Here are some notes and quotes from the ESPN guys on the Patriots from today’s ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown:
On The Giants and Concern about Tom Brady …
Emmitt Smith: “Tom Brady’s boot is not really my concern; if I’m the Giants my biggest concern is that I wanted to play the Patriots today. Not next week, today. And the reason why I wanted to play these guys today is because the way we went on the road and beat Tampa Bay, the way went on the road and beat Dallas at Dallas and the way went to Green Bay and took care of business in Green Bay. We were on such a nice roll that this bye week could be the interrupter that we did not need. And so now what we needed to do is stay focused at home, be physical last week in practice, then go to Arizona and sharpen some skills, put finishing touches and go to Super Bowl and play our best football of the whole entire season.”
Keyshawn Johnson sits down with Bill Belichick
Belichick on being undefeated going into Super Bowl …
“I think it’s a story for the fans and the media. Kind of like an old wise man Teddy Bruschi said a couple years ago…We got a one-game winning streak, 16 or 18 times….we take one game at a time, and that’s where we’re at now. It’s a one-game season and there’s only one team to look forward to and that’s our preparation for the Giants.”
Belichick on Randy Moss…
“I had never worked with Randy before and in working with him, he’s very professional, he’s consistent, he works hard, he’s very intelligent, he’s the same guy every day. He’s been great to work with, he really has. He’s been a great leader; he’s been a terrific teammate Monday through Sunday and a great example for all the players.”
When you look back at this season, what do you want to be remembered for…
“I’d like to be remembered for this next game and right now that’s where it’s all at. I think there’s a time to reflect back somewhere down the road, but right now is not the time.”
On what a fourth Super Bowl win would do for Belichick’s Legacy …
Mike Ditka: “If they win the super bowl and go 19-0, I have to think in my mind that he has to be considered the best coach of all time.”
The Patriots announced this afternoon that they have placed safety Mel Mitchell on the reserve/injured list with a biceps injury. Mitchell played in 10 regular-season games and one playoff game for New England this season and totaled 11 special teams tackles.
Mitchell, 28, was signed by the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent from the New Orleans Saints on April 4, 2006. The 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound safety has played in 54 career games for the Saints (2002-05) and Patriots (2006-07). He has been featured primarily on special teams, totaling 75 career special teams tackles in his 54 NFL games. In 2006, Mitchell was placed on the reserve/injured list with an arm injury (8/7/06) and missed the entire season.
The Wetern Kentucky product was originally drafted by the Saints in the fifth round (150th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Mitchell appeared in every game for New Orleans and finished second on the team with 25 special teams tackles. He missed the 2003 season due to injury, but returned in 2004 to play in 15 games while leading the Saints with a career-high 29 special teams tackles. In 2005, his final season in New Orleans, Mitchell played in 13 games and recorded 10 special teams tackles.
Here’s some locker room chatter taken from this morning’s media availability
Bill Belichick on whether or not this week feels like a division game, having played the Giants alreday this year?
I think it’s sort of like a division game. When you’ve played a team once earlier in the year and your familiar with your opponent moreso than a team you haven’t played … I don’t think it’s an advantage for either team — both teams are working from the same point. But it’s just more familiarity.
There’s a little bit of that game that you go through any time you play a team the second time in a season — actually, this is the third time, counting the preseason. There’s a little bit of that. But I think the familiarity, it helps coaches, it helps the players. Just gives you a higher starting point in your preparations. But I don’t think it favors either team. There’s just more information.
Does this feel like a division game?
It kind of flashed through my head while I was watching the film today. It was like, ‘Man, we’ve already played these guys three times,’ between the preseason, the regular season and now. That’s how you have to look at it. It’s a great opportunity for film study. You’ve seen those guys. You know what they’re going to do. There’s going to be wrinkles here and there. You have to decide what can we do to get the best game plan out there and execute.
What’s the line between dirty play and nasty play?
It’s arbitrary. Whatever the refs see as being dirty. Some guys view that as hard, physical football. Other people say that it’s dirty. I don’t think anyone goes out there intentionally to hurt players. I just can’t see that, because I don’t. But there’s a time where you have to be a lot more physical in a game. There are certain games where you have to be physical in, and you have to stand up and not be intimidated by the opponent. I think the last time we played the Giants, that was one of those games where both teams refused to back down. The comments that were made, or whatever has been made — I haven’t even heard them — I hope from my teammates and theirs as well, they would understand that it was both ways. It was hard, physical football both ways and that it wasn’t that one side was taking cheap shots at the other and the other side was just sitting there taking it.
What do you tell the new guys who haven’t been to a Super Bowl before how to prepare?
Just focus on the Super Bowl. We’re out there for one thing, and that’s to win a football game. We’re not out there to party. Spend some time with your family, but all the other side distractions, keep them away from yourself, do the right thing and just focus on the game.
Are you approaching this like it’s a division game?
We approach it like it’s the Super Bowl. It’s the most important game we’ve played in our lives. It’s a very important game, a game where we need to go out there and just do what we’ve been doing and continue to get better and win. I’ve been on the other side of losing and you don’t want that. Our No. 1 priority is to win.
