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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reflects on opportunity to face his old team

10.02.12 at 9:08 pm ET
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As far as Josh McDaniels is concerned, it’s just another game.

On Sunday, the Patriots will meet the Broncos at Gillette Stadium. For McDaniels, it’ll represent the chance to meet his old team on the field once again: he was head coach in Denver for the 2009 season and part of the 2010 campaign.

But McDaniels said Tuesday afternoon that in his eyes, it’s just “the next game.”

“It’€™s an important game for our team,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “I think there are a lot of times over the course of a season where either players or coaches on either team have had the experience of been a part of another organization or team, and I think that happens rather often I would say. I think it’€™s a big game for us because it’€™s the next one, and [we'€™re] trying to build on some of the things that we did well in the last game and really emphasize trying to play well at home.”

McDaniels kicked off his career as a head coach in 2009 with six straight wins. However, it was all downhill from there, as Denver lost six of it’s last 10 games to finish the season 8-8. The following year, the Broncos were 3-9 when owner Pat Bowlen pulled the plug on McDaniels.

Asked what he learned from his experience in Denver, McDaniels said it was hard to pinpoint just one thing.

“I think any time you take on another role or another position, there are always a lot of things that you learn,” he said. “It’€™s hard to really pinpoint one thing over another, but they gave me a great opportunity. It’€™s a great organization, a great owner and you go out there and try to do the best you can with what you know and the things that you’€™re capable of doing. I think that ultimately you learn a lot of different things.

“It’€™s hard really to pinpoint one or two things about exactly what you learn,” he added. “You learn a lot of different things on a lot of different levels because you’€™re involved in so many different aspects of the organization as a head coach. Hopefully all of those different experiences will pay off and make me a better person and coach going forward in the future.”

Here are a few other highlights from his Q&A:

In the first month of the season, it seems like a common denominator in the two wins has been the offensive balance you’€™ve been able to establish. How important has that been in dictating what you want to do given your personnel groupings?

“I think maintaining your balance offensively is always important and forcing the defense to try to defend multiple things that you could possibly do and defend all of your skill players that could potentially touch the ball on each series. Even in the Arizona and Baltimore games, I think we did a decent job of continuing to run the football because I think that certainly has shown to be a way that we can move the ball effectively. There have been stretches this season where we haven’€™t done it as well as others, but I still think that we’€™re striving to improve in that area. We’€™re striving to improve in a lot of areas of our offense and running the football and maintaining our balance is definitely one of them.”

Bill Belichick cited the play-action pass you had that resulted in touchdown to Rob Gronkowski. He said you don’€™t often see that in a straight drop back. Is that a classic example of balance at its best?

“I think any time you run the football successfully that your play-action game is definitely helped by that. I think that was an example of something ‘€“ we had been running a run that looked similar to that. Like always, you try to mirror a lot of your action passes with some of your run formations or run actions and really try to put some stress on the defense and marry the two things together. I thought that was an example of where we gave them a similar look to the run that we had been running in the game ‘€“ one of the runs we had been running in the game. The linebacker stepped up perfectly and Rob made a nice little nifty move to get behind him. I think it was good execution. It was well executed and hopefully we married it together with some of what we were doing in the running game.”

What can you tell us about their defense? I know they have a little bit of trouble containing some offenses, but last week they went to a no down linemen approach and had success. What are you looking at when you’€™re talking about their defense?

“They’€™re well coached, for sure. John [Fox] and Jack [Del Rio] have always been very good defensive coaches and you can see that with the way they play. They’€™re active, they’€™re very fast, their secondary is quite different than what we played back in January. They’€™ve got, I would say, two premier pass rushers in [Von] Miller and [Elvis] Dumervil that both do a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback. They don’€™t have to pressure to get to the quarterback but they do always have a unique pressure package and try to give the offense problems that way, which they’€™ve definitely done. We have to do a good job of trying to defend, if you will, all the different things that they throw at you and try to make sure we stay out of long-yardage situations and hopefully can try to settle the game down that way. They’€™re very active, very aggressive and they have a lot of good players at all three levels.”

Bill Belichick said something yesterday along the lines of, as a running back, the blockers get it started but at some point it’€™s on the back to gain more than what gets you started. Do you have a feel for of the 247 yards you ran for against Buffalo, how many came in that regard?

“In terms of an exact number, I don’€™t have it off the top of my head. I know that is true. The point of attack is always, I think, a focal point for the running game because if you’€™re sending the back left or to the ‘€˜C’€™ gap or ‘€˜B’€™ gap or whatever the entry point is designed to be, if you sign him there with the action, the first thing that’€™s obviously critical is at that direct spot you give him an opportunity to enter the defense. I think our line and tight ends did a very nice job the other day of making sure that the point of emphasis ‘€“ point of attack that we were headed towards ‘€“ allowed the back to get into the defense. Then, from there, once you clear the line of scrimmage, we’€™re still trying to block the linebackers and the secondary as well, so not every yard that the back makes through the line of scrimmage is on him because we have people designed to try to block the second and third level defenders as well. I thought all the backs that ran the ball and I think in particular Brandon [Bolden] and Stevan [Ridley] because they had the most opportunities, they did a nice job of one, finding the hole that was there and was made for them and then two, trying to make some yards after contact and also yards on the defenders, whether they made them miss or got to the edge and kind of used their speed and quickness to get around them as well. I think there were plenty of positives the other day and hopefully we can build off those.”

Can you talk about the process of how an undrafted free agent like Brandon Bolden goes from showing you enough to make the team to getting to play in a big game like that?

“I think Brandon, since he came here, has really done a nice job of keeping his head down, staying focused on learning our system, doing everything that’€™s asked of him. I won’€™t comment on all the things he does in the kicking game, but I know he’€™s an unselfish player who has done anything we’€™ve asked him to do in terms of contribution offensively or on special teams. I think that’€™s ultimately a great sign for a young player. He gets in and any way he can help the team, he’€™s willing to do it. I think Brandon’€™s attitude has been great. He’€™s shown the ability to learn different things each week. I think he’€™s practiced well and hard. I think all of those things combined give him confidence and then give us confidence as coaches that he can go in there and contribute and help us win games. He earned the opportunity that he was given the last couple weeks. I think he made the most of it on Sunday.”

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