Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison
Q: Coach, how did you feel about line of scrimmage battles yesterday? It seemed like you guys reset the line of scrimmage pretty effectively at times.
A: Yeah, they did a good job. There’s a few things, obviously, when you come out of a game, you want to see some – we need to sharpen up some techniques, but they did a good job. [We] used a lot of different schemes early and had to switch. They were running through some gaps so we had to change some things up but I think they did a great job adjusting. Battling in [protection], pass pro, kept them off Tyrod [Taylor]. He went down three times but I think they could’ve been avoided.
Q: Coach, was there a thought at all on the last drive maybe being a little bit more aggressive or was the plan just, ‘hey, we need them to use their timeouts.’
A: We wanted to get a first down, but they had three timeouts. In the field position we had, we knew with the job that Danny [Crossman] and the special teams were doing pinning them, that would be advantageous for us. The biggest thing was using the timeouts, but obviously we were trying to get a first down. We didn’t execute to make the yardage. Perfect world, they use their timeouts and we get a first down and we get to victory before that.
Q: What did you think of Tyrod’s decision-making? It looked like he was pretty judicious when he decided to use his feet, but the times that he did looked to be the right times.
A: Yeah, he did. I think, just going through it, he made a couple of things that we’ll correct. We’ll smooth that out. Like I said, I think we could’ve avoided a sack or two with that but I think, overall, he did a good job with that group trying to attack where we planned going into it.
Q: Do you feel like Charles [Clay] is getting back to a point of maybe where he was pre-injury? He had a quiet four receptions for 60 yards but they were pretty instrumental.
A: I think he did a good job with the matchup and that’s where we’re trying to get him isolated in a couple of things with the routes that he did. He played fast. I think he’s getting close but, you know, I’m no expert. I just know he was open and he made some plays.
Q: What progress did you see from the offense under Tyrod yesterday as opposed to when the team was struggling and lead him to be benched?
A: I don’t know. I just know we executed better yesterday. I think we were in sync and we played complimentary football. Our defense played very well. Special teams did a great job and we’re just trying to do our part. I think we just executed better.
Q: How much more room for improvement is there, then?
A: Oh, there’s room. I mean, obviously you go through in and out, we left some plays out on the field. A couple things that we had set up and we got a little bit different look and all we needed to do was just do what we ask him and we’ll get that corrected. We did leave some plays on the field but they’re a good team. It’s a tough place to play, the noise and the caliber of the defense – they’re a good team. We did what we needed to do to win.
Q: Fair enough. The big question mark has always been, I mean, you’re facing an opponent in the Patriots who are very prolific on offense. When facing teams in the past few weeks like the Saints, who are very good on offense, do you feel that your offense has enough to at least match what other teams have done in putting points up on the scoreboard?
A: Well, that’s why I’m coaching. I mean, if I didn’t think I had a chance, I wouldn’t be here. Of course I think I got a chance. I love this team and I believe in what we’re doing. I’m going to work. I just started watching [and] they’re a tremendous team. This will be a big challenge for us but that’s what we’re here for, to go out there and win games.
Q: 3rd-and-1 in the second half, you had Tyrod take a sack and then you ran a pitch to LeSean [McCoy] that was stopped. What went into both of those play calls?
A: Well, both of them, first off, we thought we’d get the edge on that. We didn’t quite get it done. He’s got to make a decision. When we get on the edge, didn’t execute that one. The second one, where we flipped it to LeSean, again, execution wasn’t quite sharp. Snapped it a little soon and just didn’t get it done so we’ve got to go back and make sure we get those down. Those are manageable. Those are things that we should be doing right.
Q: Is it oversimplifying things to say that you’ve got Richie Incognito and Eric Wood? Can’t you just line up behind those guys and try to get a yard that way?
A: Well, I think we went to our study. Between the nine coaches we had, that’s what we decided to do.
Q: How would you compare the production from Jordan Matthews this season compared to what you thought you might get from him after the trade?
A: Well, you know, I just, the trade happened during camp. My chance to study through him [was] just a little play. He does a good job on the inside. I don’t know that I’m looking for that, I’m just comparing to what I knew before. All I know is we’re trying to get each guy, you know, put him in the right situation to win. Jordan’s just like the rest of them.
Q: So then how do you do that differently with Jordan?
