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Transcripts: Patriots Conference Calls 1/9

[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="515781"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]BILL BELICHICK, HEAD COACH

Q: What have you seen from Jadeveon Clowney this year and how much of a factor is he on their defense?

BB: [Jadeveon] Clowney's having a good year. In the 3-4 defense they've moved him inside to end, and of course in their sub-defense he moves out kind of as a 4-3 end. And they seem to be headed that way a little bit more, so they play a 3-4 and a 4-3. But he's been very productive; long, very athletic, good pass rusher, good run player, good tackler, strip sacks, so he's got really good awareness. The interception he made on the screen last week against Oakland was not only a very athletic play, but a very instinctive play for him to recognize that and get out there. Of course, as I said, with his length he's a tough guy to throw around. Defensively, they've always been one of the top defenses in the league. Again, a very athletic group. A lot of linebacker-defensive end types that can run, are long, have good playing strength, quickness, good tacklers. [Bernardrick] McKinney is a real good player. They got [Brian] Cushing back, so they're probably as good as [any] two inside linebackers as we've seen all year. They're very good in the secondary. They cover well. They lost [Kevin] Johnson but [A.J.] Buoye has played well for them. [Kareem] Jackson, [Jonathan] Joseph, [Quintin] Demps has had a real good year with all of his interceptions, I think it is. Well-coached, good fundamentally, a lot of good players, talented, disruptive, do a good job in all areas, a good situational team, red-area, third-down, two-minute, all of those situations as well as just being a good, strong, stout defense on all downs.

Q: When they use Jadeveon Clowney as a 4-3 defensive end is he typically on the right side of the defense or will they flip him around from time to time?

BB: He's usually on the defensive right.

Q: What has Chris Long brought to your team this year?

BB: Chris [Long] has done a good job for us. Played in a rotation with the rest of our ends – Trey [Flowers], and Jabaal [Sheard], and Rob [Ninkovich]. He gives us a level of experience, high effort, dependable player, works hard. Again, along with those other guys, they give us a good number of quality snaps and he's certainly been a part of that. High effort, a hard guy that has always played hard and is ready to go.

Q: As a guy who has never played in a playoff game, do you take in pride in being able to give him the opportunity to experience this for the first time in his career?

BB: Well, I'm happy for all of our players that have played hard and contributed to the overall team success and have an opportunity to play in the postseason. I mean he's definitely part of that, but so are all of the other guys. They've earned it with their play and their record. Now we get a chance to compete against the very best teams. We'll see how we do, but I'm glad we all have the opportunity to do that.

Q: How much has tight end Ryan Griffin evolved as a player over the years and do they look to target the tight end position early in games or is it just a matter of the look Oakland was giving them during Saturday's game?

BB: Yeah, I think that that whole position has become a very important positon for the Texans, and you can throw [Stephen] Anderson in there, too, because he's another key guy for them that plays in the kicking game and plays in passing situations and also plays in some regular situations, as well. They've got good depth and good quality at that position. Along with their talent at the outside, at the receiver positions, and the way they move all of those guys around, they have a lot of weapons in the passing game and depth at running back, as well. It's a very talented team offensively, but certainly the tight end position is one that's difficult because of the number of quality players that they have at that spot, and they use all of them and they've all been productive.

Q: What have you seen from Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue this season?
BB: Again, very strong runners, break a lot of tackles. Everybody is at the point of attack with those guys because they can run up inside, they can get to the perimeter and they're hard to tackle in the secondary. They're also dangerous on check-downs, screen passes, flat routes, things like that. [Jonathan] Grimes as well, they've used him in passing situations but also he's carried the ball. All three of those guys have been very productive for them. They're different, but they're all good. We'll really have to pay attention to who's in the game and make sure we've got those guys, try to keep them boxed in. Tackling will be a big issue with all three of them because they make a lot of yards on their own with the ball in their hands, so that'll be important for us, to do a good job of tackling. Again, it's all of their skill players but the backs are good.

Q: What is the key in trying to slow down a guy like DeAndre Hopkins? They don't seem afraid to throw the ball to him even if he is covered pretty well.

