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Transcripts: Patriots Conference Calls 11/27

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

PRESS CONFERENCE
November 27, 2018

Q: How much have you seen Sony Michel mature in his short time here, and how consistent is that maturity with what you had learned about him from his time at Georgia?

BB: Yeah, I think that's really been a strength of his. He's, obviously, had a lot of football experience and comes from a very good program. He's been in a lot of big games. He's been in a lot of critical football situations. He has a lot of poise and has a good even manner about him in terms of learning, correcting mistakes, having urgency but in a balance where it doesn't take away from the execution and the focus of the assignment and the way that things need to be done. He does a real good job of all that, has since he's been here, coming in as a first round pick with the expectations and so forth. He's really handled all of that well and has really focused on being a good teammate, doing a good job with what he has to do. He's been great for us.

Q: Is he the type of guy who if he makes a mistake doesn't need to be told how to correct it more than once?

BB: Yeah, I think he does a good job of that. There's so many things, especially in the passing game for a running back, that have to be learned – protections, and all of the things that go with that, to route running. Then I would say the multiple looks that we get defensively compared to what colleges see, just the volume of fronts and who's a linebacker, who's a defensive back and the leverage they have and the movement and so forth that comes with all of that. There's really a lot to learn, but he's done a good job of it. He's got a long way to go but he gets it quickly and processes it and understands it. Again, yeah, usually the next time he does it he's on it. Yeah, he does a good job of that.

Q: How valuable is Rex Burkhead with the unpredictability he can bring in both the run and the pass game?

BB: Well, I think the big thing for every player on offense is just playing with consistency and getting all 11 guys to do the right thing play after play. We've had a lot of plays where that's been the case and I think there are a lot of areas where we're moving closer, but Rex has certainly shown the ability, in the time that he's been here, to do that from an assignment standpoint. As you mentioned, he's a versatile player that can be involved in all three – actually, all four downs – with a high level of execution in the running game, the passing game and the kicking game. We'll take as many of those guys as we can get.

Q: It seems like most offensive lineman with Trent Brown's body type are put on the right side of the line. What has allowed him to flourish on the left side for you?

BB: Well, Trent's very athletic. A lot of times on the left side of the line you face some very athletic players. Some have size but a lot of them are maybe a little undersized relative to the guys on the right side, but their speed and athleticism can be a little bit greater. He's able to match up with those guys with his length and his athleticism, and then he has some advantages over there with his size and his power. He's a very unique player with his skill set. The size is rare. His athleticism is good but when you combine it with his size, that's rare too. You don't see guys that big playing over there and he's very gifted.

Q: Is his skill set comparable to Orlando Brown at tackle?

BB: He's actually, maybe, a little bit bigger than Orlando. Are you talking about Orlando Sr. or Orlando Jr.?

Q: Orlando Sr.

BB: Orlando Sr. never played left tackle. He played right tackle his whole career when I had him at Cleveland and then later on in his career in Baltimore and Cleveland. He was on the right side pretty exclusively. I think he was more of a right tackle than a left tackle, but he was a very good one. With his size and power, he was a good matchup on the right side to deal with the defensive players that had similar size and power over there, but he usually had a little bit more. Yeah, I'd see them as a little bit different. I mean, they're both big and they're both good. They're both named Brown.

Q: What do you see from Adam Thielen on film that makes him such an exceptional receiver?

BB: Pretty much everything. He does everything well. He's got good size. He can get to a lot of balls with his length. He has very good hands. He's quick for a taller player and so his length and the radius that he can catch the ball in is good and he has the hands to extend and catch it, but for a taller guy he's quick and he's able to create separation. So, he's a tough matchup for a smaller corner in terms of size and he's a tough matchup for a bigger corner in terms of the quickness that he has. He's also a good runner after the catch so he can take a shorter pass and turn it into a sizeable gain with his size and running ability after the catch. He plays inside, he plays outside. They move him around. All of their receivers move around. He's a little different than [Stefon] Diggs but they complement each other well. You can put [Kyle] Rudolph in there with them. They create a lot of problems in the passing game and then they create a lot of problems in the running game, which I would say is another thing he does well. He's got good size and he can cover up defenders with his big frame and create mismatches in the running game, too, for the backs. Yeah, he creates a lot of issues.

Q: When scouting this team, do you look at Diggs and Thielen in tandem or do you need to focus separately on each guy in order to figure out how they may be utilized against you?