A: Do what differently? I’m trying to put him inside and put him in a good matchup. As we go through it, he made two catches on third down. One came up a little short [and] one was a first down. Ball didn’t go to him on the other third downs. It went to some other people. You’re looking for matchups, you’re trying to put some schemes together and let the quarterback go through a progression?
Q: How well did Dion [Dawkins] play yesterday, Coach?
A: He did a good job. He got the one holding call, which was actually a big play in that series, but he played well. He was aggressive. Still got to iron out some technique.
Q: On your heavy packages, Ryan [Groy] had been a guy a lot of this year that you’ve been using. Yesterday, it was mostly Seantrel [Henderson] in those packages. What went into that switch?
A: Well, I think we started that the previous week, moving him in and out. Now [Seantrel] is up and he’s more of a tackle [or] tight end. [They] do a lot of communication so it’s more something he’s done and it’s nothing against Ryan, it’s just closer to what the position is.
Q: You mentioned Dion and how he had that holding call. That was a run by Travaris Cadet. A big play, you said. Just in regards to his game overall on Sunday, what did you see when he played?
A: Obviously, he’s done a good job over the past couple of weeks running the ball. He understands what we’re trying to do running the ball and throwing it. He’s got good ball skills. I think he’s done a really good job fitting in and doing what we ask him to.
Q: Do you think he’s earned more reps?
A: Well, I think, when he’s in there, we’re not uncomfortable. We trust him. We’ll just see how it pans out. Again, we’re just taking a look at what the challenge is with the Patriots and how each of our players fit in.
Q: What went into Tyrod only throwing five times in the second half?
A: Well, obviously we were trying. Trying to do what we thought was best. We had some third-and-short’s that I thought, 3rd-and-2 to 3’s that we ran and converted. I thought those were good situations rather than throwing it at that point in time and trying to grind it out. They were in a certain package on defense where Juan [Castillo] insisted we had some good plays so that’s what we went with.
Q: I know we addressed this earlier, maybe back in training camp, but now that he’s had more time in the offense, how much freedom does Tyrod have at the line of scrimmage?
A: He made about four or five checks yesterday at the line of scrimmage. The same as any other quarterback I’ve had. We give him a handful that he can do. He can change protections in certain situations and change some plays. Sometimes we’re going with two plays. Yesterday was a little different because of the noise. We wanted to keep that to a minimum but he did check a couple and put us in the right situation.
Q: Those 22- and 21-personnel. It seems like you’ve got the mark in the backfield there. It’s worked in the times that you’ve turned to it and again yesterday, on that fourth drive which ended up being a touchdown. Just, is that just something that a lot of defenses don’t see a whole lot of anymore?
A: You’d have to ask a defensive expert. I know we feel like if we have the extra guy, we can block all fronts and don’t have to go away from a run so that helps us with lead blocker. If you don’t have that guy, they put and extra guy down, you really have to check out of the play or go the other way.
Q: I mean, I think the Saints stayed in base when you guys were in 11 a lot and it’s hard to get hats on hats there because you’re down in numbers, right?
A: Yeah, you have to be pretty specific with what you’re doing or get your guys to change what they’re doing up front.
Q: Tyrod had a season-high in rushes yesterday. I know a lot of times, those are just scrambles but is that something with designed runs, especially with options, that you like going forward?
A: I think it’s always good to have those available. Again, we’ll just see each week. I can’t really tell you specifics because then I’m giving the game plan away. He’s just trying to take advantage of everybody’s skill set.
Q: How much of a concern is sustaining drives? You had one drive that had five first downs yesterday and otherwise – the ability for this offense to keep those drives alive.
A: That’s all third down situations. We had three three-and-out’s in the second half. We need to stay on the field. We know that. We’ll go back and make sure our third down package is, we adjust that and we make sure we stay on the field
Q: What do you guys have in terms of, or I guess how do you balance the ability to run out of shotgun? It’s not something that, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, it’s not something that has not been in your offense a ton in the past but it’s been something these guys have done well. How much have you kind of tried to –
A: We’ve done quite a bit more than, like you said, my experience has and I think Juan’s experience and certainly the guys’ around here experiences. We’re getting some of that done, obviously. We handled that pretty well on those third down situations I was talking about and running for first downs. Third-and-four or five, it makes them have to account for that, not just the throws. We’re working on that.
Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier
Opening Statement: Alright, good afternoon. Good win by our team yesterday against a very good opponent in tough environment. Really proud of where our guys competed on the defensive side of the ball and did a really good job in a lot of areas. Really happy for those guys and the way they competed and the way they ended up getting the results that we were all hoping for after a hard week of work and a tough past three weeks. It was really good to see.
Q: I’m half joking here, but given how the previous three weeks went and then to see this performance, have you allowed yourself to step away from the ledge a bit?
A: Well, you know, as you and I both know, in the NFL, it’s always week-to-week and it’s so different from week-to-week. You just look around the league at how quickly things can shift and turn. Fortunately for us, we were able to get it done yesterday and now we have a big-time opponent coming to our place. You shift and you move on to the next opponent.
Q: The fact that you saw what you were trying to preach on the field, there has to be a large level of validation in that win.
A: No doubt. When you’re preaching the same message over and over and over, you just go ‘man, are these guys really hearing it?’ We’ve seen them do it, we know they can do it, and you hope they don’t lose their confidence and begin to doubt and second-guess. Pretty soon, you lose hope, but that wasn’t the case. They believed; they continue to work at their art throughout the week in practice and they listen to the message: you can do it, the gap sound, you’re able to limit people’s run game. There’s certain things you have to be able to do fundamentally to get that done and those guys listened and they were able to get it accomplished.
Q: What more can you tell us about what you changed at the linebackers at the snap that positively affected the running game by the run defense?
A: We just tried to work a little more intentionally on putting the eyes in the right places and understanding the importance of running through your gaps, like we were doing earlier in the season and not letting some of the movement by the offenses create hesitation. When we got back to that, it paid off for us yesterday. Hopefully, going forward, we can continue that and just grow from there.
Q: How fair would it be to say that before this game, the linebackers were going more laterally at the snap as opposed to downhill?
A: Yeah, we had some of that. We had been such a downhill team early in the season. For whatever reason, we started going sideways a little bit more but we got back to what we’ve been good at in the past yesterday, and so we’ve got to build on that. It’s on tape again and we had shown some clips previously when we were more downhill as backers and our guys did that yesterday and it made a difference.
Q: Coach, did you play more press yesterday than normal?
A: I wouldn’t say it was any more than normal. We had it mixed in there on occasion, but I don’t know if it was more than normal, though.
Q: Does that maybe counteract a little bit of their stream game and the line? Make sure you’re there at the line when those guys catch it, because they’re so good at space?
A: Well, that was part of the strategy. They do a great job with their wide receiver screens outside the core that you need to be closer to the line of scrimmage to have the chance to defend it. They got one against us but for the most part, we defended it pretty well throughout the day.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about just what E.J. [Gaines] – you talked about it a couple weeks ago, but kind of how he changes your flexibility in the back end when he’s available to you.
A: You know, E.J., to have him back definitely helps us a lot. He’s our starting corner, one of our starting corners, so he plays with great vision. He’s a guy that can tackle well enough on the corner and sometimes guys at corner, sometimes they just want to be cover guys and not necessarily tackle, but he tackles well enough and he has some ball skills as well. To be able to have a guy out there that you can really count on and know that they’re really no matchup issues for the most part, it gives you confidence when you’re calling certain things, that we’re not as vulnerable. It’s good to have him back. Hopefully, he can stay on the field and just keep progressing as the year goes on.
Q: In regards to E.J. and the wide receiver screens, do you remember in the fourth quarter, he went one up and he went right through [Travis] Kelce. The size difference there is pretty remarkable. Just from your standpoint, how nice is that to see that effort?
A: That was pretty impressive. You’re right, there’s a big size difference and for him to not back down and take that tight end on and then I think it was maybe a one-yard gain at that. That was a pretty impressive play by him, but that speaks to the question that Sal asked about: what’s it like having him back on the field? It’s plays like that that you look forward to and you don’t think twice about because, when he’s out there, he’s able to make those type of plays. It’s good for our defense, and we’re glad he’s back.
Q: How do you go about stopping Tom Brady?
A: Oh boy. Well, a lot of people have tried to do that over the course of his career and not many people have been very successful. It’s a collective effort. We’ve got to defend their entire offense. He does a great job of spreading the ball around [and] utilizing the run game. It’s defending the entire offense. It’s more than just him, although he is the guy that’s orchestrating it all.