BB: Yeah, they don't and he has an excellent catch radius, good hands, is a slick route runner, does a good job of setting up his routes and making several of his routes look the same but then he goes to different places on them. But he's a guy that is, even when you have him covered, his ability to extend and catch the ball away from his body gives the quarterback a place to put it. He's a tough guy to finish on. We just need to have good team defense to stop this explosive offense all the way around, so it's everybody handling their responsibility and playing well across the board against a well-balanced team, a team that can run, can throw, good skill players at tight end, running back, receiver, can get the ball down the field and can also score and move the ball on catch-and-run plays. There's a lot to defend there.

Q: Bernardrick McKinney had a huge game against your team in Week 3. What makes him such a dangerous playmaker on defense?

BB: Right. Well, he's a very good football player. We did a lot of work on him coming out of Mississippi State. He's the kind of player that played outside and inside linebacker. Also played a little bit at defensive end, is an excellent blitzer, runs very well, is long. He's six [feet] four [inches] so he gets to a lot of plays with his length, particularly in pass coverage, a hard guy to throw over or around, a very good tackler, good range, good speed, good instincts, good wrap-up tackler. The guy is a real good football player that does a lot for their defense, plays a lot of positons and is, again, does so many things well. It's very unusual to find a player with his skills that can do so many things in the running game, in the passing game, on the line, off the line. He's an excellent player, one of the best players we've played against all year. He played well against us. With [Brian] Cushing inside as well, those two guys are as good as any combination of inside [linebackers] – I mean individually they're as good as we've played against – but they're as good as any combination of inside linebackers that we see or that we've seen in a while. They do everything well.

[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="515786"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]JOSH MCDANIELS, OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

Q: As Coach Bill Belichick often stresses the importance of getting better each week, in what specific areas have you seen him improve in personally during the times you've been with this team?

JM: I mean I don't know if I can pinpoint specifics or anything like that on that. I'd let him speak on that, but he does a great job of preparing us each week. Our goal is to try to understand how we have to play the game and try to do what he's asking us to do each week. He does a good job of identifying the way we need to do it to win. Nobody does it better than he does. 

Q: If not specific things, can you still say you've seen him improve overtime since you first came here?

JM: I think he's always trying to get better at everything. That's who we take our cue from. He's always trying to make our team better, make our staff better, and I'm sure make himself better. Again, I think he's the best at all the things that he does. It's hard for me to gauge one thing or another, but like I said, he's always pushing us to get better and again, that's why we trust him so much. If we do what he asks us to do, I'm sure we're going to have a chance to be successful.   

Q: How has Martellus Bennett fit into your offense and embraced the Patriot culture?

JM: Yeah Marty [Martellus Bennett], since he's been here, he jumped in and learned everything we've asked of him and gives us his best effort in all the areas of the position that he plays. We ask him to do a lot of different things whether it's run blocking, pass protection, catching the ball, and in the passing game, blocking downfield, lining up in different formations, playing multiple positions. He's shown, like I said, an ability to be unselfish and do what we need him to do and really whatever the team needs in his role, he's learned his role each week. He's studied hard and been prepared for each game, and he's out there. Again, durability is a huge thing because it's hard to be productive when you're not on the field and Marty has really done a good job of trying to take care of himself and maintain a high level of play. [We're] really happy we have him and [we're] looking forward to getting started with our preparation this week. 

Q: Having been through it a few times now, how have you learned to compartmentalize doing what's best for your career when interviewing for head coaching positions over the weekend, and then shifting your focus immediately back to preparing for the Texans today?

JM: I think the profession that we work in requires that of us each week. We get ready for one team and we put all of our focus, our time, our preparation, our energy into getting ready to do the best we can each week against a certain opponent, and then the very next day, as soon as the game ends, actually, our focus shifts to something different. Whether that's how can we improve from what we just did to the preparation, the scouting report and the game plan for the next opponent, I think honestly we've been trained to switch gears and really tie our focus into the thing that is at hand. If it's a work day then we know where our focus is going to lie. It's absolutely going to be on the Texans this week, and [I'm] looking forward to getting ready to go. 

Q: How was your experience interviewing for head coaching positions this weekend and was it any different from what you've been through in the past?

