ESPN guys on the Patriots

The guys on ESPN’s “NFL Countdown” talked about the Patriots and their pursuit of perfection on today’s show. Here are some excerpts:

What’s Most Impressive about the Patriots 16-0 Season…
Tom Jackson: “The Patriots played their best ball in the fourth quarter (against the Giants) … Last night they asked him (Tom Brady) to throw the ball 43 times. He didn’t make a single mistake during the course of the night and that’s what he’s done all year.”

Mike Ditka: “They’re flexible and they make adjustments.”

Keyshawn Johnson: “They stayed on course. The task at hand was to win all their football games and break some records. They did that and went 16-0. Now they have to move on and try to win the big one. … I would rather be 14-2 and losing the Super Bowl or the playoffs than having this type of pressure on me. If they had lost that football game last night (against the Giants), that pressure wouldn’t be on them. They could play two games and lose the Super Bowl and everyone would say they had a good season. When you set the bar as high as they have and then you go out and lose, I may have to get off the bus.”

Emmitt Smith: “This is a true testament to the mental toughness they have, the great physical condition they’re in and their focus. … Failure is not even an option for them. They have loaded the ship, they have left the port and now they’ve landed. They got off the boat, burnt the boat off and looked back and said we can’t go back. They have accepted the challenge and the calling from history. They think they’re time is right now and there’s no looking back.”

On Tom Brady and the Patriots Record-Breaking Season …
Johnson: “I look at him (Tom Brady) now as the face of the National Football League. He’s elevated in my eyes past Peyton Manning. He’s got all the records now, in terms of passing Peyton Manning. He’s got three football championships and will probably put MVP on his resume. He’s a celebrity quarterback, but still winning football games. A couple of years ago it was all about (Peyton) Manning, but right now it’s all about Brady.”

Jackson: “My perception of Tom Brady hasn’t changed. He’s always been a great quarterback and has won three championships, but my perception of the football teams has changed. When I look at them now, there’s a bit of a chippiness to them…and at some point it’s a negative form. That little bit of chippiness might cost them in the end on the field.”

Ex-Dolphins Coach Don Shula
On the Giants vs. Patriots game …
“It was a real credit to the National Football League. The way the Giants went out to play. It was a meaningless game to them, but they went out with the idea to play the best game they could play and knocking the Patriots down from their perfect season.”

What has impressed him the most about the 2007 Patriots …
“(Against the Ravens, Eagles and Colts), in all three of these games, they were down and behind, but they kept their poise and knew they had the confidence to make plays at the end.”

On the Patriots repeating the undefeated 1972 Dolphins season…
“You have to forget about 16-0 because each game now is sudden death. 16-0 won’t mean much if they get beat in he playoffs and don’t win the Super Bowl … That’s what’s going to make it a meaningful season, going 19-0.”

“10 Things We Learned…” from last night’s game

No player availability today — and none until Thursday, by the sound of things. But we’ve already delivered the transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media today. In addition, here’s my weekly “10 Things We Learned…” column for Metro Boston from last night’s Patriots-Giants game.

Bill Belichick Q&A, 12/30

Here’s the complete transcript of this morning’s conference call between Bill Belichick and the New England media:

BB: Morning. We’re coming off kind of short night here. We got back late. We’re trying to look at the film here and push through some corrections and grade the film and so forth after the Giants game and then we’ll get on to some of the other things we need to do later on this week.

Q: Any thoughts about the history that you guys did accomplish by being 16-0? Also, in your mind, as the season went along, did you have an inkling that this could be a special year for this team, for the regular season anyway?
BB: As I said all year, our focus was week to week and that’s the truth. Again, as far as last night’s game, we talked about it last night; it’s something that we can all be proud of in this organization. Everybody played a part in it. Everybody had a job to do. Certainly the players deserve the credit. They’re the ones that made the plays. But it’s something that we can all be proud of. But we have a lot of football left to play and the next time we step on the field we’ll be 0-0 in the second season. So we have still a lot to look forward to.

Q: You’ve played three of the AFC playoff teams and maybe a fourth if Cleveland gets in. How does that affect your preparation?
BB: Well, we’ll see what happens here. I think we’ll really take a good look at that whole situation after today’s games are in and we see how things shake out. We played San Diego a long time ago. The Colts game was in the middle of the season as well. So we know those two teams, and Pittsburgh was the most recent of [those] games. So we have some familiarity with those teams, but some of those games showed up quite a while back, so we’ll wait and see how things shake out today and what the seedings are and then take a look at what potentially could be our next game and we’ll go from there.

