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Transcripts: Patriots Conference Calls 11/19

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

CONFERENCE CALL
November 19, 2018

Q: Statistically speaking, the numbers are down from previous years with the defense in the red area. What have you seen from your defense in the red area, and how would you go about improving the overall performance in that area?

BB: Yeah, unfortunately, that's true. That's an area we need to work harder at. We just need to do a better job of coaching it and need to do a better job of executing it and try to save those points and keep them off the board. As always, it comes down to team defense. It's not one thing. It's all of us doing a better job. It starts with the coaching staff and me. It's an area we need to tighten up.

Q: What are the characteristics of a solid red area defense?

BB: Really, everything. Stopping the run down there, getting them in third down, playing well on third down, getting them off the field on third down in the red area.

Q: Is there an added benefit to having the bye week come this late in the season?

BB: Well, I think everybody always appreciates the bye whenever it comes. We can't control it. Whatever the schedule is, it is. We try to take this week to productively use the time and work on the things that we need to work on and be ready for the challenges that we have coming up ahead. So, hopefully we'll be able to do a good job of that.

Q: What stands out to you about why perhaps Chris Hogan hasn't seen as many targets in recent weeks despite still seeing a good amount of playing time?

BB: It's the same thing every week, Mike [Reiss]. Each week we pick out a player that doesn't have as many carries or targets or whatever, and then ask about that. As I said, in the passing game passes aren't designed to go to one person. It's a team route based on the coverage and the matchups. Tom [Brady] goes to where he feels is the best place to go in the coverage. I don't really see that changing. I think Tom does a good job with that. That could easily change in a hurry if the coverage is different on the same play. The ball could go to somebody different than who it went to in the game. We talk about this every week. Just pick out a different guy and it's the same question and it's the same answer.

Q: Do you still feel like Chris is doing whatever it was that he did in the past that led to more production from him?

BB: I think all of our receivers have had production when they've had an opportunity to be productive. We have confidence in all of them and that's why they're out there. Hopefully, our entire passing game and our entire offense will be more productive than it's been the last couple of weeks.

Q: Have you noticed anything in terms of how he's handling the production being down? Has his approach remained the same?

BB: Chris works hard. He's one of our hardest workers. He's got good stamina, can practice and go all day. We have a lot of confidence in Chris and our entire offense. We need to be more productive in every area – points, running the ball, throwing the ball, after the catch, pretty much you name it. Ball security has been better the last couple of weeks, but we need more production.

Q: How have you seen the offensive line adapt to rotating pieces with Shaq Mason missing time and some rotation between the offensive tackles?

BB: Right. Well, we've had a little bit of that at tackle, as well, with LA [LaAdrian Waddle], Marcus [Cannon] and Trent [Brown], and then Ted [Karras] playing guard. He started a couple of games for us last year when David [Andrews] was out. When you only have seven linemen at the game there are a lot of different combinations there. We practice those every week so that we have our guys ready for that if that situation were to come up. Like I said, we've had a lot of snaps at it. We work at it. It could certainly be better. We can definitely improve on it. Unfortunately, that's a part of the game and everybody has to be ready to go and I'm sure that we'll have to deal with some element of juggling the offensive line a little bit here at some point again this year. Hopefully not, but realistically that's probably something that will come up. We have to be prepared for it.

Q: As you look to improve in all areas as a team, what are some things you can look to work on that would help with the scoring differential in the first and third quarters?

BB: We've looked at that. I don't think there's any magical solution. It really comes down to our execution of the plays, whatever they happen to be – runs, passes, play actions, outside, inside. If we execute the plays well we gain yards, and if we don't then we don't. Our overall coaching, and playing and execution of whatever it is that we run, whenever we run it, whether it’s in the first quarter, fourth quarter. We've had plenty of success when things are done correctly and efficiently. When they're not, then we don't have the same results. I think that's really what it comes down to.

Q: What are your impressions of how Brian Flores has been at calling plays on defense and do you feel that he has left his own imprint on that unit?

BB: I think our coaching staff works very hard in all areas – offense, defense, special teams. They all are really diligent and grind it out. Brian's responsibilities are a little bit different than they were last year. He's worked really hard at it. I think he's done a real good job. He's got a good presence and a good football mind. He's done a good job for us.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
November 19, 2018

Q: In the first and third quarters this year, contrary to what we’ve seen in the past, you have a negative scoring differential. During the bye week, how much time did you dedicate to studying that particular facet in addition to everything else? What are some of the factors that you as a play-caller consider for a strong start to a game and the third quarter?

