Q: What stands out to you about Bill Belichick and his approach on a week-in, week-out basis?
ML: I'd say consistency; just his ability to stay focused to the nth degree and do that repetitively, week-in and week-out. It's not an easy thing, obviously, running a team and putting up with a lot of guys like myself and the rest of the knuckleheads in that locker room. But you know what? I think that coming in and setting that example with our entire coaching staff and how he approaches everything, it makes it easy for all of us to fall in line.
Q: Does the fact that you guys have lost two straight playoff games resonate in your minds at all?
ML: I mean, obviously we haven't done well enough. It sits in all of our minds for the guys that have been here and been a part of that. You work that much, you put that much time into a season, you have success to a degree during the regular season and then you go out and you can't get it done in the postseason; that's a difficult thing to swallow. I think that's why guys, you put a little bit more time in, you put a little more effort into it and hopefully get a better outcome. We're working hard toward that. We've had a heck of run through the regular season. We've had a lot of guys step up and make a lot of plays to put us in this position. Now we have to do something with it.
Q: Are those two losses particularly difficult for
ML: I haven't talked with him about it, but he doesn't typically take losing too well. I've noticed that over the years.
Q: Can you talk about the influence Bill O'Brien has had on your offense?
ML: We've gone through some transitions, whether it's Charlie [Weis] or Josh [McDaniels] and obviously Billy. I think Coach O'Brien has done just a phenomenal job of handling the roles and the responsibilities that come with being a coordinator and really jumping into it from day one. He does a great job of getting us prepared. He gives us great keys each week to the things that we have to do offensively. He really understands the game, he understands our entire offense. Obviously it will be tough to lose him, but we have some more battles yet to play out and he's in it for the long haul so he'll be good to go.
Q: Do you ever look at the Tuck Rule game and think that's where you guys started your run?
ML: No, I look at a lot of things from my rookie year [but] that probably isn't one of them. It's always difficult when you're a rookie and you step in and take over for a guy like Bruce [Armstrong] and all that good stuff. We had a lot of things that happened in that season. But that was a long time ago. I think that where we are now is drastically different than where we were then. Obviously, the guys that are on [that] team, there's not even a handful left anymore. I think experience, you can only say one thing about experience: it either served you well or it meant nothing. We hope that for the guys that have been there and done that, that the experience that we have will actually propel us into the next game and do something for us rather than talk about, ‘Hey, we have a lot of guys with experience but we couldn't go out there and show any of it on the field.' That's a long way of saying that I don't think the experience means a whole lot unless you do something positive with it.
Q: Is it more of business-like approach getting ready for the playoffs now than it was 10 years ago? Back then, the fans were more hyped up and now it seems more business-like?
ML: I think there was then, too. That's really how Bill [Belichick] prepares us each and every week. It's really matter of fact; it's here's the keys to the game, here's the things that we have to do well, here's the things that we can't allow to happen. Then we work really hard all week to go out and do those things. This is going to be another tough, long week leading up to this one.
Q: Are you looking forward to the rematch with their pass rushers? Did you learn anything from the first meeting?
ML: Yeah, I think we learned a lot from the first meeting. They're a very talented group up front, they're all very active. It doesn't really matter what package they have in personnel-wise; they present a lot of problems for pretty much everyone that they've faced. I think that having a little bit of experience going through it – albeit it's going to be a different situation being at home now – having gone up against them and seeing some of the things they threw at us and some of the things they've done since then, we have a lot to work on. It will definitely be a big challenge for us.
Q: Have you ever had a first quarter like that first quarter in Denver?
ML: We've had a lot of interesting quarters in Denver over the years – tough place to play. Again like I said, with an active front like that, guys that can make big plays all across the board, you have to be on top of your game.
Q: When you were a rookie preparing for your first playoff game, what game had you played that could equate to playing in an NFL playoff game?
ML: Really, to be honest with you, I think each guy has their own way of going about their business and doing what they do. I think we have a lot of guys on this team that are leaders, that are guys that have been there and done that. Like I said, all that doesn't really mean a whole lot unless we go out and we perform the way that we're capable of and each one of us take it upon ourselves to do a little bit more. I'm not really sure what you can draw off your prior experience. These games are all going to be different. I'm sure this one this weekend will be interesting. It's a matter of going out there and making big plays and getting the job done.
Q: Did nerves hit you right before you hit the field that day?
ML: I think everybody, there's a lot of anticipation leading up to it. I don't know if nerves would be – I'm very much looking forward to this tilt. It's great being at home, but we're going to have to go out there and give our fans something to cheer about.
Q: Having been in as many playoff games as you have, does it give you a greater appreciation each time you're in one?
ML: You're blessed to be in a position like this and to have the opportunity to go out and play another game. That's all you can ask for at this point, is just to be able to go out there and line it up. There are a lot of teams that wish they were this position and wish they could be doing what we're doing. We just have to go out there and make the most of it.
Q: What is it like to be around Tom Brady after a loss?
ML: Not unlike a lot of other guys that are very, I'll say passionate about what they do. I played with [Drew] Brees in college; he's kind of the same way. I think most quarterbacks are gambling men – they like to take chances, like to go out there, they like to get the wins and all that good stuff. When they don't, they're upset like everybody else on this team. Nobody handles a loss very well. We each have our own way of doing it. I think you guys can all see how into it Tom is each week and what these games mean. He puts a lot into it, we all do.
Q: The last two weeks you guys had to work through a makeshift offensive line. How do you think it helps come playoff time that if someone goes down, you're capable of doing that and not missing a beat?
ML: I think it speaks a lot to the guys that we have and obviously the job that Dante [Scarnecchia] does. Any chance that they have to get out there and prove it during the regular season, I think it will help us in the postseason. You want to have a little bit of confidence going into those situations where you have guys that do go down. The younger guys have stepped up all season and made big plays for us and shuffled from one position to another, from one side of the line to the other. It's not an easy thing to do, but they get it done in practice. They get it done when they go out there and for whatever reason, it's worked out really well for us.
Q: What makes
ML: I think number one, he's every talented athletically. He's gifted with enormous size. I mean, the guy is 6'100” – I don't know, he's a rather large human being. He can move really well. He really wants to finish each and every play and he wants to get better and he's taken a lot of the coaching from obviously Dante [Scarnecchia], but also a lot of the guys that have been around him. I think having a guy like Brian [Waters] playing next to him has really done a lot to give him the confidence and the ability to go out there and see things a little bit maybe easier than what it would have been having another guy next to him. Brian is like an encyclopedia of this league and what guys do up front. He's been a great guy to have as a wingman for Nate.
Q: Is it kind of surprising that Tim Tebow is dominating the conversation instead of the guy that you have, Tom Brady, who has won a few Super Bowls?
ML: No, I'm never surprised at what gets talked about anymore. I think I saw a seven-minute piece on a girl that ate M&Ms while doing a handstand. That was interesting, I mean, I got into it for awhile. I think it's just any time there's anything new – he's obviously new [and] he's done some incredible things this season. I think the hype is justified. I think that when you go out and you can lead a team like that and you can make the kind of plays that they're making, people are going to talk about you. I think we've always done one good thing here and that's staying within our own locker room, staying within the framework of what we have to do improve and not get caught up in all that stuff. Hopefully that won't be a factor.