BB: We are moving along on the preparations. Defensively this is a real challenge for us with the Raiders being one of the top red area teams in the league and also the number one team on the goal line. I think they are over 90 percent inside the five yard line, so it is just another example of the efficiency that they have shown on offense and they can really bring some power with, it's usually [Zack] Crockett, but also [Tyrone] Wheatley in the backfield. They have got some big guys that they can run behind [Jon] Ritchie and move the line of scrimmage. That's a real good phase of their game there and also on the defensive side of the ball, third down, they are one of the top third down defenses in the league and the very best in the third and like six to ten range kind of that intermediate third down range. They really do a good job there as well. So just a couple of areas that we want to devote a little extra attention to. When you play 16 games and you lead the league in those categories I think that says you are doing something pretty well over a long period of time. The injury report is clean. We will be outside today and be ready to go Saturday night.
Q: Does the decline in [Tom] Brady's play over the last five games concern you at all, two touchdown passes and five interceptions, does it concern you at all and if not why not?
BB: I think there are plenty of areas on offense that we could be more productive at and more efficient at, but when you are winning games and doing enough things to win and making the plays that you need to make to outscore the opponents that is really the bottom line. You would always like to throw fewer interceptions and have fewer fumbles and there is certainly always room for improvement. So those are some of the things that we have addressed in the last, the bye before the Carolina week and even a little bit of the extra time this week to try to improve our overall execution and efficiency on offense, including the quarterback position.
Q: Tom had a great beginning this year, he played some great football, but do you think he has hit any kind of a wall himself in his first year as a starter?
BB: I think maybe that might have been true a month ago, but the last couple of weeks I think that the team has been re-energized a little bit and I don't think that's, no more than anybody else, no. No more than the coaching staff.
Q: There is a lot of hype about home field advantage, the weather, the snow, where do you assess that when you plan for a game?
BB: I think the weather, as we talked about yesterday, I don't think that's that big of a deal. I mean Oakland has guys from Poland playing so I am sure that they know what the cold weather is about. When you are playing at home you are in a regular routine even though we try to make our road routine as close to our home routine as possible and you are a little more familiar with the surroundings, but other than that you still have to go out there and play football. I think the biggest thing, whether you are at home or away, is just the communication factor. When you are on the road you have communication on offense and in some kicking situations like the punt team where you are trying to identify the looks and get everybody blocked or field goal protection. Whereas when you are at home it is more of a defensive communication because that is usually when the crowd is the loudest and any adjustments that you make on the defensive side of the ball between the linebackers and the secondary or sometimes involve the defensive linemen that that communication is a little bit harder there. It's good to have the fans behind you, feel their energy, but in the end, on the field, the biggest issue is just communication.
Q: The people out west have been talking about the snow and the cold being a factor, would the wind be, bottom line, be the biggest thing that forces you to change your strategy?
BB: I think really the wind is more of a factor then temperature. I absolutely agree with that and it affects first the kicking game because the ball is in the air longer and it is higher and secondly the passing game and the wind will have, regardless of what the temperature, the wind will have a big effect in those two areas as it gets stronger and depending on which direction it is going whether it is actually down the field or whether it is kind of quartering and coming in from an angle. There is no question that's a big factor and I think the play selection during the game, it's hard to say right now that, 'When the wind is blowing this way we are going to do this or do that.' You have your game plan and you have your strategies for the game, but when you get into the game and the wind conditions at the actual time that you are making the calls, I think the offensive and defensive coaches, and I know from my experience, I take that into consideration and it affects some of the individual calls that we make, no question.
Q: Does having the new stadium next door minimize that effect?
BB: I don't think it is going to slow the wind down any.
Q: Could it be worse?
BB: I think it is just different. You can have a 20 mile an hour wind, if it's a lower stadium like this one is then it is more of a steady flow wind and you don't have the differences that you would have in a higher stadium like Mile High or Giants Stadium is another example, we talked about Shea Stadium the other day, those stadiums that are real high the wind can't just blow across the field, but blows and it swirls and you have a different wind effect from the goal line to the 50 yard-line. So I wouldn't say it is less of a factor, it is just different.
Q: Seems like the new stadium is more open that this one, it seems like it would be even windier?
