TB: Has it? Good. I like it. It fits him well.
Q: Where did you come up with that?
TB: That’s very private between he and I. Yes. But I do like it. It fits him very well, hence the nickname.
Q: Now that
TB: I would say our offense is pretty much our offense, so the other guys that are going to be in there filling that role and playing tight end for us have to do a great job. We always try to find ways to use a guy’s skill set, and we run it decent at times, we throw it decent at times. I mean, it’s disappointing to lose anybody, but we’ve faced that before this year and at different times, so I’d say at least we’re adjusted to it a little bit. We still have confidence that we can go out and win games.
Q: In a general sense, can any NFL team make a major change in the way they run their offense 14 weeks into the season, or are you stuck with what you are as an offense and what you’re going to do?
TB: I’m not sure. We’re going to try to do the best we can to put points on the board, I think that’s what we’re going to try to do. So however that really turns out for us, that’s kind of the formula it’s going to take.
Q: But could any offense just change completely and do something different?
TB: Well, I mean our Patriot offense and what we’ve done, to me, has always been the same – to just try to find the right formula with the right group of guys versus the defense that we’re playing to produce well enough to put points on the board. I think that’s what we’re supposed to do, so however we need to do it, that’s what we’re going to try to do. I don’t know how it’s going to – you always have confidence going into the games, and as you go in there and you score 55 points like we did against Pittsburgh, sometimes you score 6 like we did against [Cincinnati], but I’d tell you the opponent going into both of those games, we thought ‘Man, we’ve got a great game plan,’ but then you go out there and you try to see how it works, and they’ve got a game plan, and you’ve got to be able to adjust. I think we have confidence that we can go out and win games.
Q: Can you talk about what it’s like for you when your helmet communication system breaks down and the call doesn’t come through? Do you just have to kind of freelance out there?
TB: Yeah, that’s happened from time to time with our helmets this year. But you just – I’ve been in that situation a few times over the course of my career where we haven’t had it for extended periods of time. We have a backup plan; if that backup plan fails and you’re sometimes below that 15-second mark, then you’ve just got to try to scramble and call a play with the guys you have in the huddle. So you try to use your best judgment and go with it. But yeah, we’re used to that. We’ve practiced that.
Q: Can you talk about the chance to clinch the AFC East for the fifth straight year and what that means to you?
TB: Yeah, that’d be – that’s our goal, so it’s not too often you get a chance to do that, and we [are] fortunate to be able to do that. Certainly this game is – not every week do you get to play for a championship, so we do this week, and it’s a big week for us.
Q: How much different does the Dolphins defense look now than it did when you played them earlier in the season?
TB: They’re really good. I mean, they were really good then too. We didn’t do much offensively – we didn’t do much in the first half, we made a few plays there in the second half, but they’re a good defense at all levels. They really like their linebackers, they’ve got a really deep defensive line that can rush the quarterback, and they’ve got guys in the secondary they really like, the same safeties that have been there for like three years, and then [Brent] Grimes is playing great and Nolan Carroll’s been a great player for them. I mean, they’re a really solid defense. They’ve got a really good scheme. There are really no easy plays out there, so we’ve got to go out there and earn it. They play well at home, and [it’s] always dog fights down there in Miami, so I think we’re expecting more the same, and go out there and see what we can put together, but we had a good practice today. Hopefully we can follow it up so we’re most prepared, and then go down and try to win a really important game.
Q: You guys practiced inside today with the heat turned up in preparation for playing in South Florida. Do you ever look back after those games and say, ‘That really helped us this week’?
TB: Sure. I mean, there’s always a rhyme and a reason why Coach [Bill] Belichick does things. If we’re going to play and it’s 10 degrees out, he wants us to be out there in the cold understanding the elements, the conditions, and what it’s going to feel like. I don’t think you can really duplicate South Beach and that heat, especially after we’ve been playing in pretty cold temperatures here for the last six weeks, but we’ll do the best we can do. We’ve faced it before in December, and I’m sure it’ll be warm down there. You don’t really compete against the weather, you compete against the Dolphins, because they’re dealing with the same stuff we are. So hopefully our execution is better than theirs. That’s what I’m hoping.
Q: Is the mental aspect of executing the comeback and making people believe that it can work a pretty big component of your ability to come back late in games?
