MS: It’s been a blast; I’ve had a lot of fun with these guys this year. It’s a group that takes a lot of pride in what we do and we have a lot of fun doing it. I think there’s a good combination of veteran guys with experience and young guys that are willing and eager and understand this is how they’re going to make their bones in this league and they’ve embraced their role. Overall, it’s been one of the most fun seasons I’ve had as a part of this team. Hopefully we can keep it going.
Q: How much does playoff experience matter?
MS: I think it helps a little bit but every year is a different year. What happens in the regular season usually has no bearing on what happens in the postseason. I think it helps for guys that have played in the big games to know what to understand and expect as far as the speed of the game, the intensity of the game – it’s nothing like a regular season game. Like I said, every year is different, every team is different, every situation is different so you can’t really rely on past experiences to kind of expect it to be the same when you get to the game this year.
Q: Can you convey the speed of the game in the playoffs to some of the younger players who have never been there?
MS: We can try to preach to them all week and try to put it in their head but I know for me, until I got out there and actually felt it, I didn’t understand what it was like. But we’ll be on those young guys all week to let them know, ‘Listen, this is not the regular season. This is not what you guys have experienced up until this point.’ But I think until they get out there the first couple series, the first couple plays, then they won’t really understand what it is.
Q: I know some guys have said the difference between the preseason and the regular season is the same as the difference between the regular season and the postseason. What is your take on it in terms of the jump in speed and intensity?
MS: I can agree with that, definitely. The preseason obviously is a different feel and you go to the regular season and it’s a much different feel; the speed. I think the jump is just as drastic from the regular season to the postseason. I think it’s a one-game season for everybody and nobody is holding anything back, not that we do that during the regular season but it’s a drastic difference.
Q: You have had success during your five years here. How hungry does it make you personally that you’ve had that success but have not won a Super Bowl yet. How hungry does that make you to go all the way?
MS: I think the sole reason that you play this game is to be the best and you want to be the best team. This is the ultimate team sport. To be able to come as close as we did last year and have past failures in my previous seasons here, it just drives you and motivates you more. I think that we’re a team that’s very hungry. We don’t feel like we’ve accomplished anything, we don’t feel like we’ve arrived at all because it’s all for naught unless you do something in the postseason. We’re very driven, very motivated, very focused – myself personally and my teammates. We feel like we have a lot left to accomplish and hopefully we’re able to do that.
Q: What are the benefits of playing a team in the playoffs that you have faced in the regular season?
MS: I think that you’re familiar with their personnel. Usually a team like Houston, we wouldn’t have played them in the regular season because they’re not in our division, but we have some familiarity with their personnel and their schemes. I think it’s important for us not to rely on our past game and expect this game to go the same way. It’s nice that we know their personnel, know how they feel out there, going against those guys, competing against them but we expect it to be a totally different ballgame. We expect this to be a different team that shows up here this weekend and we know we’re in for a fight.
Q: Are there any drawbacks to playing a team you’ve already played?
MS: I wouldn’t say there are. Each game is its own and I think that will be the case this weekend.
Q: Does being familiar with their personnel affect or impact your preparation this week?
MS: I think it will a little bit. I think you go back and look at the tape and see what things worked for you as an individual and as a team and what things didn’t go so well. I think you can know what to focus on, what you can do better, what you can continue to do well hopefully. Experience is a great teacher and we’ve had some experience with these guys this year, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.
Q: How does experience help the coaches and coordinators and how does that help you guys?
MS: I think our coaches do a tremendous job each and every week of putting us in great positions to have success. This staff knows how to prepare for the postseason; they know what it takes to win, starting with Coach Belichick. He knows how to get his teams ready and the coordinators, they’ve been in big games, they have that big experience. Them as the leaders of our team essentially will, hopefully, trickle down and help the players get prepared and focused; their experience will kind of rub off on us as we prepare for this weekend.
Q: Who has the most pressure this week – you or Houston?
MS: I think both teams have a lot of pressure on them because it’s a one-game season and whoever doesn’t perform well, their season is over. I think both teams have pressure on them. It’s the playoffs – every team left has pressure on them at this point.
Q: Can you tell a discernible difference between three days off versus one or two that you might have seen in the regular season? What’s the benefit of that? How much of an effect has that had on the team?
MS: It was definitely a good opportunity for us to take some time and kind of lick our wounds a little bit. I don’t expect it to give us some great edge or advantage come Sunday. These guys are going to come in here hungry. They feel like they owe us. We can’t think, ‘Oh, well we had the bye so we’re going to be OK.’ That’s not going to be the case at all. Hopefully we get everybody healthy and out there on the field this week, but when it comes down to, it we have to go line up and play the game this weekend.