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What They Said: Rick Dennison, Leslie Frazier on Patriots rematch, discipline and more

Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier

Opening Statement: Good afternoon. 6-2 at home, Kevin [Kearns] was just explaining to me that this was the first time since 1999, that’s pretty impressive. Shout out to our fans who definitely did a great job all season long, supporting us. Yesterday was evidence of it. I know as a defense, we fed off of that energy and it helped us to get those three takeaways, which were a major factor in our success yesterday. [I] appreciate our fans. Now, [we] get a chance to go on the road, hopefully finish this thing right and just keep playing, that’s the goal.

Q: What has to change defensively this time around with the Patriots compared to what happened a couple weeks ago?

A: There are a number of things. They’re going to make some changes, I’m sure, from our first game; we’re going to make some changes also to our strategy and try to counter some of the things that they’re going to come up with. We definitely would like to do a better job against their run game, for sure. We’d like to do a better job of trying to contain their tight end, everybody talks about that during the course of the year. Then, you have to obviously pay attention to their quarterback, who is a terrific competitor and great player as well. They have a lot of different ways they can hurt your defense, but we’re going to concentrate on a few things; can’t take everything away. We’re going to do the very best we can to limit their opportunities.

Q: Given how good their passing game is though, is it difficult for you guys to focus on the run game? They did hurt you in that first game running the ball, but they’re so dynamic passing, does it hurt to worry about the run game in that situation?

A: You do have to be careful, but you want to be balanced on defense. You have to be able to try to take something away. It depends on what you’re trying to take away; are you going to try and take away the run game so they can beat us passing? Are you going to try to take away the passing game so they can beat us running? We have to come up with a strategy that we think is going to be best for us determined somewhat by the conditions. But also, the fact that they can beat you a lot of different ways. Without tipping my hand or our hand, we’re going to try to come up with a good strategy to slow them down a little bit. They’re capable, as we all know, to be explosive on any given series and any quarter. We’re going to do the very best we can to slow them down.

Q: You were so good against them in the first half of that first game. How much can you take from what you did there knowing that they as well will make adjustments to what you were doing?

A: There were some things that we could definitely build off from that first half. Anytime you hold a team like that without a touchdown, it’s a big deal. Coming out, they were able to get a little bit of a rhythm in the third quarter, and we didn’t let them get on the board in the fourth. But there are some things from that first half we can definitely build on and we’ll try to improve on. At the same time, we know they’re looking at that tape also, and trying to combat some of the things we did in that first half.

Q: Ryan Davis mentioned after the game yesterday that he had a bit of a heart to heart with you in the last few weeks. It seems like it’s paid off his last two, three games. What did you tell him?

A: He’s been in the league a long time, so we just talked about some things that he’s aware of when it comes to performance in our league. [I’m] really pleased that he has improved his play, which has helped our defense along the way. Losing Shaq Lawson was a big loss for us; Shaq gave us some things that we were concerned we might lose if one of the other guys didn’t step up. Ryan has really stepped up and played well for us over the last few weeks. We’re going to need that over the next couple of weeks as well.

Q: How does Eddie Yarbrough factor into that too? It seems like those guys sort of split that load that Shaq Lawson was carrying.

A: Yeah, Eddie did a good for us yesterday. He’s always a high energy guy, all over the place, playing hard all the time. He’s become more conscious of playing good run defense, not just being a situational guy, which is, for the most part, what he had been. Now, his snaps have gone up, he’s playing a little bit more on first and second down situations.  You have to focus a little bit more on the overall picture, and I think he’s gotten better at that.

Q: After being inactive for a few weeks, Shareece [Wright] is active again, playing the last couple of weeks, had an interception yesterday. Is there something he’s done to respond to being a healthy scratch basically for a few weeks?

A: He has prepared every week as if he was going to play. I know from a defensive standpoint, it’s not a knock against him that he hasn’t dressed, there were other circumstances. But he’s always prepared like a pro, and this week was no different. He wasn’t sure if he’d be up or not. He went through his preparation, and sure enough, we get an injury, and he had to go in and play. Just like in the past, he stepped in and gave us his best. Glad he was dressed yesterday, we needed him. He came up with some big plays. I’m glad we were able to get him up. He’s a pro’s pro.

Q: Are you happy now that you’ve got an extra corner in your arsenal here? I know there were a couple of times where you guys were really short some weeks based on one injury, two injuries. And how quickly do you think you can blend Breon [Borders] in?

A: Well, I’m not completely certain about that. At this point, we’ll get a chance to watch him more over the next few days. He came in Saturday at our walk through, we were introduced to him and we began to talk to him about our defense, and what we’re asking our corners to do. We have to get a feel for him, and just see how quickly he can adapt to how we do things versus what he did with the Raiders. Then, we’ll make a determination as time goes on. But it is good to have another healthy body. There were some weeks where you were kind of crossing your fingers hoping that nobody goes down. It’s good to have another guy on the roster.

