HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
BB: Tennessee is one of the most talented teams that we’ve seen in awhile. I know what their record is. But as far as what we have to prepare for, the team that we’re seeing, their coaching staff, their scheme and the players — they’re very good. [There’s] no real doubt about how they won 13 games last season. They’re really good across the board. They’re a tough team. They’re very physical. They can run the ball. They can stop the run. They are averaging over five yards per carry and giving up less than three, so they do a great job on the line of scrimmage — on both sides of the ball. They’re an explosive team. [They get] a lot of big plays from Chris Johnson, and in the passing game with Kerry Collins, and his group of receivers and tight ends. All of that’s behind a very good offensive line. Defensively, they’re — as I said, in the running game — outstanding, very disruptive. [They] have some very experienced guys in the secondary, big-play guys: [Cortland] Finnegan, [Michael] Griffin, [Chris] Hope and players like that. [They have a] good kicker, good coverage teams. [They are] a lot to get ready for, a very talented team, a team that I have a lot of respect for — Jeff [Fisher], and the job that they do down there. I’m sure it will be a physical game like it always is against them. They are certainly tough on the line of scrimmage.
Q: How odd is it to see the Titans with a 0-5 record like this?
BB: Well, they’ve lost a couple close games. They had a couple fumbles against the Jets when they had the lead there. [They] lost a close game to Houston, lost a close game to Pittsburgh, played Indianapolis — until the last minute of the first half it was 14-9 — they missed a couple chances down there in the red area. We know that’s the way it is in this league, a few plays, a possession, a lot of close games. But that doesn’t take away from the quality of their team, and what we have to prepare for, and what they are capable of doing. I am sure that they are working hard to find an answer to win that first game and I’m sure they will be ready to go. That’s what we have to prepare for.
Q: What are your thoughts about Jerod Mayo and the way he played on Sunday and what it will mean to have him on the field against a running back like Chris Johnson?
BB: Well, they have a very good running game with Johnson and [LenDale] White. They do a real good job. It’s always great to have all of our players back. It’s great to have Jerod back. He practiced a little bit last week, toward the end of the week, he felt good and played in the game, so hopefully we’ll be able to build on that this week. We’d like to have all of our guys out there — certainly Jerod, our defensive captain. He’s done a good job for us and hopefully he’ll be able to go this week, too.
Q: Any update on Matt Light?
BB: No, not at this time.
Q: How has Chris Johnson been effective? Is it his speed, the scheme or the way they run the ball?
BB: Both. They have an excellent offensive line, that left side of their line there is very good. But he is very fast. There can’t be many teams in the league that can catch him. He’s got great vision and speed. And he outruns a lot of people, you don’t see that very often, players that consistently outrun everybody, but he can do that. He’s a threat to go anywhere when he gets the ball. He’ll take it outside, take it up the middle, bounce it, cut it back. And he’s got good balance. He breaks a lot of tackles. He’s a hard player to get a solid hit on. He’s elusive. He has good balance and he can outrun just about everybody. There’re a lot of reasons why he’s gained a lot of yards. That’s what makes him so hard to stop. He has a complete set of skills and he pretty much matches up well against everybody, every team and each individual that’s trying to tackle him. He has the quickness, the speed, the balance, or the combination of them, to make it tough on everybody.
Q: Now that Junior Seau’s signing with you guys has officially been announced, I’m wondering if you could talk about how he’s going to fit in?
BB: We haven’t announced anything.
Q: His TV show announced that he signed a contract.
BB: We don’t have anything to say about it.
Q: What were your thoughts about Sebastian Vollmer and the way he stepped up in Matt Light’s absence?
BB: Well, Vollmer has played a lot for us through the preseason, and even has played in the games here in the regular season. He’s gotten work at both tackles. [He’s] an athletic kid [with] a real big frame, tall, long arms, strong. And he’s done a good job for us on both the left side and the right side. Of course, Nick [Kaczur] has also played left tackle for us in the past. If Vollmer has to play, he’s shown that he can play both sides, as has Nick. If that’s the way it goes, then we will try to figure out what the best combination is there .But for a rookie he has shown a lot of positive things and has gone up against our guys in practice and in the preseason games. As far as being tough, being smart and playing with pretty good technique, he’s still got a lot to learn and has a long way to go. But — for his background and all — he is a pretty accomplished player at his position for a rookie. Again, still has a long way to go, but considering everything, he is probably a lot further along than maybe what we thought he would be when he first got here. He’s worked hard and he’s continued to improve. He’s definitely headed in the right direction.