JM: No, not really. Just again, it's humbling and it's a privilege to have an opportunity to do any of those things. I feel very fortunate to have even an opportunity to sit in front of those people and that they would listen to me and spend time with me. You just try to do the best you can and represent yourself, your team, the organization that you come from, your family as best you can, and all the rest of it will play out how it's supposed to play out. 

Q: How does this Texans defense look different or challenge you from what you saw in Week 3?

JM: This is a group – I think we all evolve as the season goes on. Playing a game that early in the season, I mean, there are some things you learn from it, but honestly, they've improved in a lot of different areas. This is a defense that doesn't give you anything easy. You're going to have to execute a lot of plays to drive the ball and get points. They make you earn everything you get – first down, second down, third down, red zone, short yardage, very few big plays allowed. They're physical, they're aggressive. There have been a few scheme tweaks here and there that we're going to have to deal with. They're always going to test you with some exotics in the game plan that aren't easy to prepare for or maybe you haven't even seen. You're talking about a team that's first in total defense, which that says enough. Second in passing yards, top 10 in all the main categories – red zone, third down, points allowed, I mean, this is going to be, again, we're going to need a great week of preparation. It's going to be a big challenge for us. They've already won a playoff game. They should have a lot of confidence, deservingly so, based on the way they've played. They've gotten better and better throughout the course of the season. We know how well-coached they are with Romeo [Crennel] and Billy [Bill O'Brien] and their whole entire defensive staff. They do a tremendous job and this will be a tremendous challenge for us on Saturday night. 

Q: How much of a sounding board is Bill Belichick for you when you're considering new opportunities as he's been through the process before and has also had other assistant coaches move on to take head coaching positions?

JM: He's the best. He's very unselfish and he cares for us all. If there is something that we need or we would ask of him, I'm certain that he would do it and give it to us whether it's advice, wisdom, counsel, what have you. Like I said, he's not only somebody that we take our cue from in terms of getting ready for the next opponent, but he's a mentor in a lot of different areas of our lives and this would be no different. I couldn't ask for people to mentor me any better than he's done, Robert [Kraft] has done, Jonathan [Kraft], same thing. They're there for anything that they can as a resource to help the people that are working for them and I hope they know how much we appreciate that. 

Q: Is there a selflessness you feel from them when they offer you advice despite not wanting to lose you?

JM: Yeah, I think you're just careful about how many times you're doing that. Like I said, there's a balance there. But they're always there for us and I really appreciate that. It's not an easy thing for anybody to be involved in because you're totally invested in this team and this year and that's where I'm at now. I'm going to do everything I can to work my butt off to help us win on Saturday night, and I'm sure everybody else is going to do the same. 

Q: What have you seen from Vince Wilfork this year and is he still playing at a high level?

JM: Absolutely. I mean, physical, smart, tough. You're not going to move him out of there inside. He does a nice job with that. Understands their scheme and their defense, can still do some things in terms of setting up pass rush, second moves and counters and all the rest of that stuff. He's a multi-dimensional player. He always has been. Certainly, everybody knows how good he is against the run. His impact is felt in a lot of different areas and he plays a lot of snaps for them, helps coordinate a lot of the things in there for them. He's so aware, he's got so much experience and wisdom in terms of how to play things and how to handle them. He knows a lot of times before the ball's snapped what's coming. He provides them with a great presence inside and we're certainly going to have to be aware of that. Guys inside are going to have a big challenge this week with Vince [Wilfork] because he's such a great player. 

Q: What does the Texans secondary do in their coverage that has made it difficult for opposing teams to pick up yardage that way?

JM: Yeah, they're tremendous; the best team we've played in terms of pass defense and the way they're playing. Again, I think it starts with the fact that they're all tied together. They don't play just one coverage; they play a multitude of things depending on the situation you're talking about. They're always in the right position; they play with very good technique. They don't let the ball go over their head and they challenge every throw whether it's inside, outside, short, deep, intermediate. They have a lot of pass breakups. They've gotten their hands on a lot of balls, they finish well on the ball, and then tie that in with a tremendous pass rush, that's the formula. You've got to be careful with what you're trying to do and how long you're trying to hold it, but you need some time to create some space and get open. There's a balance there. They obviously have done it as well as any other team in the league on defense. It will be a great challenge for us and we're going to need a great week of preparation to be able to go out there and do some things hopefully to move the ball both on the ground and in the air.

