM: James was a very productive player period at Wisconsin. He ran the ball a large amount at Wisconsin in their offensive system and in-between the tackles and in cold weather. He was durable, did some of the tough things as a running back that you need to do in terms of being unselfish in terms of blitz pickup and physical and those types of things. He had a very productive career there and did a lot of good things. I don’t think you ever pigeonhole a guy and say this is the only role he can fill. Certainly we saw a talented guy with great character and intelligence and we felt like you get a guy like that in your system and you just continue to try to work hard and develop him as a football player. He’s got a lot of directions that he could go in terms of his skill set and we’re not done. James is still a young player and we’ll still continue to try to develop him. He’s still trying to work hard to improve in every area of his game, which is what you would expect if you know James White. He does a lot for a football team and he certainly does a lot for us offensively and there’s a lot of hats that he wears and again, excited to have an opportunity to coach him this week in this game.

Q: At this point last year, it was reported your role would increase inside the organization. If that’s true, how did you find those responsibilities this year? How do you think you’ve grown in that increased role?

JM: I don’t really think that that’s really changed. Hopefully I can improve whatever it is that I’m responsible for but my role here has been the same – that’s to do the best job I can at coordinating the offense and work with the offensive staff and Bill [Belichick] and doing whatever they need us to do relative to coaching the football team and trying to improve our players and develop our team that way and then assist in any other role that they need us to assist in during the course of the year. Really the responsibilities are the same but you always work to try to get better as a coach in a lot of different areas. We wear a lot of hats – teachers, communication, scheme, evaluation. There’s a lot of different things we do. So I think all of us try to work hard to get better in some area every year and hopefully I’ve made some progress in something. Like I said, excited to have an opportunity to continue competing this week.

Q: The Chargers said that they picked up on some of the Ravens’ tendencies based on the way the offensive linemen were setting their feet, things of that nature. How do you guys try to protect against your tendencies to avoid having tells like that?

JM: That’s always something you have to be conscious of, is whether or not you’re creating a tendency that somebody could pick up on, whether that be schematically or something smaller than that that maybe a specific position group would notice – you know, a defensive line group or what have you. We try to do the best we can at identifying the things that we’ve put on tape and being aware and alert for anything that we’ve shown too much or that has become a pattern. And then you try to do what you can to complement that or break those tendencies if you can throughout the course of the year. I think most importantly, if you go out there and you execute and you play with good fundamentals, there’s going to be times where the other team has an idea of what you’re going to do and you still do it well. I think when it’s all said and done, every team has tendencies, every team has things that they want to do, every team has things that they feel best about doing under pressure and at that moment, what’s really important is who’s players execute with good fundamentals and good technique and good toughness under pressure. I think that’s probably more important than reading too much into trying to break tendencies, et cetera, especially in critical situations.

Q: The age gap between Tom Brady and his teammates has obviously grown as his career has gone on and has become pretty unique for pro sports. What have you seen about how he relates to and connects with his younger teammates despite that age gap and do you think that’s something that’s pretty important for him and for the team?

JM: I think at the end of the day, we all coach and play for the Patriots and something that Tom has always done very well is – we all have things in common and most importantly, we’re all trying to pull in the same direction and help our team win. He communicates well with every player. One of the things that’s always impressed me is how he’s one of the first guys in the building to know a new person’s name, which speaks to how important that is to him, to introduce himself to somebody and also get to know that person, whether it be a practice squad player, a rookie, whatever it is. We all have important jobs to do here, we take those very seriously as Tommy always does. I think one of the big roles that a quarterback plays on the team is just being able to communicate openly with each one of his teammates, which Tom does. At the end of the day, we’re all different ages, we all come from different places, but we certainly have the same goal in mind when it comes to what we try and do here. I think he does a great job of connecting those dots and really trying to pour himself into his teammates and they know that they can communicate with him and talk to him about anything, whether it’s football or not. So it makes him such a special leader.

DEFENSIVE LINE COACH BRENDAN DALY

CONFERENCE CALL
January 8, 2019

Q: What are you impressions of Mike Pouncey as a Charger and the difference he’s made in that offensive line? What did you see from that offensive line in terms of their adjustments against the Ravens in the regular season versus Sunday?

BD: Well, I will start with Pouncey. Obviously, we have some familiarity with him based on his time in Miami and playing him multiple times through that period of his career. I had a lot of respect for him over the course of that time playing against him. He’s a little bit unique in terms of physical stature for a center. He’s got length and he’s very athletic and does a very good job in space, smart, understands the communication calls. You can see he ID’s quite a bit of the fronts and the protections and things of that nature – has for the majority of his career. I would say they use him to his skillset extremely well. He pulls quite a bit, he’s out in space on screens, he does a great job getting to the linebacker level, blocks high, cuts, he’s very aware and savvy player. I would say that they’ve used his skillset as an advantage for sure in some of the scheme things that they do. As a whole, this offensive line has great length, great athleticism and they have been healthy. They’ve played together the vast majority of the season. You do see some adjustments from them and obviously Baltimore, playing them multiple weeks without a huge gap in there, there’s a huge game plan element there and an adjustment element, as there is within a game. And I would say that’s one of the things that this group does extremely well, both the players and the coaching staff – understanding the problems that are being presented and making the necessary adjustments or having some answers to deal with them.

Q: How has Deatrich Wise developed as a run defender? He said that he’s learned how to use his long arms more to his advantage in the running game, maybe more this year than in past years. What have you seen from him in terms of that development?