Q: Is there anything that jumps out at you about the way Kerry Collins has played and how you might attack him?
BB: Well, I think Kerry is very good. He’s got a very good arm, can make all the throws. [He] is very accurate; mechanically, he is outstanding. [He] reminds me a lot of [Vinny] Testaverde — a big guy in the pocket, very accurate, put the ball right on the nose 20, 30, 40 yards downfield. [He] has a good touch. He’s a guy you have to defend everything with. He’s good on the short balls, deep balls, outside throws, inside throws. His accuracy’s good. He’s not a guy that’s looking to run around a lot, but he has scrambled and has made some third-down and red area scrambles to convert. So he’s certainly a good enough athlete to do it if he wants to. I think he gives them a lot of versatility and gives them a lot of balance with Johnson and White in the running game, and their ability to throw the ball short and intermediate with their backs and tight ends. The big plays they get out of their receivers and the size those guys have with [Kenny] Britt, [Nate] Washington and [Justin] Gage, those are all guys that are huge targets that can run after the catch and get down the field. They make you defend every inch of the field from sideline to sideline, from the line of scrimmage to the back of the end zone. That’s a good thing offensively to threaten every single spot on the field. Defensively, it gives you a lot of space you have to worry about.
Q: What was your assessment of both return games, punt return and kickoff return with Julian Edelman back there on Sunday?
BB: More productive than it’s been. I think we blocked better. I think Julian [Edelman] ran hard. We’ve got to keep working on it. We still didn’t really get any big, explosive plays, but I thought we were — blocking wise — a little closer and Denver’s a very good coverage team. They are one of the best that we’ll face, although Tennessee is right there with them. They’re outstanding in that phase of the game, too. With every returner, if you can get them started and give them a little space, then they have a chance to gain some yards. And when they don’t, when there’s somebody right on top of them — or on kickoff coverage, if somebody gets down there inside the 15-yard line, and is in the middle of the return and messes it up — then there’s nowhere to go and it’s an aborted return. Blocking is better, we need to keep improving. I think Julian, as a young guy, keeps getting better with each day and opportunity he has to see everything in front of him and make some of those decisions, especially in the punting game.
Q: Is there a discernable difference when a team is winless and are they playing with their backs against the wall?
BB: Again, I think when we prepare each week, we always prepare for the team’s best performance. That’s what we expect and that’s what we try to work toward as well. I don’t know how the game’s going to go on Sunday anymore than anybody else does. But I know that Tennessee is a very veteran team, they are well-coached, they have a lot of pride. And I see them playing good football — probably not as consistent as they would like to be — but there are certainly a lot of plays and they do a lot of things very well, a lot better than a lot of other teams I’ve seen to be honest with you. They’re outstanding really and — at times — they’re as good as anybody in the league. At other times, they have some breakdowns, but you can never count on those kinds of things happening. You have to do a good job of executing what you’re doing, then if an opportunity comes up, hopefully you can take advantage of it. That’s no different than any other game. I still see the Titans as a real good football team. I have a lot of respect for them and what they do. As I said, I think the biggest things that stands out against them is their toughness, the fact that they run the ball, play the run, cover kicks as well as they do; that speaks to the toughness of their football team right there. I don’t see any signs at all that being anything amongst the best in the league.
DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL NICK CASERIO
Q: I’m curious what your thoughts were on Chris Johnson coming out of the draft. I think some people were surprised when he went in the first round, but I’m curious how you evaluated him and what you saw coming out.
NC: He was an explosive player coming out of college. You could see the speed. I know he ran well at the combine and he plays fast on tape. He was good with ball in his hands. He had good quickness. He was good in the passing game as well. I think the question was, ‘as a two-hundred pounder, how well would he be able to hold up?‘ In the first two years, he’s proved that he has been able to handle the load. They split the carries to a degree between he and LenDale White, but he was an explosive player. I think he had, if I remember correctly, there was some injury – not necessarily concerns but something that popped up. But, he was good with the ball in his hands and a lot of the things you’re seeing now really showed up on tape at East Carolina.
Q: How different is the next week with the trade deadline? Is there more discussion for you over the next week or is it a date that sort of passes by because you don’t see a lot of deals?