Q: What will your week be like? You and the coaches?
BB: Again, after we see how things come out today, then we’ll make our priorities and set our goals for what we want to try to get done this week with the potential opponents that we could have in the [divisional] round. And then of course we won’t know for sure until after next weekend’s games, but there are things that we can work on that we’re doing that could stand for some improvement and then we’ll also turn our attention to some of those potential opponents, but we’ll just wait and see how that comes out today before we really make any determination as to exactly how we want to start breaking all those films down and what priority we want to put them in.

Q: As much as people have talked about your dominance this year, there were several games where you were able to execute in the fourth quarter and come back and win games. What allows a team to be able to do that, to be able to execute at those times?
BB: I think it certainly starts with preparation and being able to do it on the practice field and in meetings and walkthroughs and identifying the situations and everybody knowing what to do so that, when it does come up, you can execute the play. But of course in the end it comes down to players making the plays and getting it right, and no matter how you practice it sometimes it’s a little bit different on the field the way it actually occurs. Sometimes there are some adjustments that need to be made there, but it starts with the preparation of everybody knowing what to do and aware of the different possibilities and how to adjust to it. You’ve got to block; you’ve got to tackle; you’ve got to throw; you’ve got to catch; you have to defend; you have to recover an onside kick. Whatever it is, you still have to make those fundamental parts of the plays. Or [sometimes] even if you’re in the right position it doesn’t matter. It still won’t work. So a lot of things are going on there. The main thing is the players stepping up and focusing and concentrating and executing at critical times in the game. They’re the ones who do it.

Q: Do you think this team’s ability to execute has been overlooked?
BB: I don’t know how everybody else looks at it, but I certainly appreciate it and recognize it. And, that said, it’s not perfect. There are things that we need to do better and we’ll work on those and address some of those this week and try to continue to improve as a football team as we move forward.

Q: Do you see yesterday’s game, now that it has been over for 12 hours, more as something to improve upon next time out or more as something to celebrate?
BB: I think we look at it like we look at every game. Any time we win, we’re excited to win. It’s hard to win in this league and it’s a good feeling when you come out of the game with more points than your opponent, and there is a lot of preparation and a lot of work that goes into that. With the success we’ve had this season, yesterday’s game [brings] a little bit more of a degree of satisfaction in that game because of the culmination of the regular season, but at the same time we have plenty of things that we need to work on. We’ll make those corrections and identify them and try to improve them, just like we do every week. So I don’t see that whole part of it being dramatically different from any other game. The only difference is we have a couple of extra days this week before we actually come back to practice and go to work and that is a little bit longer than we normally do. But it’s really still the same process.

Q: Do you feel at all as if your defense maybe took a step back last night?
BB: As I said, there are plenty of things in the game that we can improve on and we can do better. That’s in all three phases of the game, but certainly defensively. When you give up 35 points on defense and special teams, that’s not where you want to be. That’s not going to win every game for you in this league, that’s for sure.

Q: With Tom throwing 50 touchdown passes and with the 49 and 48 coming from a guy who plays indoors and another who played in Miami, can you put Tom’s performance into context given all of the factors involved?
BB: I think I’d just say what I said after the game: I’m happy for all of the players who achieved any of those awards or records. That’s great. I’m most proud of our team for the team accomplishments. I think those players have spoken about those things already. So I would leave that to them. I’m happy they got it. It’s kind of like the Pro Bowl recognition. I’m happy if they get selected or if they break a record. Great. But I’m most concerned about the success of the team. Tom has done a great job for us ever since he’s been here. He is a terrific quarterback. There is no quarterback I’d rather have and I have all of the respect in the world for Tom and what he has done. And I congratulate him on the things that he’s accomplished individually this year in terms of some records and so forth. I think he’d be the first one to tell you, and I’d second it, is the main thing is the [team’s] record and the team’s performance and that is what he is most concerned about. Whatever else happened along the way or didn’t happen, that is the way it is. But the most important reasons why we are out there is to win games and he is very good at that.