JM: We look at everything at this time, and it’s a good opportunity to study what we’ve done and take a look and find out exactly why what’s worked has worked and why the things that haven’t worked, haven’t worked. Sometimes there’s simple answers for those, and sometimes they’re very layered in terms of the reasons why something is having success or some part of your offense is producing and another one isn’t. Whether it’s the beginning of the game or the beginning of the third quarter, I think any football play in any series we have on offense comes down to the same few things – good communication, good execution, being able to play aggressive and fast. That always means we know what we’re doing and we go out there and we do it at a high level and we do it with great consistency across the board because it obviously takes 11 guys doing the right thing on each play in order for us to have success. Sometimes there’s some schemes that maybe we have tried that haven’t been working out as well for us the first part of the year and you do less of those, and sometimes there’s some things that you’re close on that if we would just make one adjustment or one correction and do one thing better on it, then the play will be more productive. I think you’ve got to balance it out and be careful about just throwing everything away that hasn’t necessarily produced to this point because a big part of that is coaching. And we have to do a good job of identifying the things that we can improve on and fix them and get our guys to understand what those might be, and that at other times, there’s things where we just say, “Look, we spent enough time on this and it hasn’t necessarily given us the benefit that we’re looking for and we’re going to move in a different direction and do something else.” There’s a lot of things that go into it, and it starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of finding the right things to do and making sure that we’re doing the things that we do best when the guys have confidence in that we can go out there and execute at a high level.

Q: What stands out about this Jets defense to you above everything else at this point in the season?

JM: It seems to be the same challenge each year when we play them. Todd [Bowles] and Kacy [Rodgers] do a great job of getting this group to play real physical up front. They challenge you with a lot of eight-man fronts. Jamal Adams is down there near the front quite a bit and he does a lot of things that are disruptive to the offense. They’re fast at linebacker, they’re stout up front, they’ve got some really good players. [Leonard] Williams and [Steve] McLendon really do a good job in the running game of resetting the line of scrimmage. They change up their blitz patterns and they’re going to challenge you to pick up blitzes on all three downs. And they’re excellent on third down, excellent in short yardage, excellent in the red zone and they’ve created a lot of negative runs and turned the ball over. It’s always a huge challenge to play a division game on the road. They certainly know us very well and so there’s familiarity of playing them twice a year for a while with Todd [Bowles] there. Certainly that can help, but it also makes it more difficult because they know us as well. Big challenge for us, very physical group – we’re going to need a great week of preparation here coming off the bye. We expect this to be a very difficult task and we’re excited to start our preparation with our players.

Q: You guys have always been very efficient at scoring touchdowns down in the red zone. How important is it to be able to run the ball in the red zone and how does that usually translate to success?

JM: I think it’s important to have positive plays in the red area, run or pass. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be married to one or the other, and certainly you want to have some balance in your offense in every phase that you can. But I think the most important thing is really having positive plays in the red zone, and what I mean by that is some teams don’t let you really run the ball very easily because of the scheme that they chose to play or the pressure that they try to apply at the line of scrimmage. As much as you can, you try to make sure you’re running a good, solid play that we can execute and gain yards and move the ball towards the goal line. Again, some teams make that more difficult than others to run it on an every-play basis based on their scheme and what they do, and most teams try to avoid having you run the ball in the end zone. I think that’s a really common theme throughout the league is if people can – the easiest way to score touchdowns is just to hand the ball to the back and let him run it in to the end zone, so most teams really try to do a good job of stopping that, force you to throw it where there’s less space and everything happens much quicker down there in the red zone. For us, it’s been about positive plays, it’s been about trying to move the ball forward, run or pass, and staying away from long yardage situations which are very difficult to overcome with limited space down there. Chad O’Shea does a really good job of really researching that each week, and our guys understand the targets that we’re trying to hit on a week-to-week basis. This week is going to be a huge challenge for us because the Jets are certainly one of the best red zone defenses in the league. We’re going to need to do a great job with our preparation and our execution on Sunday.

Q: How has the offense adapted in the red area without Rob Gronkowski for the last several weeks?