Q: What would you attribute to the breakout year Marcus Cannon has had?

JM: Marcus [Cannon] always works hard. He cares about his job, he's unselfish. He's done a lot of different things over the course of his career. In my time with him here, we've played him in different positions. He's been at swing tackle, he's been at guard. We've actually used him a little bit at jumbo tight end here and there, but Marcus just works at his craft and tries each day to get better. He's tough. He's been out there most of the time and very rarely has that been an issue. He practices extremely hard, he studies, he prepares, he listens intently to the coaching that he's receiving. Dante [Scarnecchia] has worked with him for years and he's done a tremendous job. I just think young players always have a chance to get better if they put a lot of time and effort into it and they care about football and want to be the best they can be.  I think that describes Marcus. I'm happy for Marcus, very happy for Marcus.

Q: Do the differing circumstances from Week 3 to now allow you to look at the Texans with a fresh set of eyes given that back then you were preparing with an entirely different quarterback?

JM: Yeah, like I said, if you try to cram so much into one week, you can create problems for yourself. We played them months and months ago. We've looked at that and tried to [see] what we could take from it, learn and try to make some improvements and understand what we could have done better and maybe what we did well and see if we could do it again. I think more importantly, you look at where your team is at now, the things you do well and evaluate them and what they have now, what they've done and the team that they've become on defense. We have what we have and they have what they have at this point. I'm not sure that things that happened three and four months ago are really all that important in the grand scheme of things. I think what's really important is who has a great week of practice, who prepares the right way, and who goes out there and performs the best, plays aggressive, and does the things that you need to do to win. I think that's where our focus is going to be on, not in terms of comparing and contrasting a multitude of different games. I think sometimes that can be overdone. I think really, we're going to focus on the present. We're going to focus on today's meetings, tomorrow's practices, those types of things that will help us get better this week and try to go out there and play our best football of the season on Saturday night. 

[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="515791"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]MATT PATRICIA, DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR

Q: What stands out about the Houston Texans that might be different from what you saw in Week 3? How would you comment on your experience from over the weekend with the potential head coaching opportunities and where that stands?

MP: Ok, I'll flip it here and make it pretty easy. Obviously, over the weekend I was just very thankful for those opportunities and kind of that – [it] was a great experience to go through. I think everything right now for me is Houston. [I] flip the page as soon as I can. I mean Coach [Bill] O'Brien and George Godsey, the offensive coordinator, are two guys that I have the most respect for in the entire league. These guys work extremely hard to get their team ready to go and prepare. You can really see from an offensive standpoint, they're doing a great job right now of running the ball, controlling the game. They didn't turn the ball over, they really don't give up that many pressures and they're just doing a good job of getting the ball around to their skill players. So I think the biggest difference is really they have very good balance in their offense. Again, they're going to come in and control the game from the standpoint of the run game. [Lamar] Miller is doing an excellent job of handling the run game and they do a variety of different things with the runs, a little bit different maybe than before. They have a good zone scheme combined with some schemed runs they'll try to diagram up and go against the defense and really do a good job of attacking there. Again, [Alfred] Blue, [Jonathan] Grimes, all those guys will be in there ready to go for the run game. I would say after that and with the skill players, they're doing an excellent job of getting the ball moved around to their different skill. [DeAndre] Hopkins is obviously a tremendous wide receiver – a huge problem for us to handle him in the passing game. I would say with him also you're going to see him in some different positions maybe than you saw him in the early part of the year. They'll put him inside, they'll put him outside. [He's] just a huge target for them – great hands, very strong, explosive player. The ability for them to move him around a little bit adds a whole other dimension to their offense from that standpoint, and I would say the tight ends, too. I mean I know Coach [Bill Belichick] just talked about them but [C.J.] Fiedorowicz, [Ryan] Griffin and [Stephen] Anderson. These guys are very consistent, very steady players and what you see more is in those critical types of situations, whether it's red area or third down or whatever the case may be, these guys are showing up more and more. So I think they've done a great job of really identifying their strengths, getting the ball to their skill players, controlling the game with the run game, allowing the quarterback to do a great job of identifying what the defense is in and trying to make sure they're in the right play to get a positive gain or take advantage of whatever they see from a pre-snap look. I'll say one of the other differences – there's a little bit of tempo with the offense now. There's going to be some at the line of scrimmage offense that they try to run and try to catch the defense in a particular look, which obviously gives you a lot of problems in pace and tempo and snap counts and all those different things too, so it's a huge challenge. Obviously, these guys are playing extremely well. They've played into a really good kind of understanding of what they are and how they win.  