Q: When the players come back on Thursday, will you have to remind them that they are 0-0 and everybody has an equal chance among the playoff teams to go all the way?
BB: I think we all know that. We talked about it already after the game. Of course, we know what the situation is in the playoffs. We’ve been there before. Lose and go home, win and keep playing. It’s all one game seasons now. Everybody is aware of that. We’ll have to have a good week of preparation and prepare to play well against our next opponent, whoever that is. But we know that team is one of the best teams in the league. So it will be a huge challenge for us and that is what we will start getting ready for.

Pats release Chad Brown

The Patriots have just announced they have released veteran linebacker Chad Brown. Here’s the statement regarding the transaction, just issued by the team:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots released veteran linebacker Chad Brown today.

Brown, 36, is in his 15th NFL season and played in two games for New England in 2007, appearing as a reserve against San Diego on Sept. 16 and against the New York Jets on Dec. 16. He recorded two special teams tackles for the Patriots this season. Brown was a member of the team during 2007 training camp and was released on Sept. 1, 2007 and re-signed on Sept. 12 before being released again on Oct. 10 and re-signed again on Nov. 27. He has been a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers (1993-96, 2006), Seattle Seahawks (1997-2004) and New England Patriots (2005, 2007). In 2006, he appeared in eight games for the Pittsburgh Steelers and totaled seven tackles, including a sack. The 6-foot-2-inch, 245-pound linebacker first signed with the Patriots as a free agent on May 10, 2005. He was credited with 54 defensive tackles and three special teams stops in 15 games with the Patriots in 2005. Brown was originally selected by the Steelers in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft (44th overall). The Colorado product was a starter for all four of his seasons with the Steelers and earned his first of three trips to the Pro Bowl in 1996 after finishing fourth in the NFL with a career-high 13 sacks. He signed with Seattle as a free agent the following year and spent the next eight seasons starting for the Seahawks. During his stint with Seattle, Brown averaged 93 tackles per season and had more tackles (744) than any other Seattle player over that span. In 15 NFL seasons, Brown has started 161 of 188 games played and has recorded 1,075 total tackles, including 79 career sacks. His career sack total ranks second among all active NFL linebackers. He also has notched 41 career passes defensed, including six interceptions. He has forced 19 career fumbles and recovered 13, returning three of those for touchdowns.

Thursday Injury Report

Here’s the latest, just issued by the Patriots:

Did Not Participate in Practice:
TE Kyle Brady (foot)
FB Kyle Eckel (stomach)
T Nick Kaczur (foot)

Limited Participation in Practice:
DB Willie Andrews (elbow)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
S Rodney Harrison (thigh)
G Stephen Neal (shoulder)
TE Ben Watson (ankle)
G Billy Yates (foot)

NFL makes big announcement on Pats-Giants

The NFL Network has just made a huge announcement regarding the broadcast of the Patriots-Giants game. Here’s the complete release, just issued by the Patriots:

The NFL has arranged with broadcast television partners CBS and NBC for an unprecedented three-way national simulcast of the NFL Network telecast of Saturday night’s New England Patriots at New York Giants game when the Patriots will try to become the first NFL team to go 16-0 in a regular season, NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL announced today.

“We have taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans,” Commissioner Goodell said. “What we have seen for the past year is a very strong consumer demand for NFL Network. We appreciate CBS and NBC delivering the NFL Network telecast on Saturday night to the broad audience that deserves to see this potentially historic game. Our commitment to the NFL Network is stronger than ever.”

CBS and NBC will carry the NFL Network feed of the game with BRYANT GUMBEL and CRIS COLLINSWORTH in the broadcast booth. The game also will be televised by WCVB-ABC (Channel 5) in Boston, WMUR-ABC in Manchester, New Hampshire (Channel 9) and WWOR (Channel 9) in New York. The telecast begins at 8 p.m. ET with kickoff set at 8:15 p.m. ET.

This will be the first three-network simulcast in NFL history and the first simulcast of any kind of an NFL game since Super Bowl I in 1967 when CBS and NBC both televised the first meeting of the champions of the newly merged National Football League and American Football League. CBS was the network partner of the NFL at that time and NBC televised the AFL. In that first Super Bowl – in which the NFL Green Bay Packers beat the AFL Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 15, 1967 – Ray Scott, Jack Whitaker and Frank Gifford called the game for CBS while Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman broadcast the game on NBC.

