Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: How frustrating was that performance late in the game by your defense?
A: I'm focused right now really on Atlanta and third downs today, but just to speak on it in terms of frustration, I'm frustrated with myself more than anything. Obviously, I've got to do a better job in those situations, the two-minute and stuff like that. Got to do a better job there, but thankfully (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) has given us a bunch of opportunities this week to work on it like he has every week and hopefully we execute it better starting with practice. That's the only way I know how to attack it. Start with practice, start with the meetings, start with the preparation, and attack it full on and look to get better at it. That's how I've worked throughout my whole career, so thankfully we have another opportunity hopefully. That will be good.
Q: Joe said that he was going to sit with you on the train ride home and sort of go over what happened. What conclusions did you come to and what changes need to be made?
A: You've got to talk to Joe about the specifics of stuff, but in terms of – as we move forward, obviously it's about execution, whether it's the right call from me as the coordinator, playing however we're supposed to play the call, whatever it's supposed to be. Again, what I can tell you is this, and this is all I know, is to go out there and practice, go through the meetings, learn from the tape and thankfully we've got a whole bunch more opportunities and I'm looking forward to those. We've got to do better. I've got to do better. I've got to do a better job. That's why I love this challenge, this job. Every week is different, and every day is different, so (I've) got to do a lot better, that's all I know.
Q: Regardless of what call you send in, especially in the two-minute situations, if your pass rush doesn't get to the quarterback isn't that kind of an X-factor in whether the coverage looks good or not?
A: The thing for me – and again, just thinking about Atlanta. You've got (Falcons Quarterback) Matt Ryan back there who's arguably one of the best quarterbacks since I've been in the league. One of the best quarterbacks, was MVP, went to the Super Bowl, been to championship games, whatever. The thing (about) how you affect the quarterback is you're looking (at) whether it's the pass rush, the combination of the pass rush and the coverage. It doesn't necessarily have to get to the quarterback, it's how you disrupt him. It could be the passing lanes, it could be the disguise and dropping guys out, so it all plays together in my mind. I can't place blame on any one thing. The main person I'm going to blame is myself. I've got to do a better job. It comes down to that. These guys, they work their butts off out there on the field, they work hard out there in the stadium for us, so the key is for me to get it right first. Get it coached right, get them in the right spots, that's my job. To me, I'm not going to talk about the pass rush, I'm not going to talk about the coverage, it starts with me. That's how I see it and that's never going to change. That's never going to change. That's how I see it, that's how I talk to them and that's my job. That's what I get paid to do, so that's what we're going to work on.
Q: Whether it's you or the players or whoever, are you surprised that it's not all working as well as it did last year? The defense was such a strength last year and it's obviously not up to the same caliber in the first two weeks.
A: Thankfully, again, we've got another opportunity this week. Out of 17 games, and you want to use two games, that's fine. I still think if you do the math you've still got a chance to be okay (if) out of 17, you had two. For me, I'm just looking at it as this, I really can't talk about last week – I mean, I could, but I'm going to choose not to keep going down this road because I'm so focused on today. I know this, today is early down situations, get back on track, first-and-10, whatever it is, third down emphasis. We've got to take care of (Falcons Wide Receiver Calvin) Ridley, we've got to take care of (Falcons Tight End Kyle) Pitts, we've got to take care of the quarterback and even the run game to get into with (Falcons Running Back) Cordarrelle Patterson. That's where my focus is. Again, the good thing about my job is you get another test the next week and that's the best part about it. Whether I failed the test last week, I get another crack at it, so I'm looking forward to it.
Q: What can you say about how (Cornerback) James Bradberry has played?
A: James is playing at a high level, at a high level. His vision, he's seeing the game, the questions he has just having conversations with him in the hallway. I love James' cool demeanor – you guys get a chance to meet him – his cool demeanor and now that there's more of a relationship developing, now there's more conversations and all that stuff like that. I really think he's playing at a high level, I'm really proud of what he's done, and I know he wants more. He wants more. So that's always good when your best players want more and they're not afraid to get coached, they're working hard out there on the field. It's a beautiful thing. We've got a good group of guys, a good group of guys and it's my job to put them in the right spot.
Q: Are you surprised though that he's been getting targeted as much as he has?
