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Matt Patricia knows his D can’t run from past: ‘We obviously have to play better than we did the first time’

01.14.14 at 9:23 pm ET
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Matt Patricia knows the ugly numbers from Nov. 24. Thirty-seven carries, 224 yards for Knowshon Moreno. Forty-eight carries for 280 yards and a 5.8 yards per carry for the Broncos as a team.

It was the single game that symbolized New England’s inability to stop the run all season. They finished last in the AFC in run defense, allowing 134 yards per game. Only Atlanta and Chicago allowed more this season.

The Broncos knew they could exploit the Patriots, who were without Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Jerod Mayo. On Sunday, the Patriots will be without another starter, run-stopping linebacker Brandon Spikes. That’s four key cogs out of the mix in the Patriots run defense.

The Patriots didn’t want Peyton Manning beating them so the Broncos nearly used the running game to do the job. Doesn’t it figure the Broncos might use the same strategy Sunday in Denver? And if that unfolds, what would have to change?

“We obviously have to play better than we did the first time around against these guys,” Patricia said. “I don’€™t know if we want to challenge Denver to anything. I think we are trying to stop them the best we can in both the pass and the run. Certainly they did a great job against us in the run game and blocked us very well. It is certainly something we need to go out and perform better in than we did last time.

“We want to get back to using our techniques and being strong up front and try to control the line of scrimmage, which is really the goal in the game of football every week. That battle in the trenches is a huge one and something that they obviously had success with last time we played them, Like I said, [in] the run game and they have done a great job here since our game and recently moving through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs of really having a good run game with all the backs.

“Like I said earlier with Moreno and Ball both being very productive carrying the ball. That is certainly a huge challenge for us and something we need to improve on from the last game. On top of it the record setting passing game that they have behind it. We have a huge challenge in front of us.”

One of the players that has helped stabilize the Patriots run defense over the last month of the season is Sealver Siliga. The 6-foot-2 325 run-stopping man in the middle has helped fill the void of Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. Siliga also happens to be on the only player left in the playoffs who has played on all four teams remaining in playoffs.

“I think Sealver has really done a good job of trying to improve his fundamental technique and understanding of what we are doing. As he has gotten a better grip of some of those things, he has been able to be a little bit more productive in our front four and do some of the specific things that we are asking him to do, which may vary week by week,” Patricia said. “But I think it is a guy that has tried to develop his skill set to kind of fit and accommodate some of the different tasks that we are asking him to do. I think he has done a great job of trying to study the game.

“He works really hard, like all of our guys do. I can’€™t really say enough times how hard the group works, how well they work together, how much extra time they put in to try to really get the little points that we’€™re making and try to better themselves every week, which is obviously what we are trying to do. He would certainly fall into that category along with a lot of our players that are both younger players and older players that may have just gotten here this year or even guys that have been here for a while.

“That is what you do every week. You try and anchor in. You try to look at your performance. You try and see how you can get better. You try and learn the technique. You try and understand the scheme of what we are doing and try to execute it at a high level. Certainly the guys that have been able to do that and continue to improve get more of an opportunity to get out on the field.”

Here is the rest of Tuesday’s conference call with Matt Patricia:

Q: The Broncos were held under 30 points four times this year, and the Chargers did it three of those times. Do you take an interest in reviewing those game films?

MP: We are certainly obviously going to go through all the film from the entire season and try to evaluate it and take a look at how they performed in all of their games. Certainly the biggest thing for us is obviously going to be to improve on our game that we played against them. Obviously you are talking about one of the most productive offenses in the history of the NFL. I think Coach [John] Fox has done a great job assembling the personnel and Adam Gase has done a great job of really handling and calling the offense, and Peyton [Manning] obviously running the show. All of their skill guys fit in to exactly what they are trying to get done and have been extremely productive, so I think we are obviously going to look at those games. Certainly when you play a team twice a year, you have a good handle on what they do and what you are trying to do against them. So those games become valuable tools to look at and to understand how those teams within the division play those opponents. Obviously we really have to try to improve on our performance from last time and certainly have our hands full with all the players they have. They are loaded at the skill positions obviously. Their running back position has done a great job with [Knowshon] Moreno and [Montee] Ball coming on here late, and has really been productive for them. And the tight end position, which certainly with Julius Thomas in the mix will be an entirely new obstacle for us to have to defend. Their offensive line, when you take a good look at them, it’€™s a group that has been playing well, been playing together all season and has been the anchor of that offense. They have done a great job of protecting Peyton Manning and giving him time in the pocket. They have really done an outstanding job of blocking in the run game and the pass game. This is certainly a huge challenge for us.

