RE: What he sees out of the Panthers**
"They've been real impressive. I think that they really do pretty much everything well. Good offensively, can run the ball, convert third downs, score in the red area, make big plays. I know they attack you with a lot of different people. Obviously the quarterback, the running backs, tight ends, receivers. Good offensive line. Defensively, real disruptive up front. A lot of depth, a lot of good players. The linebackers are active. The secondary is good at taking the ball away, causing strip fumbles and interceptions, returning them for touchdowns. They've had some big plays back there. A good kicking game, obviously. They can change field position in the kicking game. Good specialists. Just really solid, well-coached. They don't have many penalties, don't have a lot of bad plays. They make you earn everything you get, and they play hard, they're physical. A good football team; well-coached, well-disciplined. You've got to work for everything you get."
RE: Change in preparation for a team you don't play often
"We've got a lot of work to do. The last time we played Carolina, pretty much everything was different. New schemes, new players. We've got to learn a lot about this team in a short amount of time. Their personnel and what they do, how they do it. Try to simulate that in practice, and be able to work our plays and our game plan against it. It's a big challenge, and they do a lot of things well, so it's hard. Offensively, obviously we're not an option team, so to simulate things like that in practice our players have to do a good job of studying what Carolina does, how they do it, and try to give us a look at it."
RE: If this Panthers defense is similar to the one he saw in 2003 in the Super Bowl
"Yeah, I think a little bit. Coach Fox had a similar four-man line with some blitz-zone pressures. I think there's some similarities. But I think Coach Rivera has done a real good job with this group. They're hard to run on. They don't give up many points. They're good in the red area. They're good on third down. They're really disciplined, they're sound. There's not many plays where you feel like 'well, this will be an easy ten yards here, or an easy 15 yards here,' that type of thing. You've got to really work for everything you get, earn all of your yards. When they get you in longer yardage situations, or when they've been able to play from ahead which they've been able to do that quite a bit this year, their pass rush and their ability to force the ball out quickly and play good pass defense and have a good pass rush, then a lot of times it's just gone from bad to worse. The game can get out of hand with them if you're not careful."
RE: Coming off of a bye
"We're not in any control over any of those situations. Whenever the games are scheduled, then we try to take the time that we have to prepare for them the best that we can, and perform as well as possible. You can't really worry about the schedule. Whatever it is we try to take advantage of it, make the most out of it. Whatever opportunities we have to prepare and improve, then we just do the best we can with those. We don't really worry about what the structure of it is, other than you just have to logistically work it out. But it doesn't really matter."
RE: Having tight end Rob Gronkowski back, and what that does for the Patriots
"Obviously he's a significant player for us offensively, a big target in the passing game. I think he's definitely helped us. He doesn't have a lot of football work this year, it's all been in the last few weeks. I think he's worked hard and continued to get better. Hopefully as we work into the second half of the season he'll keep improving every week, and his game will get better and he'll be more productive for us as the year goes along."
RE: What makes quarterback Tom Brady so good in important games
"We'll see what happens. Whatever has or hasn't happened in the past, I don't think that really has much meaning for this game. It will all just come down to how well all of us collectively as a team can do Monday night in Carolina. It's a huge, huge challenge playing the Panthers down there. They're playing as well as any team in the league. They're a well-balanced team. Playing at home, there should be a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the stadium. It's a big, big challenge for us. I think all of our players are excited for the opportunity, and want to work hard and have a good week of preparation. It's going to be tough, and we're going to have to be at our best on Monday night. That's the challenge for all of us. We're playing a good football team at home, and they're playing as well as any team in the league. We're going to have to play at that level to be competitive."
RE: The Panthers front four
"I think it's obviously blueprinted after what the Giants were able to do with their defense and their front. Dave's come down there, and Ron collectively have been able to build that kind of team from the front back with their defensive line, and speed at linebacker. They've been able to control the line of scrimmage, and kind of do what Gettleman did with the Giants, to be able to get pressure with the front four. They certainly are able to do that. That obviously looks like the plan, and the blueprint from New York. They've been successful with it."
RE: Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly matching up with Gronkowski
"It's always hard to tell who is going to be matched up on who. I don't know what play you have called, or what defense they're in. Especially a team Carolina that plays a lot of zone coverage, some of that is really a function of what play happens to be called, when they're in which zone or blitz-zone that they call, whatever it happens to be. I don't know that it's all that predictable. I think Luke has obviously been a great addition for the Panthers. He's a good football player, really smart and instinctive. He's around the ball a lot, a very good pass defender. He's got good speed, and you see him running with guys in the deep part of the field in their Tampa two coverage. He's got good pursuit to the sideline, makes a lot of plays outside the numbers. Again, a very instinctive guy that can read the quarterback well. He gets a good jump on the ball. Some of his interceptions against the Rams, Buffalo, where he read the quarterback and got right in the passing lane and made a play on the ball. He's also broken up a lot of passes. His instincts, his decisiveness and his athleticism allow him to get to a lot of plays. He's been a very productive player, as is Davis. Davis is another guy that's fast, plays physical. He's a good blitzer, good in pursuit, good in the passing game, an active player. It's hard to block the down guys and get their linebackers. You're kind of after the linebackers when you're light on the line. When you kind of spend too much time making sure you get the guys on the line, then you're late getting to the linebackers and they make the plays. So a real good front that compliments each other well. Kuechly and Davis, they're in there a lot because they're in the nickel front. Those guys really do a good job."
RE: If this is the best defense the Patriots has played this year
"Well I think every defense has their strengths and weaknesses. We've played a number of good teams, and Carolina is definitely one of them. They're very good defensively. But we've played a lot of other good teams too, so I'll just leave it at that. They're strong defensively, their statistics bear that out and you see it on film. They do a lot of things well."
RE: Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein
"I think he stepped in and did a good job for Blackburn when he was out. He showed up in the kicking game a lot. A destructive player in college, obviously we did a lot of work on him coming out. He's really played more inside or off the line. Now, he's got to come up and just play on the line. He had a big play last week on the boot against Kaepernick. It was a big play in the game where he was athletic and was able to make the play in space out there on a pretty athletic quarterback. I think he's stepped up and done a good job, and so has Blackburn when he was in there; not sure if he'll be back or not. But those guys are both solid players. They've gotten good play out of their linebackers in the kicking game too, with Senn and Williams, Klein. Those guys have done a good job for them."