A: Again, these numbers that you're working off of are fine, but it's two games. Again, I'm not a math person or a mathematician or anything, but I'm going to give it a little bit more time. I hope they target JB, feel free. (laughs)
Q: You played a lot of zone last week. What went into your thought process with that?
A: At the heart of it, I play zone coverage. Most of the downs are early downs. You've got – what was it, 72 plays last week? 72 plays? – so how many of them are early down? We play zone on early downs a lot. Zone coverage, you play with zone vision, break on the ball. That's why you play zone. Again, it's calculated what you decide to do based on what the offense is doing, but whether we play zone this game and the next game we play man, it's all based on what we think is going to be best for the game plan. Again, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, but as we move towards Atlanta and the people that we're dealing with there – I talked about the receiver, talked about the tight end, talked about the back and the quarterback, but the offensive line is playing well, they've got some new pieces, some of the young guys are getting more experience, they've got some veterans out there. It's going to be a challenge, it's going to be a challenge and they've got a challenging scheme. (Falcons Head) Coach (Arthur) Smith does a good job of working that stretch run game in there and then the play-actions off of it, so we've got our hands full this week with Atlanta, that's the main thing for me. We're going to see what's best for this game – zone, man, whatever it may be, pressure, not pressure – but, again, it's a calculated risk and calculated decisions in terms of what we think is best and we'll rock and roll from there.
Q: In the summer you talked about (Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) and what his role will be. You said when we get to Week 1, let's see if anyone hits the ground (running). What have you seen from him the first two weeks?
A: I've seen a young player who's made a few plays, and he wants more. The thing that's encouraging (to) me with Azeez for these young edge guys, is his ability to play the run. He's playing stout in the run game. You think about a young edge player, they're thinking about, 'Okay, I've got to get sacks. Everybody wants to know how many sacks I'm going to have.' He's playing stout in the run game, that's what's encouraging for me. Whether it's the challenge of last week dealing with those tackles and those tight ends from Washington, or Denver. Then you go into this week (and) now you're dealing with, again, big bodies out there. It's a challenge for him and I'm excited to see how it plays out, but he's been doing a good job. He's been working hard, and he knows he has to do better, but we all do. We all do. It's early in the season.
Q: You have said a few times that you need to do a better job. You've mentioned that five times here–
A: Probably ten times when I go back in the other room. (laughs)
Q: You're putting this on yourself, so what in particular do you need to do a better job at?
A: I need to do a better job of coaching. That's my job. You're all not worried about me fathering or being a husband. For you guys and the people listening, I've got to do a better job of coaching.
Q: How so?
A: I've said it from the jump, as a teacher I've got to do a better job of teaching. I've got do a better job teaching, coaching, and putting them in the right spot. I think clearly, that's my job, so I've got do a better job. That's it.
Q: What makes Pitts a unique challenge for you guys?
A: He's big, he's fast, he can catch the ball. Because it's only a two-game sample size and some of the preseason, if you go back and watch his college tape it becomes really scary, because all those corners that get drafted in the first round, that's who those guys had covering him. All those teams in the SEC had guys covering him. He's a pretty dynamic player. The combination of speed, size, catch radius and all those catchy terms like that makes him a dangerous player, and his willingness to block. He'll be the point of attack in the run game, which is a bonus for him.
Q: When we talk about, 'degrees,' as in it's either great or it's not great and we never see a middle ground – with your defense, are you close or is it one extreme or the other?
A: If I had to define it to you – and those guys in the room will probably tell you the same thing – if we don't win, it's not good enough. I don't care what the score is. That's just how we're built. We've got a group of selfless guys that want to win. Nobody cares about their stats. Nobody cares about what the next contract is. We just know for the guys in that room and the camaraderie we build in that building over there and out here on this field, we want to win for each other. That's how I feel, that's how they feel, that's how we talk about it, so if we don't win, I highly doubt anybody feels good. I don't, so that's what we're working towards today. The focus is on today – third down, finishing up early downs, getting a jump start on the red area. The focus is on today to put out our best out there on that field on Sunday at one o'clock and give us a chance to win. That starts with me putting them in the right spots, us executing on the practice field and then going out there and seeing what we can do on Sunday.