Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:
"Good morning, everybody. I hope you guys missed me as much as I have missed you last week. It was a rough bye week for me (laughter). I missed all these questions."
On the Patriots special teams unit and it being mistake free:
"It is not only mistake free. They also make a lot of plays. They do not hurt themselves, but they also put you in position where, with their punt rush for example, they put you in position to be where you are very uncomfortable. They use personnel that puts a lot of stress on your put team and how we need to protect. Of course, we had the one blocked a couple of weeks ago that was unacceptable. That should never happen to us, not the way we should protect. That is going to be the big emphasis this week is punt protection and understanding that our punt return game, we have to get that going against a good fine young rookie punter who puts a lot of stress on your returner because he does not give you a lot of balls to return because he is such a good directional punter. Their field goal kicker, (Patriots K) Mike (Nugent) has been in the league a long time. He has had a phenomenal career. He has straightened himself out here the last couple of week. He is getting used to the snapping and holding. Their snapper (Patriots LS Joe Cardona), although he is a Naval Academy grad, we have to get after him this weekend. He is a good young snapper. He is a good kid. I am sure the only thing I will say to him is 'Beat Army' when I see him. That is the only about the only conversation I will have with him. They do not make mistakes, they do not get penalized, they play hard in every phase, they are well-coached and they understand situational football. We have our work cut out for us as normal."
On if the Browns identified the issue with the blocked punt against the Seahawks:
"They do a nice job with that scheme. They ran similar schemes in the past. We worked on them all week to be honest with you, and we did not execute. They executed and we did not execute. Could I have done a better job? Yes. The way I look at it, I am looking in the mirror and say that I am responsible for that, but our guys have to do a better job of protecting in that situation. We literally ran not the exact same rush but something very similar to it that they have run in the past. They did a good job. It is one of those things that in our protection scheme some of the things that we used that is a rush that is good against us, but if we execute it and use our techniques and fundamentals like we have been taught, then we are going to block that up. We have blocked it up before against different teams, and that should never happen. The way I look at it, I will be honest with you, coming out of that game, obviously very disappointing that we lost. The Seattle game, a game that we could have won, we started the game and gave our offense field position at the 23. At the end of the game when we were down by five, we rushed the punt and he just yanks one off the side of his foot, give the offense the ball at the 24. We ended up getting a two-point conversion out of that. Our defense did a great job after the blocked punt. We only gave up three. Did we win the field possession battle overall? Yes, but you should never give up a blocked punt. We should never give up a blocked punt, and that can't happen again. That has been our big emphasis the last two weeks. We have worked a lot on it the two practices we had a week ago and of course, yesterday, and we are working on it again tomorrow in punt."
On what Patriots CB Justin Bethel and other veterans adds to the Patriots special teams:
"Obviously, we already played against him when he was in Baltimore. He will play the two on the kickoff, I would imagine. He would be a gunner on punt. He will come off the edge of field goal block. All things that we are going to prepare for that he is really good at. They could put him inside on kickoff, as well, like a four or five because of his speed. They do a good of accumulating those good players and those guys play hard. (Patriots S) Nate Ebner is another one that not many people mention because he has missed a couple of games with a foot energy, but he is back and he has played well the last two weeks. They have good specialists and good teamers. The good thing is it is a challenge and I love a challenge. I am really excited about going up to play the World Champions at their place and we are only going up there for one reason and that is to win the ball game. We have to do our part to help our football in both offensively and defensively and put our guys in position to execute and to be in good scoring position for our offense. Pin them deep whenever we can. They have a great offense, we know that and the greatest quarterback I have ever seen. We have to make sure that they go the long haul. We can't give them any freebies. We can't give them the ball at the 40-yard line because he turns it into a touchdown like that. We have to pin them deep at every opportunity, and that is going to be our goal."
On RB Dontrell Hilliard's long kickoff return against the Seahawks:
"He found a seam. That is one of the bigger seams you are ever going to be see. A well-blocked play. We took advantage of Seattle's speed and pushed them by the play like we knew we could. If he does not stumble there, I think he scores because the backside safety ended up getting him. The kicker did a good job of slowing him down a little bit, but he kind of stumbled on himself on a piece of grass he said there. He did a great job of setting the return. It helped our blockers a lot. He hit that seam inside. It was perfectly blocked by our guys. It was a big play. It got the whole crowd involved to start it off and gave our team momentum right off the bat, which we have not had that yet this year. That is what we have to keep doing going forward."
