BB: Kind of more of the same feelings today as yesterday: great performance in the last couple minutes in the game by our team, not so good in the 58 before that. We left a lot of plays out on the field. Cleveland did a good job. They outcoached us and outplayed us in every area. Fortunately we were able to make some plays at the end, play some good situational football and be able to come back and score pretty quickly at the end of the game where a lot of things had to go right. We really dug ourselves in the hole all day and just didn’t do enough in any area to really put ourselves in a good position to win until those plays at the end. Rob [Gronkowski] is going to have some more tests today but I would say the situation doesn’t look too good but we’ll wait until we have a final evaluation before we confirm or do anything. We have to find a way to do a better job all the way across the board and get ready for Miami. They had a real good win yesterday against Pittsburgh. We know it will be tough down there like it always is. We’ll have to find a way to coach and play better, play a higher level of football.
Q: We’ve always heard players talk about playing the full 60 minutes. Is that a characteristic you can discern in people when you bring them in here?
BB: I think when you make up your team and the characteristics of your team, there are a lot of things that you look for. Certainly effort and consistency and preparation and doing everything right all the time is what we all strive for. But as it specifically comes up at the end of the game, you just never know what situations are going to come up. You don’t know if you’re going to have to onside kick or you’re going to have to recover an onside kick, if you’re going to have to kick a field goal, try to block a field goal, play your defense at the end of the game, play offense at the end of the game, red area, goal line. Who knows? There are a million situations. If they come up at the end of the game, they’ll be critical to the outcome. The execution of those plays will be the difference so we try to prepare for all those situations. When they come up, we execute them the best we can. Fortunately it was good enough yesterday but that’s how we try to do it every week. There’s no way to predict which situation is going to be the one that you need, but you have to be ready to do it or that will decide the game. We all know the plays at the end of the game are the most important ones. All the stuff that happens leading up to that point is great, certainly it’s meaningful, but when it comes down to a few plays at the end, that can change the results of all those other plays that happened previously, depending on how those end of the game plays turn out. That’s why they’re so critical.
Q: When Rob Gronkowski went down, it seemed like Josh McDaniels had to make some changes on the fly. How do you think he did in that regard? It seemed like you went to a spread-type of formation there.
BB: Well, we have to go into every game with some type of backup plan for everybody. Certainly as it relates to your personnel groups, like at the tight end position, to use more wide receivers or wide receiver position, if that were to get thin, more backs or more tight ends. You have to be ready to handle all that. But I thought the offensive coaches and the players did a good job of adjusting to that. We went into some different personnel groupings but those were the things that we practiced and we had prepared for. But without a lot of practice, we went in there and were able to make enough successful plays for the outcome to be what it was. You always have to be ready to do that.
Q: Specific to Matthew Mulligan and James Develin, would you assess their performance yesterday. I know Matthew played a season-high for snaps. How did they do once Rob went down?
BB: I think both those guys, kind of like what we talked about last week with James, but put Matt in that category too, they’re both role players in our offense. Sometimes their roles are a little bit bigger or a little bit smaller from game to game depending on the game plan and the situation. But when they’re called on, they’ve been very dependable; both smart guys that are tough and really compete well. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and do some of the tougher jobs that need to be done on the football field. They both came up with some plays yesterday and were able to give us good, dependable play when we needed it. That’s kind of their role on the team. You never really know exactly, and they don’t know exactly, what it’s going to be. It could be five plays or it could be 25 plays. They just need to be prepared and both of them have gone in there and done a good job all the way through the year when they’ve had to do that type of thing, whether it be by injury or as I said, by game plan or situation in the game.
Q: If you have to replace Rob Gronkowski, is that the type of thing where you can have one player replace him or is it a situation where, because of how unique he is, it’s going to take multiple people to fill that role?
BB: I think Rob is similar to the conversations we had with Jerod [Mayo] and Vince [Wilfork]. I don’t think too many teams have players of that caliber at any position to just put in another Rob Gronkowski or put in another Vince Wilfork or put in another Jerod Mayo. Whoever is in there is going to have to fulfill some of those duties but it may expand to more people, like we ended up having to do offensively, using more four-receiver sets instead of three receivers and a tight end or something like that. Or it might result in the tight ends getting more plays, or some combination there. Some of that may change from game to game, but obviously we’ve unfortunately had to play without Rob for games at the beginning of the season and we may be in that situation again. We’ve dealt with that already this year. If we have to deal with it again, that will probably be something similar to what we’ve already dealt with this year.
Q: Are you able to draw off what you did offensively without Rob in the first six weeks or because of the time that’s elapsed since then there are too many changes that you can’t just assume that things will be as they were before he returned?
BB: I’d like to think there’s going to be some carryover there, not only the first six weeks of the season but the entire training camp as well. That’s the way we practiced and played most of the year, including the preseason games and that’s what, 10 games? So, it was great to have him back and he was obviously a big contributor for us. he’s an outstanding player and I hope that his situation isn’t as serious as what it might be if it is, then I’m sure it will be some combination of what we’ve already done this year or maybe because we have a few different players and we’re at a different point in the season, there may be a few different things too. One way or the other, we’ll have to adjust to it.
Q: We saw the return of Stevan Ridley yesterday. Did he play his way onto the 46-man roster with his effort in practice last week?
BB: Stevan always practices hard. I don’t think that’s really an issue. The decisions we make every game are really the same: what players, combination of players we feel like puts us in the most competitive situation. That encompasses a lot of things, including special teams and obviously offense and defense and depth and game plan and your opponent and everything else. We’ll continue to make those decisions on a weekly basis. As you’ve seen, sometimes it’s the same. It’s a similar group of players and other times it changes. Sometimes that’s injury related, sometimes it’s related to other things. We’ll just take it week by week.
Q: Do you feel like this team has a certain resilience about it that you’ve noticed as a coaching staff after all you’ve been through whether it be injuries or deficits at the end of the game?
BB: No question about it. Very tough minded and determined group that even though as you said at times the deck has been stacked against us or it’s been things that we’ve had to overcome, they haven’t ever made any excuses or tried to back down from the challenge. They just try to meet it head-on with the best effort they can. Sometimes it’s been good enough, sometimes it hasn’t. The attitude, the ability to go out there and fight and persevere and deal with whatever the circumstances are and not really get too fazed by it, but just try to deal with it, has been very impressive by the entire team this year, especially with some young guys and newer faces on the team. Overall, they’ve all embraced whatever the opportunity is, even though it may not look too bright. They embrace the opportunity, try to go out there and make the best of it.
Q: How much of a pleasure is it to coach a group like this when you know that you’re going to get a maximum effort and have a group that’s always going to play the full 60 minutes and practice what you preach?
BB: I’d say for the most part I’ve been pretty fortunate that we’ve had a lot of that around here. I think this team has had some real good results with it this year but I think we’ve had a lot of teams that have done that through the years. I’ve been pretty fortunate that way. It certainly starts with good preparation by our entire coaching staff and our assistant coaches, they do a great job of that: being ready to go every day and putting the players through the paces of the game plan and the situations that come up. Some of our veteran players, they’ve really come through for us in critical situations, like Steve [Gostkowski] did yesterday on the onside kick and some of the kicks he’s made this year or Julian [Edelman] or obviously Tom [Brady], Danny [Amendola] and some of the plays we’ve gotten defensively at other points in the season so forth. We’ve had a lot of guys do that and I think that’s the mark of a good team – everybody has to be ready and we need contributions from everybody. It can’t be a one-man show but at the same time we’ve had some key guys make key plays for us. We’ve had numerous guys step up in those situations and play well too. That’s made some of their plays possible.