Q: In terms of your message to the guys on defense, Sunday’s game against Miami was a bit of a chippy one. They have reason with [Rob] Gronkowski this week. What’s your message to the guys in terms of mindset in that area?

A: I think for us it’s so important that we concentrate on the task at hand; that is to go on the road and get a win against a very, very good offense. Can’t get caught up in all the extracurricular stuff, it’s not about that. Our guys get that message, they understand it. We really have to focus on the task at hand, and that is playing good, clean football; no personal fouls; no stuff that could hurt us because of a lack of discipline on our part. We’ll have our hands full as it is, we don’t want to do anything to create issues for our team or our defense by getting caught up in anything other than just playing hard football.


Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison

Q: Coach, can we go back to the beginning of the game? I know you script 15 plays, but that first drive had to go pretty much as well as you could possibly expect. What did you expect from them and kind of just set up what your thinking was going into that first drive?

A: Well, really the first play was different than they’d done the first play in any one of the start of their games. They had done some safety pressures, but not on the first play, [it had] usually been a little later. So, they gave us that one, it was a little different. We were expecting a certain coverage, we didn’t get it. Tyrod [Taylor] was able to move along and move on. You script the first 15, certainly you don’t do a third down. We had to convert some third downs and guys did a great job of moving the chains and staying on the field. Then, we were able to bounce around a little bit. There’s a couple I skipped over and had to come back to a little bit later, just based on the down and distance, the field position and where we were. When we got inside the red zone, obviously, you kick to another menu. [I] kind of expected them to be relatively aggressive. It was a big game for them and our guys were pretty keyed up and they knew what they wanted to do.

Q: There was one of those third downs that you mentioned where, as good as the drive was, it wouldn’t have happened if Tyrod didn’t get out of a sack from, I think it was [Cameron] Wake. Just his ability to escape pressure on that play in particular, clearly the drive doesn’t continue if he can’t do that. How good was that play?

A: It was awesome. It’s been that way quite a few times. We’ve done well on third downs and for his ability to move around has been part of it. So, we try to get him through his reads and his footwork, but if a ball breaks down and he feels pressure, he certainly has the ability to get out.

Q: Rick, was that the best half he’s played this year?

A: That’s the best half we’ve done as an offense, I think. That’s what I credit to those guys, they really worked hard last week. It was a good group. Miami played very well defensively the last two ball games against two good teams, two good offenses anyway. I think our guys were – they worked hard at it, they studied, they knew what they wanted to get done, and worked at the game plan. They did a good job.

Q: How do you take that and then move it forward to replicate it? Obviously, you’re not going to score 21 points every half, especially since the second half, it seemed more conservative. How do you take that momentum and results and carry that over to the next game?

A: Certainty, you just go back and show them, ‘Hey, this is what we did right and then the second half, this is what we did wrong’. We had our chances, we had our plays. We tried to execute, [but] we just didn’t get it done. We tried to push the ball down the field, past the sticks on a couple of third downs. We didn’t make the plays. So, we as a result, didn’t do as well. Did good enough to win, obviously great work by the defense. We’ll show them where their performance was great and where we stumbled and say ‘try and get those fixed’. It’s great to learn while you’re winning and that’s the learning process.

Q: Were they taking anything away from you in the second half?

A: They brought more pressure, I’ll give you that. I think they’re a good defense, they do a good job pressure wise, they’re good up front obviously, and we’ll see them again, but I think we had our moments and just didn’t make the plays. The execution of various people, throwing and catching, if we were running the ball, we missed a blocker here or there and didn’t ID it correctly. Can’t say that anything got taken away, we just didn’t do it right.

Q: What went into having [Travaris] Cadet the number two back?

A: I think week by week we figure out – feel what is the best group offensively. Working with Sean [McDermott] and obviously with Danny [Crossman] on special teams which group we get up and which group we don’t, and I think it was just part of the game plan. That’s what it was. We believe in Mike [Tolbert] and we’ll see what happens this week based on what we’re going to do when we go to New England.

Q: What specifically about that game plan made Travaris the best choice?

A: If I tell you, then I [laughs]. I think it just fit in that way. I can’t really tell you specifics. We were trying to do a couple different things.

Q: Do you hold anything back, maybe in the second half when you have a lead knowing that you play them in two weeks?

A: Absolutely not. Tried to do everything I needed to do to win - when we were backed up, we were ahead, then we were backed up, [I was] really worried about making sure that we took care of the football. Probably should’ve thrown it on first or second down there, but I worked with Juan [Castillo] and I was worried about, ‘Hey, let’s try and punch it out, let’s use the guys that generally are our strength up front. Let’s get it out front, let’s get it at first down, and flip the field’. We just didn’t execute.