Q: In breaking down the roster you see so many guys that were not drafted, especially on defense. You have Joe Vellano, Sealver Siliga, Steve Gregory, Kyle Arrington. Is there a common thread you see among players that weren’€™t drafted, and is it something you think about at all in the early stages of the season when you guys are evaluating players?

MP: Obviously the players that we get at the start of the season, going all the way back through the spring, have an opportunity to go out and try to see and show how much they can do and how they improve and the understanding of what we try to do. Certainly all of that goes into the evaluation process. Whether you are drafted, a free agent or you come from another team, none of that really matters for us, it is just going to be how you perform, how you do out on the field and handle the things that we are asking to handle. So that is certainly going to be in the forefront of what we’€™re doing. There is the evaluation of one year here and how you are performing in those practices, training camp and through the season. That is really what’€™s going be the most important thing for us, certainly as we work through. Obviously when you get to this point in the season you’€™re expecting everyone to be at a high level and to be working to get better every week and hopefully improve to the point where you are getting better every week to try to perform, because certainly for us this week with Denver the competition is extremely high. Certainly every week the competition goes up and it will be at the highest level this weekend. Certainly all those guys, like I said, involved in the game have to perform at a high level. Everyone has their opportunity when they get here to perform and that is what we are going to evaluate the most.

Q: You started the season with two outstanding veterans at defensive tackle and now you basically have guys that weren’€™t with you at the start of the season. How did you have to change defensive tactics in the front line and throughout the defense to compensate for their loss and be able to do different things, and how much of a challenge was that?

MP: Like I have said before, we have the general philosophy of the next man up has to step up, do the job and handle everything that we are asking them to do on that particular case. Certainly there is a progression that is involved and a development that is involved throughout the season. It may not be at the highest level when we start, and whoever that is that goes in that role we are obviously trying to get those guys to improve week by week, and if that is what we can see out of them and that continual type of improvement then we are going to push towards doing whatever it is that we are trying to get done that week for that particular game. Certainly there is [a] fundamental basis of all of the different techniques that we are going to ask those guys to perform, and that is what we are going to evaluate first and take a look at. We are certainly to the point now where we are really just obviously concerned with Denver and really focused on trying to be able to stop this offense. Obviously the run game will be a huge part of that so certainly up front those guys have their work cut out for them with a very good offensive line and a good run game. Obviously Peyton [Manning] has an excellent passing game that goes along with it, which puts more pressure on those guys to be able to handle that run game. I think that is where it is right now and that is what we are focused on. The guys that have been out there playing are certainly trying to do the best they can and the guys that are rotating in behind them are doing the same. Everyone is just focused solely on the task at hand right now.

Q: With Aqib Talib and Devin McCourty having moved into their new positions midway through last season after acquiring Aqib and moved Devin to safety, how important has it been to have them at their positions all this season and to get the consistency in the secondary with that?

MP: I think that the good thing, or what you are always trying to strive for, is consistency and consistency with the players out on the field, certainly in a position like the defensive backs where there is a lot of communication that goes along with it. As much as you can keep everyone out on the field and play the group together certainly you have more of a chance for improvement. Obviously for us this year it has been great to have a lot of those guys be able to go out and play, whether it’€™s Aqib or Devin McCourty or Steve Gregory or Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo [Dennard] obviously, and rotate in there and perform at a high level. Even earlier in the year with Marquice Cole. It’€™s a group that is very tight, they work extremely hard and I think they have a good comfort level out on the football field when they are out there playing together. Certainly that is what you are trying to get done. So as much as you can have the continuity within a group, especially in the back end, I think it is always what is going to help you in the long run.

Q: San Diego had five different defenders that were drawn into neutral zone infractions. In evaluating, are you able to identify the consistent things in the matter of cadence and is it consistent with Peyton Manning and what you have seen? Is there a way to safe guard against it and be aggressive but not too aggressive?

MP: It’€™s an excellent point. I think that is certainly a hidden stat in the game. That is certainly a big deal to us. He was obviously able to get some line of scrimmage penalties, which we always talk about. We never want to give up free yardage. Certainly with a guy like Peyton Manning who has such a variation of cadences that he uses, certainly and obviously at home where he can use all of them because of the crowd noise situation. You have to be very aware on top of that. Obviously the key for us is always going to be the ball. That triggers all of the play, offense and defense. That is the key point. Certainly it is extremely difficult in a game where you are ready to go, you are trying to be aggressive, you are trying to attack the man in front of you and that hard count comes through or that exaggerated cadence comes through and he gets them. He is obviously one of the best quarterbacks that’€™s played the game and certainly that is a part of his repertoire, being able to change up his voice inflection and the cadence and use a multitude of different ways to trigger the play to start. With that is also trying to draw the defense offside. We will absolutely have to make sure that he doesn’€™t get us on that.

Read More: Denver Broncos, Knowshon Moreno, matt patricia, New England Patriots
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