BB: Well, sure, yeah. They're usually on the field at the same time. A lot of times they're on the field with a third receiver, but if there are only two receivers on the field it's usually those two, and they create a lot of problems for you. They make a lot of big plays. They make a lot of big plays down the field, which is a problem but then they make a lot of intermediate and catch-and-run plays. Especially Diggs – he's very good with the ball in his hands. When you get to third down and red area, the critical possession and scoring situation plays, that's a problem too. It's a very good group offensively with a very good quarterback who's a great thrower and a very athletic player. Not that he runs a lot but he can run when he needs to. He can extend plays and then he can make big plays. Yeah, they cause you a lot of problems.

Q: You guys had three running plays that went for longer than 25 yards against the Jets. What are some of the keys to those plays and what did you think of some of the blocking at the second level in Sunday's game?

BB: Well, I think Josh [McDaniels[ did a good job and the offensive staff did a good job of the play-calling and the design. We had chances on those plays. The execution was good. I thought our guards and tackles did a good job with some double-team blocks. Some of those were to the strong side. Some of them were to the weak side, but Trent [Brown] and Marcus [Cannon] did a good job. Our pullers, the guards – Joe [Thuney] and Shaq [Mason] – did a good job. Rob [Gronkowski] usually doesn't get much help out there and so his blocks are always tough blocks against defensive ends who sometimes stay where they are and sometimes they move, so that's tough for a tight end to block in space like that to knock a guy off the ball, but he could also be stunting inside or running up field, so it’s sometimes hard to hit those targets. Rob does a good job of that. Good running and we had some blocking at the second level. We were out in space. Hopefully, those plays could gain even more yardage if we could get by the last guy. A couple of times kind of the last guy got us. We could've maybe made more yards on some of those plays, but to get to the point we got to it's, again, team offense. It's not one guy. You have to block a lot of people to get the backs in that kind of space and the backs have to read it properly and then be able to do a little something on their own when they get out there, which James [White] and Sony do. 

Q: Do you view those plays as an added bonus? I'm sure you don't go into a game thinking you'll have multiple runs of 30 yards?

BB: Well, no. It's hard to count on that. Yeah, it's hard to count on that when you hand the ball off to think you're going to gain 30 yards on a play. But I think if you can get your backs into space and you have good backs that they can turn 8-yard plays into 30-yard plays or 10-yard plays into 30-yard plays. I think you think that you have a chance at that every week, of that happening a couple of times. But that's the trick, is to be able to get those guys some space where they can operate and then, again, if everybody is executing their assignment and you're getting blocking from your receivers and the backs are doing a good job of setting up those blocks and making plays, making yards with the ball in their hands, then you have a chance for explosive plays.

Q: How significant of a challenge is when someone of Adam Thielen's size plays on the inside of the formation? How difficult is it to stick with those guys in coverage when they have the whole field to work with?

BB: Yeah, and to hold up in the running game. That's right. They're a tough matchup. He's a very tough matchup in there, as I said. A quicker, faster guy could have size issues and a bigger player that doesn't have his speed or quickness has those issues. Plus, he's a good route runner, too. Even if you have the right size matchup, his quickness and his technique and route running are very good. Yeah, it's unusual to see guys 6’-2.5”, 6’-3” in there that can do that as well as he can and also go outside. He's made plenty of plays on the perimeter, too. He challenges you with vertical routes and then, as you said, when you get him inside he's got the ability to go inside or outside or across. You just have a lot of space to defend. It is; it's a tough matchup. That's the same thing with Rudolph, who's an even bigger player with more size, similar speed and that same kind of space in the middle to operate. He's a problem in there, too. They have a lot of weapons.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS

CONFERENCE CALL
November 27, 2018

Q: Since Trent Brown hadn’t played a ton of left tackle before in his NFL career and in college, was there a degree of uncertainty about how he would hold up in that position, even heading into the regular season?

JM: Well, we had a lot of opportunity to work with Trent and all of our tackles really and we kind of – as normal procedure here, we don’t just put a guy at one spot and never move him around at all. Most of our linemen work on both the right and the left side as we go through the year just to get experience there, because we know how challenging our year can be in terms of injuries, and the durability of the overall group sometimes gets challenged and then you have to have other guys play roles. Whatever was the best fit for our team is what we always want to do. It ended up playing out this way. Isaiah [Wynn]’s injury – certainly we were all disappointed when that happened. But Trent has done a good job in any role that we’ve asked him to play and he’s settled in nicely over there on the left side and embraced everything we’ve asked him to do since he’s been here. So, I wouldn’t say we were worried about anything, we just always go into everything with an open mind and try to get the guys to play the positions that they can have the most success doing, and whatever’s best for the team, that’s what we try to get done.