Against the 10-5 playoff-bound Giants, the 15-0 Patriots on Saturday night will seek to become the first NFL team to complete an unbeaten regular season since the Miami Dolphins went 14-0 in 1972. The Dolphins proceeded to win three more games, including Super Bowl VII, to finish 17-0 for the only perfect season in NFL history. The NFL regular season was expanded to 16 games in 1978.

The Patriots also are aiming for their record 19th consecutive regular-season victory dating back to the 2006 season. With six points, they also will become the highest scoring team in one NFL season, breaking the Minnesota Vikings’ total of 556 in 1998. Individually, quarterback TOM BRADY (48) is in position to break PEYTON MANNING’s NFL record for most touchdown passes in a season (49 in 2004) and wide receiver RANDY MOSS (21) will set a new league mark if he catches two touchdown passes to surpass JERRY RICE’s 22 in 1987.

NFL Network is currently available on 240 cable systems, including Cox, plus satellite television providers DirecTV and Dish Network, and the telephone company TV services of AT&T U-VERSE and Verizon FiOS. But a few of the largest cable companies have refused to carry NFL Network on their most broadly distributed and affordable packages.

“NFL Network is a programming service of great interest to fans and should be broadly distributed by the cable industry,” said NFL Network President and CEO STEVE BORNSTEIN. “The only channel devoted 24/7 to America’s favorite sport is not programming that should be relegated to a poorly promoted, pay-extra sports tier that takes advantage of our fans’ passion for the NFL. A few of the biggest cable operators have refused to negotiate. We call on them to do what’s right for their consumers and negotiate agreements for NFL Network that make sense for everybody.”

NFL Network also will televise two college football bowl games over the next week. The Texas Bowl in Houston matches the University of Houston against TCU at 8 p.m. ET on Friday (December 28) and the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona will send Indiana University against Oklahoma State on Monday (December 31) at 6 p.m. ET.

Wednesday Injury Report

Here’s the latest, just issued by the Patriots:

No Patriots were listed, because the team went through a walkthrough.

Here’s how the Giants look:
Did Not Participate in Practice:
RB Ahmad Bradshaw (calf)
CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor)
WR Sinorice Moss (back)
DT Manny Wright (ankle)

Limited Participating in Practice
WR Plaxico Burress (ankle)

Full Participation in Practice
RB Brandon Jacobs (ankle)

Tom Brady Q&A, 12/26

Here’s the full transcript of Tom Brady’s Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:

Q: Does it feel like the season has flown by or does it feel like a long time when you look back to training camp?
TB: Probably a little of both. Some weeks, it does fly by; other weeks really feel like it’s been a grind. I’m glad it’s a 16-game schedule as opposed to a 22-game schedule or something like that. I think everyone’s excited for this week, realizing that it’s the last regular-season game. I’m really just hoping that we go out and play our best.

Q: Is it hard not to look at the importance of this game, as far as history is concerned?
TB: I think we all realize what a win would mean, but a win’s always big. A win is always important for us and we’ve prepared pretty hard over the last four months, as every team prepares pretty hard. Being 16-0 would be a very special achievement, one that no other team has ever achieved and we’re finally at that point.

Q: As much as you obviously would like to finish 16-0, you want to play better and better football every week. Do you guys feel like you’re doing that?
TB: I think we’re constantly trying to make improvements and I think we’re trying, as a team, to find ways to be consistent and efficient out there. Some weeks are better than others. Ultimately, the goal is to win the game. You’re really judged by your wins and losses and I’d love to be playing our best football come January. This will be a great step in the process and [the Giants are] a very tough opponent, on the road. Hopefully, we can put our best out there.

Q: At the beginning of the season, could you ever anticipate a season like this, where you’re undefeated heading into the 16th game of the season?
TB: I think whatever hopes you might have… We’ve had great seasons and we’ve been 14-2. This has been a very special season. I’d hate to think that we’d go out there and not put our best out there this week so we’ve got to bring energy and excitement. It’s going to be a big test to beat these guys because they’re very good and they play well at home, too. I just hope that we’re able to finish off the season the way that we’d really hoped.

