New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2008.
BB: As far as the team goes, we're privileged to be in this AFC Championship Game. We have a tremendous amount of respect for the San Diego Chargers and their season, particularly what they have done since Thanksgiving. They are a great football team. Our team has worked hard this week to do the best we can to try to be prepared for Sunday. The Chargers are the type of team, if we have three weeks to get ready for them, we could still use more time. They are tough to do that for, but we'll be ready to go and we'll put our best effort out there Sunday afternoon. I know the players are excited for the game, [there has] certainly been a lot of energy in practice and through the weekly preparation. We know we have our hands full. The Chargers are a great team and they have proved it in every phase of the game, pretty much every opportunity they have had the last couple of months, offense, defense, special teams, running game, passing game, big plays and critical plays in the game. Hopefully we can go out there and play the best game of the year because that's what it's going to take to win.
Q:How crucial is it for your offense, to have a guy like Tom Brady who seems so unselfish spreading the ball around and making sure that not just he is getting the accolades, but all of the other guys are the stars of the offense?
BB: I'm sorry, the question is?
Q:Tom Brady--that he's unselfish--how key is that to the way your offense runs?
BB: That's the way the whole team runs. We all have jobs to do and we all try to do our jobs for the good of the team and put the team first. I think that's the way everybody approaches our job for the entire year and certainly the way that we each approach it for this game in that we each have something to do and we have to do it well.
Q:The Chargers obviously force a lot of turnovers. I know you stress it every week but any more importance on it this week? Have you done more work?
BB: Absolutely. You know, they have set the pace on going back to the 2000 Ravens and even the plus-24 turnover ratio for the Bengals a couple years ago. They have done an outstanding job of coming off the ball defensively and we have to do a good job protecting it, [they have] 30 interceptions. They get it from everywhere, all the players, secondary, linebackers put pressure on the quarterback and [they force] fumbles and those come on special teams as well as on defense. So taking care of the ball is the No. 1 priority for us and that's certainly been a big emphasis point this week, as it is every week. The Chargers have done a great job of it all year and that's crucial for us.
Q:Could you describe the relationship right now between the Chargers and the Patriots considering the way the playoff game ended a year ago? Some of the talk that happened after week one between Tomlinson and some of the players; is this a budding rivalry between the two clubs?
BB: I think right now the relationship is you've got two competitive teams trying for one championship and that will be decided on Sunday afternoon. That's what this is about. That's all we're focused on is trying to play our best football game Sunday afternoon at 3:00.
Q:How much fun and enjoyment have you yourself gotten out of the season?
BB: Well, there have certainly been some good moments, but really the season right now hinges on one game. It's a one-game season with the San Diego Chargers and they are the best team we've played and we are going to have to play our best game and that's really where all of our focus is right now and looking ahead. We're not really looking back and not doing anything other than looking at San Diego Sunday at 3:00. That's where we need to have our peak performance and be our best and that's what the target is. Other than that, it wasn't too much to think about.
Q:When you initially acquired Junior, how much was that based on the leadership he could bring to the locker room in addition to what he could do on the field?
BB: I think the most important thing is what he can do on the field: his playing performance and his versatility and ability to help our football team win games. He's been a great leader for us but the most important thing for Junior and our football team is for him to play well and for him to do his job and do it well. That's the most important thing for all of us. He's got a lot of energy, he's brought a lot of leadership and energy and experience to our team, and that's been good, but the most important thing he's done [is] played his position well.
Q:When you look around the practice field now in the post-season, do you see a change in attitude at all in your team, whether it be better or worse, do you notice an improvement or change at this part of the season?
BB: Not really. Not really. I think I would compliment our players for their effort and attitude all year. They come to work every day trying to get better, trying to understand what they need to do to win and how to improve individually and as a team, and then try to transfer that out to the practice field and execute it there in preparation for our games. That's kind of the way it's been all year. Certainly when you're in a situation like we are now, it's a one-game season, everything is riding on one game. There's a little bit of a heightened intensity and attentiveness, which there should be, but that's been there all year, too.
Q:You keep emphasizing you have to play your best game but you can't look back; is there one game where you felt both the offense and defense had their best game?
BB: I don't know. I don't know if that would really make any difference. Right now the only game we care about is the Charger game. What happened in the past is in the past and I don't think it has any bearing on this game. What we need to do is play and coach and execute well against the Chargers. So that's all that really matters.
Q:Do the Charger injuries--specifically not knowing the status of Rivers--does that change your preparation?
BB: Well, we get ready for all 53 players every week, so there's really no change. If a player is on the opponent's active roster, we prepare for him and understand what their strengths and weakness are tendencies and what they do and how they do it. And whoever the opponent chooses to put in the game, that's their decision, we don't have any control over that. We have to be ready for all of them. We practiced this week the same as every other week. Buffalo is a good example; There was one quarterback in the game and a couple plays later, there was another quarterback in the game, and that can happen at any time at any position, so we have to be ready for all of them.
Q:At different stages of the season, mostly at the end of the regular season, you seem to practice for balance in your offense with Laurence Maroney and the game against the Jets how important is it that Tom Brady had a game like last weekend where he was very precise and correct in his throws?
BB: Well, I don't really know that has much or any effect. We're not playing Jacksonville. We played them last week and this week is a totally different match-up and we're going against the charger defense. As we know, they set the pace for turnovers and ball disruption and getting the ball out of the offense's hands way better than anybody. So our challenges this week are a lot different than last week and last week and last month and everything else. It doesn't really matter. It's just how we do against the Chargers. Our focus this week is how we can play our best against San Diego. Again, nothing else really matters.