DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD BOWLES
(On how much the outside linebackers are playing off each other and if them switching sides has made the difference)
"No, I don't think so. I think they have a great friendly competition in competing against each other getting back there. They help each other out where you just can't try to double one or the other, as well as the guys up the middle. They're doing a good job getting to the passer. Sometimes the ball is coming out fast, so we're happy with the production and we're happy with the pressure."
(On not allowing the Minnesota offense to get behind the defense last Sunday)
"Well, we'd like to do that every week, obviously. Going into the Bye Week, you really take a look at it and we didn't want the ball going over our head. We made a conscious effort not to let the ball over our head."
(On how he felt the defense played on Sunday vs. Minnesota)
"I thought we played good situational football as far as third downs and red zone defense. I didn't think we did very well on first down. I thought we got out of our gaps in the run game and [I was] a little disappointed there. He's (Dalvin Cook) a great back – no doubt about it – and he can run the ball very well, but we didn't defend first down very well."
(On how well the secondary held up vs. the Vikings without CB Jamel Dean)
"I think they've been doing a good job. Ross [Cockrell] stepped in and did a great job last week, especially. They are very bright, heady guys. They're more conscious, they're talking a lot more and they're feeding off each other a lot more, so they're getting better with the communication."
(On if OLB Antony Nelson earned more snaps last week by design or because of the number of defensive snaps there were in the game)
"By design, as well. I mean Shaq, [Barrett] and JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) – like we've said all year – can't go every snap. Nelson is the third wheel right now. He comes in and he gives us some good minutes."
(On the development of second-year defensive backs Mike Edwards, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean)
"Mike has gotten a better grasp of the game at safety. He's a ballhawk naturally, but he's seeing things a lot easier than he saw his first year, naturally – which he should in his second year. He's playing a lot faster. [Murphy]-Bunting is probably the headiest of the bunch. He does a lot of things for us, does a lot of the dirty work and plays a lot of positions for us. He's been banged up a little bit, but everybody is at this point in the year. He's coming around healthy, so we look for him to get better and better. Dean has been banged up the last couple weeks and hasn't played as much. He started out very well. The more time he gets, the more time and different plays he's starting to see. He's starting to understand the game a lot more, so we're happy with his progression, as well."
(On the progression of LB Devin White)
"Well, the biggest thing is his leadership, and the leadership comes with commanding the defense and knowing the defense. He's playing a lot faster, understanding the defense and getting everybody else to play fast. His talent is already there. He's already way ahead of the game from that standpoint, but the game has slowed down for him from a mental standpoint and he's leading us."
(On what CB Jamel Dean adds to the defense with his speed and ability)
"Obviously it solidifies us as far as how we started off – having the same guys in there playing fast. When you have a tall corner who can run and get hands on you – and a heady corner – that always helps out. At the same time, Ross [Cockrell] has stepped in and [Sean Murphy]-Bunting has stepped outside and we haven't missed that much of a beat. That speaks to the depth of some of the guys we have playing behind him. You always feel a little bit of a difference when you are down one of your top players, so when and if he comes back, we'll be happy to have him. We just have to make sure he's ready to go."
(On the team's red zone defense)
"I didn't think we were playing well early in the year in the red zone and I thought we were giving up some easy ones as far as what we were trying to do. We've honed in on that and locked in a lot more. We're trying to make sure [that] if they get down there, they only get three [points] instead of seven. That's a big difference in the game for our offense and how we have to come back. We just have to keep guys out of the end zone. There's been a lot of focus on it all year long, but we're putting even more focus on it and detailed focus on it to try and get that done."
(On if he has a signature holiday tradition with the Bowles family)
"Not really. We sit around and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the cartoon version, not the Jim Carrey version – really for the songs, if nothing else. That's about it for us."
(On the worst gift he ever received)
"I don't think there is a bad gift. The worst gift you receive is no gift, so I'll take all my gifts."