Q: You’ve been on a lot of great teams and you always hear the cliché that you’re only as good as you practice. How good of a practice team is this? Is it any different from any other team that you’ve been around and what, if anything, makes it a great practice team?
TB: I think that’s really where you get better. It’s where you find a lot of situations that you can carry over into the game of what you’re trying to do and understand as an offense, as a defense. I think, offensively, we do practice every situation. We’re very situationally aware. I hope that carries over to the way we play. Once again, I think at times it’s been better than in others. We put a lot into practice. There’s a quite of bit of emphasis, as a team, on it and Coach Belichick is pretty tough on us in practice. He always expects the best out of us. I think the pressure is always on us to go out there and achieve, even if it is practice because you can gain a lot of confidence playing well in practice.

Q: Did you and Randy Moss click right away in training camp, or did it take a while to really get it down?
TB: I think it always takes a little bit of time and we still… Things come up at this point that we try to improve on. We’re still learning from each other and we’re still trying to understand situations and read each other – for him to really know what I’m looking for and vice versa. It only leads to, hopefully, more success.

Q: At the beginning of each season, there are probably similar goals: Win the division, make the playoffs, win the Super Bowl. What’s it like when a new goal is presented to you, something like going undefeated? Is that taken as a distraction?
TB: No, I don’t think it’s like winning too many games. That’s a good distraction to have, I guess. I don’t think that distracts us. It’s always one-week seasons. We’ve [said] this all year, that we’re just focused on the team that we’re playing and this week it happens to be the Giants. If we win it we’ll be 16-0, like last week was 15-0 and the week before was 14-0. It’s very short-term goals that hopefully at the end of the season you can look back and be very proud of what you accomplished.

Q: One of the trademarks of this Giants defense has always been bringing pressure. Can you talk about them?
TB: They’re very talented. I think definitely [Michael] Strahan and Osi [Umenyiora] should take the weekend off. I’d rest them. I know that, definitely not playing those two. They’re great. They’ve got 40 sacks, I think, between Osi and Michael Strahan and [Justin] Tuck. They can rush. They have some very experienced cover guys back there. It’s a very veteran defense. I’ll be lobbying for that. Coach [Tom] Coughlin, if you’re listening, definitely rest those guys.

Q: You’re comfortable with Randy Moss obviously. Do you think that comfort level will sometimes lead you to force the ball in there or take chances with him?
TB: It all depends on whether you complete it or you don’t. There have been times when I’ve forced it and he caught it and it’s a great play. He’s always a big part of the plan. I’m always trying to find ways to get him the ball. You can always look back and say if it’s incomplete that maybe you should have made a better throw, but at the same time, you want to give him opportunities to make those plays.

Q: Have you been surprised that he’s such a good guy after all you’ve heard about him otherwise?
TB: I’m not surprised. I really try not to prejudge anybody or stereotype anybody. I just kind of deal with them as I have in my relationships with all the guys on the team. Regardless of what people say about somebody, oftentimes it’s very misleading. He’s a great guy and a great teammate and we’re all lucky to have him.

Q: What would getting two more touchdown passes mean to you? It’s a pretty significant NFL record if you get it.
TB: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of records at stake, the most important one being the 16-0. I hope we achieve that. It’d be a great feat for the team. We’d go down as the only team to be 16-0 so that’s the goal I’ve got in mind.

Q: You can have a perfect record, but do you think there can ever be a perfect team?
TB: I really feel you can have a perfect record. I don’t know if anybody’s perfect. I haven’t experienced that. We all make mistakes and we all try to learn from them and try to work hard to achieve your goals. We set very high goals around here, as every team does. I just think we’ve been fortunate this season in a lot of ways. Along with a lot of hard work, you need quite a bit of luck, too. I think we’ve been on the good side of that, in terms of injuries and the ball bouncing our way at certain times.

Q: It’s kind of strange in a sense that you’re such a team guy and around here it’s all team. Sure, you can look back on those records and say, ‘I want Randy Moss to break Jerry Rice’s record,’ with all the history and everything else, and other people want to see you break records. Is that a strange thing to come into this week?
TB: We’re in team sports so part of achieving anything in sports [is] you rely heavily on everybody else. I’m only as good as the guys I have playing around me. For every touchdown pass you throw, you need somebody to catch it, you need somebody to block for it. Nothing in this sport is achieved on your own. Like I said, being 16-0 would be the most important thing for all of us. If you take any energy away from that as a goal, then you’re really not doing yourself or your team any justice. Maybe when you look back at the end of your career you look at those things and it’s a cool thing to have, but everything I’ve experienced in the NFL and the greatest moments I’ve had is not when you throw five touchdown passes. It’s when you win championships.