What can you take from that game against the Giants earlier this year?
They have a good team. They’re physical, they’re big. They have a lot of weapons. But at the same time, we didn’t play particularly well on defense, and that’s something we look to improve on. We did a lot of things terribly, and we really need to improve on that. We won a ballgame. They’re a different team than a month ago. I feel like we’re a different team. Both teams are heading into this game with a lot of confidence and we’ll see what happens.
Is red-zone defense one of those things you want to improve on?
It’s a contrast from the last time we played against San Diego. We gave up four touchdowns (in the red zone against the Giants). We gave up four field goals (in the red zone against the Giants). A big difference. That saves you 16 points. Obviously, we’re disappointed. They put up 35 points, but at the same time, we learn from it and move forward. That’s a month ago. That has no relevance to next week.
Is there a fine line between hard-nosed football and dirty play sometimes?
Of course there is, but that’s not up to me to judge. We go out and play the game hard, and if someone wants to think that we’re a certain way, or someone else is a certain way, that’s on them. But our game is to really be physical and play whatever game you want to play, whether it’s finesse or physical. You want to match up with us intellectually? We can do that as well. That’s for you guys to judge.
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media this afternoon at Gillette Stadium:
BB: Good afternoon. How are we doing? It’s great to be here and to be coach the team that’s going to Super Bowl XLII. It’s a great privilege and honor to be a part of that. We’re certainly looking forward to it. We know what we’re dealing with, with the Giants. We had a great game with them last month and it looks like they’ve done nothing but get better. Today we’re just trying to get a lot of our arrangements and stuff like that out of the way and we’ll really start digging into the Giants in the next couple of days. We know that will be a big challenge for us but [we’re] certainly thrilled to have the opportunity to meet it and we look forward to having a good week of preparation here before we head down to Arizona. It was a great win yesterday for our football team and our franchise. [I’m] happy for everybody, for Robert [Kraft] and the ownership. The players certainly played outstanding and stepped up and made big plays in the fourth quarter, especially when they had to. All the other people that have contributed to our success this year, all the support people and the assistant coaches, all of them have done a great job. It’s given us the opportunity to try to do it one more time. We’re excited about that, looking forward to it and at the same time [we] understand what a huge challenge this will be playing the Giants. Unfortunately, it counts as a road game for them. I guess we’re the [designated] home team.
Q: How much of a help is it, from a time frame stand point, the fact that you played this team just a few weeks ago?
BB: It definitely helps. It makes it go a lot faster. If it had been Green Bay we would have spent a lot of time just getting the material ready to analyze and start to look at it. Since it’s the Giants, we did a lot of work on them, as you mentioned, and we’ll certainly look very closely at the last four games– our game, you know, break that down, and then their playoff games against Tampa, Dallas and Green Bay and look closely at those four. A lot of it at least we have a good recollection of and we did have most of the match ups that we’ll have [in this game] occurred in our game in December, so that’s good. We’ll have something to work from. It’s not an advantage. Both teams are working with the same information, but there’s a lot more familiarity then there would be with a team that we hadn’t played all year. Actually, this will be our third game against the Giants this year counting the preseason game.
Q: Can you talk about Eli’s [Manning] development?
BB: He certainly played well against us. We saw that first hand. He had a great night. They’re an outstanding football team. They really are. They can do it all the way across the board, especially on offense. Good backs; very productive passing game; good offensive line. So they can run it; they can pass it; they score points. They take care of the ball well, they’re a physical team and Eli has done a terrific job managing that team and particularly playing on the road and winning big games and winning playoff games.
Q: Did you spend some time addressing the team today on what to do this week in terms of organizing their logistics?
BB: Yeah, a little bit. Most of it wasn’t done by me, we’ve had people in our organization who have done a little bit of advance work on that and we have the information from the league and schedules and so forth and we have a little bit of a history of doing this. Most of that information was presented to the players and a lot of it is information they have to give back to us and it all has to be put together and so forth and so on. It’s not really my area of expertise, but we have other people who have done a good job on that. Our organization has been in this game before, so we have a little bit of history on how to do it and what some of the things that work well are and what maybe are some of the things are that we don’t want to do.
Q: Having been in this situation before, is that an advantage for you?
BB: Right now, it’s really just each individual person has to handle their own individual situation. Friends, family, tickets, rooms, whatever travel logistics there are, and we want to try to get those out of the way in the next couple days. We got the process started today and I’m sure everybody got a lot of calls last night, we all did, but we’ll take care of that in the next couple of days, particularly the players and coaching staff of course, we’ll be busy preparing for the players when they come in on Thursday. We’ll try to get the information ready for them, but that’s really what these next couple days are for the players and the organization. [When] we go on Thursday, we want to be ready to really focus and get down to work on the Giants and we’ll need all the time and preparation we can get with them.
Q: Are you leaving on Sunday to go to Arizona?
BB: That’s the plan. Weather permitting.
Q: Will you do the late morning press conferences?
BB: I don’t know – whatever – I’m sure Stacey [James] will announce that, whatever it is.
Q: What sticks in your mind about the last game you played against the Giants?