(On the importance of running the football and stopping the run to winning games in December)
"It's still the case but there are a few exceptions. Obviously, offenses are throwing the ball a lot more and having a lot of success, but you still have to stop the run and start making them pass to try and win the football game. Running the football – that controls the clock, and you still try to win the game, especially in the cold weather games."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BYRON LEFTWICH
(On RB Leonard Fournette filling in for RB Ronald Jones II this week and how he responded to being a healthy scratch last week)
"He's been great. He's been here all week putting in work [and] he's been working since he got here. It's great for us to have a guy like that, that you can lean on – especially with all those guys – with 'Shady' (LeSean McCoy) also and with 'Sneak' (Ke'Shawn Vaughn). We've got guys that we really depend on and we believe in that they can go out there and get the job done. Those guys will have opportunities to get that done with Ro being down this week and I'm excited to see the guys play."
(On what has changed on the Atlanta defense since Falcons Interim Head Coach Raheem Morris took over)
"For one, they're playing hard [and] they're playing physically. The guys with their hand in the ground are playing exceptionally well and that's helping the guys on the back end. Obviously, throughout a season, things happen. But what you see on tape throughout the year is how hard these guys play. These guys play hard [and] this is a good football team that we're going up against that's played a lot of tough teams well [and] has lost a lot of games there right at the end. This is a team that can easily have a different record – we understand that. We just have to make sure we're ready to play and we're trying to use this week to get ready to play."
(On what he remembers about Morris as a head coach when he played for him in Tampa Bay)
"He's a smart guy [and he] really understands football. [He] really knows how to deal with people [and] he's going to have fun at whatever he does. He's a guy that I just remember [as] a smart coach. It was fun being around him and having the opportunity to play for him and play for a guy like that [with] the way that he views football. You know these guys are going to be well coached. He's a guy who has coached the wide receivers and now he's a head coach, so he understands different sides of the ball and what it takes on both sides of the ball. We'll be ready and understand that these guys will be well coached [and] ready to come into this game."
(On if he is excited that Morris is receiving another opportunity as a head coach)
"When I met him, he was already a head coach, so that's kind of what I knew him as. He's a young-looking guy that has been around a lot of really good football players, to be honest with you. He's a good coach all the way through and through. That's what I remember of 'Rah' and that's what I know of 'Rah' – just a really good football coach [who] understands both sides of the ball."
(On what the offense needs to do to unlock more from WR Antonio Brown in its final three regular season games)
"He's making the plays that we're asking him to make, so he's fine where he's at. Obviously, it's week in and week out, right? One week we throw it down the field and we're throwing it too much, [then] we don't throw it enough. We're just trying to get these guys the ball. Put him in position to make plays to help us win. That's what he's doing. That's one thing I'll say – our guys are in position to make the plays and they're making the plays that we're asking them to make week in and week out. I'm fine where he's at. Those type of [big statistical] games will come just because of the talent that he is, the plays that he can make [and] the things that he can do. We're fine where's at. He's making the plays that we're asking him to make."
(On what makes Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians unique and his commitment to learning about his players off the field)
"That's just B.A. – that's all I know [and] that's all I've known him to ever be, really. That's what he's been since the day I met him, so he doesn't have to act [and] he doesn't have to do things to make people feel a certain way. He's just being himself and being himself is a guy that loves coaching football [and] that's going to coach you hard. But, at the same time, [he] wants to see you be your best. That's all I've ever known of him [and] that's all we really expect from him – the guys that have worked for him [and] the guys that he has coached. That's all we really expect from him – just to be himself and when he is, it's a special thing because he's able to reach guys that maybe can't be reached by a lot of people. He understands the game [and] he understands today's player well, also. He's just a good coach that's fun to play for, fun to work for [and] a guy that has the understanding of football all the way through and through."