Q: Your numbers have gone down in the last three to four games from where they were at the start of the season. Does that trouble you or do you think it was an inevitable downturn and can you get it back up to what it was?
TB: Yeah, we’re slumping. A negative trend, that’s never good. You just try to be as efficient as you can and we’ve been winning games so you always look at those. I’m not a big statistics guy. I evaluate each play. “What could I have done? What could I have done better?” I always feel I try to play very consistently and the team really can depend on me as a consistent player. I hope that continues.

Bill Belichick Q&A, 12/26

Here’s the full transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media today at Gillette Stadium:

BB: In a way, it doesn’t seem that long ago that we played the Giants there in the last preseason game. On the other hand, it seems like it was four years ago. But looking back on it and the Giants from when we saw them earlier in the year, certainly there’s a lot of – that game’s a lot different from this one, but we know the Giants a little bit from going against them pretty much on an annual basis. They’re tough, they’re physical, they’re well-coached, they’re hard to beat. They don’t do a lot of things that make it easy for you. You have to really go out there and play a good, tough football game. The division they’re in – Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington – we’ve seen those teams a lot on film. That’s a pretty physical division and certainly the Giants are as physical as any team that we’ve faced all year on both sides of the ball, particularly in the front. They have some good play-makers, offensively. The running backs are good, the receivers are big-play guys down the field, they have an athletic quarterback, their offensive line is real good and defensively they’re strong on the front. They can rush the passer, they can stop the run [and] they’re a good third down team. [Sam] Madison’s always a guy that’s the play-maker in the secondary, giving us and everybody else trouble, and they have a good blitz-scheme. I think their defense is a combination of just a good, basic, sound defense but it pressures the offense a lot as well, so we’re going to have to do a good job on that. I think all of those elements that I just talked about carry over into the kicking game. They’re a physical coverage team. They’re a strong blocking team. They take people on and they take them on hard, and they’re tough. I think last week’s game against Buffalo is a good example of it, where they just basically controlled the game. Even though they spotted them a two touchdown lead, they controlled the game on the line of scrimmage and in the kicking game on the line of scrimmage, and that was the difference in the game. We have a lot of respect for the Giants, always have. We need a good week of practice here, even though it’s on a short week, to get everything ready to go. This will be a big challenge for us, with their scheme and their style of play and their play-makers.

Q: Eli Manning has had an up and down season at times, but when he’s hot he’s particularly good. Can you talk a little about him?
BB: I think he’s become an experienced quarterback that sees the field well. He’s athletic enough to get out of some trouble. I’m not saying he’s a big-time scrambler, but he’s certainly athletic enough in the pocket to get out of some trouble and he’s made a lot of big plays. Kind of like — different, but sort of like [Ben] Roethlisberger, where he gets some time, looks down the field, finds [Plaxico] Burress, [Amani] Toomer, [Steve] Smith — one of those guys running around down there. [Jeremy] Shockey, until last week – and makes big plays in the passing game off scrambles. They do all of the stuff that you would do with Manning, that you would expect them to do with a good quarterback like that. They drop back, they play-action, they bootleg, they sprint out, they run max-protection patterns, they run the empty patterns and stuff like that where they’ll get everybody out. They have a good variety in their passing game. They utilize all of their players – the backs, the tight ends, the receivers, both down the field and on shorter, quicker throws, three-step drops and that kind of thing. They do a good job keeping you off-balance. They’re a well-balanced offensive football team and Manning can do all that they need him to do.

Q: Are the Giants the most blitzing team that you’ll see or that you expect to see? Thinking back, Pittsburgh blitzed you a lot and the Eagles blitzed you a lot.
BB: It depends on how much they want to call it. I mean, they blitz. They could blitz a lot or not as much. That’s hard to tell, how they’re going to play the game. I’m sure they’ll blitz some. It’s a question of how many they want to call and whether that’s more or less than somebody else. I’m sure not – certainly, we have to be ready for it, but I don’t know.

