Josh McDaniels says Pats want to dictate offensive style ‘regardless of who we’re playing’
|12.23.13 at 2:25 pm ET|
On Monday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the Patriots simply wanted to dictate and not be dictated to.
That’s how McDaniels summed up the somewhat head-turning decision to take it to the Ravens on the ground Sunday, choosing to attack Baltimore’s apparent strength on defense.
The Patriots ran the ball 34 times for 142 yards, averaging 4.2 yards a pop against a defense that was yielding just 102 yards a game coming in, seventh-best in the NFL.
“We certainly want to try to do things that we feel like we can do well regardless of who we’re playing, and then we also want to try to factor in the different variables in terms of matchups, personnel, all of the different things that go into each player, each series in the game, you want to factor into those things too, because they can certainly give you the best chance to be successful,” McDaniels said. “You’re not going to trick the Ravens. You’re not going to beat them that way, and so you’re going to have to stand in there, but you know it’s going to be a tough, physical game, you know it’s going to be a situation where you’re going to have to fight it out for four quarters, and I thought our guys did a good job of staying in there and slugging it out with them.
“It wasn’t always pretty, but in the end it was effective enough for us. I thought the important things were we took advantage of the opportunities that we had in the red zone, we didn’t turn the ball over, and then the guys really stayed committed to making yards in the running game and giving us an opportunity to stay ahead on the sticks, and then did a good job of finishing the last drive.”
Logan Mankins said after Sunday’s game that the offensive line was very aware of the commitment to the run and wanted to give McDaniels every reason to keep grinding away on the ground.
The other area that had to make McDaniels and Bill Belichick happy was their execution in the red zone. The Patriots were a perfect 3-for-3, LeGarrette Blount running it in twice while Tom Brady found Shane Vereen in the flat for the third.
“Obviously it’s good to score touchdowns when you’re down there,” McDaniels said. “I think we only had four plays down in the red zone, maybe five, and we had three trips and only four or five plays I think total. We were fortunate to run it in twice, once on the goal line, and guys did a good job.
“That’s always a tough situation against a good defense. You’re trying to get a yard and you just bang it out, and guys did a good job of letting LeGarrette [Blount] get to the line of scrimmage, then he muscled his way in there. And then we were able to come up with a play in the passing game there with Shane [Vereen] where the guys executed well, and then we were running the ball effectively on that last drive and got it into the red zone and just stayed with that formula, and they got it in there too. Each week in the red area, it’s its own game. Statistics from the past, they don’t really determine what’s going to happen from one week to the next, they just kind of tell you what happened in the past. This is a week to week thing, and we’ve got to do a good job of preparing now for a very good Buffalo defense, and the challenge will be a little different in terms of maybe the scheme or the players this week, but again, if we do a good job then we’ll give ourselves a great chance, and if we don’t and Buffalo executes better than we do, then you could find some struggles. The guys did a good of executing, and they deserve the credit.”
Here is the rest of McDaniels conference call from Monday:
Q: Tom Brady mentioned last week that you have run less of your up-tempo offense this year, and it seemed like you slowed the game down again on Sunday. Is that a situation where even if you want to speed the offense up, the matchup dictates that the best way to go is not to pick up the tempo?
JM: I would say there are a lot of factors that go into using an approach like that from one week to the next. The health of your team, the depth of your team, the personnel matchups that you would have versus whatever their matchup would be on defense, because I think that the number one thing I always come back to is, tempo doesn’t do anything on its own. You can go fast all you want, but if you’re not executing whatever it is that you choose to do, you’re just going to go three-and-out faster than you would normally. So if the right thing to do with our personnel versus whoever the defense is is to play quick or try to play quick, then I think that’s something that we try to decide on a weekly basis, and if it’s not then it’s not. I think it’s been a factor in the past, but ultimately I think no matter what you choose to do, it’s always going to come down to the execution on Sunday, whether you’re playing at the line of scrimmage or you’re huddling. So that’s what we’ll try to do each week, and it certainly won’t be any different this week.