(On why he enjoyed playing for Head Coach Bruce Arians)
"He's just a fun guy. He understands the game of football and he builds relationships, like with the way he built this team together mixing all of these different guys and just allowing guys to be themselves. He allows you to be yourself and let you play your best football. That's what he wants – he wants you to be at your best. That's how he coaches – he coaches you to be at your best, but he will coach you hard. He'll coach you hard and come and give you a hug. That's just who he is. Most of the time when he's coaching, what he's saying is legit of some sort. You just understand B.A. is going to be B.A. He isn't changing for [anyone]. He's going to do what he [does], the way that he [does] it. We appreciate him – I know I do -- to have someone like that. It's hard to find guys like B.A. in the league [and] really out here in the world. It's hard to find guys that [are] like B.A. He's a special guy."
(On his impressions of QB Tom Brady heading into the end of the season)
"He's really exceptional at everything. He's aware of everything. I think it's maybe because he's been through so many of these situations, right? I don't think there's a human being out there who has been through more of these situations than Tom, right? Any of them you can imagine – any situation you can imagine he's probably been through it a lot, so he helps. It helps to have him, to have a guy that has the awareness [and] the understanding of what it takes to play this position week in and week out, what it takes to play this position in December – especially from a leadership standpoint – and what you need to do to get your guys playing at a high level all of the time. He's exceptional at that. He's always probably been exceptional at that. That's what you get when you have a guy like Tom who has all this experience in these situations. I really do believe he can help us out as we try to move forward with our team and try to become a better group of guys."
(On the reason for the incompletions early in last week's game vs. Minnesota)
"It was football. [Good] football didn't happen. We didn't do a good job of executing. When you don't start fast, it really probably comes down to a couple third downs that you didn't get within a drive. That's football. We all want to go out there and score as fast as we can, get the ball and score every time we [have it]. But there is an opponent out there. We are in the National Football League. So, we understand that. We go out there prepared to play four quarters [and] to do what we have to do to try and win the football game that week. Obviously, we didn't get off to as fast of a start as we wanted to in the first quarter, but I don't think we had a lot of plays [either]. I think [we had] five plays in the first quarter. We understand that. We feel as though we're going to try and go out there and play our best football week in and week out. Whatever that takes – whether that's us starting fast [or] that's not us starting so fast – we've got to do what we can as a group of guys, and as a team, to try to find a way to win football games. That's the ultimate goal – finding a way to score one more point than the other team."
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
(On how he gets himself in sync when the offense is not on the field often early in games)
"It's tough – those are important plays early in the game because if you hit them, then you are on the field and it's not only five plays [in the first quarter], [so] you get in a rhythm earlier. I kind of said after the game, you just have to be sharp from the moment you take the field. I think for me it always comes back to technique. I'm always analyzing why something worked or why something didn't work – whether that's a play or a throw or a thought in my head. Sometimes it's mental and sometimes it's physical. Then you just have to try and make the correction. If you feel like it was a very decisive play and you missed the throw, it might have to do something with your technique, your mechanics [or] your timing. If it's something you're kind of in between where it could be a little mental issue where you just wanted to pull the trigger a little earlier but you just couldn't get to it. Then you have to just try to play quicker in your head. It can really be a number of things and regardless [of what it is], you've got to clean it all up. An unproductive play is an unproductive play whether it's a physical error [or] a mental error – and it could be either or. From my standpoint, I want to be decisive, I want to try to eliminate gray area and go out and play really technically and fundamentally sound so I can throw the ball as accurately as possible."
(On getting to know Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians as a coach and as a person)
"I feel like we have a great relationship. From the moment I got here, we've just had great dialogue and I certainly appreciate all the insight he gives me and the way he coaches and leads. It's been a different year for all of us dealing with those type of circumstances where normally you would have opportunities to get to know each other in a different way. One thing that's tough for all of us around the facility is you don't get one-on-one time with anybody [and] you don't get any personal time where you'd be sitting around talking and eating together. There's no close contact, so every conversation is just very different than what it's been in the past. We're making the best of it. Like I said, it's very open [and] honest dialogue about how we think [and] certainly how I can be most effective. Any questions he has, we always have a great, open line of communication. I really enjoy my time getting to know him and I have great admiration for him as a coach, as a man, as what he is off the field and how he commands and leads the team."