Q: They have a league high, I think, for sacks. When you see that, are those coming off blitzes?
BB: No. No. They get them off blitzes, but they can rush. Those guys – [Justin] Tuck and Osi [Umenyiora] and [Michael] Strahan, they don’t need any help. They can get there, definitely. They do a good job. They’ve got a good pass rush. They lead the league in sacks, they lead the league in runs for negative yardage. They create negative yardage in both the running game and the passing game, and then they get you in long yardage and it’s hard to convert. And they’re a good third down team. They’re a real good defensive football team. They’re good all the way around, but it certainly starts up front. And no, they don’t need to blitz to get there at all. Definitely not. They have plenty of sacks and plenty of pressure on three and four-man rushes, if that’s what they want to do.

Q: Tom Brady and Randy Moss have been a great combination, as have Tom and Wes Welker. Even with a quarterback as good as Tom is, is there a danger sometimes that you get into a comfort zone with a player and you end up trying to force the ball in?
BB: I think every pass is – Every play is designed to be executed differently against different defenses and the way the play comes out, so I think we have to do the same thing we do in the passing game every week, which is put in our game plan [and] prepare for all the different contingencies. Again, a team like the Giants is a tough team to prepare for because they give you a lot of different looks. They play man, they play zone, they play two-deep, they play three-deep, they blitz with help, they blitz with no help. Depending on what happens on the play, how we execute the pattern and adjust it if we have to, how the quarterback reads it and delivers the ball, that’s all going to be a function of, to a degree, what’s going on on the other side of the ball, as well as it is us doing the right thing. That’ll definitely be a big part of the passing game this week. I don’t think you want to go into this game – or any game, for that matter — without an open mind to the pattern, because it’s hard to tell what they’re going to do and where the best place to throw the ball is going to be until after the ball is snapped and you see what coverage they’re in.

Q: How much practicing in pads will the guys do this week?
BB: We’ll take it on a day-by-day basis.

Q: How much has being able to establish the rush in the past couple of weeks helped your team going forward?
BB: I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ll see how we do against the Giants. That’s really all that matters right now, is how we’re able to play against them, whether that’s running it, throwing it [or] doing a little bit of each. Maybe there’s more one way or the other – I’m not sure. Whatever plays we call, we hope we go out there and can execute them well. That’s why we’re calling them, but it’s not always the same every week. Whether there’s a carry-over from one game to the next, whether those plays carry over or even that style attack carries over, I’m not really sure.

Q: It seemed like Brandon Meriweather maybe had a little more time on defense in the last game. If that’s the case, how do you think he responded to seeing more time?
BB: I think Brandon’s improved all year. He played more two weeks ago against the Jets when James [Sanders] was out and then played in some dime situations last week. He’s improved through the course of the year and there’s still a lot of things he needs to work on, but I think he gives us good depth at the position. I’d like to see him catch the ball a little bit better, but that’s… He’s around it and I think he’s making progress.

Q: How much does the fact that you played them in a preseason game factor into this game, if at all?
BB: Well, a lot of the players that played in that game won’t be playing in this one, but from a scheme standpoint, they line up in some of the same – basically the same places, and so do we. The way the plays are blocked or the plays are defended, whichever side of the ball you’re talking about, you can definitely see how some of the schemes fit together. Maybe it’s not necessarily the players – You know, we played them two years ago in preseason as well, so I think there’s some good… There’s certainly some good teaching from those tapes because it’s us and them and it’s our scheme and their scheme, but some of the individual match-ups are different, so we’ll have to account for those, but there’s something to be gained from looking at it.

Q: Do you mean players who were back-up players won’t be playing in this game or players that have been released since the preseason?
BB: I think both teams played a lot of players in the preseason game that aren’t on the roster now for either team.

Locker room chatter, 12/26

Here are a few snippets from media availability today at Gillette Stadium — we have Rodney Harrison, Heath Evans and Kevin Faulk. We’ll also make sure to post the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady Q&A’s later this afternoon, as well as the first injury report of the week:

Safety Rodney Harrison
On the most important thing facing this team on Saturday…
Just to go out there — in all three phases — and play good football. Execute on defense, make sure the communication is good. Offensively, obviously put up some points and don’t turn the ball over. And special teams, create good field position.

On seeking that “perfect” game…
You have to. You have to. You never get to a perfect game, but you have to continually seek to get there. We haven’t been there. We need to. Like in the past game, we played well in the first half, but in the second half, we came out and laid an egg, so we have to play more consistently.