JM: Like each week, you go in and you have what you have. We don’t go in and make a big deal out of one thing or another if we’re without something. We’ve played without a lot of different pieces throughout the course of the year, but that’s par for the course. That’s the National Football League. Our responsibility is to make positive plays and find a way to get it into the end zone regardless of who is or isn’t active, and that’ll continue to be our task and our challenge. To me, in the red zone, there’s so many things that can happen and so many things that are unpredictable. The defense has a huge say in what happens in the red zone relative to trying to double-team people, or they could pressure you and try to force the ball out, or they could play zone when maybe you were hoping for man or what have you. There’s a lot of different things that could determine where and how the ball gets distributed down there. Ultimately, our responsibility is to try to execute properly regardless of the defensive scheme and do the right things with the football – whether that be run it, throw it, protect, go to our second or third option, whatever it might be – and hopefully we continue to improve in that area of our game because it’s a really critical part of our overall success, and we know that our responsibility offensively is to go out there and score points every time we have a chance. We’ll continue to work hard at that.

Q: You mentioned the familiarity with the Jets defense. How much of a difficulty is it to have stuff that they’re not expecting but also not get away from what you guys are good at?

JM: There’s always a balance there. At the end of the day, toughness and execution are the most important things. If we do a good job and play physical and we execute the techniques and fundamentals that we have been working on and that we’re good at better than the opponent does, then you have a chance to have success. There’s a lot of plays that come down to that each week. There’s certainly a time and a place to try to protect the things that you do best and or change something up to give the defense a different look, but I think you’ve got to be careful with going overboard on that and doing too many things that are unfamiliar to your players. Like I said, the most important thing is that they know what to do and they can do it at a high level. If you try something new or you try to add a wrinkle here and there and protect something that you’re doing, that’s great. You’ve just got to make sure that they know how to do it the right way and feel good about executing it. Like I said, there’s a balance between all those things.

Q: What are some of the things that you see from coaching Julian Edelman on a daily basis that makes him such a great football player?

JM: Julian works really hard and loves football, he loves to compete. He comes in every day and wants to try to get better at his profession, at his job. He’s really adamant about trying to go out there and improve and practices hard and really goes out there and competes. Whatever role we end up giving him, he serves a lot of those different roles on our football team, whether it be in the kicking game or offensively. We ask him to block, we ask him to catch passes, we ask him to do a lot of different things here and he’s always willing to take on whatever role we give him. We’ve got a lot of those guys on our team and we’re thankful for that.

Q: I looked at the last two games’ snapshots and compared Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett. Hogan had a lot of snaps played but not a lot of production while Dorsett had less snaps played but actually had some more production. From your perspective, how do you balance the idea of how much to look into Hogan’s lack of production versus Dorsett’s production and sort of say, “Well, do I mix and match and maybe get the other guy some more snaps?” Or is Hogan’s lack of production more a result of other factors where that production could change in an instant going forward?

JM: I think the biggest thing is the understanding of why things happen one week and maybe don’t another week and why the ball goes here today and there tomorrow. If we were making a bunch of mistakes and there were guys open on the field and the ball’s not getting to them, then we certainly can try to correct that. That’s generally not the case. Sometimes it’s circumstances, sometimes it’s the defense, what they play – the coverage dictates that maybe we went somewhere else. Sometimes it’s protection – certainly protection has a huge impact on how much time we have to go through your progression – and ultimately, we want all our guys to be able to have a chance to produce and help us win, which they all can. That’s why they play. That’s why they practice so hard. My responsibility is to try to find a way for those guys to impact the game in a positive manner. Hopefully that means production on a weekly basis. Sometimes that’s not the case. Like I said, there’s a number of factors as to why that might be and there’s plenty of weeks where we go in there and say we’re going to try to design the ball to go here or there and it never gets there because the defense takes that away and forces you to go to someplace else with the football. I generally try to take a broader approach to that instead of looking at it on a one or two week basis and just kind of – in general terms, are we doing the right things – and continue to try to stay within our process. Because I think once you start trying to force the ball to one or two or three different guys to try to keep track of targets or touches, et cetera, you can kind of get yourself out of what’s most important, which is good, solid execution on a play-to-play basis. We certainly haven’t done that all season long in terms of our best and that’s my responsibility. We’re going to continue to work really hard to try to improve our execution across the board and that starts with me. We had a good, productive week last week evaluating ourselves, where we’re at, what we can do better and try to improve on. Hopefully we can carry that in this week and have a great week of practice for the Jets and go out there and continue to improve on Sunday.

Q: Do you have any process for your self-scouting as a play-caller over the bye? Does that happen by osmosis, do you just look at what’s happened over the course of the season or do you have a routine that you go through to evaluate your own performance?

