As you prepare to play the Patriots this weekend, there are rumors flying around about your job and where you’ll be next season. Is that a distraction at all and does that affect anything you’re doing this week to prepare?
“Absolutely not. No, there’s no distraction. Like I said after the game, I really enjoy coaching this team. I think one of the things about coming to work here every day is it’s a great place to work because you have really good people here and you have a bunch of great players that really understand the meaning of hard work and have put a lot of time into this thing. The other thing is our staff. I really enjoy working with our staff. We had a good staff meeting this morning, trying to get going here on an obviously very difficult challenge for us. Just enjoy every day.”
What are some differences and changes you have made to the defense since the last time you played the Patriots in Week 3?
“I’m probably not going to go down that road. I think it’s a long season. I think we try to divide the season in some ways into quarters. So that was the first quarter of the season. Now, we’re into the fifth quarter of the season. I think both teams are totally different.”
Linebackers Coach Mike Vrabel is getting interest from the Los Angeles Rams for their head coaching vacancy. What are your thoughts on him as a coach and his development?
“Great football coach. Communicates well. Very knowledgeable of the game. Beyond football, a great family guy, father and husband. We have a lot of guys like that on our staff. Very proud of this staff. This staff has done a nice job this year of preparing the players and being in the position were in. Mike’s a big part of that. He does a great job for us.”
How much better do you feel about your run defense compared to the last time you faced the Patriots in Week 3?
“Again, I always say this, it’s a progress league. It’s about improvement. It’s about getting better week in and week out. I think that’s an area that we’ve really improved upon. We’ve done a really good job both schematically but especially our players have done an excellent job of doing their jobs against the run and tackling well. We’ve been a difficult defense to run on. Now, it’s a whole different challenge. This is a whole different challenge. You’ve got a really good offensive line. You’ve got an excellent scheme that goes fast and changes personnel groups. Lot of different backs that they use. They’re just a very well-coached team and really good players, so it’s just another challenge for us that we have to really meet.”
The team seemed to really improve in the red zone, going 3-for-3 vs. Oakland, and didn’t allow any sacks. Can you talk about the improvement in those two areas?
“They had to improve in order for us to be able to move on. We had to improve those areas. The thing about the red area is we’ve been in the red area. The problem is you can’t keep kicking field goals down there. Finally, we were able to convert our red area possessions into touchdowns. A lot of that had to do with the defense. (Jadeveon) Clowney’s interception down there obviously gave us the ball inside the five-yard line. That was a great play and we were able to play complimentary football and put the ball in the end zone. That’s what you have to do in this time of the year. We did that. I think that’s important. I think the zero sacks – I gave a game ball to the offensive line. Those guys played their butts off.”
After watching the Raiders film, what do you have to do this week to be successful against the Patriots?
“I think every game is different. So there are little things like alignments, communication calls, trying to make sure that we’re seeing things through the same set of eyes, but then there are many things that don’t apply. That don’t apply to what the Patriots do. So we have to do a good job tomorrow when we bring our players in of understanding what those are. What carries over from the Raider game and what doesn’t? Let’s not waste time with the things that don’t carry over and let’s make sure that we get these things corrected. That’s how you have to go about it. There’s always room for improvement. Again, that’s what the league is all about – who can improve the fastest to get to where you want to go?”
Can you talk about the challenges of preparing for Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“Look, the guy is – I think it’s 17 years now – I’ve stated many times that to me he’s the best quarterback to play the game. He’s done it with different types of teams, different teammates. He’s a great quarterback. So in preparation for him, it’s very difficult. You have to make sure that, number one, that you do your job. That your players understand what their role in the game is and how they’re supposed to perform on every single play. They’re going to make their share of plays. I think one of the big things for us is we have to play good, sound, fundamental football. They’re the type of team that if you make too many mistakes, they’re going to bury you. So we have to do a good job – not to be perfect – but we have to limit our mistakes regardless of defense, offense or special teams.”
Is there an update on QB Tom Savage?
“Yeah, he’s out of the concussion protocol. He’ll be ready to practice. He should be ready to go tomorrow.”
The Texans had six plays of 15+ yards in the second quarter. What made the offense look that way?
“I think I give the players credit. I would definitely give the offensive line credit that we were able to have some time to complete some passes down the field to DeAndre (Hopkins), to the tight ends, to (Will) Fuller (V). So I think everybody understood what we needed to do to improve and we were able to go out there and do it. It still wasn’t perfect and there’s still a lot of room for improvement. We all know that. But I thought we played overall our best game offensively and we still have a lot to improve upon which is what we’ll work on this week.”
As the team builds momentum, do your feelings about competing for a championship intensify the further you advance?
“Yeah. Look, I think this is still a fairly young organization relative to a lot of organizations in this league. Last week was only the third playoff win in this organization’s history. That’s a big deal. That’s a big deal. Now, it’s about taking another step and taking a step that’s going to be a very challenging step to take – we all understand that. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and I think when you sit back and you think about it and you talk to your team – hey, you got a great opportunity. There’s only eight teams left. There’s only eight teams left and I think that’s a great opportunity for our players. Our players do a good job of understanding – basically ignoring the noise and making sure that they know, look, we come in here and we go to work. We go up there, we focus, we play hard. We’ll see what happens.”
Can you talk about the Patriots defense this season?
