Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
Jerry, punters around the league aren't taking too kindly to this defenseless player idea … What is your position on protecting the punters, but also treating them as football players? (Aaron Wilson)"I understand the protection is built in for the punters, and I agree with it, because there are situations that have happened in the past where a punter wasn't involved in the play and became a target. So, I think the rules that are in place are good rules. The situation that happened, I haven't seen the TV copy – I did see the coaches' copy – the situation that happened is certainly unfortunate, and I think [Cincinnati Bengals punter] Kevin Huber will probably be the first one to say – I don't know what he said – but just knowing Kevin and the kind of man he is, I would guess that he said something to the effect that, 'I'm trying to make a tackle.' And all the punters are like that. Our punters in this league are really good athletes. They're not, as some have described, 'Just kickers.' They're not – they're really good athletes. They're extraordinary athletes, and when they punt a ball, they look at it as their responsibility, if it gets to them, to make a tackle. We have a young man [Sam Koch] like that. But the rules are in place for a reason, and I think that going forward, we'll all appreciate a situation like that, where the punters need to be protected, but at the same time, they don't need special treatment – if that makes sense. The degree to which they are protected is correct in my view."
Does it astonish you when you look at the kicking numbers around the league? You've got about 14 guys making field goals at over 90 percent. I know there have been a lot of developments in the kicking game throughout the years, but it's still hard to digest how good they're kicking nowadays. (Jeff Zrebiec)"Players are playing at a very high level. One of the other things I think that's entered into that is the fields, generally, are better than they have been in the past. There's more artificial surfaces, there's more dome stadiums. The snap and hold have developed to the point where they're so consistent around the league, and that helps kickers be that much better. And as you mentioned, the kickers are better."
Some people – John Harbaugh has even mentioned it in the past – about making it more difficult to kick and possibly even something the league could talk about. What is your reaction to that? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I'm not sure of what you're asking." *(Reporter: "Like narrowing the goalposts or doing something to make it a little harder.") *"I'm not in favor of that. I think we have a good game the way it is, and just because performance climbs, that doesn't mean we need to make it any harder. I think it's a part of the game the way it is now that's exciting, and you're getting plays such as we experienced where the field goals are longer. And there's a downside to that; teams are taking 50-yard field goals on a regular basis and that turns field position when you don't make it. So, I think there's a give and take on that, and I'm not in favor of doing anything to try to punish the kickers, so to speak. The same thing was true for a while with the 'K' balls. The 'K' balls, when I first came into the league, were virtually un-kickable. They were rocks, and you saw the numbers go down on kickoffs, and then we came to a reasonable situation now where we have good footballs, but not altered footballs, where it's a fair day for both sides. I like it that way."
Jerry, I think you guys may be the only team in the league with a kicking coach or a kicking consultant like Randy Brown is. Just what are his everyday responsibilities, and I guess the reason that you guys were interested in doing that? (Matt Zenitz)"Well, the reason we have Randy is because he's an excellent kicking coach. And he's able to be here, he lives not far away, and he makes a difficult back and forth commute for two days a week, and he helps us a lot. That's why we have him. Yes, we are fortunate to have Randy Brown. He helps our punters and he helps our kickers. And he also does other things that we analyze [with] the whole league, and he's involved in that as well. He's a great benefit to our program."
What is a typical day for him when he does come out here? (Matt Zenitz)"He works like all the other coaches. He gets here in the morning and then works through the Wednesday and Thursday, and then he meets us whenever the Saturday situation comes up. He typically works Wednesday and Thursday with our kickers."