Q: I wanted to ask you about Cordarrelle Patterson and what are some of the personality traits and characteristics he’s brought to the team that’s made him fun to work with?

JM: CP has a great attitude. He’s a fun guy to be around in general terms. I think he likes playing football, enjoys preparing each week and embraces any role we give him, which we’ve obviously given him a number of different things to do to help our team and he’s embraced every one of them. He’s a guy who works hard, he’s smart, he’s got a positive attitude and I think there’s not a guy in our building that doesn’t like CP. Just a good guy to be around, a good positive energy and really has done a good job of being an unselfish teammate. We’ve asked this guy to do everything from run the ball, to goal line, to line up in the backfield and block people, to catch passes and return kicks – you guys know all the things he’s done. He’s been a versatile contributor, always with a great outlook on the week and wants to help in any way that he can, which is the sign of an unselfish guy that really wants to do what’s best for the team.

Q: Is that something you knew at the beginning of the season or in training camp, or has his ability to contribute in different ways grown as the season’s gone on?

JM: I think you obviously knew that he’s got a skillset that allows him to be used in a bunch of different ways and he has throughout the course of career. It’s just a matter of having enough time and exposure to some of those things to feel comfortable, one, putting him in those positions, and two, giving him an opportunity to feel comfortable and have success doing them. We’ve never been shy about trying people in different roles if we think it could help our team in any capacity. And CP, he does a lot of different things for our team, some of which get noticed, some of which probably don’t get as much attention. You know, he blocked in the running game very well the other day, did a lot of good things that allowed us to create the space in the run game, too. He’s multi-faceted and he’s had a great attitude about all the things we’ve asked him to do.

Q: How important is it and how much of an effort do you guys make to have the same movements of players or even the same formation that you will run out of at times and then be able to pass out of that same look? How important is that in causing some confusion for defenders when they try to read their keys?

JM: Well, I think any time that you can make one thing look like something else, that creates a conflict on the defensive side of the ball so those are all positives. If you can make a run look like a pass or vice versa, that’s certainly something that’s productive and can be useful for you. At the same time, I would say there’s a lot of different things throughout the course of the game that you can use to try to make something look a little different. You’ve got sixty-some plays a game – you’re going to be able to hide certain things, and other times, you’re just going to line up and count on your execution being better than what the defense might be able to play on their side. The most important thing – I’ve always thought this way – the most important thing is that our guys know what to do and they can execute their assignments and be aggressive and play physical and fundamentally sound. As long as they’re doing that, I think we feel like we give ourselves a good chance to have some success on that play. If we can add something to it – protect it, marry it with another play or two or three in the game plan so that the defense has to look at a lot of different things the same way – then that’s great too. I think you’ve got to always look to try to help yourselves as best you can by not giving away whatever it is you’re trying to run, and if that means we can marry some things together, then certainly we’re going to try to do that.

Q: David Andrews said yesterday that you guys need to do better in goal line situations. I was wondering if there’s anything specifically that led to those conversations in your meetings and anything that you think would lead to improvement in that area?

JM: Yeah, first of all, there’s a lot of things we talk about trying to improve from the Jets game. That could be one of them. Certainly, we had some success – I think we converted three short-yardage opportunities and we failed on one and then we scored on the goal line and had a couple times where we were close but didn’t quite get it in. You know, every time we play a game, there’s many things that we talk about trying to do better. That’s why you coach the film and that’s why the players are eager to come in and see how they can improve and help the team by improving their technique or fundamentals on a specific play. But, short-yardage and goal line, there’s not a lot of mystery in some of those things. You’ve got to leverage, you want to play – the lower man usually wins in our game – and try to get some movement on the line of scrimmage. Look, those are tough plays. There’s a reason why they’re not easy, and you always want to try to be successful every chance you have in the goal line or in the short-yardage situations because it usually means the difference between scoring points or keeping possession of the ball. So, a lot of little things go into that. We coached everything we could hard yesterday, like we always do on the day after the game, and hopefully we’ll continue to try to make some progress in each area of our offense.

Q: Red zone efficiency has dropped a little bit the last four games. What is your read on some of the reasons why that has happened?

