Dean Pees Q&A, 11/16

Posted on November 16, 2007 
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:

Q: Let’s start out with third down defense. The Patriots rank first in the league. What do you attribute that performance on third down to?
DP: I think we spend a lot of time on it. I think the guys are obviously performing and doing the things that they need to do to get themselves off the field. I think there’s no secret scheme or anything like that. I think the guys are just doing what they’re coached to do and doing it well. Like I said, Bill [Belichick] makes it an emphasis during the week and we spend a lot of time on it.

Q: How much time do you spend on it in the course of a regular week?
DP: Usually one of our practices is devoted to a lot of third down. It’s not only 3rd-and-long. It’s 3rd-and-short, a lot of situations. I think one of the things that Coach Belichick does best as a head coach is dealing with a lot of special situations, whether it be two-minute, four-minute at the end of a game – just a lot of different situations. I think he does a great job of giving us time and allotting time to work on those things.

Q: Given the opponent, the setting and what happened the last time you were there, was last week your most satisfying defensive performance?
DP: I don’t know if it was the most satisfying defensive effort. It’s always satisfying when you win, no matter what the effort is. We’ve not played well at times on defense and still won the game and I still feel pretty good after the game. I would never feel good having played well on defense and not won the game, so to say it’s the most satisfying, I couldn’t label it that. It was satisfying, obviously, to win and to be able to do some things at the end of the game and play a little better at the end, because I don’t think we played very well in the first half.

Q: I know you can’t make up for what happened last year in Indianapolis, but did it feel good to walk off that field having only allowed two scores?
DP: Yeah, like I said, I think a lot has been said about the year before and I know that you aren’t going to totally believe it, but we really do put that aside. It really is a totally different year. It’s a different time, it’s a different team, in some ways. It was just satisfying to get a win, especially anytime on the road, and against a really quality football team.

Q: What did it feel like defensively to not have 38 points on the board going into the fourth quarter? That makes it a different game.
DP: We’ve talked about that, though, really since day one, since the very first game when they put up 38 points, that there’s always going to be a point in time during the season when an offense usually has the bail the defense out, maybe you’re not having a good game defensively and you have to score more points than they do. There’s always going to come a point on defense where maybe the offense is facing a real good defense or just not having as good of a day and you have to play well on defense. I don’t think, again, anything was ever thought about that. It was just a matter of we had to do what we had to do at the time. It wouldn’t have been any different had the score been 42-38 in our favor and we had to stop them. The satisfaction would have been the same thing.

Q: What is your assessment of Brandon Meriweather up to this point, defensively?
DP: Brandon is still learning. I think the thing about Brandon is, any time you get a rookie, I don’t know a lot about the University of Miami’s scheme, I just know our scheme, and I know that it’s not easy sometimes even for a veteran defensive back coming from another professional team to our team to always just grasp everything that we do on defense, so I think it’s even harder sometimes for a college guy to do that. I think he’s progressing, he’s working hard – that’s all we can ask of him – and he’s working hard every day and trying to get better every day. So, at this point in time, I’d say he’s getting better all the time and we’ll keep playing him more as we see fit to do that.

Q: Has it been a luxury of sorts that you’ve been able to go gradually with him because you have some depth there and some more experienced players?
DP: I think that’s always the case. Again, whether it’s a veteran player or whether it’s a rookie, any time that you can kind of wean them into a position and let them learn a little bit really by watching a lot and then getting a little bit each day, kind of piecemeal, I think that’s always going to be better for any player. I think always when you throw somebody into a situation – and we’ve had a couple of those in the past, where even if they were veterans and it’s all new, it’s tough. So, yeah, it’s been nice. I think for Brandon it’s been good for us and, like I said, he’s been working hard.

Q: Along with that, how much do you have to gauge his temperature, for lack of a better word? He’s coming from a situation where he was playing all of the time and was probably one of the better players on that team. Do you have to kind of gauge how he’s handling the process?
DP: I think you can see that in day-to-day practices, how he interacts with the other players and how he responds. I think our guys do a good job – the veterans do a good job with the younger players, kind of bringing them along, too, in the locker room. Brandon hasn’t had – I don’t think it’s been a problem with him at all. Bill mentions it to them the first day they walk in the door. Everybody was a star. It’s the same thing when you were a star in high school and you go to college. All of a sudden you’re not the star for a while. And then the same thing at the next level. You’re a star in college. You’re starting all over when you come up here and I think the guys realize that and understand it, and I think the players, the veteran players kind of tell those guys sometimes in the locker room that they went through it to. I think our guys handle it pretty well.