What kind of relationship did you have with Randy Brown beforehand? Did you know about him before? (Matt Zenitz)"Sure, I knew Randy was coaching in the league prior to my arrival here, so I knew him around the league. His relationship started with John [Harbaugh] in Philadelphia. And as far as the relationship with our program, he and John knew each other in Philadelphia. He had similar responsibilities in Philadelphia."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
Jim, in terms of Aqib Talib … What do you see from him, in terms of what he does all around? (Aaron Wilson) "[He's] a very talented guy. One of the things that you'll find is that they will match him up on your best receiver, regardless of where he plays. Oftentimes, you'll find guys that just matchup on receivers when they're on the outside – corners in particular – and they leave the nickel backs on the inside. Some teams will take guys and place them inside, anticipating he may get that particular guy off of him – things of that nature. He will match him all over the field – no matter where he lines up – and he does a very good job of it."
Chandler Jones has 11.5 sacks for them. How has he come along this year, even since you guys saw him in the AFC championship game? What has he added to go along with [Rob] Ninkovich? (Matt Zenitz)"I think, like most guys in this league, that as time goes on they develop a pretty unique repertoire in their particular area of expertise. He's long, he's quick, he's strong, and he's deceptive. He's got all the moves working inside, outside, and a little change of pace moves that he uses on a lot of the tackles when it looks like he's heading full speed. He hesitates, then gets up the field, and gets an edge. He has done a tremendous job with 11.5 sacks. In this league, that's hard to get. Week in and week out, he's certainly been a factor. [Rob] Ninkovich on the other side has six and has done a very good job as well."
Have you seen Chandler [Jones] since the AFC Championship game? Does he look like a different player on film? (Matt Zenitz) "Last year, he was a very fine player. This year, I think he's even developed a bit more. They continue to get better as time goes on, in particular, guys that have the kind of talent that he has. He was talented last year and a concern for us. It's no different for us in this game, as well."
Joe [Flacco] is not exactly a read-option guy, but he does have mobility inside the pocket and can get out and sprint for a first down. With the knee being what it is, how much does that affect your game plan? (Pete Gilbert) "I don't talk about how players are hampered. John [Harbaugh] does that. You can talk to him about that. If they can take the field, they can play. Obviously, the doctors will make that determination. Joe has been practicing and we fully anticipate he'll be able to do his job."
Is there any particular reason why one week after Dennis [Pitta] was involved a lot, he only got about four targets. Was it just the coverages they were using against him? (Aaron Wilson) "Every game is different. One game you may see Torrey [Smith] get targeted 'X' number of times. It just depends on who is open, what coverages they deploy, and how we respond to them. That could change up. Some guys are going to have big games; some guys are not going to have a great game. We usually have somebody that shows up week after week."
What do you make of the Ray Rice comments about possibly retiring at the age of 30? (Adam Vorce)"I hadn't heard about it, hadn't thought about it, and so will probably refrain from commenting on it as well. You can talk to Ray [Rice] about those things."
He said that a running back may have 10 years. It's always in the back of his mind and now that he has a daughter – things like that. It's always in the back of a player's mind if you're a running back. What do you make of that? (Adam Vorce) "I can't make any more of it than he says to you. He's a philosophical young man, he has a lot of deep thoughts, and they all look at their careers and make some assessments. Overall, that's probably what he was discussing with you all. That's about as far as I could tell you about that. I haven't spoken with him nor had I heard about it. I'm not in a position, right now, to think in detail about that – nor do I want to. He's got to play." *(laughter)
Jim, what do you see from Joe [Flacco] in clutch situations and how does the quarterback become good in those situations? (Ryan Mink)"I do really think it's overlooked oftentimes, in particular, when you talk about Joe. Everybody wants to look at the statistical information and determine that as the measure of a man, in terms of his position. What they should look at is how many wins he's been involved in. I do think that it takes a guy who has ice water running in his veins, that he doesn't let things get out of hand, and he's not too emotional in very, very difficult times when everything else around him is completely out of whack and [there is] a lot of chaos. He's very calm, very focused, and he can deliver. A lot of guys get nervous and back away from those situations. He's just the opposite. He wants the ball in his hand, he believes he can do it, and most of the time he gets it done."