Q: What kind of difference maker will Duane Brown be back at left tackle?

MP: Yeah, great question and really a good observation because this guy is – he's a phenomenal player. [He's] athletic, he's got good feet, he's big, he's long, he can handle power, he has really good hands. So if he gets his hands on you he can punch and really control the pass rush or get his hands inside in the run game. He's usually always in excellent position. So good pad level, like I said, good hand placement, good feet. So that is a big challenge for us. That is definitely different. He has really kind of solidified that side over there to really handle that. You know, and they're consistent up front, inside. Obviously all those guys have played and are playing well and they're smart players so they've done a good job. But [Duane] Brown, he has been excellent for them. 

Q: In the particular case of Duane Brown, how much does his return have a domino effect on the other offensive linemen and their performance?

MP: Yeah, right, exactly because the communication – if the spot is solidified then the communication with the guard, that really helps with [Xavier] Su'a-Filo and then down inside from the center and being able to control out. It just – the offensive line, when you look at the offensive line or look at an offensive line, those are five guys that need to see and recognize and understand what a defense is trying to do all from the same set of eyes and that just takes time and it just takes a while for those guys to work together to understand that. So having that consistency has really helped them. 

Q: What have you seen from Brock Osweiler and his ability to check down and not just focus on DeAndre Hopkins, specifically, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Will Fuller?

MP: Yeah, another really good example of the coaches and Coach [Bill] O'Brien really getting them – and George Godsey – getting him to understand like, 'Hey, here's what the coverage is, here's where the receivers are, this is where we're going to go with the ball, let's not try to force it into a bad situation.' They'll take calculated shots and push the ball when they need to but they're also going to take the profit when it's there. So [he has] definitely has done a good job of understanding that.  Brock [Osweiler] brings a whole other element of mobility and size and an issue as far as even just trying to tackle the guy, extending plays and obviously combined with the strong arm, it's a problem for the defense to – you know, you've got to get on the guys, you've got to have good coverage, you've got to try to take away where they're pushing the ball and if he can get the play extended, now you're chasing receivers around or you're trying to match up. So he does a great job of that. But I think he's just patient, I would say, with the ball and consistent in trying to get it to the appropriate read. 

Q: When Will Fuller is playing well, what are his strengths?

MP: Right, I mean this guy is extremely fast. You're talking [about] a guy who can hit a home run ball at any time. Deep balls or catch-and-run plays, he can do a great job of just running away from defenders. He does an excellent job of tracking the ball in the air. They'll get him the ball in the quick game whether it's a screen or something like that. They'll throw the ball out to him and just let him be in space and that's the most dangerous place you can be. If he has the ball in space with room to work then you have a problem. If he can get behind the defense and get downfield and they can throw it up to him then there's a problem. So his speed, his quickness, his ability to run with the ball, those are things that are just very explosive plays that their offense takes advantage of. 

Q: The Texans have been pretty good about using tempo. What is challenging about that as a defense and does that force you guys to become a little bit more vanilla in terms of being able to relay calls?

MP: Yeah, I mean I think tempo is something they're trying to do to give them an advantage and they feel that that's a good think for their offense to be able to get up on the ball and kind of let their quarterback see what he needs to see and kind of get plays called at the line of scrimmage and adjust and adapt. Certainly they're trying to use it for an advantage. I'd say for us, to be real honest with you, we see a lot of tempo every day, we see tempo from multiple teams throughout the year. So we're actually, it's just kind of – it's part of what they do as an offense and we just kind of handle our defense and do what we do with it. You know Phil [Perry], we're pretty used to that sort of offense so certainly nothing that's different than what we see. We see it in two minute situations. You'll see a lot of offenses that do that stuff. You see offenses that run a variation of, call it tempo, but it might even just be guys out on the ball not really in a huddle. So there are different levels of it and we'll just obviously try to handle it to the best of our ability, but from their standpoint it's really something they're trying to do to gain an advantage.   