On whether or not you can take anything from the preseason game against the Giants…
It has no bearing on now. Teams are different, guys are different — similar, but different. That’s almost 20 weeks ago. That’s a long time ago. You just go out there … if you don’t have it down by now, you’re never going to get it. Just go out there and try to play solid football.

On the Giants being one of the most physical teams they’ve faced this year…
No question. Probably one of the best offensive lines we’ve faced. They have receivers that want to block you in the running game as well as three backs that can get downhill and create some confusion down there. They’re so big and so physical. You start with Jacobs at 6-foot-4, 270, he can run a 4.4 40. And you see guys on film who really don’t want to tackle him, so definitely a challenge there, and also in the passing game with Plaxico and Amani Toomer.

On how he avoids talk of records outside of the locker room…
I hang up on them. My family knows not to say anything about an undefeated season or anything like that, because I will hang up on you. It’s pretty easy for me, because when I go home, my wife is telling me to clean up the kitchen or take the garbage out. I don’t have to really deal with it. It’s just the focus of the guys in this locker room knowing that you can’t look too far ahead and you have to stay focused on the game at hand, because if you start looking ahead to someone, that clearly shows disrespect to this team.

On going 16-0…
Maybe once I’m done playing, I can sit back on that and reflect on that if we win. But right now is not the time.

Fullback Heath Evans
On whether or not you can take anything from the preseason game against the Giants…
[It means] nothing. The last preseason game, I don’t even remember how many of our starters played, I don’t remember how many of theirs played. They’re a good team — they’ve win 10 games in a tough league. They’re just a big, physical team that creates challenges. You see fast teams, you see physical teams. But this team, on film, physical is the first word that comes to mind.

On the most important thing to get out of this game…
Teamwise, I don’t really know. One thing I know the running backs have talked about is let’s get better this week. This is the last regular-season game, so for us, we’ve tried to get better week in and week out through 15 [games], so let’s not let that change this week. We’re not looking forward to anything else but to get better this week.

On the importance of establishing the run, as they’ve done the last couple of weeks…
I don’t think … we stick in a game plan, and it’s been effective all year. I don’t know how other teams look at us. I know offensively, just because a team hasn’t blitzed in three or four weeks, I don’t think that means they’re not going to blitz us. If a team hasn’t run a Cover 2 in eight weeks, I’m not saying they won’t do it. I don’t think teams necessarily look at it like they can’t do this so let’s worry about the pass. I think they play based on game plans, and for us, the game plan has called for more passes some weeks and more runs some weeks. For us, I don’t think there was ever a doubt as to what we could do. I just think we want to be ready when those opportunities do come. It’s a performance league, and we do like to pride ourselves in the running back room, to get it done when we’re called upon. And that’s getting 4 or 4.5 yards a touch.

On how his role might change when faced with such an aggressive front four…
They get up field. For me, it’s awareness this week of maybe not even being so much focused on my guys but be aware to correct mistakes. They have a great defensive line. They have great linebackers — they get a paycheck too. They’re going to create errors, and so I have to be ready to adjust and do my part when I’m called upon to get this running game going.

Running back Kevin Faulk
On what standards he sets to be a successful running back…
Yards per carry, how you block. Little things.

On Belichick saying the Giants’ have an ability to stop backs and create negative yardage…
If Bill says it, it’s definitely true. He watches more film than anybody. So you have to trust in what Bill says and do it.

On the key to getting positive yards against the Giants…
Trust. Trusting that guy next to you to that he’ll get his guy blocked, understanding ways you’re trying to attack their defense.

On how his role might change when faced with such an aggressive front four…
By being ready for anything. You can’t anticipate the changes. You just have to be ready for it.

On whether or not you can take anything from the preseason game against the Giants…
It was so far ago … right now, you just have to worry about things to improve your team that you have to work on.

On the importance of establishing the run, as they’ve done the last couple of weeks…
As a team, we’re just trying to make our team better, each and every week. We’re doing what we have to do, and one of those things was emphasizing the run, and we’re just trying to do that piece by piece right now.

On the keys to blitz pickup against the Giants…
If you’re facing a team that blitzes a whole lot, of course it becomes a greater point of emphasis. But at the same time, you have to be able to do it no matter what the situation is, no matter who the guy facing you is, o matter who you are. It’s you’re job. If you can’t do it, you won’t play.

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