NC: I think it depends. I think each club looks at its own individual situation and makes a determination whether or not there’s something available. The reality is, unless you talk to clubs and see who’s available, it’s hard to transact a lot of business. So, I would say the discussions this time of year maybe aren’t as high as maybe during the preseason as you get closer to the cut line. I think if there’s any opportunity your team has to improve the roster, then you’ll go ahead and investigate that. But the reality is you sort of have to have a partner on the other side in order for a transaction to take place. So, I would say the discussions are fairly normal this time of the year. Obviously, it’s a date everyone’s aware of and each team I’m sure has their own approach and philosophy with how they deal with it.
Q: Will you discuss the signing of Junior Seau that Versus has now announced and how you ended up with him and where you think he will contribute?
NC: We haven’t announced anything as of yet. Really the only thing we’ve done with Junior is we gave him a physical and we worked him out last week. So from our end, that’s really all we have to announce.
Q: Speaking specifically only of that physical and what you have seen, did he [Junior Seau] look like himself and what did you see?
NC: Well I think Junior keeps himself in good shape. There’re a lot of players in his situation whether it’s Junior, whether it’s Antwan Lake – who we had worked out earlier in the year – or some other veterans who have been out of the league. The reality is, we’re just trying to see where the player’s level of physical conditioning may be and whether he’s in good enough shape to make it through a practice or whatever it might be. So, he looked like he’s kept himself in shape and that’s where we were. We wanted to make sure more than anything from a physical standpoint, with the medical information that he was healthy.
Q: Can you clarify when he took the physical and when he worked out?
NC: I think it was last week, or a week ago. I don’t remember the date of the top of my head, but it was a week or two ago, I believe.
Q: One of the things that Brady talked about yesterday was the offense not being in sync and him still battling to be on the same page with – whether it’s [Wes] Welker on the third down or whatever it is. Was there something in your guys‘ mind where you said, ‘we’d like Brady to be this far along after five games‘ or do you guys think that it might take some time for him to get back into it?
NC: I think when you look at any player, you’re looking to see if there’s improvement on a day-to-day basis. Whether that’s – and there’s a number of opportunities for players to improve – in passing camps and training camp and once you get into the regular season. So, I think in the end, you want the players to play to the best of their ability. It’s hard to put a timetable on anything and say, ‘By this date, you expect this.‘ The hope is that you go out each week and prepare and prepare well enough so that when you go into the game everybody can execute as a group. There were some things offensively that were good and there were some other things that we certainly can improve upon. But the reality is, I think there were a fair amount of good plays and we also had some bad plays and they came at some inopportune times. So in the end, you’re just looking collectively at the group for execution and for that execution to continue to improve from a week-to-week and a game-to-game basis.
Q: Was there anything if you could do it over again that you would redo in the game plan in the second half? Or is that more execution than game plan?
NC: I’d say it was more execution. There were plays to be had. It’s a matter of one player doing his assignment. The reality is that if all eleven are not functioning as a group, if there’s one breakdown, it can have an impact on the larger whole. I think there were plays to be made. We had opportunities and we didn’t make them. Really, the hope is that we can improve the execution so that when that situation does arise again this week, next week, or whenever it might be, that if we’re in a similar situation, that we can go out and make sure the play is executed properly in the way that we want it to be done.
PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR DEAN PEES
Q: What are your thoughts on the defensive performance against the Broncos?
DP: We have to get better than what we played against the Broncos. We have to play better, have to coach better, do a lot of things better. We had some opportunities to make some plays which could have really made a big difference in that game and we fell short. So we have to work to improve in that area. We have to get off the field a little better on third down. We’ve been doing OK in that, though we didn’t do well enough. We had some opportunities on some tipped balls [that] we have to come up with in those situations and we certainly can’t let people drive the length of the field on us. Both of them [touchdown drives] were aided by some penalties which is something we were doing better early in the year. We have to get back to that.
Q: What was the perception of the way Jerod Mayo played in his first game back since the opener?
DP: Overall, I was pleased from the standpoint that we had him back out there and he got to play. Anytime you come back after you’ve been off for a few weeks…he did some good things and some things that he’ll improve on going forward. It’s just the more you play, the better you feel, the more you get back into the groove of the whole defense and the package and everything that we’re doing. But it was great to see him back out there, that’s for sure.