JM: That area of the field is always about execution and toughness, and we’ve had a few opportunities and just came up a little short on those, and certainly we stress that each week. That’s going to be a huge part of this week’s game against the Vikings. This is as good a red area defense as there is in the league. They’re very well-schooled at what they do, they’re physical and fast and there’s not a lot of margin for error. Our execution – we’re just going to have to work hard this week and know what we want to get done and then try to go out there and execute it against a really good defense on Sunday in those situations. Because when we’re down there, at this time of the year, you have to make the most of every opportunity you have to score touchdowns. When we come away with field goals, you feel like it’s an empty trip sometimes, so we’ve got to do a good job of really understanding what the game plan is, going out there and having a great week of practice and then being able to execute when we have our chances on Sunday night.

Q: The Vikings have been really good against the run this year. What has made them so effective in that regard? After the performance you had this week running the ball, how long do you try to stick with something like that to get yourself going while knowing at the same time that you don’t want to slam your heads up against a wall here?

JM: Yeah, look, Coach [Mike] Zimmer does a tremendous job. He always has. We’ve competed against him a number of times in different places and his defenses have always been this way. They rank highly in every statistically category, deservedly so. They have really good players at all three levels of the defense, they’re really well-coached, they’re extremely sound, and they really challenge you on third down and in the red zone – some schematically and just some based on their personnel and their rush and the way the cover and how they mix up their calls. But, they have a great front, they have linebackers that are very athletic, the team speed in general is tremendous. You’re not going to out-run this group. Their scheme complements their players very well, they get excellent safety play, they don’t give up a lot of big plays in the run or the pass game, so you’re going to have to drive the football, you’re going to have to convert some third downs during the course of the drive and this is the best third down team in all of football, easily. There’s a lot for us to wrap our minds around and we’ve really got to have a great week of preparation. This is as big a challenge as we’re going to have all year so far, and we’re excited to start our preparation. To answer your second part of your question, I think the reason we game plan a certain way and practice and prepare hard is to try to be successful in each area of our game plan. You always want to be balanced and maintain your balance if you can. It’s certainly a better way to play football if you can do that and not tell the defense what you’re trying to do on each play. But the flow of the game will determine many times whether or not you throw it more than you run it, run it more than you throw it, or somewhere in the middle. Our intent is to do everything we’re trying to do in the game well. Certainly, that is not going to happen each week. I mean, the other teams that we play are really good, and this week, we’ve got an exceptional group on the other side of the ball. We’re going to try to have a great week of preparation in practice and be ready to play our best game on Sunday and go out there and really compete hard against a tremendous unit.

DEFENSIVE LINE COACH BRENDAN DALY

CONFERENCE CALL
November 27, 2018

Q: It seemed like Adam Butler had one of his most productive games against the Jets. What allowed him to be a bit more productive in that game?

BD: You know, Adam’s done a good job for us all year. He’s kind of got a little bit of a specific role for us. He was in a couple of different alignments against the Jets, but I would say his overall role was similar. He did a nice job with some vertical penetration on a couple of snaps. I thought he did a nice job just in general with fundamentals and technique. I thought some of his interior play in terms of using his hands and getting the blockers hands or arms off of him, he had a couple of really nice examples of good technique there.

Q: This year and most years, you guys are very successful on defensive line stunts. What are the keys to those and why have you guys had so much success with them?

BD: Well, I’m not sure that they’re always successful, but that’s the goal, obviously. I think there’s an element of getting them called at the right time in the right situation, and then there’s also an element of the guys on the field understanding when and when not to execute those. I’d say that’s the first part. The next part is executing them well and correctly – getting vertical on them and the wrap players having the right amount of patience, not being too fast, not being too late as they come around. And then there’s also an element of making things right based on the protection or the blocking scheme of the offensive line. So, there’s a lot of work that goes into that. It doesn’t always work out extremely well. There’s times that it’s more productive than others, but it is something that we work quite a bit at. I’d say it has been something that has helped us in the past. It’s one of those things, there’s a little bit of risk involved where you can get displaced, both run and pass on those things, but if you execute them well and consistently well and get them called in the appropriate situations that they can be a big benefit.

Q: Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers have gotten in on a few of them. The Green Bay sack is the one that stands out to me. What makes those few players work off of each other so well in those situations?

BD: Well, the one you’re talking about in the green Bay game I think was one that – those two guys are experienced players and they’ve got a good feel for the game and they do a great job of bringing feedback to the sideline in terms of what they’re seeing and what they’re getting. That was one of the situations that they came back to the sideline and talked about that being something that they felt like would work. And they, to their credit, went out there and got it executed.