On emphasizing punt protection and building on the kickoff return success:
"Sure, absolutely. Like I tell our guys every week, we need to build on the things we do well. We need to correct the mistakes so that they do not happen again. When you are doing that, when you are correcting these mistakes and these guys understand what they are being asked to do, they should get better on even the things they are doing well. Everything is kind of built on doing the fundamentals and techniques and experience. We have a bunch of young guys. You mentioned the Patriots, they have a lot of veteran guys. Across the board, they have veterans guys playing on special teams. We have a lot of young guys. For me, that is exciting because it is so important to them and it is so important for them in their minds to get better to not only continue to earn that roster spot but to help our football team win on special teams."
On if P Jamie Gillan has the right demeanor to quickly move past the blocked punt:
"I do because it was not his fault. He actually got it off in 1.95 [seconds], which is excellent get off. It was totally on the protection and the way that they executed it. He has a pretty short memory when it comes to that stuff. It is important to him, but he has the right demeanor across the board as a holder, as a punter and as a teammate. He has done a nice job in that regard."
On if he has ever talked about their Navy connection and to Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick's father, Steve:
"I mentioned it to him a long time ago and he probably does not remember. His father, Steve (Belichick) was at the Naval Academy when I was there as a Midshipman and then when I went back for my shore duty. I just kind of worked my way being a graduate assistant, and he was still there. He was a great mentor to me. His friendship meant a lot to me. He really understood the game. We used to talk complementary football. We used to just talk about little things, about players and how to motivate players. He was quite the motivator. I remember when I was a Midshipman and we would do the physical readiness test. Back then, it was pull-ups, sit-ups and I think a mile or a mile and a half run, which is the one that killed me. I remember doing pull-ups and he is counting them and I think that I am cranking them out. I look down, I do like four and he goes, 'Oh, that is one.' I am looking down and I am like, 'Coach, I did four.' He goes, 'You did not go all the way down or all the way up' or whatever it was. He is a tough, hard-nosed guy. He was a great military and Navy veteran, served in World War II. He was just a good man. His friendship meant a lot to me. "
On if there is something special to oppose a special teams unit with Belichick, who could be the greatest NFL coach of all time:
"When you look at the tape and you know how well they are coached and how well their special teams coordinator coaches their guys and the emphasis that they put on it – I know that (Head Coach) Freddie (Kitchens) have done a great with that is emphasizing special teams here, as well and he has given me the opportunity and the time to get our guys prepared – it is a challenge because of how they do not make mistakes. It is a challenge because you have to go out there and take the fight to them. You have to go out and make plays against them. You can't worry about something bad happening. You can't worry about a penalty. You can't worry about them rushing the punt. You know they are going to rush the punt. You know they are going to play hard. We are not going to get a lot of calls of penalties on them because they do not get penalized because they play with great technique and great fundamentals. That is going to be our challenge. Coach Belichick obviously is in charge of that whole thing, but his special teams coaches do a great job, the veteran special teams players do a great job and that is what that challenge is this week."
Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks:
"Good morning. It was great to get back to work this week coming off the bye. It is good to have (CBs) Denzel (Ward) and Greedy (Williams) back into the mix. We definitely have a big challenge ahead of us this week going against what many consider to be probably the best quarterback to play the game and one of the best coaches to ever coach this game. We have a big challenge ahead."
On the cohesiveness and efficiency of the Patriots OL:
"They are efficient as you just mentioned. The (Patriots) O line coach (Dante Scarnecchia) has been there for a long period of time. (Patriots QB Tom) Brady has a lot to do with that in controlling things up front with the protection. He does a tremendous job of really getting the ball out quick. Those guys are dynamic in the run game towards coming off the ball, trying to get to the second level with linebackers. They do a great job of cutting off the backside. We just have to do a great job of playing with our hands, striking and shedding up front."
On standout attributes of Patriots WR Julian Edelman:
"So many things, but I just think he is one of the best receivers in the slot. He is just so dynamic. Extremely smart. Quick. Physical. I like the mere fact that he is not just a receiver that catches the ball; he does a lot of the dirty work when you start looking at how he blocks, coming back inside in the core, blocking on linebackers and safeties. Hard-nosed, tough player that can definitely make things happen. He can change the game at any moment."
On what Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu adds to the Patriots offense:
"I think he adds exactly what I just said, the toughness and the physicality. He is a guy that is not afraid to block. He is going to catch the ball over the middle. I competed against him quite a bit in the NFC South. A good receiver. He fits definitely their mold."