Q: Does it help, though, coming off a performance like that this past weekend where you saw the proof in the pudding to at least prepare this team for this daunting test as opposed to where this defense would’ve been questioning itself two, three weeks ago?
A: No doubt. I mean, coming off a game like yesterday where our guys were so dominant for four quarters and then to finish the game the way we finished it with Tre’Davious’ [White] interception, that sends you into a week where you need to have confidence against the defending champs and arguably one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks to ever play the game. You need to go into this game with some confidence as you’re preparing and we should have that as we get ready for this ball game. With so much on the line, here we are in late November and we’re in the playoff hunt, so for our defense, there’s a lot at stake and it should be pretty easy to get focused in on what we have to get done.
Q: Have you had a rookie quarterback in your career that’s put together a season like Tre’Davious has so far?
A: No, I can’t recall a rookie being asked to do some of the things we’ve asked him to do this season. As you know, we’ve had to match him up on some top receivers during the course of the season and you don’t usually ask a rookie to do that. Maybe towards the end of the year, maybe, but we were doing this early in the season and he’s responded quite well. He’s had a terrific rookie year, although there’s a lot more football to be played, but I can’t recall a rookie coming in and having this type of impact at corner when he’s been put in the fire as quickly as he was. It’s different than when you’re just a left corner or just a right corner and you just line up in your spot and you learn your responsibilities. We’ve asked him to match up on some big time guys and he’s held his own.
Q: Lorenzo [Alexander] was inside, he was outside, rushing the passer or dropping, usually kind of all over the place, Coach. What went into that thinking this week?
A: We need to be able to, you mentioned earlier about the screen game, we needed to be able to have some flexibility with one of our rushes where you add to the rush, but sometimes you drop it. Sometimes, you’re coming off the edge, but sometimes you’re spying the quarterback because this guy’s – he’s unique with his scrambling abilities. The one guy on our defensive line that had those capabilities and was most apt to be able to do that was Lorenzo, so we wanted to be able to utilize his talents in that way and he played a heck of a game for us. He did a terrific job and probably as instrumental in our third down defense being as successful as it was yesterday was his play. He did a lot of things with his movement, with his rush [and] his dropping coverage. That kind of created some confusion for their offense line and I’d venture to say even their quarterback at times. He did a heck of a job for us, so it was a good job by him.
Q: On Tre’Davious, I’m sure he says he always likes to shadow people, he wants that more. Is that something that you’re getting more comfortable letting him do [or] is that still kind of last resort if other people get injured or something like that happens?
A: Sometimes, it depends a little bit on the opponent, you know, who we’re facing and do we think is necessary to try to match up. It’s a few things that go into it. Ideally, you like for him to be left and right, but sometimes you need to matchup who you think is your best guy on their best guy so it can change from week to week.
Q: Sean [McDermott] had said that the numbers – he could see on film that things were trending up during the Chargers game from what he saw. Was a lot of that lost just because of what the score was and maybe people overlook that fact?
A: That’s a good question. A good point too, because we felt the same way as a staff when we watch the tape, even going to the game early, our defense came out [and] got a three-and-out in that game. I think we forced a field goal on a short field so we thought we were heading in the right direction, but then things really got kind of haywire and that just snowballed from there. We felt like, going in and seeing some of the things earlier, we were headed in the right direction, but things got away from us. We saw some positives in that game. The score kind of skewed it a little bit, and especially where we were in the second half, but as a staff, we could see that we were beginning to flip the switch. Yesterday kind of validates that. It was really good to see. Now, new opponent, new challenge this week.
Q: As someone who’s been a head coach in this league, what do you make of the job that Sean did kind of steadying the waters after that three game losing streak, Leslie?
A: I think he’s done a terrific job all season long. Expectations weren’t very high coming into the season, although, within these walls we have our own expectations and what we hope to see happen over the course of the year. He has been very consistent in his message and one of the challenges, especially in your first year, is when you go through a streak like we went through. This is not immune to coaches with experience either. It just so happens he’s in his first year and we hit a dry spot, but the steadiness that he’s showed with our players, the consistency, the message never really changed. I think that speaks to the way our guys responded last week, at least yesterday. He’s done a terrific job and to get us out of that rut and not let guys feel sorry for themselves and let the season get away from us speaks volumes to his leadership.