Opening Statement: Let’s go ahead and open it up to questions.
Q: Coach, it looked like when you guys went to that 22-personnel on that fourth possession, it really opened some things up for you. It seems like you guys have had a good measure of success kind of running out of that or 21 – I mean, I haven’t looked at the numbers yet but you seemed pretty successful during the other front formation. What do you feel you find there that’s helped you guys with some success coming out of that formation?
A: Running the ball wise? Yeah, I think we just altered our personnel groups. Different looks, change the looks on the defense a little bit, get some different personnel on the field also from us; different combinations, and that’s worked at times.
Q: Lorenzo [Alexander] said in the locker room that you and him had a talk about where he feels best, some of his strengths and weaknesses and really kind of used that as part of the game plan. It looked like he was outside [and] he was inside. Can you kind of just walk us through the process with him and where he fit in the defense last week and going forward?
A: You know, we just gave some different looks. Lorenzo’s, he played in the sub package a little bit for us in different spots. He’s a good football player and a leader on this football team. I just wanted to present a couple different looks overall. It’s more of a game plan thing last week, more than anything [else].
Q: What was behind Eddie Yarbrough getting the start over Shaq Lawson?
A: Really, it was just a situation for us that I’m going to keep between Shaq and myself at this point.
Q: Would it be fair to classify that as disciplinary?
A: [It’s] a situation that will be kept between Shaq and myself.
Q: Coach, in punt coverage over the last two months, I mean it’s been in the top ten consistently.
A: Right. They’ve been outstanding.
Q: Can you just maybe speak to how that unit has found – I mean, it might be the most consistent group on your team for the last two months.
A: Right, I thought they did a good job. I thought Coach [Danny] Crossman had a good plan with the coverage units. Colton [Schmidt] punted extremely well and that was key with that type of returner back there. The offense got us some favorable field position too, which enabled, then, to pin them deep and then help the defense also. Really, I think what we’re talking about here is just good, complimentary football amongst all three phases of the team and a good plan special teams-wise as well. Well done.
Q: What went right on defense?
A: You know, you start with the run defense. Mindset, number one, and then the run defense. Gap integrity, technique, good assignment, being 1/11th of the defense – that’s really where it starts. You guys have heard me talk about that when you’ve asked me where have the problems been in the run defense. That’s really where it started up front.
Q: When it comes to the numbers though, I mean you know the numbers over the previous three games. Is it just simply flipping a switch? If it’s that easy, everybody can do it.
A: The guys have put in a lot of hard work. Leslie Frazier and this staff upstairs did a phenomenal job with the plan and implementing the plan and the players have worked hard the last three weeks. It’s never just a flip [of] the switch. I mentioned this a week ago: there were signs a week ago that it was getting better. Statistically, it probably wasn’t there but when you drill down watching the tape, it had gotten better. Last week took another step. Are we there yet? No. Still a lot of work to do.
Q: Coach, did you hear anything from the league regarding that fourth quarter penalty?
A: Not yet. You’re referring to the one on E.J. [Gaines]?
A: Not yet.
Q: I know coaches can submit their commentary to the league. Have you, just in general, taken advantage of that opportunity through the course of this year? Do you do it every week?
A: We do. Right, we do. And not just from, hey, file a complaint, but more so let’s learn so that we can coach things properly on our side of the ball.
Q: Speaking of E.J., it just seems like him being available allows you to have more options coverage-wise, scheme-wise [and] matchup-wise. You’re 5-2 when he’s starting. Can you kind of just tell us a little bit about what he presents to you when he’s on the field compared to when he’s not and what you can do and what you can’t?
A: Yeah, he’s a good player. I mean, he’s done some good things for us. He knows the game. He understands concepts. He’s a good player for us and we’re fortunate to have him.
Q: It’s not a shot at anybody else, but does his skill set invite you to have more options on the back end when he’s available versus when he’s not?
A: We have confidence in the players that are behind E.J. That said, it’s certainly nice to have your starter out there, which we’ve been able to have now for a couple of games which has been good. He’s worked hard to get back, our trainers have done a good job with him getting back – helping him get back, and I know yesterday was a big game for him being from that part of the country there. It was good to see him have success out there.
Q: Sean, are you aware at all of the history between the Bills and the Patriots? Have you looked at the gory details at all?
A: I’m aware of, overall, the Patriots success of late, in particular, in the league. Obviously, the records speak for themselves and their success. Like I said yesterday after the game, they’re defending world champions and until someone beats them and becomes world champion, then they are the defending world champions the way I see it. That’s from a respect place. They do things the right way.
Q: They’ll keep you up at night? You’ll probably learn a few things if you look at their history and the way they’ve gone about their business.
A: Absolutely. Look, where I come from, you honor that in terms of the respect that you give to that quality of opponent and what they’ve been able to do and sustain that success. We have our work cut out for us this week.
Q: I know you’ve faced them as an assistant coach three times. Twice when you were in Philly early in your career, and then I think it was in 2013 you guys beat them when you were with Carolina. Do you remember any of getting ready for them?
A: Well, it’s a headache. A lot of long hours, a lot of communication between coaches and coaches and players and players to players and so they challenge you from a preparation standpoint. They challenge you off the field [and] they challenge you on the field so they’re a good football team.