On if Sanu ever threw passes as a WR against him:
"Yes, he did."
On the Patriots having WRs like Sanu or Edelman who can throw the ball:
"He can, and he has shown that in the past. I know they have always had that in their offense in New England so it is something we have to be prepared for."
On New England's ability to put together long drives and how that affects opponents:
"Sometimes it takes the sail out of you a little bit. We have to do a great job of really trying to stop that momentum as much as we can and get off the field on third down. We can't allow Brady to sustain drives. He is just so dynamic in doing that. These guys try to stay ahead of the sticks. They operate on third-and-short. We have to find a way to create negative plays on first and second down to try to get them into seven-plus [yards on third down]."
On Patriots QB Tom Brady and the cerebral part of his game:
"Extremely smart, very talented, accurate with the ball. He has been in that system for so long. He makes everybody in that system so much better. He knows how to get rid of the ball. He is not going to take a sack. He can get the offense in the right situation based on what he has seen defensively. Very smart, highly intelligent and very efficient with the ball."
On teams who have success against the Patriots typically creating pressure on Brady, specifically the NY Giants Super Bowl victory:
"When you talk about the Giants, you have to understand exactly the four guys they had up front (laughter). They had four other guys that were on the bench. That particular year, they had a great rotation of eight guys, but you are right. You have to pretty much try to defend them with four. You blitz them. As I mentioned before, he gets rid of the ball so quick so you have to be creative with coverage and some of the things that you are doing, trying to make him hold the ball."
On if a game like this is the reason why the Browns have constructed this DL:
"I would say so. Not only this game, every game is just trying to make a difference up front in the things we are doing. We can't shy away from the mere fact that they have a great running game. We have to do a great job of stopping the run first and trying to put those guys in the situations and try to get them in third-and-long."
On defeating the Patriots as a member of the Panthers defensive coaching staff on the road in 2017 during a high-scoring game:
"Anytime you can get a win in the National Football League, it really does not matter about the score. When you are facing Brady, it is hard to try to limit his touches and his opportunities to get the ball in the end zone. As (Head Coach) Freddie (Kitchens) talks about all of the time, we have to complement one another in all three phases. That was a great feeling. That was probably the last time they lost up there so we are going to try to do everything we can to try and put ourselves in that position."
On if it is a 'good problem' to have this week with Ward and Williams returning following solid play from CBs T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell:
"T.J. (Carrie) and Terrance (Mitchell) have done a great job. It is great to have Denzel and Greedy back. Those guys are practicing well. We are going to see exactly what they can do this week and how much work load they can take, but all four of those guys to me are deserving."
On what makes the Patriots run game so good, despite their stats:
"When you look at the two back they have in (Patriots RB James) White and (Sony) Michel, in my opinion, they are a good one-two punch. The numbers may not be there, but it could be a combination of things. They have thrown the ball maybe more based off of who they are facing. I think they have the means, the talent and the skill to be able to run the ball well. We have to make sure that we do everything we can to stop that run."
On how much facing Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick team adds to a weekly gameplan:
"He is very smart. He is going to make sure his team is prepared as they are each and every week. The one thing that New England is not going to do is they are not going to beat themselves. That is one of the things that we have to learn how to do here is not try to beat ourselves and put ourselves in positions to win football games. It starts with really eliminating penalties on both sides of the ball. Most importantly on the defensive side, we have to do a great job of being smart and putting ourselves in position to make plays."
On what aspect of Brady's game impresses him most:
"The consistency. The guy is Mr. Consistent in everything that he does. You just look at the number of wins that they have had over the years and his performance each and every week. He is just consistent."
On combatting Brady's ability to eliminate sacks by throwing the ball away quickly, as well as throwaways:
"I think someone said it earlier based off really trying to change up on the back end what you are doing with your coverages, he is going to try to find those windows and we have to make sure we tighten those windows up. Get a body on a body and make him hold the football so (DEs) Myles (Garrett), OV (Olivier Vernon) and those other guys can get there up front."
On if he has seen signs the Browns DL are close to being able to take over a game:
"I have at spurts, but we need the consistency there. I think we have the talent up front to be able to do that. As someone mentioned earlier, this is a perfect game for those guys to step up and try to be that dominant force up front."
