Lazar: What the Patriots Assistant Coaches Are Saying Ahead of Super Bowl 53

Josh McDaniels, Brian Flores, Dante Scarnnecia and the rest of the Patriots' coaching staff spoke to the media during Super Bowl week.



ATLANTA — One of the unique advantages of Super Bowl week is that every player and every coach speaks during the daily sessions with the media.

In particular, we get multiple opportunities to talk to the Patriots’ assistant coaches who only speak once a month during the regular season.


  ATLANTA -- One of the unique advantages of Super Bowl week is that every player and every coach speaks during the daily sessions with the media. In particular, we get multiple opportunities to talk to the Patriots’ assistant coaches who only speak once a month during the regular season.


Here are the best tidbit from my conversations with nearly every coach on Bill Belichick’s staff:


ON TOM BRADY’S QUICK RELEASE: “Tommy has a great amount of experience in these types of situations, understands how you want to play the game, reads defenses very well and understands where the open guys are. Again, our offense has never been about one guy, trying to throw it to one person, it’s been about reading the coverage and going to the right spot with it. I’m not sure there’s anyone I’d rather have in the history of the game than Tom Brady.”


ON ADDED CREATIVITY AND SCHEMING IN THE FRONT SEVEN: “I think over the course you build and try to improve every day. Try to find things that work best for your team. I think every team is trying to do that. We certainly did that, but again, it’s a testament to the players and their ability to learn, do multiple things, adjust and play well. I certainly won’t take credit for what they’ve done on the field. They’ve done a great job. We have a big test coming up Sunday. Whatever we can do to win this game is most important.”

ON THE PATRIOTS’ MAN COVERAGE TENDENCIES: “We try to do whatever it takes or whatever the best thing is to thwart our opponent. If it’s man coverage, if it’s zone coverage, if it’s blitzing, I think in this league if you do one thing the offenses are too good, certainly this offense we are playing on Sunday. Specifically, this offense is capable of taking advantage of whatever the defense does. You can’t be one dimensional in this league. You have to be multiple.”

ON THE RAMS OFFENSE: “He [Sean McVay] does a really great job. Schematically, there’s diverse yet challenging as anyone we’ve faced. More than anything they have great skill players, that helps. They’ve done a great job over there. It’s going to be an incredible test for us. We have to play. We have to play with our best communication, disciplined game. We have to do a great job of tackling. We have to have great fundamentals. We’ll see how it shakes out; it’s going to be a tough game.”

ON THE RAMS’ TIGHT OFFENSIVE FORMATIONS: “It’s tough. They do so much out of those tight formations whether its missile motion or running out of it, passing out of it, or play-action out of it. They’re very multiple. The biggest thing is they have really good players, and their scheme fits their players.”

ON KYLE VAN NOY: “Kyle’s been tremendous. He works hard. He wants to get better and tries to improve every day. He’s very versatile. He’s very smart. You can do a lot with him. He wants more on his plate every day. Those are the kinds of guys you want. He’s done a really good job for us. He’s got some leadership qualities to him, and that goes a long way towards building throughout the season. We have that with a lot of our players from Kyle to Hightower to Roberts to Malcom Brown to Lawrence Guy to Adam Butler to Trey Flowers; we have a group of guys that really work well together, and it takes 11. One guy is out of position, and there goes [Todd] Gurley. Those 11 guys have to trust each other, communicate, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

ON KYLE VAN NOY’S SKILL AS A PASS RUSHER: “He’s got length, he’s got quickness, and he’s versatile. He knows his strengths and weaknesses, and he tries to play to his strengths which are quickness, some length, a quick first step. He has some good qualities.”


ON THE PATRIOTS’ COACHING STAFF: “I love Josh. I love every coach on this staff. I don’t mean that flippantly; it’s a great group of guys to be around. No egos, and whether they’re on offense or defense. Just an easy bunch of guys to work with, and Josh in particular because we are so close. I like working with Josh. He knows what he wants.”

ON THE PATRIOTS’ USAGE OF JAMES DEVELIN: “We never thought we would do that. There are so few teams that are doing that. We have gravitated towards that more than any time in the past. We are what’s called a ‘regular’ team; fullback, halfback, two wide receivers and then we morph into other things from there. It truly is our base.”

ON IF THE PATRIOTS ADAPT THE SCHEME TO THE PLAYERS: “No, we have a way of doing things. We believe really strongly in those things. These guys have heard the same thing that all those guys before them have heard. From the very beginning with Matt Light all the way through, it hasn’t changed a lot. We want them to be reliable, accountable; we want them to do things the way we want them done. We don’t back off that at all, and the good news is any new guys coming in see that the guys before them have been coached the same way, have been asking to do things the same way, and if they embrace it, they’ll do fine. If they don’t embrace it, it won’t go very well for them.”

ON TOM BRADY’S PRAISE: “I’m not [the best OL coach ever]. Don’t believe the hype, believe me.”

ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE’S PERFORMANCE IN THE PLAYOFFS: “That’s what we strive to do every game. I’m glad that we have. I’m glad that we’ve worked so hard to do that, but we have a huge challenge ahead of us. I don’t look back at that stuff. I don’t worry about that. I worry about what’s ahead. What’s ahead is pretty substantial.”