When you move forward from the game where you had six field goals – and I know you want to score touchdowns – do you look back at that looking forward and say 'We've got to do things different,' or 'We've got to do something better?"* (Peter Schmuck)* "We do all of the above because you have to. You have to analyze and see where you are and get a feel for what's working for you and what's not. You have to reassess; you have to constantly look at it and scrutinize every single thing that you do. There are some things that you believe in and you know you can do better, so you keep doing those things and you keep working on them. There are other things that you say, 'We may want to make an adjustment here.' That's constantly the evaluation, in terms of what we do in our business."
One, the game is a big win – but is there a sense of frustration as an offensive coordinator if you don't get a touchdown in that game? (Peter Schmuck) "It doesn't matter what game it is. Win or lose, we want to put that ball in the end zone. That's our job – to score. We moved the ball up and down the field, but we've got to get touchdowns. I think that's important. In this particular day in age, the amount of points that people are scoring … Our defense is playing great; we've just got to keep finding ways to get more points on the board. Ultimately, we've got to score one more point than the opponent. That makes our games a little bit too tight, but touchdowns are extremely important to us. We've got to get better in that area."
Jim, you faced New England a lot when you were in Indianapolis, and I know that was one of the bigger rivalries in the NFL at that time. I think I even heard then that it felt like a division game even though it wasn't a division game. Does this have a similar feel to that at all? (Matt Zenitz) "I think when you get two real fine teams together that have had a great tradition and history, at this point in time in the season, where everything is on the line when you get in to late December, every game is a really big game. When you're playing teams that have had the same kind of success that the two teams have had, it makes for a very, very outstanding contest and you know it's going to be a tough hard battle. It feels like a playoff game. Rather than when you talk about a division game for us, and at the stage we're at right now, that's what it is."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
**The Patriots have had some personnel changes since the last time you played in the AFC Championship game. What have you seen from them in terms of their transition in personnel? *(Aaron Wilson) *"Well, I think what I see from them is Tom Brady is having one heck of a year – I think maybe one of his best years that he has ever had, because with some of the guys and the weapons that he has had in the past being gone, they are still productive, still putting up points [and] still putting up yards. You better play for 60 minutes with this team; they are the comeback team. Cleveland had them down two scores, and they came back and beat them with two minutes to go. I think Tom is having one of his best years ever and just really running the offense very, very well."
**What does Shane Vereen bring to the table for them, and how do they use him? *(Matt Vensel) *"He is such a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. It is a little bit like last week in Detroit when you had [Reggie] Bush. The guy is a good runner – he is a very good runner – but they put him out in an empty formation and get a linebacker matched up on him. That is a bad deal. Coming out of the backfield, he is a good screen [player]. He is just a really good receiver, very fast, and he has been a weapon. He has been another guy, since they don't have as many tight ends as they've had in the past, kind of use the running back in the same fashion – not necessarily the same routes, but along with [No.] 80 [Danny Amendola] and [No.] 11 [Julian Edelman] and [No.] 10 [Austin Collie] and all those other guys. He is another weapon for them. I think he is really having a good year, too."
Is Kevin Faulk a good comparison for him? (Matt Zenitz) *"They use him a little bit like Kevin Faulk, [but] I don't know if I'd use him as a comparison. Kevin Faulk is one of the best clutch players I've ever been around – ever. When everything was on the line, you talk about a guy who could make a play. I don't know [Shane] Vereen well enough that I can't say that. I'm just saying that I know Kevin Faulk. But it's similar in some fashion in that he is a good screen guy, he can run down the field, he can get vertical. Kevin wasn't as much fast as he was quick, where Vereen has really got pretty good speed and probably faster than what Kevin Faulk was." *
**You have played the Patriots several times in recent years. Given your background in New England, is there anything different for you in terms of gamesmanship and just sort of tendencies that they may know about you and you know about them? *(Aaron Wilson) *"I don't know what they know about me, so I couldn't answer from that side of it. *(laughter) *From their side of it, really what has happened in the past … Somebody else asked me about our past history. Truth was, I was 13-0 against Buffalo before this year, and I was 11-0 against Cleveland. So what happened in the past is really irrelevant at this point in time."