BB: It was a tough, hard fought, very physical game.
Q: What is different, standing here right now today versus the other three times that you went to the Super Bowl?
BB: Every game’s different; every year’s different. As I’ve said before, I have three children and they’re all different. They’re all special. This game’s special; the other ones are special. They’re all different.
Q: What’s different about this one?
BB: Everything. It’s a new opponent; it’s a new year; we have different players; we’re playing the Giants [who] we didn’t play before in any of these games. Everything is different.
Q: What about the perfection carrot, dangling out there?
BB: It’s a one-game season. We’re just trying to beat the Giants. That’s all that matters. It’s not what their record is or what our record is or what kind of car anybody is driving or anything else. It’s about who plays better in two weeks and it’s preparation for that game. That’s what these two weeks will be about for us.
Q: What does it say for the Giants that they have been able to play so well on the road this season, especially these last three games?
BB: Yeah, it’s awesome. You have to give them all the credit in the world. It’s like Pittsburgh two years ago. Pittsburgh did the same thing two years ago, went on the road and won as a Wild Card team and as we always say, now’s the time when you want to be playing your best football, in January. The Giants, I think, have certainly done that. Again, similar to the Steelers in ’05– they did the same thing. They’re the best team. We’ll have to play our best game against them. They’re the best team we’ve faced all year. They’re on a hot streak right now, playing great in all three phases of the game. They’re well coached, I think Tom’s [Coughlin] done a terrific job and the general manager, they’ve put together an outstanding football team and we certainly had our hands full in a very competitive game down there. It could have gone either way with a play or two, so we know what we’re in for, it’s… this will be a tough one.
Q: The players have been emphasizing the 60-minute theme this year. Did that come from right after the Indianapolis game last year?
BB: No. It’s always been like that.
Q: The players this year have, maybe it’s just us, but they reiterated that over and over again this year like it has been…
BB: I’m not disputing what they’re saying. You’re asking me if it’s been an emphasis point more this year and I’m telling you no. What do you think we said in ’01? Just 45-minutes today fellas, that’s all we need. Just give me three good quarters. Don’t worry about that first one or that fourth one. Of course not. We’ve always said [60 minutes]. I respect what the players say. Maybe there has been more of an emphasis, but it’s not conscious on my part. It’s something we always talked about and it’s something we’ve always emphasized.
Q: Do you think they executed that better this year?
BB: You can’t argue with the record. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect. I don’t think we’ve gone out there and played 60 minutes of good football, no. We didn’t play 30 good minutes in the second half against Miami. There’s always things we can improve on and do better. I don’t think we’ve played a perfect game, –not by any stretch of the imagination– but that’s still our goal. We still want to go out and play and it goes for the coaching too. I think I’ve made plenty of mistakes in every game and made them yesterday and made them in all the games before that too. We can all do a better job. That’s our quest every week, to prepare and then go out and perform as well as we can every week, or in this case every other week, but go out there and perform as well as we can and get our best product out there. I don’t think we’ve done it yet. Maybe it’s not realistic that we will do it [but] we’re going to keep trying.
Q: Can you talk about the role that Kevin Faulk has played in the offense?
BB: We’ve talked about it time and again. Kevin, he’s an awesome football player and he’s one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached. He’s a great team player that not only does his job but helps everybody else do theirs, and he’s a very versatile player, in the kicking game, running the ball, catching the ball, blitz pickup, making adjustments. He’s a smart instinctive guy and he’s been a very valuable player since the day I got here. He’s been used in a lot of different roles but nobody works harder than Kevin, nobody’s more conscientious and nobody has a better attitude then Kevin Faulk. He’s a pleasure to coach, he’s a great competitor and he’s a great producer. I know everybody’s happy when he’s out there on the field. That’s not taking anything away from any other backs, Sammy Morris or Laurence [Maroney] or anybody else because those guys have played great for us this year, too, but Kevin’s – everybody has a lot of confidence when he’s out there and they should because he’s been very consistent and very productive.
Q: When you view the final drive that you’re offense had, even though it didn’t result in points, do you consider that drive as important as a scoring drive because it helped you win the game?
BB: Absolutely. Without a doubt. Again, it’s situational football. It wasn’t about scoring points at that point in the game; it was about maintaining possession of the ball and running out the clock. Offensively, we did it. We got good execution. We were in a couple of long-yardage situations that we didn’t want to be in that we kind of dug out of. We had some good blocking, some good running, good running after the catch and good decision making — guys staying in bounds — and good blocking by the offensive line, tight ends and full back, all of those things. It was the way you want to end the game, with the ball possession. Kneeling down– that’s the way you’d like to win every game.
Q: Do you personally take pride in the success of this franchise and this team the way things have gone over the last seven years?
BB: I take a lot of pride in this organization and the fact that I’m a part of it. I’m proud to be a New England Patriot. I’m proud to work for Robert Kraft and I’m proud to wear our insignia. Absolutely. That being said, right now I don’t think is a time to sit and reflect and go back over what has or hasn’t happened in the past. Right now we’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us and that starts with the whole preparation for the entire event. The travel, the logistics, the scheduling and so forth and we have a huge challenge in terms of facing the New York Giants. That’s really were I’m focused and where our team needs to be focused right now. There will be a time and a place maybe to do that at some other point but not right now. Not for me anyway.