JM: Definitely we try to do that, I try to do that and our staff does. We all have a job to do and we all can continue to try to improve and hopefully do our best work here coming down the stretch and playing games after Thanksgiving, which is always our goal. I know there’s areas that I can improve on and impact the game in a better way than what I’ve done. Our coaches do a tremendous job offensively in just speaking for our side of the ball, of evaluating a lot of different situations that they’re responsible for during the course of the week – Chad [O’Shea] with the red zone and Dante [Scarnecchia] with the running game, short yardage, Ivan [Fears] backed-up and goal line and Nick Caley does third down and Cole’s [Popovich] working on the short yardage also. We have a lot of things that they’re really tremendously involved with and they help educate me not only during the bye week but usually weekly on what we’ve called, any tendencies that we have that I can try to do a better job of fixing and maybe some of the things that I need to call more or less or what have you. I think it’s a continuing education throughout the course of the season – your team evolves and hopefully you can evolve properly as a play-caller and play-designer and then continue to try to give them the best chance to be successful on Sunday. Hopefully my best football is ahead of me as well.

Q: So it’s pretty safe to assume that’s a collaborative thing that happens with you guys having a lot of conversations and going over what you’ve done and getting input?

JM: No question, no question. They have a lot of say in what we do and they’ve certainly earned that. They work tremendously hard at it and one of the best things I can do is listen.

Q: Peter King had a story published today about the Saints and in that story, Sean Payton acknowledged that they were working on a play that they had seen you guys run in the Super Bowl. There have been multiple coaches that have said they’ve watched the Patriots offense and tried to adapt things to what they’re doing. What’s your reaction to that? Is it flattering at all when you hear there are offenses that are looking to you as an example of what might work for them? How often are you watching opposing offenses and wondering if what they do would work for you guys?

JM: I think that’s football. Certainly, if there’s something that we’ve done that somebody else takes, that’s great. We probably steal as much as anybody else and there’s a tremendous amount of great coaches in our league that do great things and there’s a lot of great players that make those plays go. I think you have to understand that there’s a lot that goes into something like that, and when we look at other teams and we look at other teams that are having some success, whether it be a team that’s doing well in the red zone or running the ball well, or third down, or big plays, or whatever the category might be, you see a lot of good things that these guys have designed, and most importantly, have been able to get their players to execute really well on game day. That’s the biggest factor in all those things is you’ve got to be able to transfer it to the field and get it done right, and sometimes you know the ins and outs of why they’re doing it and sometimes you don’t. That’s the great thing about our league is there’s so many very talented people that work in all these different roles and they come up with a lot of different ways to do things. There’s very many ways to skin a cat in our league, and you try to fit things that may work for you and your personnel that you see, you try to fit those in maybe when you can. Like I said, there’s so many good coaches and play-callers, and obviously the players are the thing that make it go. That’s a fun aspect of our job – you take a look at some things that are maybe trending in certain directions and see where it may fit for you and your team and what might be difficult to defend for the opponents that you’re getting ready to coach against.

LINEBACKERS COACH BRIAN FLORES

CONFERENCE CALL
November 19, 2018

Q: How has Duke Dawson progressed and how quickly has he been able to pick things up after being away?

BF: Duke kind of kept himself involved. You know, he was down for that little period. I think he’s come in, obviously he’s a hard worker, he’s a smart kid, he’s done everything possible to kind of get himself back up to speed in practice, in meetings, in walk-throughs doing a little bit extra. So, every day, he’s just got to come in and do a great job with preparation, do a great job in practice and we’ll see where it goes from there.

Q: With someone in his situation, do you try to help him get good at specific things so you can use him in specific situations? Or is it more like you try to get him caught up on everything so he can eventually be somebody you can use across the board?

BF: I think we try to get him caught up really on everything across the board because, I think overall, we try to help him become the best overall player he can be. Obviously, there’s specific roles, specific situations we try to put guys in, and if that’s what the game plan calls for, then that’s obviously the role that he or any other player would kind of focus in on. So, I think every player is a little bit different, and Duke’s no different from that standpoint. Obviously, we always try to put the guys in the best position to do what they do well, and that’s a week-to-week thing and we’ll see what that is this week.

Q: How does your familiarity with your personnel over the course of the season lend itself to your confidence in calling a particular play? As the season has gone on, how has knowing what you have made it easier to call particular plays in particular situations?