Q: You obviously spent some of the bye week self-scouting. Could you talk about the pass defense and specifically how Ellis Hobbs did in the first nine games?
DP: I think without really pointing out anybody specifically, I did spend a lot of time in the off-week, as you always do, self-evaluating. You kind of keep it going, really, throughout the year, but the off-week gives you a little more time to really sit down and study everything. The thing that I think has been good for us is the fact that compared to maybe a year ago – and again, I’m only comparing it as I’ve been a coordinator. I don’t really try to compare it to any other times before or anything like that – we’ve really done a better job of giving up less big plays in the passing game, and that’s been a plus. Not crediting or discrediting Ellis or [Asante Samuel] or anybody else, the fact that we have given up basically passes over 30 yards – I think if I’m not mistaken going into the last game at Indianapolis we had only given up one pass over 30 yards, and that was late in the Washington game. We kind of got a little sloppy. And then we gave up that big one there at Indianapolis. Prior to that we had not given up, like I said, only that one in the Washington game over 30 yards, whereas a year ago I think we had given up somewhere between 12 and 14 of them. That’s a reflection on all of those guys back there doing a better job of not giving up big plays, and that really is the key to pass-defense. You can always take a play here, take a play there, say we could have played this better [or] played that better, but there’s times on defense that everybody thinks you play pass-defense real well and maybe it was the rush that was real good. You maybe didn’t play that well on the back end. We watch films all the time where guys are running wide open. The quarterback just can’t get them the ball because of the pass-rush. Everybody says, boy, they played good pass-defense. Well, they did because of the rush. And there’s other guys you cover them for about six seconds and you can’t get a rush on them, so it all kind of ties together and the biggest thing for us is just not giving up big plays. I think that’s been an improvement and hopefully we can build on that and continue to do that.

Q: Are you happy with the way the defense has adjusted? Buffalo had the first drive where they punched it in and then after that for the next 7-8 possessions they did nothing.
DP: Two things, really: One is we just didn’t play very well on that drive. Sometimes it isn’t always so many adjustments and that we changed a bunch of things, it’s just that we played the things better that we were ready to play. That was part of it, and then they do a good job. Buffalo has always done a good job of scheme running and doing some plays that we haven’t seen, so I thought we did a good job on the sideline of adjusting to those and kind of getting those played better the second time around, but I really think overall the answer to that question is we just played what we played better than we did in that particular series.

Q: In the game verses the Colts, a lot of people were surprised that Adalius Thomas wasn’t on the field a lot. It seemed like Rodney Harrison was matched up with Dallas Clark. Was that a tough call to make?
DP: We don’t really look at each week-to-week as a tough call. It’s just a matter of, OK, what’s the best scheme that we feel like we can play against the things that they do best and who can do those the best? And there’s a lot of factors that go into that. I couldn’t tell you all of them, other than the fact that that’s just what we felt like was our best game plan against Indy.

Q: That’s kind of out of the box thinking, to say that your game plan would be to take one of presumably your best defensively players off of the field.
DP: I think I’ve mentioned this once before, though, that if you look back at the 2004 season, let me give you just an analogy, the AFC Championship game where Roman Phifer barely played and Ted Johnson played 60 snaps and the next time we played was two weeks later in the Super Bowl and Ted Johnson played six snaps and Roman Phifer played 60. Ted Johnson was one of our best run players and Philadelphia could run the ball, but we took him off the field because the scheme didn’t dictate that that’s what he did best. I think it’s just a matter of trying to put your personnel in the best position with the best scheme against what they do best.

Q: Schematically, you put a wrinkle in there with the 4-2-5 look with a linebacker down. When you’re drawing something like that up – you’ve been a good defense – is there ever a fear of are we changing too much for this opponent?
DP: Yeah, I think there’s always that. You try to balance it and try to say can’t we play this? And I thought early on in that game, sometimes it’s hard to simulate it in practice like it’s really going to be in the game, especially the game speed, so I thought it took us a little while to get adjusted to it. Once we did, I thought we played it much better. There’s always that, but the one good thing about it is when you do a lot of things, you also have some things to fall back on that you worked on all year. So if something doesn’t work, hopefully you have something else that you can go to that you’ve practiced a lot of and that you can be successful [with].

Q: You talked about Ted Johnson seeing six snaps one week and 60 the next. I’m sure as a coaching staff that’s not a problem, but do you ever have trouble getting the players to buy into that, especially the new guys?
DP: Well, first of all, you’d have to ask them. I think they’d be the best ones to answer if it’s a problem for them, but from our standpoint I can tell you as a coach since I’ve been here and with this organization I sure haven’t seen it. I think that’s one of the things that the guys buy into here, that this is a team effort and what do we need to do…Just like as coaches. What do we need to do to win the game? That’s the bottom line. Your ego has got to be put aside and you have to be able to do what’s asked of you. But to really tell you what they think, you’d have to ask them. I couldn’t answer that.

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