Q: One thing that Bill Belichick talks about a lot is improvement. What improvements have you noticed in him during your time with the team?

MP: I mean to be real honest with you, Coach [Bill] Belichick is unbelievable. He's one of the smartest football coaches I've ever been around. I've learned a lot from him and I just really enjoy every day of trying to understand the game and how he sees the game and what he looks at and I think every year we all try to get better as coaches. I really can't pinpoint one thing down for you exactly to give you a direct answer but I mean every day we come in, it might be a different thing we're trying to do at practice or a different point of emphasis that we're trying to work on or whatever the case may be, but [I'm] just really obviously very fortunate and blessed to be able to work in this situation. 

Q: Do you have to anticipate a counter move from the Texans on Saturday night in the chess game that exists? Do you prepare for that going into the game or do you wait to see it unfold?

MP: I think that really honestly with Houston because it was so long ago in the season and I think our team, their team is – I don't want to say changed but it has changed. The situations have changed. They're obviously coming in here coming off a big win this past weekend, a lot of energy, a lot of confidence so I would say we just try to attack it from the standpoint of, 'Hey, this is this week's game and it's not the same as the last time we played them,' if that makes any sense, and it's just a situation where you try to attack them fresh. We're looking at with new eyes and you want to go back through and do your due diligence. Of course just like when we play any opponent, whether it's earlier in the season or a previous year, you really want to look at that game too to see if there's any correlation to what they're doing now as compared to what they were doing then to see if anything can relate from before so if there's anything that carries over. But really for us it's taking a look at these guys and where they're at right now from a completely fresh standpoint.  

Q: Was there one thing about this weekend's interview process that you enjoyed? How did your viewpoint develop from last year when you talked to the Cleveland Browns?

MP: I'll give you just a quick, brief answer. Really for me, my respect to Houston is where all my attention is. But I would say in general, maybe with just any interview process, to me the fascinating part of all of that is just learning all of the different organizations and how they work because they are so different, and that's just kind of a general statement about the NFL. Sometimes as you kind of just anchor into what we do day in and day out, you never really look at that stuff on a full scale, but they're very fascinating – it's very fascinating the NFL in general and the organizations and how they're operated. It's really cool. But I mean again, Houston is where I'm at.  

Q: What are your thoughts of how the Texans have performed situationally, specifically third downs and in the red zone?

MP: Yeah, again they work extremely hard at situational football and the third down and putting the ball into open hands. They do an excellent job of game planning those two situations and trying to figure out what you're doing defensively and getting the ball to their players that are their go-to players and then also the players taking advantage of what is open. They did a great job against us last time on third time and that's really something that we have to do a better job of understanding how they attacked us and what they did. I think you're looking at all the things that we look at week in and week out, but they've got great matchups in those situations, they do a great job of keeping you honest with the run game in the red area and on third downs. They will do some of those things that maybe some teams won't in those situations so you have to be able to handle those when they come up. In the end, like everything, it' going to have to be execution. We're going to have to go out and execute at a high level and try to stop it. But from a game plan standpoint of what they're trying to do, they do a great job of attacking those areas. 

Q: How nice is it as a coach to see a player like Chris Long who has no playoff experience get rewarded like that? What has he brought to the team this year?

MP: I think in general with this time of year and being fortunate enough to play in the playoffs as a coach, you're extremely happy for everybody on the team and everyone that has that opportunity to go compete [in] one more game and that's all we can really ask for and that's all we're really hoping for. I think we look at it as, it's a one-game season and everything is on the line. From that standpoint we just try to keep our focus there more so than the celebration of it all I would say. I would say in general about Chris [Long], [he's] extremely hard working, loves the game of football, very dedicated to his craft, true professional as far as his approach and his attack every day. He's been great to be around and really just a – I think he has enjoyed the process and just really as far as that is concerned has been a guy that's out there working really hard every day to get better and play hard for his teammates, and that's all you can really ask for. 

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