On what Ward and Williams bring to the Browns secondary with their return:
"No. 1, just their skillset. You look at both of those guys coming out of college, they come from a program that played a lot of man. This is a game that we may have to do that just to be able to tighten things up. The physicality in the run game, these guys do a great job of blocking support so our corners have to come up and replace on the edges. To have both of those guys back is exciting. We will see exactly how much they play this week."
On if anything occurred during the bye week that would result in DE Genard Avery being more likely to be active on Sunday or if Avery doesn't fit the defensive scheme:
"It is not so much that. I know there is a lot of speculation out there, but I think when you look at the big picture and when you talk about 53 guys, if you guys really want to try and help us out, I think you can petition to the league – I do not know if it will work – to where you may get all 53 guys up on gameday. When you look at the big picture, sometimes it equates to special teams. It is not just defense and what we are trying to get done. It is really the big picture of the team. Which guys are up? Who is going to help out more on special teams? The rotation that particular week up front on defense, is it more of a running team? Do we need more of a run-stopper in there? I think Genard brings a great skillset. I think he has tremendous speed off the edge. I think he has the ability to get to the quarterback and affect the game in a positive way. We will see exactly what happens this week and who is up. I am sure if he is, he will make a major impact on the game."
On S Eric Murray's strengths in the first six games:
"No. 1, I like his physicality. I pride myself on having a physical secondary, and that is the one thing he has shown over the weeks. We are going to need that this week, particularly being in the slot with Edelman. A guy that is going to get in there and do the dirty work, I think he is going to do that. Again, he is physical in the run game, but we are going to have to play a physical style of game in order to give us a chance to win."
On the amount of turnovers the Patriots defense has forced through seven games:
"It is pretty amazing. Those guys do a good job of really disguising their coverages. Up front, they come off the ball well and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. You look on the back end, I think (Patriots DB Devin) McCourty has like five interceptions. They just played a dominating game the other night. Definitely something to try to pattern yourself after. I think they do a tremendous job, and hopefully, we can try to get the same thing going this week on our side of the ball."
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken:
On the Patriots defense's statistics this season:
"I just think that they like to turn it into a one-on-one game. I would not say they are complicated in terms of alignment and assignment, but they do a nice job of scheming your run game, your pass game and who you like to target and try to make you play left-handed. I think that is probably the best thing that they do, and because of the way that they structure things, I think it is easy to fix it quickly because it is not rolling through so many calls. That is one observation. I am not saying I am right there. They do a nice job of seeing what you do week to week, try to take advantage of your weaknesses and make you play left-handed."
On challenges the Patriots defense present with blitzes from different angles:
"They are not afraid to bring one more than you can protect. That is probably the biggest thing. Their blitz patterns are probably not as complicated as some others because they really want to match you personnel wise. They want to play from a man coverage standpoint, but they are not afraid to bring one more than you have and it really forces you to be from a structure standpoint and all your formations and all your protections to be sound, and do the best you can to protect it and do the best you can to get it out of your hands. If you do not do that and make them pay when they bring it, then like you saw the other night, they will continue to bring it and put your offense at risk and your team at risk."
On QB release time as a way to avoid pressure:
"First of all, I thought (QB) Baker (Mayfield) did a really nice job getting it out of his hands. I thought his eyes were in the right spot. I thought guys did a nice job running routes in reference to a couple of weeks ago. Seattle is much more of a zone team so there are things that you can take advantage, getting the ball out of your hands quicker in terms of sitting in space, which he did and he did a nice job of. This week is a little bit different. They will play forms of zone, but they are more of a man-match team. It presents a little bit more of a challenge in terms of our guys are going to have to win their one-on-one matchups, and when they do decide to double somebody or to try and take a player away, other guys have to be able to step up. That is really what it comes down to. You have to, up front, your time clock and protection has to get extended because there are a lot of times when they are matching you that there are not automatic check-downs. Sometimes they get sacks off of their zero pressure. Sometimes they get sacks off of just their effort and you do not have an immediate ball to get to. You are waiting for a matchup to win and you do not win. They are as good as anybody in staying in phase with your receivers and making you make contested plays. If you do, then you will have success. You will get some matchups in your favor. You just have to take advantage of them and make the plays down the field. I know we are talking throwing the football here. Obviously, you have to be able to run the football and being able to scheme that up, but we are just talking about in the pass game."