TB: Yeah, I think there’s just – what ends up happening is there’s a lot less margin of error. You make one mistake and you’re down 12 points with not a lot of time left, you make one mistake, that’s the game. So you just put a lot of pressure on yourself to do it. You’d like to have some cushion there because it’s not always going to turn out where you can be perfect that last three or four minutes of the game, but we talked about getting out to slow starts, and slow starts – we had six turnovers like in the first quarter of a bunch of these games. We haven’t turned it over in the second half, which is probably why we’re playing better in the second half, so we’ve got to not turn the ball over in the first quarter and the second quarter and see if we can get off to a better start.
Q: Have you noticed that your mental sharpness is more primed at that point later in the game?
TB: You know, that’s a good question. I don’t think that the approach is a whole lot different than what it normally is. I always feel like I’m always the same and my approach is always the same, I prepare the same way. I prepare, I try to go in there with all the confidence in the world that we’re able to do whatever we need to do, so I don’t feel like there’s a third quarter
Q: So you don’t have adult onset procrastination syndrome or something?
TB: Yeah, we don’t do that around here. We usually try to, like, plow right through that procrastination period.
Q: Do you remember a year where you’ve adjusted so much on the fly, whether it’s in games or in your weekly game plan?
TB: Well there are always adjustments, and there are adjustments that are made in practice, there are adjustments that are made in games, plays, players, so it’s always a game of adjustments. It never really goes exactly how you think, because they’re sitting down there this week in their meetings trying to figure out how to really screw us, and vice versa, so you really don’t quite know their plan until you get out there and you start competing against it. So it takes a little time to figure it out, and then you’ve got to make the adjustments, and if it’s going to be [a] man game or zone game or blitz game or cover game or zone blitz game or man blitz game or – that’s all a matter of what you’re waiting to see. But you’ve got to have a lot of different plans for those different things, so you probably cover a lot of those things, and then whatever comes up, you try to adjust and execute as well as you can against it.
Q: While the comebacks are fun, is the fact that you’ve been in that losing situation so much alarming? With January around the corner, you don’t want to get into a hole against a playoff team.
TB: Yeah, not at all. And I think that we try to figure out reasons why we’re starting slow and not being able to score a lot of points, and one of them, like I said, is the turnovers. All our turnovers have been early in the game. We wouldn’t have been able to close the game well and finish well if we had been making mistakes there at the end. We haven’t been making – it’s not like we’re turning it over four times a game, we’re just turning it over once or twice, and against Denver there were three times there in the first quarter. A lot of it is just us executing better. I’ve said before after these games, it’s not like there’s any special plays that we’re calling. It’s just that our execution needs to be better as players. I mean, [if] we’ve got guys open, we’ve got to hit them. The first play of the game last week, I had Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] open in the seam, I’ve got to hit him. Early in the Miami game, I threw an interception; you can’t do that. Not if you want to get out to a lead. So that’s what we need to start playing from, ahead, and seeing if we can put the other team in some of the positions that we’ve been in, see if they can be perfect for the last few minutes of the game.
Q: When you lose key players to injury, there seems to be this thought that Coach Belichick will always find a way to keep you guys competitive, no matter who’s in there. Do you see it that way?
TB: Well, we’re going to try to find a way. I don’t think there’s – nobody’s going to quit around here, and the season’s going to go on. I mean, there are games that are going to be played this weekend and the following weekend and the following weekend. It sucks to lose really good players, especially guys of the quality that we’ve lost this year, and those guys who have really been dependable, consistent, and durable players for a long period of time. But like I said, teams deal with it, and you deal with it one of two ways: you can let it affect you and your performance and your preparation, or you can deal with it and try to go out there and win a game. Your margin of error might – you may not be able to do all the things you may want to do or hope to do, but hopefully it’s still good enough to win.
TB: Sure. Yeah, and that’s – you have to try to figure out what we’re going to do to still get the level of production that’s good enough to win.
Q: Are you confident in those two guys that they can add something to your offense?
TB: Yeah. They can definitely, no question. They’ve been able to contribute [in] the role that they’ve been in that we’ve asked them to do, so I think now the role’s going to be more. You’re going to play more, because Gronk’s not in there, so someone’s got to be in there. That will fall on the backs, that will fall on the tight ends, that will fall on the receivers, anyone who’s got an opportunity to produce while they’re out on the field. If you’re an eligible receiver, then you’ve got to do something with it, so we either run it better or throw it better or catch it better or run with it after the catch. It’s not going to be an excuse for us, I know that.