“They have done a great job. Both coordinators, obviously I know well, Josh McDaniels on offense and Matt Patricia on defense. Both of those guys are great football coaches. They have both done an excellent job with both units. Defensively, they pose a lot of problems. No. 1 is they are very well-coached. To me, they don’t have any weaknesses. They are strong in the secondary, strong at the second level and strong up front. They pose problems to you in different situations - third down, red area, first and second down. The whole thing for our offense is we have to go up there and we have to make sure that we take care of the football and execute the game plan to the best of our ability. And understand that, look, once you go up there, you have to go in there and play with the mindset that you are going to do that – that you are going to execute the game plan and you’re going to do it at the highest level on every play. That’s what we are going to try and do.”
Does it start for the Patriots defense with stopping the run?
“Yeah, I think stopping the run in this league is big. I think that if you can get teams behind the eight ball as far as second-and-10 which leads to third-and-10 and if there’s a TFL, it may lead to second-and-12, third-and-12. That’s not where you want to be offensively. I think just like our defense and maybe in a different way, one of the keys to both of these defenses is their ability to stop the run.”
G Oday Aboushi saw a lot of time at left guard during the Raiders game. Was that because of an injury to G Xavier Su’a-Filo?
“No, there was no injury. We feel good about Xavier. We think Xavier has done a good job. But, we also know that Oday has practiced well. He’s played some right (guard) like you said. In the game, he played on the left. We just have a three-man rotation there. I think at this time of the year, keeping guys fresh. We don’t want to mess with the five guys up front too much, but we definitely took at Oday and (Kendall) Lamm as six and seven (lineman) and those are important roles for us, so those guys play some.”
How do you convince your players that they can beat the Patriots in Gillette Stadium when it’s been done so rarely?
“I don’t know if you go down that road. It’s a different year. Every year is different. It’s not about convincing. Our players are going to walk in here tomorrow with the mindset that they have earned the right to be here and that they are looking forward to the challenge. That we are going to go up there - first, before we go up there, we are going to have a great week of practice. We are going to focus on what we need to do to learn the game plan, to execute the game plan in practice and then go up there and play aggressively and play to win. That’s what we are going to do. We aren’t going to talk about what went on in the past 2001, 2004, ‘03, ‘09, ’10, ‘11 – doesn’t matter as it relates to Saturday night. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is how each team prepares this week in preparation for the game Saturday night.”
What did you think about the way RB Lamar Miller looked this past weekend vs. the Raiders after taking two weeks off?
“Good, I think he looked good. I think it was good to have him back in there. I thought it was the right move for his health, for our football team to do what we did. I don’t think he was totally 100 percent for the last two weeks of the season and I think he feels better now. He’s meant a lot to our team. I’ve said that to you guys throughout the year. He’s a pro. He does a really good job of bringing a great work ethic in here every single day and we have really enjoyed coaching him.”
When you see that you guys are huge underdogs, is that something that you use as motivation or do you just totally ignore it?
“Again, what does that matter? You know what I mean? What does that matter? The only thing that matters is what takes place in between the lines on Saturday night. No, I don’t really go too much to the Vegas betting line. I don’t think that would be really a good motivation tool this week.”
Fielding kickoffs was an issue in Week 3 vs. New England. What can you do to fix that problem this time around?
“We have – you’re right. Some of it is there have been some miss hits. We have to coach those better as far as how to field those. Some of it is understanding the flight of the ball. Now, we are going into a game where, obviously, we are playing outdoors, so it’s a little bit different. We are going to have to get there early to see what the weather’s like, things like that. We have confidence in Tyler Ervin. Tyler Ervin’s done a nice job for us this year. We think that he’s made a difference for us when he’s been in there. He returned one for a touchdown when we ran into the kicker, but I thought that was an excellent return by him. Not everybody was blocked on that play, and he took it back to the end zone. I think that, like I said, we have confidence in him and we will see how it goes during the week.”
You were a part of the Patriots for five years. What is it that makes them so tough in January at home?
“They’ve been there. They’ve been there, they have done it. They have a veteran quarterback, they have a great football coach, head coach; they have an excellent staff. There’s guys on that staff - you talk about (Josh) McDaniels and (Matt) Patricia, but then you’ve got Dante Scarnecchia who is an excellent line coach. You’ve got Brian Flores on defense who is an excellent football coach. Chad O’Shea, who coaches the receivers when I was there. Nick Caserio who does everything for them. He’s not just in personnel. He does a lot of different things for them. They’ve just got really bright people in the building and then great players. They’ve been able to sustain and I think that’s a testament to Coach (Bill) Belichick, Mr. (Robert) Kraft and their ability to do that. Again, all we need to do is take care of our business this week and make sure when we go up there we are ready to play and we go in there and play aggressively, play smart and we are up to the challenge.”
Does S Quintin Demps have a possibility of playing this week?
“I think that will be day-to-day. I think we will decide that closer to game time.”
ESPN just reported that the Jaguars have hired Interim Head Coach Doug Marrone as their next head coach. What does it mean to you? Obviously, you are close to him.
“That’s a great hire. That’s a smart hire. He’s one of my closest friends. Known him for 20 years, 21 years. Great family. His wife Helen, he’s got great kids. But, the thing about Doug is he’s a football coach. He’s a football guy. He knows how to coach football. He’s a tough coach. He’s demanding and his teams are well prepared. So, I think that’s a very good hire by Jacksonville.”