Q: Coach Belichick mentioned that Offensive Assistant Brian Daboll turned him on to Josh Kline. What have you noticed from Daboll’s contributions to the team from an offensive line standpoint this year?
JM: Brian has helped everybody. He’s certainly been an incredible resource and somebody that we’ve leaned on in a lot of different areas this year. He’s spent a lot of time with our young linemen to give them extra teaching and extra classroom work, and when we have our meetings and are able to split those up like that, I think he’s really done a nice job of teaching those guys the foundation of our system and trying to help them move along, because eventually during the course of the season you’re going to need some of those young players to step in and play potentially significant roles as Josh did yesterday. So whether it’s game plan thoughts and ideas or in-game adjustments or teaching some of the other players or helping us out in any way, shape or form that he could, with his volume of experience as a coordinator, as a position coach in our system, I think it’s just been an incredible benefit to have him here, and he’s really contributed a ton to our success.
Q: At this point in the season when you rarely practice in full pads, how did you practice and prepare your run game this week, and how challenging is it to practice your run game when your team isn’t in full pads?
JM: I think football is a physical game, and so when you obviously have the opportunity to work on the physical part of it, then that’s certainly a good thing to try to improve on. We spent a lot of time doing that in training camp and certainly in the beginning half of the season to try to work on playing physical while we’re doing things fundamentally sound and properly in our hand placement or footwork ‘ the working-together parts of our running game with the tackles and guards, the centers and guards, the tackles and tight ends. All of those things are necessary specifically to the beginning half of the year, and I think at some point when you end up practicing a lot without pads, the physical part of it, you know your guys are going to give you great effort on Sunday, and it becomes a lot more about communication, about working together, who’s working together versus the specific looks we’re getting on defense, trying to stay tight with our combination blocks and double teams. You can work on all those things: your footwork, your hand placement, your ability to work with another lineman or tight end or back in the running game. You can work on all those things without the physical aspect of it, because at some point you keep pounding away and pounding away, and there might be diminishing returns in that regard, and I think that you’ve got to believe that by this time you know what you got. If you’re a physical team, you know your guys are going to play hard on Sunday, and we believe that’s the case with our football team. We just go in there each week and try to work on all the things, the little things, the details, that we can to try to improve from one week to the next.
Q: How much of the running game that we saw yesterday was something that we’ve seen throughout the year versus possibly new wrinkles introduced specifically for this game?
JM: Most of it is ‘ I mean, our run game, it may change formations or what have you, but I think by this time of the year, you kind of are what you are to some degree. Yeah, you could add a wrinkle or two here or there, maybe change up a blocking pattern or what have you, but I think the bottom line is at this point, you’ve got to block people and you’ve got to run hard, and you’ve got to read the runs properly based on the way the defense aligns their fronts and puts their defensive players in different positions, and we’ve got to coordinate our blocking schemes that same way. I think the bottom line is, if you can get them covered up and get the backs started, you’ve got a chance, and I don’t think there was a whole lot of new stuff yesterday. We just came out and tried to get a hat on those guys up front. They’re a very good defense and [we] stayed committed to it, and I thought the guys did an excellent job of continuing to push forward. We knew we were going to have some one- and two-yarders yesterday and wanted to continue to try to fight through those situations and not get discouraged, and hopefully that was going to pay off in the end.
Q: Do blocking schemes change depending on who the back is, and are you able to foil the adjustments that the defense makes by splitting up the workload between LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley?
JM: Not really. I think that Stevan and LeGarrette, and I would say all of our backs ‘ Shane [Vereen], Brandon [Bolden] ‘ they all practice during the week, and we don’t really have a specific set number of things that this guy’s going to do and then that guy’s going to do a bunch of different things. So we split the reps up pretty evenly during the week, and they all are expected to be able to execute our run game, whether it’s from one grouping or another, and I think that’s really what you saw yesterday. It wasn’t a real big change in terms of what we were trying to do; I mean, they were each running the same styles of runs, and I thought they each had some good runs in there during the course of the game.