With the Patriots in San Jose this week, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spoke over the phone with local media about last week's performance by Matt Cassel and the challenge of the San Diego defense.
Do you think Sunday’s performance is something that you can build off of?
"Definitely. We made some strides from the bye week. We worked on some things that we put a lot of attention towards during the bye week. We had some progress in those areas in the red zone and we ran the ball more effectively. We worked on some things in the passing game that showed up on Sunday. Anytime you have a chance to work on things where you don’t have a certain opponent to prepare for, like we did in the bye week, it gives you a chance to really focus on yourself. I think we made some strides as an offense and I think we will build on that this week."
Do you like how the committee approach running game is going so far?
"We have confidence in all of our backs. We never go into a game with a certain amount of carries for any one of them specifically. We feel good when they’re all in there. Some things like Kevin (Faulk)'s production in the red area last week, I am not sure anyone could have predicted that. That’s the way the game went and the style the game ended up playing out as. Kevin was there to do what we asked of him. But all the backs, we feel good when they are in the game whether it is a passing situation or running situation. We feel good when we give them the ball and expect them to do their job."
Laurence Maroney seemed a bit tentative in Sunday’s game. Is that attributed to his shoulder injury?
"I think there were some situations in the game where there wasn’t much there on a few plays and then there were some other plays, not just singling out Laurence, that there was more yards -- there is always that in the running game. When you carry the ball 44 times there is going to be plays where there is more yards than you gained and there is going to be other plays where maybe you didn’t gain as much as you blocked it for. I didn’t really notice much difference. He practiced yesterday. He practiced fine. The backs are all running the ball well and we expect that to go forward."
Matt Cassel said he does what the coaching staff tells him to do in terms of deep passing routes or not deep passing routes. Was it in the game plan to throw more deep passing routes last game?
"Every week, we try to attack all three levels. Some weeks, we end up throwing more down the field than others, but that’s a product of the defense. If the defense gives us the opportunity to attack that third level down the field, than that’s what we would instruct our quarterbacks to do every week, not just last week. They gave us a few opportunities to go ahead and attack down the field and try to gain significant yardage or create field position for our offense. He is coached to try and take the big play if they give it to you and if not you have to find someone at the second level or use the backs at the check down. We always try to have enough of those in the game plan. It just so happened that last week we had a few of them."
The 66-yarder to Randy Moss: you said Matt Cassel is coached to take what’s there, but Randy was double covered; was that a case of a calculated risk?
"It really wasn’t a double coverage. It was a blitz zone situation and Matt did a really good job of stepping away from were it came from on his backside. The safety happened to not get as much depth as I’m sure they probably would have liked, Randy ran a really good route and Matt saw him at the right time. He felt like the safety wouldn’t get over the top in time and he made a great throw and Randy ran underneath it. We expect plenty of double coverage on our outside wide receivers because we see that off and on over the course of the year. I am sure they were coached to be a little deeper on the route than maybe they were and we were fortunate that we got behind them. Cassel saw that, made a good read and a great throw. "
Did you take some of the reins off Matt Cassel on Sunday? Did he have more freedom to take some chances?
"He’s getting better every week. We try to do every single week what we think our players are capable of doing. He did a really good job in the running game. We ran the ball a tremendous amount of times and he got us in the right play every time. We used some ‘check-with-me’s’ and he handled those exactly the way we would have wanted him to. He’s getting better every week and with that game experience and play experience he’s gaining on a weekly basis, I think that he is growing and maturing. With that comes with a little more here and there. He’s handled a significant portion of our offense for a number of years now. He’s capable of doing it. We feel comfortable with him doing it and he can run it and execute it well -- that’s what we expect him to do."
Would you like to see the sack numbers go down?
"Yes. I think there are different reasons for that. It’s not all one thing or the other. Obviously we don’t want sacks and we really don’t want hem in the red area where we had them last week. It’s a combination of blocking them long enough, reading it quick and getting it out to the people who can catch and run. You definitely don’t want to have four or five sacks in a game and we would like to cut down on that."
Is that an area where Matt Cassel doesn’t have a lot of experience compared to Tom Brady, with adjustments at the line?
It’s really not an adjustment at the line thing. I think it’s a comfortability with sliding in the pocket one way or another while keeping your eyes down the field and finding the next receiver sometimes in the progression. Or, there are certain plays when you have to know the journey is over; you have to take off and run or throw it away in some instances. Again, it’s a team thing. The quarterback certainly plays a part of it. The protection certainly plays a part of it and a lot of times the routes are an important part of sacks -- you have to be open for someone to throw it to you. There has to be cohesiveness that has to go on to eliminate sacks and cut those down. We are really working hard to try and do that."