Q: I know you have a lot of familiarity with Everson Griffen after your time at Minnesota. What can the Patriots offense expect from that guy this week, given your experience with him?

BD: Well, yeah, I was able to be with him for two years there in his third and fourth year. Everson has a very diverse and extremely athletic skillset. He’s got a great mix of speed and power. He plays with good leverage and good fundamentals. He’s a good player against the run and the pass. He’s a more than capable rusher from both the inside and the outside. I think he’s been used more on the edge than he has inside in recent years, but I can tell you from experience he’s equally effective as an interior pass rusher situationally, as well. He plays with an extremely high motor, has great burst and get off on the ball. It’s been fun to watch him from afar. When I got back there in whatever year that was, 2012, he hadn’t played a whole lot. He played a lot more and a lot better for us in his next couple of years. And watching him from a distance, he’s continued to grow, he’s continued to improve and he’s been a good player for them, there’s no question about that. But, yeah, he’s a tough guy to deal with for sure.

Q: Through 11 games, how has the operation worked among the defensive coaching staff in terms of in-game communication with Brian Flores taking on a different role and Bill Belichick being involved, as well? How has that gone for you guys and how do you feel like things are moving in terms of the fluidity between coaches on the sidelines?

BD: Yeah, it’s obviously something that’s changed, and it changes year-to-year based on how the staff is structured and the roles that everyone is in. I do think that’s one of the most important things that happens on game day is that flow of communication and the ability to make adjustments within the game. I feel like that’s been a pretty good process, specifically the flow of information with the guys from the press box and what they’re able to see and then what we’re able to gather on the sideline in terms of communication from the players coming off the field and tying all that together. It’s been a group process for sure. I’d say everyone has played a major role in that. I think there’s probably been times we’ve been better in terms of getting the adjustments handled in a more efficient manner than others, or a more successful manner than others, I would say. There have been times where we’ve tried to get the adjustments made and we haven’t actually successful executed them on the field. But, overall, I’d say that’s been a good process and something that it takes a little bit of time to work your way into as it changes. But, I feel like 11, 12 weeks into the season here, we’ve kind of gotten a rhythm in that regard and I think that’s been something that’s been an asset for us.

Q: With Flores in particular calling plays, have things changed in terms of the information that he’s looking for from you or vice versa? How has that working relationship been this year?

BD: Well, it’s obviously different because he’s focused on calling the game. So, within the series, his role is significantly different than what it’s been. At the end of the series, it is a little bit different. He’s got much more of a responsibility for the overall defense, and therefore more coverage and back-end specific things in terms of communication with Josh Boyer and Steve Belichick, whereas in the past, he and I would have a little bit more exchange between series just front-specific as he was working with the linebackers. But, those roles have changed a little bit, and we still have some of those conversations, but they’re not necessarily as specific to the linebacker position – more overall front related, if that makes sense.

Q: How do the two principal Vikings running backs complement each other, especially with Dalvin Cook healthy and involved the other night in the passing game? In addition, how would you evaluate Kyle Rudolph as a blocker from the tight end position?

BD: Well, I’ll start with the backs. I’d say this is a very good one-two punch. Cook, obviously, has been banged up and in and out of the lineup a little bit with the hamstring that I believe he’s been dealing with but looks to be back and looks to be full-speed. Obviously, big play on the screen the other night against Green Bay. This guy is a very good ball carrier. He’s an effective inside runner, outside runner, cut back, he’s got a really good spin, he’s got excellent speed when he gets into the open field and in space, so he’s a challenge to deal with, no question. [Latavius] Murray brings a little bit different element – a bigger ball carrier, has really good speed as well, does a great job kind of building speed, stretching and then getting the ball vertically into the defense and runs with really good power at the second level, the third level, has a very good stiff arm. So, they’re different in terms of their skillsets, but I would say both very good players. And then you add Ameer Abdullah to the mix, as well, who they’ve added to the roster here as the season’s gone on and he’s got a little bit different skillset. So, they’ve got good personnel that present a challenge in the backfield for sure. Rudolph’s a good football player. This guy was there when I was there in Minnesota. He’s a big frame, he can cover people up, he’s got good athleticism, he’s got tremendous hands, really good ball skills for a guy of his size and he’s a tough cover because of his size, does a nice job running routes. He’s a good football player and brings a three-down element. He’s an effective blocker and definitely a weapon in the pass game for them.

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