New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2008.
Q: Can you talk about the guy who just left?
BW: He's been talking to you already for a long time. What can I say that you don't already know?
Q: Just his play last week - He's just elevated it again and again.
BW: Since I've been here, four years, he's the leader of this team, the leader of the offense. You see how he carries himself. The number one thing to me is he cares about each player individually as a person. It's not just always football - although that's a big part of it. But he's a great leader and you see how he plays. We've come to expect him to play well and to perform well, and he never lets us down. He's always calm, but you see him on the sideline when he gets kind of riled up, encouraging us an offense to get in the next series.
Q: Can you talk about the year you've had?
BW: It's been a great year. It's been fun playing with these guys every Sunday - sometimes Saturday. [I've] had a couple of injuries with the ankle and everything -- those are always tough to work through, but it's been a great year and it's not over yet, which is the main thing. We're still pushing. We still hopefully have a few weeks to go, so we'll focus on this week.
Q: This was a record-setting season for the passing game, league-wide. One of the big things is yards after catch were stronger this year across the league. As an offensive player, is that because of the kinds of defenses that are being played or the rules?
BW: It's probably a little combination of both. We like to think on offense we're becoming better athletes on offense, I don't know, so we're breaking more tackles. I don't know, but it's probably a combination of the zone coverages, of players just getting that ball and turning it upfield. [It] may be some of the rules, but I think if you look over the history of football you'll see where sometimes there's more yards after catch, less yards after catch, more passing, more running, depending on the year, depending on the team's strength, depending on weather that year. You might look next year and it may be more of a running year.
Q: If you play the way you did against Jacksonville, will that be enough to get you past the Chargers?
BW: If we play better than we did. The Chargers are a great team and that's why we're playing them in this game. They deserve to be there. They do all of those things - rushing the passer, run the ball well, throw the ball well - they do a lot of good things. We know as a team we're going to have to play better than we did against Jacksonville in order to beat them.
Q: While you were out and hurt and so was Kyle Brady, was it strange to watch an offense running without any tight ends?
BW: It was, but I think that's a tribute to the guys we have in the locker room and the coaches. There's no one person that, as an offense, we can't move the ball without. Somebody goes down, somebody steps up and the coaches formulate a new game plan so that we can keep going. It's always tough to watch a game when you're not playing in it, especially when there's no tight ends, since that's my position, of course, but the show goes on. The train goes on and the guys did a great job while we weren't in there.
Q: You guys have a lot of championship game experience. How much does that help the week before, just knowing what to expect?
BW: It helps a great deal. We talked about Tom earlier. He's been in this situation a lot of times before [and] he's not the only one that's been in this situation. Just knowing how to prepare [helps]. We have a coaching staff who's been in this situation plenty of times, so they know how to motivate us, how to prepare for big games. It definitely helps being there before, but at the same time this is a new season, this is a new team we're playing at this point in this game in the playoffs. [There are] new players on both teams, so it's going to come down to whoever performs the best on Sunday and whoever prepares the best during the week.
Q: What's a good example of what your role can be in this offense when teams look to take out other guys?
BW: As far as my role, it changes every week and I think everybody's does, to a certain extent, depending on the coverages, depending on the game plan. There's obviously players that you expect that are going to put up certain numbers, but if you look at our team since I've been here there's always been guys that have had lower production games, higher production games - it just kind of changes. Defenses are different, teams we play are different, so the main thing is always be prepared so when your number is called, when it's your time, you're ready to make the play.
Q: Because of the stakes this week, because this game is for a trip to the Super Bowl, is it easier to put 17-0 aside?
BW: Yes, because now it's just 1-0 and they're, what, 2-0, so they have a better record than us, actually. But this is a totally new season. The end of that was the Giants game and that's over. We're moving on. This is a totally new season. We'd better put it behind us or else we'll be done on Sunday, so we have to go out there and just take it one day at a time and not worry about the past.
Q: As cold as it's going to be Sunday, does that make it harder to catch the ball?
BW: How cold is it going to be?
BW: Oh, gosh. I'm praying that the lord changes the weather. It makes it tough, but everybody has to play in it. It's going to be two teams out there playing whether it's 100 degrees or zero degrees, so you kind of throw the weather thing out. Both of us have to deal with it.
Q: Have you talked to Laurence Maroney about expectations at all? Has he come to you to ask you about that?
BW: Not myself personally. He hasn't come to me to ask about the expectations, but I think as a group, as a team, as an organization we kind of - one of our main things is managing those expectations, so if any individual player is projected to do more than he does or does more than he's supposed to do, we always try to keep a level head about things - not get too high, not get too low no matter what happens. That's the thing - with football there's always a new game, there's always a new week, there's always another chance for you to do well, so you just wait for that chance to come.
Q: How much do you guys think back to last year when you had the same opportunity? Is that motivation for you guys, that you didn't finish the job?
BW: You definitely remember. It seems like it was yesterday we were at Indy and we all know how that ended up, but you kind of put that out of your mind and realize that this is a totally new team we're playing, a totally new year, a totally new situation. We kind of brush that to the side and hopefully we'll come out better this time.
Q: On the first touchdown you scored last week, it looked like the coverage was pretty good. Can you talk about the adjustment you and Tom Brady had to make on the fly to make that work?
BW: A lot of times, especially when you get in the red zone, there are tight windows to get the ball in and it comes down to a familiarity with the guy throwing the football. Sometimes when you're covered, you can look back at the quarterback and he gives you a nod or a wink or you just kind of know what to do if you're covered for a certain amount of time. Basically it was just I knew I was covered and just kind of uncovered, and Tom put it in a spot where only I could get it.
Q: Instinctively, how did you know to all of a sudden turn that way?
BW: I can't even really explain it. Some things just kind of happen during the course of a game. It's just one of those time clocks you have in your head. You know he only has so much time and so then when you look back if he hasn't thrown the ball yet, you know it's time to uncover and get open. That's basically what happened.