Q: Schematically, what stands out to you with the Chiefs defense?
JM: There are a lot of things that stand out about them. They do pretty much everything well. They’re very talented at all three levels of the defense. Obviously, they’ve given up very few points and played their best football down the stretch, which is obviously an issue in terms of just being able to finish drives or get down into the red area in the first place to try to score points on them. They do a tremendous job on third down, put you in a lot of third-and-long situations and get off the field as well as any team we’ve played. They turn the ball over. They’ve got a real knack for creating issues in the passing game and then capitalizing on bad mistakes. All of their guys seem to catch the ball very well. There are a lot of guys who have vision on the quarterback, and their coverage is tight. They compete and contest every throw, and you’re going to have to really do a good job of execution to avoid giving them opportunities to turn the ball over. And then they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and it’s not just the two guys on the edge. They’ve got multiple people who rush on the edge. They’ve got good blitzers, both in the secondary and at the linebacking level, and then those guys inside have been very disruptive in the pass rush as well. It’s a team that’s already won a playoff game. They’re obviously playing as well as any team we’ve played all year, and we would expect this to be the best defense we’ve played.
Q: Do they blitz often?
JM: That depends. It depends on the situation. Third down, you can get some different distances on third down where the blitz percentage goes up, and then during the course of different games there have been some games where they’ve pressured a little bit more, but they can do it both ways. They don’t have to blitz to create negative plays. They don’t have to blitz to create pressure on the quarterback, and yet they’re a very good blitzing team. They blitz the secondary. They blitz the linebackers. So you’re going to have to be alert and aware for four quarters because they’ve certainly made some negative plays with their pressure packages.
Q: Do you think being a “game manager” can describe a primary strength of a player?
JM: I think every quarterback has to manage the game, regardless of what team he plays for or which opponent he’s facing. That’s the first thing I would ask of our guys here. And I don’t know how it’s taken nationally or publicly, but look a quarterback’s job first and foremost is to run the offense. And sometimes that means taking what the defense gives you. Sometimes it means being very aggressive and throwing the ball down the field, but most importantly, what it means is trying to do the right thing on every snap as many times as you can during the course of the game. And there are a lot of games where teams may not give you great opportunities to try to throw it over their heads or do those other things, and so if the way the game is going determines that the quarterback’s main focus is to complete passes, get first downs, take care of the football, I mean that’s pretty much what we ask our guys to do every week. And I would imagine that most of the guys who are still playing in the playoffs would agree that their number one goal every week is to run the offense and execute it at a high level, and however that’s taken outside of the building, that’s for other people.
Q: Can you share anything in terms of where things are as far as other opportunities for you next year?
JM: I’m focused on the Chiefs, and there’s nothing to report. I’m excited for this week right now and don’t really have anything to add to it.
Q: Do you consider yourself more ready for a head coaching opportunity than the last time around?
JM: I think that there are a lot of experiences that you have in coaching, and if you learn from the experiences as you go through them, whether it’s as a coordinator, a position coach, a quality control coach, a head coach, whatever it might be, and you learn from those mistakes that you make and you learn from those experiences and take the good and take the bad and try to assess what you can do to be a better coach, a better staff member or what have you, then hopefully we’re all improving. That’s the goal, and right now, my focus is on being the best coordinator and quarterback coach I can be for us so that we can get ready and have our best game of the year against the Chiefs right now.
Q: Have you isolated an area where you believe the Chiefs are vulnerable?
JM: [There are] not many places on their defense where you look at them and say, “Boy, they’re really struggling.” Like I said, they have a very physical, aggressive front that creates a lot of negative plays. They rush the passer well. Their linebackers are very good, both in stopping the run and in pass defense. Their secondary has been incredibly productive relative to getting their hands on the ball and taking it away from the offense, so this is, like I said, this is as good of a defense from front to back that we’ve played, and we would expect our greatest challenge to be on Saturday afternoon.
Q: How hard has Julian Edelman worked to get back from his injury and keep up with what you’re doing in the classroom? How might his off-the-field work play a factor if he can return this weekend?
JM: Jules, like all of our injured guys, [they] try to do everything they can to take care of their bodies and heal themselves and rehab appropriately and hopefully be back as soon as they can. But Julian’s attitude has always been very impressive to me. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s a guy who wants to be as good as he can be at everything that we ask of him, so we’ll see how it goes this week. But I know those guys who haven’t been out there or have missed time, they’re all trying to do whatever they can to get healthy and be back as soon as they’re able to.