On the Patriots success against first and second year quarterbacks:
"One of it is that they are not afraid to bring one more than you can protect. Whenever you put a quarterback under duress, it is going to put some stress on. They are going to get stressed in terms of where to go with the ball. We have to do a really good job schematically and again, it is not as if it is something that comes up half of the time. It is just going to come up in some critical situations. The second thing is because of just the different looks that you get. Their ability to jump in and out of different coverages, but specifically in covering your receivers, sometimes there is not an easy check-down to just get the ball out to somebody and there is a comfort level with that with young players – there just is – but I think they have been disruptive to a lot of quarterbacks, not just young quarterbacks."
On what makes Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore so good:
"Obviously, there is something that we do not know about because with most great players there is something about them and what makes them a great player, whether it is from an instinctual part of it, studying the gameplan, competitive nature that we are not around them. One thing they do a nice job of is when you play as much man coverage as they do, you get better at what you practice. He does a nice job. All of them do a nice job. He does a nice job. He is long. He is athletic. He can run. He does a nice job staying phase. All of them, including him, do a nice job of contesting the ball when it is in the air to a receiver. I was amazed – the numbers might not be right there, but there is not as many [penalties] – You would think with as often as they play man from a defensive holding, pass interference, you would think there would be more of those, and there is not. He does a really nice job."
On if opponents go into a game knowing what Belichick is going to do to limit an offense or if there is more uncertainty:
"I do not know. Most teams, just like the New England Patriots, if you are good on defense, you do a lot of the same things. You might tweak some things. Different things they may do in terms of the way teams run the football, in terms of who is being targeted and the type of routes you may run from that part of it. When it comes down to the core of it when you watch them on film, they do a lot of the same things over and over and do it well with some subtle nuances to it is probably the best way to put it. It is not like all of a sudden, wow, this one week they were playing a quarters type base coverage. They do a nice job of their personnel up front and doing a lot of the same things with different people that stresses you and your protections and stresses you in terms of you IDs. They are going to get an extra guy in the box which makes it harder to run the football. Like I said, more nuance, more subtle changes here or there based on what you do and maybe not so much just drastic dramatic differences when you see them week to week."
On the Patriots consistent cohesiveness on the OL despite different personnel and creating cohesiveness on the Browns OL in the first year of the offense:
"That is part of the puzzle. Part of the puzzle is whoever you have on your roster is to make it work. It does not matter whether it is your skill group, your O line or whoever you have, and it is a challenge week to week when you are going against the best. Obviously, it is critically important starting with (C) JC (Tretter) as our center and Baker our quarterback getting communicated in terms of our IDs and making sure we are on the right people. That is the start of it before you even do anything physically is just getting guys on the same page. At this point so far, we have been able to run the football. That will always give you a chance. That has been the positive. It is an interesting dynamic. We focus on the one side of sure, we would like a lot of things that we do to be better. You could look at it and say, 'Maybe we could be better here in protection. We could be better her in our route running.' We could be better here in a lot of things that we do, but they are also a big part of why we are running the football well, if that makes sense. I think we have to take that into account of how well the guys have schemed it and how well our guys have executed it. Obviously, it starts up front with those guys. You can't do anything if you can't run the football and if you can't keep them off your quarterback."
On Patriots LB Jamie Collins Sr.:
"He is so versatile. I think that is probably the biggest thing – his versatility. They play him in kind of a hybrid role where he can cover and he can blitz. He can be a matchup problem if you get him on one of your skill players, which they do, and they like to rush him at different spots if they feel like they can take advantage of that matchup. That is the biggest thing, just his versatility."
On if it is tough to make OL changes at this point of the season, given Kitchens' comments about potential changes or no changes to the line:
"You are kind of going in the backdoor on that a little bit, trying to get me to – [Kitchens] talked about it but really did not talk about it(laughter)? In the end, every team has to make decisions based on what they think is in the best interest of their team. Offensively, it is to move the football. It came a good time in the bye week to take a look at some things, but structurally, like I said, I think all of those guys have had their moments and some more consistent than others, like every position we have. They are no different than any other position. It just happens to be where we are doing the same thing at every position where you are looking at different players and what they will bring to the table and what will give us the best chance to be successful. In terms of that, we like our group. We really do. We just have to do it better in a lot of areas, starting with me and our coaches, and give ourselves the best chance every week to be successful."
On if the timing of the bye week was healthy for Mayfield, particularly given the hip:
"You would have to ask him. Yesterday, I thought he threw it really well. He is tough-minded, loves to play so it is hard to even notice that part. I am sure it was nagging a little bit even last week and I really did not notice it."