**Does Terrell Suggs have an injury we don't know about or you just don't want to tell, because his numbers seem to have dropped off? *(Mike Preston) *"No, he has been doing some other things to kind of help us out a little bit in coverage – things that maybe we should get away from – kind of hitting guys before they come out, trying to hold up guys before he rushes and stuff. So no, there is nothing wrong with him. We've just got to get him going."
**What contributes to those struggles? You guys are 5-1, so in the back of your mind, as long as you guys are winning … He said yesterday that stats, as long as you guys make the postseason … *(Adam Vorce) *"I don't understand the question."
**What contributes to Terrell Suggs' struggles? *(Adam Vorce) *"I just said the fact that sometimes what he is doing is he is trying to help some other guys and not necessarily … Everything isn't a pass rush with him, and it hasn't been in the last couple of weeks. We've got to ramp it up a little bit. We're down a little bit. Also, some of the credit [goes] to the quarterbacks for getting the ball out quicker. If I'm seeing a team on offense throw the ball deep down after down after down after down, week after week, I'd say we probably ought to get back and play the deep ball. Well, if we have 37 sacks in 12 games, then I think you ought to do something to probably keep us from pass rushing. Give the offenses some credit in the last couple weeks; they have done some things to hurt our pass rush. But we still had a lot of hits on the quarterback; we just haven't always gotten [to him]. Just like [Matthew] Stafford and a couple weeks ago even with [Matt] Cassel – we had a lot of hits on the quarterback where he hit the ground. They just weren't sacks, whereas earlier in the year, they were. The ball is getting out a little quicker. At that same thing, we've got to do some things scheme-wise to free up our good guys and get them pass rushing."
**Are you rotating more of your defensive linemen into the game compared to previous weeks? *(Mike Preston) *"I don't think it's really more. We have really kind of rotated them all year. It may be a little more equal in the past couple weeks as we get down the stretch here. I think 'C.B.' [defensive line coach Clarence Brooks] has done a pretty good job of rotating them throughout the year quite a bit. It might be a little more even in the last few weeks numbers-wise. Each week has been different. Two weeks ago, we saw a Hall of Fame running back [Adrian Peterson], then we saw a Hall of Fame wide receiver [Calvin Johnson], and now a Hall of Fame quarterback [Tom Brady]. So, it has kind of been different types of things that we've put front-wise. Like a couple weeks ago, we were in very little 'sub' [packages] against Minnesota, so we needed more D-linemen. This week, we rotated them more for the pass-rush part of it. So, you might be right. I don't know if the numbers are that drastic of a difference, though."
**What have been the keys to your secondary playing better and more consistently as the season has gone along? *(Childs Walker) *"Experience, confidence – all those kinds of things. We haven't changed a whole lot, either. I think the more you get used to doing the same thing week after week after week, the better you become, the more confident you become. I've said it before, I just think that when you make a play in a coverage or whatever it might be, you just become more confident, and that covers you. If you don't, then [that] is always in the back of your mind, [and] that is what you are thinking about. I just think we've played with a little more confidence lately."
**Do you think they had to actively rally themselves after the opener? *(Childs Walker) *"No. You guys are so far off on the opening game, you have no idea. You have no idea. I told you before, out of 67 plays, 60 of them we played Denver better than we've ever played them. We played seven plays horrendous, but 60 plays were good. When you watch the film, if I had taken those seven plays out, you would say, 'Boy, that defense played really well.' You can't miss tackles, [and] you can't give up easy scores on an easy coverage. We learned from those things. But we didn't play horrendous in that first game as much as everybody thinks. Just like sometimes you go out, and we play the Jets, 19-3, or whatever it was. We found a lot of mistakes in that game. It's never as bad as you think, and it's never as good as you think. So, that first game to me was, yes, we gave up seven touchdowns, and we gave up a bunch of points, but it's not indicative of what our defense was – nothing."