Q: How much does the NFL’s Super Bowl schedule inhibit your preparation?
BB: I don’t think it inhibits you at all. We’ve done it before. I think really it’s pretty well organized. There’s a lot going on but it’s the way it is every year and we’ve been fortunate to be through it in the past. There’s certain obligations, but there’s plenty of time to do what we need to do, to meet and to practice and our families come down there at the end of the week prior to the game. I think everything is done as well as it can be done. It’s a week that everybody wants to be a part of. That’s what you work all year for is to play in this game, so we’re all happy to be playing in it. At the same time, this isn’t the end, there’s still more to climb on this mountain and the Giants are a huge obstacle. We know we’re not going down there to have fun. It’s a business trip. We’re going down there to win and we’re going to prepare to win. I think the event is a great event. I think it’s well run and it’s an honor to be a participant in it.
Q: Chargers center Nick Hardwick called Richard Seymour a dirty player. What’s your reaction to that?
BB: I’m surprised. That’s the last thing I would say about Richard.
Hey everyone … we’ll have the transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media from this afternoon up as soon as we can. In the meantime, check out my weekly Metro column, “10 Things We Learned Yesterday” on the AFC Championship Game.
Here’s the complete transcript of Tedy Bruschi’s postgame Q&A with the media from today’s AFC Championship Game:
Q. Tedy, just talk about the defensive effort today?
TEDY BRUSCHI: It was crucial that we had those red zone stops. I mean, when you hug your coach after you’ve won the AFC Championship and the first thing he says was, “Great job in the red area,” you know it was important. It’s something we’ve been emphasizing and of course we had our struggles early in the year and then we make some progress and then give ground a little bit and then make more progress. It’s great to see in the biggest game of the year that we come up and force them to kick field goals, because when our offense can get in the end zone and they are scoring field goals that puts us up.
Q. Can you talk about the emotion of this win given everything the team has been through?
TEDY BRUSCHI: We feel very satisfied because we’ve won the AFC Championship, not because — I think we’re through with that to tell you the truth. We’ve had — I think week two, we let our emotions show a little bit about all the criticism we received and some of the criticism we received after that.
You know, I think that’s over and done with now. It was about winning the AFC Championship and having the extra motivation, even about San Diego making a comment here or there; if you need that to get motivated at this time of the year in games like, this you’re probably not a very experienced team. You know, we would rather focus on preparation.
Q. You know how hard it is to win a game in this league; how hard is it to win 18 of them?
TEDY BRUSCHI: If I felt any pressure this year, it was before the Giants game when we realized it’s possible to be achieved; it’s possible to be achieved, that we could achieve the undefeated regular season. I think you could see it on our faces a little bit before the game, how we knew that this was a huge game and there was history on the line. So you recognize that and acknowledge that.
But once the post-season comes around, we’ve been in the post-season so many times; it’s about winning the next game, surviving on the next play, because all you want to do now is advance and then once you want to advance, you want to win that game. So that’s really our focus now.
Q. The first half of the year with the touchdowns. The last two weeks particularly have been old-fashioned, conventional football and you won on defense and then by controlling the ball the last nine minutes of the game; is that more satisfying as a football player to win those games that way?
TEDY BRUSCHI: To me, defensively, yes. I mean, 52-7, I never was used to. It was something that even in all our championship years that, never happened. That never happened on a consistent basis. We would have blowout or two here or there but never three, four, five in a row.
These are the games we are used to. This is what we consider Patriot football. And of course Jacksonville scoring 14 points on us the in the first half last week and then us holding them to six points the rest of the game; forcing San Diego to kick field goals every time they are in the red area, that’s our defense. I think our defense always does what we need to do to win. Holding them to field goals today was what we needed to do to win.
Q. Do you feel you were in good position at the goal line, I think in front of Gates, how did that develop?
TEDY BRUSCHI: It started out Junior and I sort of had a bracket on Gates and the play sort of broke down and Rivers had to scramble out of the pocket and Junior went up to try to put pressure on them and Gates tried to run away from me and once there was a little bit of separation, I knew I would pick it up a little bit because I knew the ball might be coming back and I could tell early on in the play, that’s who he was looking for. Once he saw Junior and I were on him, that’s what made him scramble back. Going back into position was what I had to do, because Junior was putting pressure on the quarterback, basic defense.
Sometimes you want to put your right arm around the back and knock him down which I had done before but I thought I was in good enough position to make a play on the ball and put both hands out there and wasn’t able to catch it.
Q. What did you say to Rodney after the game?
TEDY BRUSCHI: (Chuckling) I told him I was proud of him. I told him I was proud of him and I told him I was proud of him as a man because of what he has gone through this year. The year started tough for him, and we all rallied behind him. But for him to come back and face his critics and to say, yes, this is what happened; but this is who I am, and he just kept working and kept playing, and I think the last two weeks, if there’s anyone that you can look on our defense that you may find irreplaceable, it’s him.
