FOXBORO — In light of the team’s first shutout in over three years, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was pleased with the 28-0 result Sunday over the Dolphins. But, on Monday, he was even happier for the players.
“I think absolutely you’re always looking for improvement,” Patricia said. “Obviously you’re happy with the effort and excited for the players. They’re the ones who did all the work on the field to achieve certain goals, but certainly when you go back and look at the film, there’s a lot of things we need to do better, improve on and work on and that’s really what we’ll focus on, obviously more so than just the scoreboard there. But, you know, it was a good effort by everybody out there.
“I think guys really tried hard and did things we asked them to do and we’re pleased with that, but there are certainly some areas of improvement that you can really take a look at and say, ‘We really have to do some things better here because they just weren’t good enough.’”
The last time the Patriots blanked an opponent was Oct. 18, 2009 – the 59-0 thrashing of the Titans at Gillette. A lot has been said and written about the lack of defense in the three seasons since. But the team has turned over most of the defensive roster since then, with the notable exception of Vince Wilfork . Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower have become household names.
But Sunday was also a coming out party for rookie defensive lineman Justin Francis , who had a career-best three sacks.
“Coach [Bill Belichick ] hit it right on the head as far as the great thing about what we do is obviously a team effort,” Patricia said. “When you look at the bottom line stats and you see one particular player with high numbers, I don’t really think that tells the whole story. If you take a good look at the game and what actually happened during a particular play, you’ll see that there’s a lot of other factors that contribute to maybe a player making a play on that particular situation. You can single out anybody with stat numbers yesterday but if you take a look at the group effort, it was really what we were looking for.
“You can certainly see situations where the guys in coverage in those situations did a really excellent job to allow the pass rush time to get to the quarterback and then you can see situations where the pass rush was able to get to the quarterback, which allowed the cover guys to not have to cover as long. So, I really think it was a good, collaborative effort, along with the same thing for the run game, where one guy may be making a particular tackle or a particular play, but what you don’t see is the other guy that has three guys on him at one time [and is] eating up a bunch of blockers [which] frees up another player. That’s the beauty of the sport and that’s really what we strive for in a team effort so I think that’s what we’re talking about when we have successful plays like that, where we get a good particular play but really there’s a lot of other factors that go into it.”
Here is the remainder of Monday’s transcript of the Matt Patricia conference call:
MP: Trevor has done’¦ over the course of the season, you take a look at the role he’s had and the opportunities he’s had when he’s been able to deal with them, he’s really tried to develop and come along. Obviously he was available for us and did a good job for us in the first game versus Miami and it just steadily improved throughout the season. Like all the guys on the defense, hopefully throughout the entire season, you get to this point and you’ve done a good enough job to improve yourself week by week and that’s really what we’re trying to do. Trevor has certainly done that and become more familiar with the system and communication and the different things that we’re trying to do. Obviously we have a situation like we had yesterday and guys just have to step in and go and that’s what we prepare for every week.
Q: After watching the film, how good of a coverage scheme did you have yesterday, particularly with having some guys out there who are not usually out there?
MP: I think it kind of ties into what I said before. There are plays that you take a look at where, ‘This is doing well and this isn’t as good as you want it to be,’ and then, ‘This is really good, so that kind of makes up for the other part of it.’ As far as the guys who are out on the field, we played with who was available and who was ready to go. That’s the great part about the guys we have on the defensive side of the ball, they’re truly professionals that work hard every week to prepare themselves to play no matter where they are, basically, what they would think they would be in a standing depth chart. At any particular time in the game, they have to go in and perform and perform at a very high level. That’s what you get in the NFL is those guys that have to step in and step into those roles and be productive. For the most part, we were able to generate that out of some of those guys that played in different positions that they haven’t played or just not as much as they played throughout the course of the season. In general, we try to do the right things in coverage. Obviously there’s always room for improvement there with some of the different looks we saw form the Dolphins. Give them credit for what they do and there were some tough looks in there and we tried to battle though it and like I said in some particular plays where we might have had an instance where it was a harder coverage, coverage communication call, whatever the case may be and the pass rush made up for it or there’s a case where the pass rush was not there quite as fast and the coverage made up for that and gave us an opportunity, so it was a good job of those guys working together to handle those situations in those areas as they came up.
Q: Some Patriots fans may not know a lot about Derrick Martin. What would you tell Patriots fans about him?
MP: Derrick Martin is an extremely high energy, true professional that comes to work every day and just brings a tremendous attitude of going to work and having fun and just really studying and being disciplined. I think he’s a guy that, again, another guy we had to throw out there or put out there and you feel confident he’s going to do his job to the best of his ability, at least be in the right places at the right time and really try to communicate and do what he’s asked to do. It’s good to have those guys on your team that maybe necessarily don’t get all the reps but that can step in and just be able to function at a high level. It’s just a guy that obviously has been around a little while that knows how the NFL works and is a just true professional from the standpoint of he’s going to be able to get mental preparation in the classroom and on the field and put himself in a situation where, if he has to go out and perform, hopefully he can do it at a very high level.
Q: What is your evaluation of Jermaine Cunningham  from yesterday? How did he perform in his return after missing four games?
MP: I think obviously the situation for Jermaine, came back and tried to go out and play hard and certainly was out there doing the things we were asking him to do. I think it’s like any player that has a little time off or is away from the game for a while, you just have to keep working to improve and hopefully build on that performance the following week or whenever it is that you play. So certainly, he’s going to have to come back in and keep working hard to get himself going again, but it was a good job by him of being ready to go when he got back in the building.