BF: I would say every week, we kind of go through our personnel, as well as the offensive personnel, and we try to, as best we can, create the best matchups and put guys in the best position possible. As that relates to the game – really, I would say, first down, second down, third down, red zone, different areas of the field – we have an idea of what they’re trying to do offensively and we try to counter that with the best grouping we can put on the field defensively. Now, that changes play-to-play. So, as a staff – and it’s not just me, we’ve got a great staff here – you know, we’re on the headsets and the staff here, whether it’s Josh Boyer or Brendan Daly or Steve Belichick or DeMarcus Covington, all those guys do a great job of just helping me as far as, ‘OK, it’s this situation, we’re in this part of the field, the ball’s on this hash,’ and that all kind of plays a role into us trying to get the best grouping on the field against whatever personnel grouping they’re giving us offensively. So, I would say, as the season’s progressed, we all as a group have obviously gotten a better feel for each other as far as getting the best grouping out there, but that changes week-to-week, and we’ll just continue to try to do our best to get the best grouping out there.

Q: How critical are first and second down in terms of being able to dictate what you call on third down?

BF: Well, every down is important and every snap in the game is important. We try to let our players know that. I mean, we never know what play the game is going to come down to, so we want everyone to be good. But yeah, first and second down are obviously very important. Obviously, the better you do on first and second down, the longer third down is. And, percentage wise just across the league, longer yardage on third down, you have a high percentage of getting off the field. So, all downs are important, and obviously we’ve got to do a better job of stopping the run, stopping the pass game, creating pressure on the quarterback. Those are all goals and things we try to get accomplished on a week-to-week basis. You know, it starts with fundamentals and technique, like it does every week. It’s something we preach here, we talk about every week and we practice them every day in our individual drills. So, I think that’s where it starts. You can say all you want about first down, second down, but it starts with fundamentals. You can’t have a good play without good fundamentals. When we play with good fundamentals, we have good production on those downs, and when we don’t, we don’t. So, we’ve just got to continue to stress the fundamentals and do a better job of playing with good fundamentals and technique. 

Q: We’ve seen you guys bring defensive backs on blitzes. What makes a good blitzing defensive back, if you even look at them that way, or is it just having some speed to attack the backfield when you do call for those types of plays?

BF: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely something we evaluate. There’s good blitzers, there’s not so good blitzers from the secondary. I think we’ve got a good group here, whether it’s Pat Chung to [Devin] McCourty to Jon Jones to Duron Harmon. I mean, I think we’ve got a good group of guys that can pressure the quarterback. And, again, it’s not something you can do on every snap, but I think it gives the offense a little bit of a different look, kind of helps us in a variety of ways from a disguise standpoint, from a scheme standpoint. It’s just a different look to the offense. So, as much as we can do that, when we can do it, it’s helpful. I think we’ve got a good group of blitzing secondary players and I think those guys do a good job. We’ll try to continue to do that if we can, but I think they do a lot of things well. Whether it’s coverage, whether it’s blitzing, whether it’s zone coverage – and again, you’re going to hear me say this, I repeat it over and over again – it really starts with fundamentals and technique. We’ve just got to continue to work on that on a day-to-day basis in practice, individuals, and hopefully we’ll continue to get better as blitzers, but really across the board.

Q: What stands out to you about Sam Darnold? And when Darnold is not in there, how much change do you see in what you’re defending from the Jets?

BF: I think Sam Darnold, I’ve been very impressed with him. I think he can make every throw. He’s got a quick release. I think he’s mentally tough. You go back to Week 1, he throws an interception on the first play ever, and he comes back, doesn’t get rattled, comes back in and obviously leads them to victory. So, this guy, he’s an impressive young player. You’re not finding many rookies in this league who can come back from that type of adversity, so I think he’s a special talent. I think he’s already kind of emerged as a great leader for them. I think this is going to be a tough test for us. As far as [Josh] McCown, he’s a guy with 15 years of experience in this league. He gave us a run for our money a year ago. He’s another guy who’s had a great career, really handles the offense well – you know, he goes in there and they don’t miss a beat. He really does a good job as a scrambler, does a good job in the pocket. Again, I really don’t think they miss a beat with either quarterback. I think they’ve got a great group of skill players – [Isaiah] Crowell, to Robby Anderson to [Quincy] Enunwa to [Jermaine] Kearse to this young tight end, [Chris] Herndon. I think this is going to be a tough challenge for us and they do a lot of things well, and a lot of things that I would say honestly that we’ve struggled with, they do well. So, this is a big test for us.

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