Here’s the complete transcript of Tom Brady’s postgame Q&A with the media after today’s AFC Championship:
TOM BRADY: (Turning to Junior.) He’s always a tough act to follow.
Q. Last week we talked about your two interceptions s and today you had three interceptions. Was it just the pass rush or —
TOM BRADY: I think it was a good team. I don’t think we executed as well as I thought we were capable but we got the win and we were able to put together some important drives. Have to try to make some corrections and move on.
Q. Do you ever lose confidence or start to question yourself? I know the answer to this, but I’ll let you.
TOM BRADY: No, I’ve been in a lot of games. I made a great play on the first one. Kind of got in it between what I wanted to do, the second one. Just trying to get the ball to Dante and got his hand on it, it popped up in the air and the guy made a great catch.
The third one, I just lost track of Cromartie. That’s what they do, they make you pay. It’s a difficult defense to play against. I think they challenge you in a lot of ways.
But at the same time I thought we made enough plays to win and I thought the defense played outstanding.
Q. What does it mean to be going back to the Super Bowl, for you and for the team?
TOM BRADY: It’s exciting. It’s exciting. You know, there’s been so much energy expended each week with the expectations and the pressure our coach puts on us. Glad we have the week off here, regroup a little bit and try to elevate our game for one last performance. Whoever it is, it’s going to be the toughest game of the season. I’m glad it’s warm weather but weather won’t be a factor. Should be exciting.
Every time I’ve played in the Super Bowl, I’ve cherished that and it never gets old and standing up there and accepting the Lamar Hunt Trophy for the team for the fourth time is pretty outstanding.
Q. As tight as this game was for a while, is there a comfort that you’ve won a lot of these kinds of games?
TOM BRADY: It’s nice to know you can win the close ones. It’s nice to know you can win the ones when you face some adversity and you’ve got to be mentally tough. It’s nice to have the blowouts, too.
Any way you get the win is great. I think you come into a game like this, you want to play your best and I don’t think we necessarily play our best but at the same time, you have a chance to redeem yourself and play in the biggest game of the year.
It was so disappointing last season. I remember leaving the bus at Indianapolis and just reflecting on how close we were and how disappointing it was knowing that there was another team that was going instead of us. And now we can look at where we are now and be proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far but realize there’s a greater challenge ahead.
Q. What does it say about you and your offense that you can bounce back from a tough day and pull it out when you have to?
TOM BRADY: I think we have really found ways to overcome some adversity in the season. We’ve had some games come down to two-minute drives. I don’t think we played as well as we were capable. We couldn’t just get drives going. It just felt like everything was a struggle today.
They made some plays early and really got some momentum, and I think we got a better feel. We really ran the ball well, especially late in the game. I don’t know how much time we had when we got the ball there at the end, seven minutes or eight minutes — 9:13, to not let them get the ball back is pretty impressive to do against a defense that has been playing great all day. They are a very physical defense, and Kevin made some huge third down conversions. Laurence ran the ball extremely well. That’s what we needed.
Q. Can you talk about the tight formations in the second half, why that worked well?
TOM BRADY: We were just trying everything. We were struggling a little bit early and I think we put the big guys on the field, tried to run the ball and got Laurence going a little bit.
Q. How about your defense and what they did to keep them out of the end zone, especially after you turned the ball over a couple times?
TOM BRADY: Yeah, a great performance by the team and the defense. To hold the Chargers to field goals was extremely important. We always had the lead there, and the mentality is that when you’re always winning, you just don’t feel like you need to press when you go out there because you have the lead, and I think the defense was just exceptional today. I hope they play that way in a couple of weeks.
Q. Before CBS signed off today, Phil Simms said he didn’t think he would ever see the day when an NFL team went 18-0. Did you ever think you would see that day?
TOM BRADY: You know, I never really thought about that. I think you enter the season and you’re hoping to put together a bunch of great wins, and you realize there’s challenges every step of the way. And to not have a letdown like most teams have — we had a few letdowns or times where we didn’t play our best but we overcame them. 18-0 a great feeling.
Q. Talk about Junior and what he brings?
TOM BRADY: Junior is 100% emotion, I wasn’t in here for most of what he said but I’m sure it was emotional.
I think he’s got a lot of wisdom and a lot of experience, and he’s an extremely mature man that has been through some tough times. And the excitement of getting to the Super Bowl early in his career — he sets the tone in practice. You would think he’s trying to find his way on to the active roster the way he practices. It’s exciting for us to be around a guy like that, to learn from him and to understand what it takes and to do everything you can do to help the team win.
Q. What is it about the their defense — inaudible?
TOM BRADY: That’s just what they do. The balls — I don’t know what that guy’s vertical is, but he got up there on that one and made a great play on the first interception. And then Cromartie, like I said, any time you throw the ball in his area, he has great ball skills and intercepted that one. When the ball is in the air, they usually get their hands on it and when they get their hands on it, they usually don’t drop it.
Q. Can you talk about the context of the year and all of the things coming up around the team, does it make the win mean more?