(On how he adjusts to a different running back receiving most of the playing time this week with RB Ronald Jones II possibly missing Sunday's game)
"I think first of all, we're all thinking about 'Ro.' Obviously, a tough week for him when you have an injury and then you have something that comes up with COVID. He's been so reliable, dependable [and] consistent for us. Even in the offseason, his commitment to making improvements to his game and I think everyone has a great deal of respect for 'Ro' and what he's brought to the team. For a young player, he's shown a lot of maturity – he's very selfless. I love when he's in the backfield with us and I have a lot of confidence in him. I have a lot of confidence in the other backs. Leonard [Fournette] has played a lot [and] done a lot of great things, 'Shady' (LeSean McCoy) has done a great job, Ke'Shawn [Vaughn] has done a great job when he's been in there. We have a really talented backfield and we just have to continue to find ways to use them all so they can all be productive."
(On what he has seen from QB Josh Rosen)
"I think it's not as much interaction as we all probably would've liked or enjoyed, but we have a great quarterback room [with] Blaine [Gabbert] and 'Griff' (Ryan Griffin) [as well]. It's a lot of conversation about football [with] some veteran guys and then Josh is the young guy. Josh has a lot of experience, too. It's a strong group [and] it's a group that works really hard. We're all trying to be the best we can be for one another. If I have things I want to share with those guys, I let them know. They're all very supportive of me over the course of the week. Josh has done a great job in his role, Blaine has done a great job, 'Griff' has done a great job. We have a great room."
(On if he was surprised a pass interference penalty was called on Minnesota on the Hail Mary attempt to TE Rob Gronkowski at the end of the first half last week)
"I didn't really see it until after the game, but the way it played out, coach made a good point earlier in the week. It was kind of a Hail Mary-type play. We didn't really get all the guys to the spot where the ball was coming down – we just got one guy, so it was pretty obvious when it was just Gronk. Then the linebacker had his body turned into Gronk and had his hands up, and Gronk didn't really have the opportunity to make the play. You're right, it's not called that often, and in that case, I think we're certainly happy the ref made the call. But, we're not expecting to get too many of those."
(On how his approach to games in December has changed throughout his career, what his notebooks of preparation look like at this point in the season and on if he relishes in the challenge of coming to Tampa and being able to bring the Buccaneers to the postseason for the first time since 2007)
"We're talking about winning one game against the Falcons, so that's kind of where it is for us. This is our notebook – you'd think we're building rockets with the amount of information that's in here just for a bunch of football players. That all adds up, all those plays add up, all the schemes add up over the course of the year. You get to December and I think the nice part about December is when you scout an opponent, you feel like you really know them pretty well because they're not putting in a new defense this week, you know? They're going to run what they run – they've been running what they run all year – and you've got to try to evaluate what the strengths and weaknesses are. I'd say earlier in the year, you don't always have a great idea of what they've done in the offseason and so forth. Now, they're doing the same thing for us – they've got more knowledge than they had earlier in the year. When you play teams late, preparation really takes over. Preparation so you can go out there, play with confidence and execute well. That's part of what I really enjoy about playing in December. I feel like I can get a pretty good feel for the opponent."
(On any Christmas traditions he has with his family)
"I'm excited for a new tradition of just being down here in beautiful weather. It doesn't quite feel like it's Christmas time just because the seasons don't change much. Normally, up in the northeast where I've been, you definitely feel [it]. I've got a lot of friends sending me pictures today of 12 [to] 16 inches of snow up in the northeast. I just wrote back, 'Don't really miss that. Don't really miss shoveling out of snow.' It's a little different. My kids are really looking forward to it. My kids are getting a little bit older, so they're anxious to see if Santa Claus is going to come this year. I told them, 'If they're good, maybe we'll see.' It's been a good year thus far."