Q: If you’re not aware, no Bills coach has beaten them twice since [Bill] Belichick has been there and [Tom] Brady is 26-2 in games he plays a full game or a majority of the game. Those are some of the ugly numbers. Are you familiar with the history just in Buffalo and how Bills fans really look at the Patriots and almost automatically check off a loss.
A: I’m familiar with, like I said, their run and their success around the league. I understand what you’re getting at there. What I’m most focused on right now is the game this weekend.
Q: Coach, have you seen enough from Travaris Cadet that even when Mike Tolbert returns, he could slip himself into that number two back [role]?
A: I like both of those backs; you mentioned Mike as well with Travaris. Travaris has done some really good things in a short amount of time here. I like how physical he was with the ball for the second week in a row. There’s a good thing going on there with some good football players and that’s, for us, a good problem to have.
Q: Sean, are you concerned about how your offense played? They obviously played better in the first half than in the second, but in the second, a lot of those same problems seemed to kind of show up again, maybe not to the same extent as it did in previous games, but they were there.
A: Well, I mean, look – we did enough to win the game. That said, in all three phases, we have to continue to improve, not just offensively, but defensively [and] special teams. We have to continue to grow. You’ve heard me talk about this bucket before of just, that growth mindset that we’re better today than we were yesterday. We have to be looking at the film. We have to be honest with ourselves and making sure we’re firm on what was and what wasn’t up to the standard that we set early on here. That’s true of all of our football team.
Q: Coach, I know Kelvin [Benjamin] didn’t make the trip. What measure of progress might he have made over the weekend, just staying here, probably working with the trainers and such?
A: He’s working hard and he’s going to be day-to-day as we move forward this week. We’ll see how the week unfolds.
Q: Sean, just how big of a win was that, to kind of get past some of the things that went on the last three weeks and re-instill that confidence and that ability to go out and get a win for guys that, you said, have always given effort but didn’t have the results they wanted?
A: Yeah, right. It’s important when you’re early on in the process, you go through it – I’ve been around it in two other situations and now this being my third and first time as a head coach, albeit. When you find different ways to win and when you go through weeks like we had went through the last couple of weeks and there’s a lot of people would point to ‘hey, you’ve got to get lucky to win one of those games’ in an environment like we were in. The guys have worked hard. They put the work in. They’ve faced adversity before. This is a group of high character individuals that work hard, believe in one another, and so we’re developing a culture here. To push through the way [that] they pushed through the last couple of weeks, even though they didn’t get the results that they were looking for, and then to get them yesterday, I think is a testament to the culture and the guys in that locker room.
Q: How does your message change as the season progresses? Now, you get through that first half and now you’re entering the third quarter. How does your message change, especially when based on the record now that you’re 6-5 and back firmly in the hunt?
A: Yeah, I mean, that’s a fair question. It really doesn’t change. The guys will tell you that I try and be consistent for them because I believe that’s important, that my message is clear every week of what’s expected, how it’s expected and when it’s expected. I think consistency goes a long way towards players or giving a chance for players to be the best version of themselves. That’s what we’re really looking for here, is for us to continue to grow and get better so that we can put our best foot forward each and every day.
Q: Coach, Tyrod [Taylor] said after the game that you showed the team something Saturday night where 17 out of 19 [analysts] didn’t think the Bills were going to beat the Chiefs. What exactly did you show them and did it have the impact that you were looking for?
A: Well, really it’s just about getting the players in the right type of mindset before a game. These guys know that there’s not a whole lot of people out there that believe in them and that’s okay. We’ve got a bunch of guys in that locker room that have been told that they’re, and you’ve heard me say this before, that they’re not good enough or haven’t been good enough. We’ll use that. We’ll use it to our advantage and that’s what they did yesterday.
Q: Sean, did that same edge kind of lose itself a little bit when it was 5-2 and people were starting to think you guys were turning the corner and playoffs might be on the table, anything like that, and then the three results that came from that? Is there anything to that?
A: You look at it and you say, ‘hey, maybe’. I don’t know. That’s some of the crystal ball theory a little bit. You have to keep your edge every week in this league, and you’ve heard me say this, we talked about it yesterday: it’s going to tear you, pull you in different directions and challenge you. You have to keep the edge and with that edge, though, comes a strong foundation that you build every year and every week, that you continue to grow, continue to build, develop, and then work to sustain because that’s big, also.
Q: Might they have gotten a little too conformable, you think, when you look at it now?
A: I think we’re just, you know, we continue to learn. I don’t know if getting too comfortable is the right word as much as it is [that] we continue to learn what it takes to win in this league on a weekly basis and then trying to sustain it, which is tough. You look around the league and there’s a few teams that play very clean football and have very clean records every year, but those are few and far between. We’re trying to build this thing the right way and with that comes a mindset of attacking and focusing on that process every week.
Q: When you look at how Tre’Davious [White] was playing compared to maybe other rookies in the league, how would you assess that?
A: I think he’s playing at a high level. I really do. He’s a young man that continues to develop both on and off the field. He works very hard at his craft and, that said, he still has a lot of work to do and a big hill to climb. As a corner in this league, it’s one play at a time, like it is for most positions, but in particular the cornerback position. I’m anxious to see him in here this week and prepare the way that we’re going to need to prepare as a football team when we go up against the defending world champs.
Q: Sean, I just want to go back to that question about the penalty. If you had the ability to challenge the play if you liked, do you think coaches should have the ability to challenge the penalty?
A: They set the rules and that’s, at this point, what we focus on.