Q: When Jerod Mayo comes up with the forced fumble there, it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat…
DP: Well, I don’t know if you can say he hasn’t missed a beat. It was certainly a nice play and a big hit and he did a nice job. So like anything else, we all missed a beat at some point in that game at some point in time, me included. I know Jerod. He works very, very hard at his profession. He’s going to do whatever he has to do to get himself ready like all of our players do. He’ll improve each week, I believe.
Q: Do you think he’ll take over the play-calling duties this week?
DP: We’ll just wait and see. Usually during the week, to be honest with you, there’re three or four guys we always work on doing the huddle calling. It really doesn’t matter which guy’s up there. In fact, there’re sometimes we don’t even have a huddle. So, there’re always three or four guys each week that I kind of pick out and work on it all week and then we kind of decide at the end who’s going to be the guy actually out in front of the huddle. But that’s kind of to be determined.
Q: It seemed the Broncos gained much of their yardage on six-to-eight-yard hitches. How can you break a team out of that rhythm and out of that short passing game like the Broncos were doing?
DP: Well, [we] needed to change up the coverage on them and even maybe the front sometimes. You just have to keep changing things up. You can’t just sit in the same thing. And I’m not saying that we did, it’s just that we came short on a couple of those plays that we just have to make. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in man coverage or in zone coverage – every coverage can be a good coverage, every coverage can be a bad coverage. There are certain strengths and weaknesses to every coverage. You hope you don’t stay in anything long enough that anybody figures that out. But at the same time, we just have to do a better job of playing the plays and I have to do a better job of changing it up even more than what I did to keep them more off balance. There were a couple times where we had a good pressure. I remember [Jonathan] Wilhite almost got to the quarterback, but [Kyle] Orton kind of got out of there to our left and threw a comeback, which we’re going to be a little light on in that particular thing. We didn’t do a very good job of containing on one side. It was always kind of one thing or the other. It wasn’t really any particular person; It was all of us. So we talked about that as a defense. We all have to do a better job of doing our job.
Q: Tom Brady said he was out there watching the game and he knew what was coming. If that was the case, did you guys have any similar recognition defensively or did they change up things to disguise what they were doing?
DP: They did a nice job with that ‘Wildcat‘ or whatever and doing it differently than what other people had. Basically [in] that part of it – the running part of it – they really only gained 24 yards on five plays. Twelve of it was in the first play when we missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t so much as when they shifted back to the regular formation and put the quarterback back under. And that was a good little touch by Josh [McDaniels] to try to get us to check and then stay in the check. But again, I don’t think that in the big scheme of things that was a deciding factor. We certainly can play it better, but I don’t think it was a deciding factor. The rest of the stuff is they do what they do and we did what we did. I don’t think we were really shocked or surprised by the things they did. We just didn’t play them well enough. We just need to play them better.
Q: How do you approach this week in terms of preparing for possibly seeing two quarterbacks, Kerry Collins and Vince Young?
DP: Each week, you not only prepare for the guy who is starting, you always look at the backup as a quarterback or even the third guy sometimes. ‘OK, what would they do if it came to this guy playing? Would they change their offense a lot? Would they not change their offense a lot? Is the backup guy the same as the starting guy – same person, maybe just not as good? Or is he dramatically different?‘ And if he is, you prepare each week for that, just like last week in Denver. If [Kyle] Orton wasn’t the guy and [Chris] Simms is the backup guy, they’re similar, but Simms is a left-handed quarterback. Now I have to change the formations and the play-calling by Josh [McDaniels] to more of the left side. It’s always things like that. Every week you prepare for the ‘what-ifs‘. You know if the quarterback gets knocked out of the game and they have a backup in, how much drastically different will that change the offense. So I think you prepare every week for that.
Q: What would it mean if you could get Junior Seau and add him to your defense?
DP: I wouldn’t really want to comment on anybody that I don’t know yet is on the team. I don’t know what that situation is. That is something you’d have to ask Bill [Belichick]. I don’t want to comment on somebody that is not a part of our team.
Q: Can you comment on his contributions last year and what he meant to the team then?
DP: Just like Tedy Bruschi, just like Mike Vrabel, just like all those guys that have ever played, he was an integral part of our team. And I would say like Bruschi and Mike and Rosie [Rosevelt Colvin], I think the world of all those guys and I loved having them on the team. But as far as right now, it’s hard for me to say something about someone that is not on the team.