Q: Looking at this week, New England, who you faced just a few weeks ago. How much do you, obviously you only scored a few points, how much of it do you have the change your game plan against them?

A: Well, we’re just now looking at that and seeing what carries over, what doesn’t carry over. Certainly, we’re going to do all we can to move the football.

Q: So, was it an oversimplification to have an approach to division opponents the second time you play them where you can’t just uniformly say, ‘well, we’ll change significantly, we’ll change moderately, we’ll change slightly’?

A: No, you can’t. Even if it’s two weeks, there could be drastic personnel changes in your team or their team. I just started looking at them, like I said, and I don’t know what they did per say against Pittsburgh. I looked at the other side of the ball in Miami. Their approach may have changed just a little bit. Who we have up, it’s a whole different deal. You just try and take it one game at a time.

Q: How much, if at all, has Kelvin Benjamin been limited or impacted by the injury that he’s fighting through?

A: Certainly, there is a couple things that – you know, he didn’t break down field a couple of times. His big body helped him on some slants, he caught a basic yesterday. He was open because he’s open, he’s big. We’ll work with Sean and he said he’s progressing. He did more than he did the week before and then we’ll go from there. I trust all of our wide-outs. We’ll have eleven out there, so one of them will be open.

Q: He used the word ‘decoy’ after the game yesterday. Is that part of what he’s–?

A: I wouldn’t say he’s ever been a decoy. He’s an ‘X’. That’s what the progression said, start with ‘X’, go to the half back. That’s what we’re doing. If it’s ‘Z’, ‘Y’, then ‘X’, then that’s what we’re doing. I don’t think I’ve ever used him as a decoy.

Q: Coach, on that note, running backs and tight ends accounted for 19 targets, receivers only 9. Would you like more balance in that area just to kind of keep the defense a little off balanced, or is it really just about whoever the read goes to?

A: It’s whoever the read goes to. We’re trying to spread the ball; we had, what did we have, eight, nine guys touch the ball passing, we had three rushers. I thought the production from everybody was important. You have to try and spread the ball. Certainly, we have guys that we think are good mismatches. 85 [Charles Clay] does a good job versus safeties and you get 25 [LeSean McCoy] out in the open, he’s a tough guy to cover. We try to spread the ball as much as we can, just whatever the coverage is, that’s what we get. Like I said, the first play, we were expecting a certain coverage [and] we got a different one.

Q: Rick, what do you think held you guys back most in the first New England game? [You] only scored three [points]. If you look back, what do you think held you back most?

A: I think, just like I said, I think it was execution. We had our chances. They were disguising some coverages, but it should have been enough for us to throw, catch and make some plays. We got down there once and turned the ball over, the second time we got down there we just didn’t make a play to score. We missed a shot play when Joe [Webb] was in there, which could’ve helped us out [with] some momentum here and there, could’ve changed the game. They’re the World Champions, they’re a great team, they play good defense, they bend and they don’t break. It’s hard to score on them, they do a good job in the red zone, so we have to find our creases.

Q: With respect to the o-line, do you feel like they’ve finally kind of settled in to a groove here, in terms of their execution from play-to-play, series-to-series?

A: I think it’s helped that the same guys are playing next to each other. Having coached the position, it’s important, as far as them being on the same page. I think that helps quite a bit because they’re kind of getting in a rhythm, like you said. I think the offense as a whole was starting to feel ‘this is what we can do, this is what we know we can do,’ and working with the tempo, a pace [and] a sense of urgency helps a lot. I think in the first half, that’s what we did. We did a good job of moving, getting in and out of the huddle, and playing fast. I think we slowed down just a little bit in the second half.

Q: You mentioned Tyrod’s ability to escape sacks, and create something out of nothing, what does it do for you as an offensive coordinator – maybe good and bad – to have a guy who can create something out of nothing, and then at times, he almost seems more comfortable outside of the structure? What are the pros and cons of having a guy like that?

A: Well, that’s a tough question. I don’t know that I’d go to that - I don’t know if I go to pros and cons. I know what I have. I know his ability. I don’t feel bad dropping [him] back, I don’t feel bad moving him out of the pocket. We just have to tie everything together. I still think that if we make the defense defend the entire field by running it, getting out of the pocket and throwing it over their heads every now and then, makes it tough for a defense.

Q: Are there ever time where you can plan, maybe, different plays where you know things are going to break down – scramble drills I guess – where you know guys–?

A: Well, we’ve worked on scramble drills since the first part of training camp. Do we design one as far as the play call? No. If he’s breaking contain, there’s options for him, to break contain. If he’s sitting in the pocket, we’re trying to pick up as many as six or seven [yards], based on the protection to help him. As far as planning chaos, I don’t think I do that [laughs]. Those are fractals by the way, I studied math for a while.

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