ON THE RAMS DEFENSE: “I think they’re all very well coached. Bill Johnson does a great job with their defensive line. Wade [Phillips] has always been great at attacking other teams protection systems. I learned that the hard way from him years ago. They put their players in positions to be successful. They’ll do their homework on us, and we’ll do the same for them, and we’ll see how it comes out.”


ON SONY MICHEL’S VISION: “His reads. His run reads. But, he should tell you, he does have excellent vision. He has primary reads based on the play, what we think is going to happen, how the line is blocking the play and that’s where he starts. If he does a good job with that, then there comes a time where he’s going to have to make a play. He has to make a good decision for us, and then he’s going to have to make someone miss eventually.”

ON SONY MICHEL IN THE PASSING GAME: “Not so much gone away from him, there’s only so many touches we can give him in a game. He’s got the ball 25 or 26 times already. One or two catches, no problem. But to feature him out of the backfield now we are talking 30 to 35 touches. It’s not necessary. Somewhere along the line, I have to save him a little bit. What’s the most important thing we need from him? We need him to run the goddamn ball. I got guys that can catch the ball. Not that he can’t catch the ball, he can catch the ball well. It’s just picking and choosing how involved I’m going to get him in something like that.”

ON JAMES WHITE AND REX BURKHEAD’S ABILITIES IN THE PASSING GAME: “Yeah, they’re great at it. They’re great at it. It helps a lot [not to overwork Sony]. I try to make sure we have guys that last the year, all year. And when we started, we were banged up, and it hurt us. Sony missed a lot of time, so you just want to be smart how you use a guy until you get to this point. Now, all day. I don’t care. All bars. Every snap. Whatever it takes to win. We are going to go out there and make plays, whoever is making plays, no rules here.

ON WHERE SONY MICHEL HAS IMPROVEMENT THE MOST: I think he’s picked up the offense really well. The mental part of the game. I think he understands what we are trying to do a whole lot better than when we first started. I’m excited about his willingness to learn, his willingness to work and that’s great. That’s great.”

ON THE RUNNING BACKS DON’T MATTER CROWD: “I think they have their problems. I think everybody matters. I think Sony’s been a great help to us, and I hope this Sunday is a culmination of a great year for him.”


  ATLANTA -- One of the unique advantages of Super Bowl week is that every player and every coach speaks during the daily sessions with the media. In particular, we get multiple opportunities to talk to the Patriots’ assistant coaches who only speak once a month during the regular season.

ON THE PATRIOTS’ STACK ALIGNMENTS: “We are going to do some things formations wise to attack the defense. Certainly one of the things we do is we try to use a variety of different alignments. We spread them out and play empty, we’ll use stacks, we’ll use bunches, and it’s all to get guys to gain separation. Like we always say, the job of a receiver is to get open and catch the ball, so we are always going to try and use alignments that help them do that. One of the alignments we use is a stack or bunch along with various other alignments. It’s only one part, one piece of the puzzle, but something you’ll see on tape that we do.”

ON THE RECEIVERS ON-FIELD CHEMISTRY: “I think Julian along with our other receivers understand how to work together. That takes time. It takes investment and a lot of work. They understand how they each fit in the pass play. It could be a stack, it could be a bunch, or it could be a spread out pass play that they all understand how everybody works together. I’ve often said I think the most unselfish thing a receiver can do is do the right thing away from the play when he knows he’s not the intended receiver, and I think we have a group of guys that really do that.”

ON PHILLIP DORSETT: “We have receivers, and Phil is definitely one of those receivers that’s very intelligent. He’s got good intelligence, good instincts and good awareness that allows you to do different things. Certainly, when you’re working together with another player in proximity, you have the opportunity to do good things if you work well together, and that’s what he’s done.”


ON THE EXECUTION ON DEFENSIVE LINE STUNTS: “I don’t know if its been a drastic improvement. I’d say we’ve been a work in progress there the entire season. I’d say we’ve had varying degrees of effectiveness the entire season. I’d say it is something we’ve done well over the last couple of weeks, and it’s benefited us. The communication on the field between the guys that are out there has been extremely impressive to me. It’s all of them working together. They’ve done a great job of adapting week to week and in games, and they’ve been able to communicate and get organized at a very high level.”

ON ADAM BUTLER: “He’s been in the middle of most of it. And to be honest with you, people look at pass rush, and they want to look at sack numbers, then they want to look at quarterback hits and pressures. The headline-grabbing stats. There’s a lot to pass rush and football period that you can’t measure in stats. And Adam has done a fantastic job in terms of doing what we ask him to do in the pass rush; organizing things, communicating things because he’s in the middle of it, and getting vertical in the pocket and running the various stunts and games. We’ve been extremely pleased with what he’s done. It wasn’t a surprise to us, but he’s improved a lot during the course of the season. He got to a point at the end of last season that he was doing an extremely good job on a lot of those same things. Earlier this year, I’d say we weren’t getting as much out of him. Part of that was scheme related, and how we used him. We could’ve done a better job coaching, to be honest with you, and some of it was he could’ve executed a bit better.”

ON DANNY SHELTON: “Danny has worked hard. He’s done a great job for us. He’s been inactive at various points of the season based on what we needed to do to win that game. It may have been we didn’t expect it to be a big running game, it may have been the game plan going into that game didn’t have a huge role for him in it not necessarily because he isn’t a good player or quality player, but based on what we were trying to do in that game. Maybe we didn’t need his skill set as much as we needed someone else’s. All of that factors into active or inactive situations. If you ask me, I’d take all 53 of them.”

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