TOM BRADY: It’s been an emotional game and especially season coming down the stretch, it feels like it just builds and builds and builds. We clinched the first-round bye late in the season and still had to find ways to motivate ourselves. The Giants game was an extremely emotional game and won that one at the end, then we had to wait two weeks to play Jacksonville and then another long week to play this one.
I think everybody could use a little bit of rest and just to recover a little bit and try to get as ready as we can for this last one. This will be a very emotional game, I can promise you that, and then we’re all looking forward to a vacation.
Q. Did you sense the team was a little flat, your team?
TOM BRADY: Just don’t think we executed as well as I thought we were capable. I thought the energy was there, the emotion was there. We just didn’t perform the way that I thought we were capable.
But, you know, we found ways to put the ball in the end zone, got some turnovers from our defense and they played extremely well. I know the defense wasn’t flat. They played great. Special teams played great. Offensively we just couldn’t really get the drives started and that became a bit of a problem. But we made enough plays in the end.
Here’s a complete transcript of Mike Vrabel’s postgame Q&A with the media after today’s AFC Championship:
Q. Mike, can you start by talking about red zone defense in this game and the performance that you guys had?
MIKE VRABEL: Yeah, all year, we were either giving up touchdowns or we were playing great. There was no in between. I think you saw the great tonight. We forced them to kick field goals and let them get down there unfortunately, but we did a nice job and we were very well prepared.
Coaching staff really had good grasp on what they were trying to do when they were down there. They would see a formation and we would be able to check into something and get the right play called and do a nice job with it.
Q. Defensively, was it a bad game for Brady, clearly not his best game of the season?
MIKE VRABEL: Yeah, it was probably our turn to win a game. Yeah, I think that was the Patriots of, you know, of old, where you would just kind of hang around and make the big plays and make the plays when it counted and defense would play, you know, well in the red zone, force them to kick field goals. We rushed, kicked pretty well. I thought we had a pretty good chance there with Richard a couple times getting some penetration on the field goal.
You know, I think the more times our offense has the ball, the better. We learned that last week and certainly, you know, we’ll take our chances with Tom having a football 12 times instead of eight.
Q. Early in the season, Bill had expressed concern about the red zone defense. What was happening early in the season and what were the corrections made?
MIKE VRABEL: I think it was a combination. We had some calls where we pretty much sell the farm, and everybody hits us and they crease us for one and they run it in. I think we’re allowing teams to run the football in. Certainly when you get down there, the easiest thing to do is run it in. When you drop back and throw you have a bunch of defenders and receivers in a tight area. We were kind of able to make some adjustments early in the year, not let them run it in, and then we had a good pass defense coverage down there today; and being able to recognize what formations they were in with the back-offset and he’s running the wheel route and then just everybody being on the same page.
Q. What was Junior like out there?
MIKE VRABEL: Just emotional. The excitement and energy he brings to this team and in the locker room, I heard Bill say, you have to be happy for guys like that that play so hard and put everything into it throughout their career and certainly the type of player he is, Hall of Famer. I’ll be happy to go on a Super Bowl trip with him and hopefully win the game with him.
Q. Junior had a big third stop before the last field goal.
MIKE VRABEL: Yeah, it was a good call, I was over on the sidelines and I heard Bill say, let’s run the out, and it was a good call because they tried to bounce it off our right side and Junior hit it up in there and made a great play. I think if anybody has watched Junior through the course of his career, you’ve seen him make those kind of plays where he can shoot the gap and he did, he shot the gap and flattened out and made the play.
Q. Can you talk about the interception, you were pressuring the quarterback on that play, looked like your leg got him a little bit. What happened on that play?
MIKE VRABEL: Just, you know, I gave up a third down. It was 3rd and 2 and I was trying to jam Gates on the play before, and they got Sproles to the flat, which was my responsibility, so I was a little upset about that. Tried to come back and make a play.
Had a good rush inside him. You know, he kind of stepped up and as the tackle was pulling me down a little bit, Asante, and any time you allow one up there, chances are Asante or somebody is going to come down with it.
Q. How does it feel to go to the Super Bowl 18-0 versus the previous three times?
MIKE VRABEL: We’ve left that 18-0, we’ve left that back in the regular season. We’ve won two games in the playoffs, just like the Packers, and the Giants have won three.
We’re going to try to just continue to do this thing and we are not going to really get all carried away with it, the undefeated season, and certainly that was what we did in the regular season.
Q. Was today one of those poster games, 25-deep?
MIKE VRABEL: I think we need everybody. Every week everybody that we’ve got, and you’re just happy for Laurence taking a lot of criticism through the media throughout the year and you know just really showing what kind of back he is. Running hard, tough yards, big runs; I think watching from the sidelines, he certainly gave us a spark defensively, watching him run the ball, cutting back and running with a lot of enthusiasm. So certainly that’s one example of everybody just kind of doing their job and making the plays that you’re supposed to make and that would be pleasant.
Q. Were you surprised Tomlinson played so little? Did you see him get hurt or anything?
MIKE VRABEL: I don’t know. I think we prepared for everybody. So I hope he didn’t, you know, re-injure it any worse. I’m not sure what they were thinking there. From what we heard out of San Diego, with Rivers being doubtful, I thought that was a pretty gutsy effort for him to come out and play the game, play the whole game and finish it and play well.
