Tuesday is usually the day players are given off (although eight Patriots were in Worcester helping build a playground), so official access to the team is limited to brief conference calls with head coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
A sampling of the highlights:
On playing the Cardinals for the first time since 2008, Belichick acknowledged it’s something different, but also said there’s some similarities to the Steelers, since Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt came to Arizona after spending six seasons in Pittsburgh.
“We’re getting familiar here with an opponent that we haven’t seen in awhile. We spent some time on them in the offseason but it’s still a new team for all of us. There’s a big challenge there in terms of our preparation here, getting ready for players and some of the things that we do that are a little bit different,” Belichick said. “Of course this team has a lot of roots in the Pittsburgh system in all three phases of the game: offensively, defensively and special teams. There’s definitely some carryover there to the type of game that the Steelers play and that Arizona plays. I think the Cardinals have some very, very good players, some of the very best players in the league at their position, guys like [Larry] Fitzgerald and defensively [Adrian] Wilson, [Darnell] Dockett, [Calais] Campbell, [Patrick] Peterson. They’re very good in the kicking game. They block a lot of kicks, they’re very dangerous returning them.”
Patricia was asked about preparing his defense for two quarterbacks. Cardinals starter John Skelton suffered an ankle injury during the opener against Seattle, paving the way for Kevin Kolb to come in and direct a late, game-winning drive. Whisenhunt said Skelton’s injury isn’t serious as first feared, and didn’t rule him out for Sunday’s game. But Kolb might get the start.
“I think both of them are obviously very talented players and have done a lot for them out there through the preseason. They fit well into what they’re trying to do from a system standpoint,” Patricia said. “We’ll certainly have to be prepared and have our work cut out for both.”
The Patriots used good offensive balance (35 rushes, 31 passes) to carve up the Titans in an easy Week 1 win, so McDaniels touched on how important — and helpful — it is to not be so one-dimensional.
“If you’re able to do more than one thing well and able to move the ball in different ways, I think it just forces the defense to have to defend a lot of different things in your offense. You can’t really settle into one thing and get comfortable with that,” McDaniels said. “When you have a decent balance offensively, your running game can help your play action, your play action can help your running game, and then you mix in all the other things you want to try to do. I think it becomes a complementary part of our game.
“Certainly our goal will always be to try to go in and maintain our balance unless we decide that the best thing to do would be to do something other than that. I know we’ve done that in certain games in the past, to make a conscious effort or a decision to do it some other way. Right now, we did a decent job in Week 1, and hopefully we can continue to do that by being productive in both the throwing game and the running game.”