Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch addresses the media during his postgame press conference at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, January 14, 2012.
Q: Have you ever seen Tom like this [animated]?
DB: I don't see him a lot... I've seen him... hopefully, that's not the best of him right now, so I'll just say that. He's very emotional, [and a] passionate guy.
Q: Did you get the sense this week from Tom that, "look, we're not going to go one-and-done?"
DB: I think the vibe was in the building all week, not just Tom. Everything starts right with Coach Belichick. From the moment he walked in last week when we knew we were in the playoffs: our playoffs started last week in practice. So, we had two weeks of preparation to get prepared to play this one game. I think we did a pretty good job.
Q: Was the vibe more confident than last year or more upbeat or more optimistic? Or the energy?
DB: I think the energy was there, I will say that. Guys were running a little relaxed. Everybody was relaxed; nobody was pressing. But we knew what was at stake. We knew we wanted to go out there and take care of business and I'm not saying we didn't want to do that last year, and we lost the game. Last year is what it is. This year, our biggest thing was we were going to go out here and play mistake free football, and we almost did that.
Q: It kind of looked like you pushed off a little bit on the first touchdown.
DB: I don't know what you're talking about. What play?
Q: On the touchdown...
DB: What about when the man pulled my hair? Did you all hear me screaming? I screamed that loud. I'm trying to remember that play. On that fade route? It's something that we practice. It's a difference when you extend your arms and you do this (motions). Guys get away with holding all the time and all that stuff. I've been playing a long time and I think that this (extends elbow) isn't a P.I. Just like guys hold us all the time. I tell the ref, ‘I'm cool with the guys, but the snagging...' that's the difference. We're going to get held, guys are going to push off a little bit here and there, that stuff happens. I didn't push him though.
Q: You didn't play in that Week 15 matchup against the Broncos. Were you happy to see them again?
DB: It didn't matter who we played, whether it was Pittsburgh or Denver. I think the only thing that was good about the situation [of having the bye week], we had the opportunity to stay at home to watch those two games and get a jump start to see who we were playing. I think that was the only plus that came out of the situation. It didn't matter; we had to be prepared to play either one of them. I think had it been Pittsburgh, we'd have been prepared to play them as well.
Q: The last three weeks of the season you guys had trouble starting...
DB: It was probably a little more than that. I would think about [the last] five or six weeks, and then we get going. I think that's just going back to the preparation. Trust me, those weeks we started bad in the games, we had great weeks of practice – it's just all about what the guys, now it was all about us taking over. The coaches can't play the game. As much as Coach Belichick can get up here and talk about what we need to do, he can't play the game. We have to take ownership on our own and execute our plays. That's what we weren't doing the past couple of weeks when we weren't starting fast. We went out today and had a couple of good drives and then we also left some on the field. We kind of stalled on a couple of drives. That's all of us. It wasn't that they [Denver] weren't doing anything spectacular to stop us. We were stopping ourselves.
Q: How much does experience factor in...
DB: None. None. I'm going to stop you right now. Prime example: last week. Denver beat Pittsburgh, probably one of the most experienced teams in the playoffs. It's just all about: the best team is going to win that day. Whoever plays the best, made the least mistakes, didn't turn the ball over and executed in the red area: that's who's going to win. Convert on third downs. I think tonight the defense did a great job. Our defense did a great job, a phenomenal job. We played great, complementary football, and I think that's why we were victorious.
Q: Can you describe, with [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez, how they're using them to manipulate the defense?
DB: You have to ask Billy O[‘Brien] that. He has a hard job. That's a hard job. All these guys on the opposite side of the ball, everybody wants the ball...
Q: I mean what you see from the defense...
DB: It's hard. The thing is we move around so much, but I think that's the advantage we have. We have so many different personnel to put these guys in different situations that cause matchup problems. They [the Patriots] do a great job of handling that; Tom does a great job of going out and finding these guys at the right time and they make the plays. They're mismatched each and every week. Every week is a mismatch for those guys.
Q: What's the main difference between the team this year versus last year?
DB: I think another year, that extra year of experience. Guys playing the game and understanding what we have to do once we take the football field, understanding their role, they're not just going out there playing trying to make every play. I have a role, Wes [Welker] has a role, [Rob] Gronkowski has one. [Aaron] Hernandez has a role. I think that another year of those guys in our offense, the contributions they're making for the team, I think that's a plus for us.
Q: With this offense, there are weeks where you might get nine or 10 balls thrown to you and other weeks you might get one or two. How tough is it to stay concentrated?
DB: It's easy when your main goal is to win the game. That's the main goal: to win the game. Trust me, I'm the most confident player. Yeah, I want to be involved in the game but if we're winning 21-0, 28-0, I shouldn't be complaining. There's nothing for me to complain about. I think the one thing that's been good about the situation that we've been more on the plus side. The games that if we lose, yeah I want to say to Coach after, [I want] to help the team out a little bit more, but the fact that we're winning the games, there's nothing for me to be complaining about. That's the objective: to win the game. My personal statistics don't matter right now. It's all about the team.