BD: Well, I would say you’re accurate in that he has developed for sure, and he does have great length. I would say his arms and the length in his arms give him an advantage when he uses them. When his technique is good and when his hands are good and when his pad level is in good shape, he’s very effective. I would say one of the things he’s improved upon the most, in my opinion – and we’ve worked quite a bit on this – is once he gets engaged in a block, a lot of guys have a tendency to try to locate the ball too quickly or as they locate the ball, their pad level gets high because they’re trying to find it over the top of the blocker, as opposed to continuing to press the blocker and locating the ball by looking around the blocker. I would say that’s one of the things that I’ve seen improve with Deatrich, specifically, is his ability to press the blocker while he’s locating the ball, maintaining good pad level and playing good team defense, honestly, by helping to cancel gaps with the blocker’s body and then get off once the ball carrier commits. So, I would say he’s worked hard at that. I would say that’s not a finished product by any means at this point, but it is something that he’s improved, for sure.

Q: What have you seen from your first down run defense over the past five games?

BD: Well, I would say that’s something that we’ve worked on and we’ve worked on each and every week. I would say there’s different challenges presented week-to-week, based on the opponent we’re playing, based on the scheme that we’ve got, based on what we feel is going to best help us win the football game that week. Obviously, stopping the run is something that’s very important to us. I’d say we’ve had some inconsistency with that over the course of the year. I felt like we’ve made a little bit of progress over the past couple of weeks. We’ve played some things from a defeating blocks, from a technique and fundamental standpoint, with more consistency, I should say, and that’s helped us for sure. Again, none of that matters at this point. We’re focused on how we’re going to play this weekend. The Chargers present a number of different issues for us in that regard, and we’re going to have to play at a high level. This team’s got a good offensive line, they’ve got very good backs, I think they lead the NFL in explosive runs, so we’re going to have to do a great job. We’re going to have to play our best football this week. 

Q: The numbers in the last five games is just over 7 yards a run on first down. What kind of stress does that put on the defense on second and third down?

BD: Well, obviously, listen. We’re hoping to not give up any yards in any situation, but I’m not necessarily concerned about the stats or the numbers, aside from winning and losing football games. To be honest, we’re most focused on how are we going to handle the run game this week and what challenges those present us. What’s happened over the past 16 games, to be quite honest, isn’t all that relevant.

Q: That holds for the Chargers, too, right? Talking about the explosive plays for the Chargers, but that’s really not relevant this week from their end either, right?

BD: Well, I would say that they’re capable of creating explosive plays, without a doubt. You’re right – based on what they’ve done in the past, no. It’s a matter of who performs best this Sunday, and that’s why we go out and play the game. 

Q: What have you noticed from Ufomba Kamalu in terms of his traits and what he’s brought you on the defensive line?

BD: Ufomba has done a nice job since he came in – hard-working guy, he’s got good length, he’s got some power and some explosiveness. He’s picked things up fairly quickly, has done a nice job kind of in a number of areas. He’s done an excellent job through the course of practice week in giving our offense a look and has shown a productive skillset that has been able to help us in some of the game opportunities, and he’s earned an opportunity to play a little bit. 

Q: Looking at Philip Rivers from the outside, I think it’s easy to group him with quarterbacks who prefer to stay in the pocket and might be less mobile than other guys you’ve seen this season. But what, if anything, are we missing from that standpoint where rushing him might be a little bit different or pressuring the Chargers offense might be a little bit unique this Sunday? 

BD: Yeah, that’s a good question. Philip Rivers – veteran guy, first of all, understands what he’s looking at. I wouldn’t put him on the top tier of athleticism in terms of speed and quickness and ability to make people miss. He is big and can be difficult to tackle and get on the ground, but I would say he’s got a very good feel in the pocket for when he’s getting pressure and moving appropriately in the pocket. A lot of that is stepping up in the pocket. Some of it is, when there’s pressure in his face or pressure off the edge, moving away from the pressure long enough to buy time to where he can get the ball to an open receiver. I would say he has very good timing and then accuracy when he’s throwing the ball in those situations. So, he’s a difficult guy to deal with in that regard because he’s got very good presence, very good awareness and he has enough mobility that he can be a problem – not that he’s going to rush for 100 yards, but certainly in some critical situations, he’s able to run the ball, move the chains and get first downs at times, or move to buy time in the pocket and get receivers open and accurately deliver the ball on the move. 

Q: With how often Rivers throws to his running backs, have you seen anything that makes it a little bit more difficult for defensive ends to sometimes peel off, or have you seen teams do that with the Chargers’ backs? Or is it hard to keep up because of how good Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon are?

BD: Well, they’re definitely good backs, and I would throw Justin Jackson in that category, as well, who’s seen some playing time based on some of the injury situation with Gordon and Ekeler over the past several weeks. You can put him right in that conversation, as well. They’ve got good backs, they are good runners, they’re good receivers, they do a very good job when they get the ball in space. I would say they use them well in terms of free releasing them out of the backfield at times and creating matchup issues, and some of the formations that they employ help them do that. So, there’s certainly coverage issues there, whether you’ve got safeties or linebackers, making sure that they’re in position to handle them or at times potentially having an edge rusher or defensive end that’s going to have to deal with the release and the matchup on the back. They do a good job, they’ve got a good group there and they present some matchup issues, for sure.

Q: Brian Flores has received interest in terms of head coaching opportunities from different places. As somebody who has worked closely with him for a while, what are some of the qualities that might make Brian a good head coach in this league?

BD: I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Flo. The time that we’ve worked here, I’ve really enjoyed. I think extremely highly of him and I’m very happy for him to get those opportunities. To be quite honest, I haven’t talked with him at all about them. Our conversations have been specific to the Chargers. Again, if and when an opportunity presents itself, I feel like he’s going to do a good job, but I know our focus at this point is definitely on this game.

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