Q. What does it mean to be going back to the Super Bowl?
MIKE VRABEL: I mean, it’s the best thing we’ve got in our league. It’s the best thing we’ve got in our business. That’s what we shoot for every year is to make it to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. I know guys are excited to be here and be AFC Champions, but we’ve still got work to do and we’ve still got a game to win.
Here’s the complete transcript of Kevin Faulk’s Q&A with the media after today’s AFC Championship Game:
Q. Kevin, you said the other day, if you don’t play better every week, you may very well lose. Did you play better as a team this week than you did last week?
KEVIN FAULK: We played well enough to win the game. That’s all I can say right now because we can’t watched the film. But I’m pretty sure tomorrow when we come in at 12, we’ll have our corrections that we need to make.
Q. Pretty nice catch there on that third down.
KEVIN FAULK: Hey, I just seen the ball and I just dove for it. It was the opportunity to make a first down and make a play for my team.
Q. Did you know you had the role, because if you had stopped, you wouldn’t have gotten it.
KEVIN FAULK: It was just a natural reaction. Nobody had touched me so the reaction was just to keep moving.
Q. Can you describe your emotions as the clock was ticking down, what do you recall doing in that last few minutes?
KEVIN FAULK: Once the clock was ticking down, the emotion level just runs real high and I think the whole team is that way. Just because of the feeling, it don’t matter how many times you’ve been there or what you’ve done over the course of your career, when that moment comes, you can’t hold your emotions. You are can’t hide them.
Q. Have you guys been holding the emotions for 18 games?
KEVIN FAULK: I would say we’ve been holding them, because we’ve been playing to win games, to get to this point right now. And at this point right now, the emotions is high.
Q. Can you explain your t-shirt, what you have there?
KEVIN FAULK: It’s just a saying, we’re all brothers from a different mother, that’s all.
Q. The family?
KEVIN FAULK: The Patriot family, that’s all.
Q. When you see Brady throw three interceptions, which he has not done all year, do you think about that at all, any shake in confidence, this isn’t like him?
KEVIN FAULK: I’ve known Tom in eight years and he’s thrown interceptions not more than any other quarterback but he’s done it before. He’s the type of quarterback that just shakes it off and we have to move on. He has trust in the guys he’s throwing the ball to.
Q. Did you sense early on that you and Laurence were going to have to be a bigger part of this game because there were not options and he was not finding deeper routes and he was going to you guys?
KEVIN FAULK: It wasn’t a sense early on, but it’s just a sense of being prepared, being ready all year long, we heard the question about we didn’t have a running game and all I told Laurence was, be patient; your time is going to come and your opportunity is going to come to move this team forward. That’s what he’s been doing last couple of games in the playoffs and that’s what we have to continue.
Q. You seemed to do the dirty work, third and fours, third and sixes, the tough plays. You’re not a big headliner like a lot of the guys; how do you see yourself fitting in?
KEVIN FAULK: Real simple: Be prepared no matter what the situation is. You might be in on third down, you might be in first or second down, we never know. If the opportunity comes, you have to be ready no matter what.
Q. The quick passes out when you were lining up wide, is that something that you might have worked on during the week that you thought were going to come into play today?
KEVIN FAULK: It’s something that we’ve seen on film the first game that we played and they kind of gave it to us a little bit and we just went with that.
Q. Can you just reflect on going to the Super Bowl again?
KEVIN FAULK: Amazing, awesome. The adrenaline is still throwing a little bit right now. But you know, we’ll take care of it from there and move on and find out who we play and start working on them.
Here’s the transcript of Junior Seau’s postgame Q&A from today’s AFC Championship Game:
JUNIOR SEAU: To start, to fill in the question that was mentioned earlier, about Faulk not being a headliner; he is a headliner. He is a headliner. And the third downs in which he played were one of the reasons why we’re here today. So I heard that question and I just wanted to make sure that we understand that everybody has a role, and if there’s a role for a player to play one down, and it’s third, that’s a money down. Trust me. He’s special.
Q. Why was this win so emotional for you, Junior?
JUNIOR SEAU: Every game’s emotional, every game’s emotional. You know, to talk about the history of myself and San Diego Chargers, I am always a Charger. That’s my home. You know, I took the scenic route to get here. I took the scenic route. But we played and experienced it together. That’s how I look at it.
Emotional? I’m always emotional. I can’t get up higher for one game over the other. It’s not going to work that way. It never will.
Q. How special was it in the very first play of the game, you’re making the tackle, you have a sack later on and now 13 years back in the Super Bowl?
JUNIOR SEAU: We’re going out there and performing. We have a lot of great guys, a lot of great players in front of me. If you look at the depth chart, these guys, they are like policy, an insurance policy. I feel like a running back back there, I’m able to do the things we are able to do because of them. I credit a lot of that to them.
To go to the Super Bowl, obviously the first Super Bowl we went to, it didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to. We’ll work on the Super Bowl, but for right now, right now, we’re going to embrace this time, this moment.