**On their first drive, the Lions moved down the field pretty easily. After that … That's happened a lot of times. Can you talk about the process of in-game adjustments, or is it better execution of the game plan? *(Pete Gilbert) *"This game was a little different, though. We had a little bit of a communication problem from the helmet, not communication between players. We had a couple of busts on a couple calls in that very first drive that I just couldn't understand. They were just really uncharacteristic. They were by veteran players, and we have never done it. And then, come to find out, we had a little bit of a helmet communication [issue] coming from the sideline there in the dome. So, once we had that straightened out, we played a little better when they actually got the call that we were trying to play."
Tom Brady is on the injury report for New England. Does that change your preparation? (Adam Vorce) *"That has been about … How many years has he been in the league? He has been on the injury report every week for 12 years. *(laughter) *That is nothing new there now. I was there six years, [and] I don't think I ever saw him … I never knew he had a bad shoulder." *(laughter) **
**Against a quarterback like Tom Brady, do you feel like you have to show more looks, or if you show him something too much, that he will figure it out? *(Clifton Brown) *"There is no doubt that if you show him something too much, he'll get it. The key thing is, though, yes, you can give him all the different looks you want, but you better make sure you can play the looks you're giving him. You can be as clever as you want to be. First of all, he has seen it all, so there is probably nothing new coverage-wise that you are going to throw at him that he hasn't seen. What you've got to be really careful of is thinking that you're so clever that you are going to outsmart him, and then you can't play the coverage you're showing him. So, bottom line is, yes, you are always trying to disguise and do stuff, but when it's all said and done, whether he knows it or whether he doesn't know it, we better make sure we can play it."
How important is it to get pressure on him without blitzing? (Clifton Brown)"Absolutely. You've got to be able to get pressure on him without blitzing. You can't rely on that all the time; he will pick you apart. Just like [Peyton] Manning and all the good ones – there are just not that many coverages or many blitzes that you can come up with that they haven't seen, and he doesn't recognize. The better the quarterback, which, to me, he is the best at recognizing all that kind of stuff … He is really good, and the ball comes out extremely quick, so we've got to get pressure on him with the four-man rush."
**What do you think about the two receivers in particular – Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola? Obviously, you guys have faced some big receivers in the last few weeks, and those guys are not so big. *(Matt Zenitz) *"It is a total opposite from what we just went through in Detroit. I think you've got to be 6-5 to even play for them, and here, you've got all these quick guys and littler [guys]. Here is the other thing that they do so well is everybody can say, 'Well, you can get up and jam them [because] they're little guys,' but they do such a great job of keeping them off the ball and then stacking the receivers and getting in formations that you can't get your hands on them. They bunch everybody in there, so everybody can't get up there jamming, because if you do, then when you get beat, the thing is over the top of you. They are smart. The playbook in New England is huge, and that is why every week, everybody says they do something different. Not really. It's in their playbook. They aren't dreaming stuff up that week. It's just that they are going to this section of the playbook, running the same stuff, but from a different look or different formation. It's just a totally different challenge than it was a week ago against big receivers. Now, it's quick guys who can really pivot and get out of breaks and all that kind of stuff – just like [Wes] Welker was, like [Deion] Branch was. That is kind of the guys they have had for a long time."
**Lardarius Webb is somebody you will be dependent on to help slow them down. Has he come along as much during the course of the last few weeks as it seems like just watching from the outside? *(Matt Zenitz) *"I think he is playing better. I think they are all playing better back there. I think the safeties are feeling more comfortable with calls. I think Jimmy [Smith] is playing well, Lardarius [Webb], I think the world of Corey Graham. So, I think all those guys have kind of stepped it up a little bit, and they are going to need to this week. This is a big challenge, and it's such a drastic change from the last two weeks of big receivers and kind of the last couple weeks. It's kind of going back to Pittsburgh a little bit, similar to their style of guys – not the same type of offense, but similar style. So, we've got to get out of that mode of the last two weeks. It's a big challenge. It's New England. They are who they are, and they are 10-4, or whatever they are, for a reason."