Q. Could you describe your stop on the third and short, did you go off when the guy pulled or describe that play.
JUNIOR SEAU: It was a combination of a lot of things. Obviously the D-lineman did a great job of taking up the two guys. The call that was made was basically a call that could shoot the gap. I don’t know if he called it because he knew I was going to shoot it anyway or he called it because he felt something, but it was a great call. I just ran it through the role and Mike was there and I wrapped him up. It was a combination of a lot of things that happened.
Q. What does it mean for you to share this moment with Rodney Harrison?
JUNIOR SEAU: It’s special, it really. Rodney Harrison is one of the better safeties that has ever played this game. We have shared a lot of years in San Diego and to have the latter part of our careers meet across the country, and to be able to be part of this special moment with a great coach here in New England is special, it really is.
Q. Teddy had said earlier in the year during all the blowouts that sooner or later it is not going to be that easy; did you expect that at some point?
JUNIOR SEAU: It’s hard to play in the playoffs. Everyone, the game is up in the air. We don’t take anything for granted. You know, we never will. And that stems from the head coach, the Kraft family and the coaches that they have here. It’s one day at a time; we grind. We try to position ourselves every day to position ourselves for game day to give ourselves a chance, and it’s been working.
Q. What did you think when you did not see LT come back?
JUNIOR SEAU: We obviously knew going in he was a little dinged up. Mike and Sproles, those guys are dangerous running backs, as well. So we prepared for all three of them.
You know, obviously LT is the best running back in the league, and not to have him in there was definitely a positive thing for us.
Q. How is this day different from that day in Pittsburgh in 1994?
JUNIOR SEAU: Well, we don’t have yellow flags flying all over the place. We don’t have the Super Bowl Shuffle being taped prior to the game.
Going in there and really not finishing what we set out to do, which is to win the AFC Championship is definitely special but in terms of difference, it was basically we are now looking forward to the next opponent. As you can see, we are not having a parade. We don’t have the confetti in the locker room. We are not jumping around. Everyone’s gone. Everyone went home. Special. Special.
Q. Did you think it would take this long to get back?
JUNIOR SEAU: I didn’t have a time frame. No one ever does.
You know, coming here to New England with the Kraft family and the Belichick family, all anyone wants, I don’t care if you’re a rookie to an 18-year vet, I don’t care if you’re a third grader; all we ever want in life is a chance, just a chance. Does that mean a chance to win the Super Bowl? No; a chance to win.
And when you win often, it leads into greater things. And you learn that during the course of life. It’s just give an old man a chance. (Laughter).
Q. When you came here last year, did you think that was it for you?
JUNIOR SEAU: I was surfing. I was surfing.
Q. Was it having a chance?
JUNIOR SEAU: Belichick called me and he said to me — it wasn’t an assistant coach, it wasn’t anyone in the PR department. Belichick called and he said, “I’ve got a position for you.” He didn’t say, “Would you like to come and play?” He said, “I have a position for you.” That’s the world champion coach calling a guy that had just gotten in surfing. I’m going to answer that call. I’m going to answer that call.
Q. That’s the proverbial offer you couldn’t refuse?
JUNIOR SEAU: I knew that there was a chance for me to do something for him. For him to even do that, for the Kraft family, for them to even embrace me, I’m going to give you all of me.
Q. Where were you surfing?
JUNIOR SEAU: Right in front of the house. You want that, too? No, I can’t give you that.
Q. Being involved in the game for so long, as a student of the game, put it into perspective, the first Super Bowl in more than a generation to go to the Super Bowl undefeated.
JUNIOR SEAU: The only thing you can say is it’s special. Number one, a lot of hard work. To stay humble, to be able to be hungry, to be able to persevere during those close games that we’ve had along the journey, we now have one more game, one more game to be part of that forever. That’s special. That’s special. You cannot refute, if we happen to go in there and do what we need to do, separating is key in history, we have a chance. And that’s all we ever need. All we know is that, you know, we work every day, position ourselves to have a chance on game day, a chance, and we do. We have that chance now.
Q. Can you talk about who you want to play?
JUNIOR SEAU: We have a chance. (Laughter) We have a chance.
Q. Does that mean it doesn’t matter?
JUNIOR SEAU: We have a chance.
Q. This is one of the older defenses in the NFL; do you see that as a strength?
JUNIOR SEAU: You know, we can say that it’s a strength. But at the same time, what you have to do is you’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to persevere and you’ve got to pray a lot. Because it could easily have turned against us. You know, it’s too easy to just kind of sit here and say, you know what, it’s a strength. But I can’t answer that. But we’re here now and we have an older crew, a wise crew, but a crew that cares.
There is a difference between caring, and just wanting to play the game. There is. There’s a difference between want and need. A want person — let me tell you about the want person. Now I’ve been around the league a lot, a long time. The want person will justify why he didn’t get it done. The need person, there is no choice. And it takes years to understand the two. It takes years to understand the two.
Just on top of everything, I’d like to congratulate the City of San Diego and the San Diego Chargers for what they have been able to do. The last game against Indianapolis was just a blessing to see them grind it out and get to where they are.