BB: I think we will just have to see that when we get in there and really get a chance to look at it, but as far as this field goes it plays a little bit differently than some of the higher stadiums do. Again, particularly when the wind quarters and comes in at angle as opposed to right down the field.
Q: They have got guys from Poland, but statistically it is undeniably a big advantage to be playing a playoff game at home?
BB: I am not saying that we are not happy to be playing at home. We are happy to be playing at home, but there are no points on the board for that. We are going to have to go out and earn them and we have seen warm teams play in cold weather and northern teams play in southern climates. You have just got to go out there and play the game.
Q: How do you account for the overwhelming advantage that home teams have, is it the comfort level of practicing at home all week, is it field knowledge, is it weather conditions?
BB: Are you talking about in the playoffs?
BB: I think just in general, not talking about any specific game, but just in general the better teams get the home game. The higher seeded teams play the lower seeded teams at home so I think when you have the first team playing the sixth seeded team or the third team playing the sixth seeded team, however it comes out, that just by the seeding you are saying that the best team is the first team and the sixth team is the sixth team so if you play it on a neutral field you would think that the better team would win. Then when you put that better team at home in that situation it favors the better team. That's kind of the way I have always felt. I would rather have a good team, then have a bad team at home. The good teams tend to win more games at home and they tend to have a better record on the road too.
Q: Charlie Garner practiced very sparingly last week leading into the Jet game, he was very explosive in that game. Were you surprised at how he came through that and what do you expect out of him?
BB: I expect him to be explosive and to be a tough player to stop Saturday night. I was going to send him and [Charles] Woodson some flowers, but they don't practice and then they go out and have interceptions and run back kicks and run 80 yard touchdowns and all of that. I don't know maybe they do better when they don't practice, but they looked pretty good to me. I don't know about him not practicing, but they play every game and they play it well. I think that is probably a bit of a smoke screen.
Q: Are you at all concerned about some of the younger players without playoff experience being overanxious on Saturday, do you think you have enough veterans to help with that?
BB: I don't think the veterans can perform for any of those players. Each guy is going to have to perform for himself and they are going to have to get themselves ready and it will be up to them to regulate their emotions and their performance on the field, but I think you can talk to guys and try to make them aware of it, but playoff experience is playoff experience. You can talk all you want, but there is a difference between playing in those games and hearing somebody else tell you what they are like. I am sure it will be an experience for our guys that haven't done it and it will be a learning experience. We've been in a lot of tight games, we've been in a lot of games that had a lot on the line here in the latter part of the season and hopefully they can draw from those experiences and be able to still play at their peak Saturday night.
Q: Having said that Brady played at Michigan, one of the biggest places to play in college football, but talk about his demeanor a little bit, probably the biggest game he has ever played in have you been inside his head, have you seen how he might respond being the biggest game?
BB: I think that Tom has had a lot of big games this year and I think the one thing that I would say to describe Tom through the whole season has been consistent whether it has been training camp, preseason games, practice, regular season games, games at home, games on the road, you know he is a steady consistent guy that I think the coaches and the players all have a level of confidence in that when you give him something to do you pretty much know what you are going to get from a mental standpoint and from a physical standpoint. I think he has been consistent all year. I would think that probably what we are going to see Saturday night is what we have seen from Tom Brady in the last 14 weeks. I don't think we are going to necessarily see it two or three levels higher or two or three levels lower, I think it is going to be pretty steady and really that is what he has been. He has had a consistent year, I mean sure some plays are better than others and you can pick out a play here or there and talk about it being a great throw or maybe a throw that he shouldn't have made and that kind of thing, but when you look at the 20-40 passes that are thrown during the game, the plays that the quarterback has to execute, be they runs or play-actions or third down plays or red area plays, you know his consistency overall is pretty steady and he grades out pretty consistently when the coaches grade the tape. So I would imagine that is probably what we are going to see Saturday night, but you never know that is why we play the game. I will be the first to say playoff games are not regular season games and you can try to make them, but there is still a difference there, there is no question about it.
Q: That being said about Tom do you think you have an idea of what to expect from your team?
BB: Yeah I would say that my comments would reflect pretty much what I just said about Tom and some of those guys have been there before and some of them haven't, as a team we haven't you know in this situation with this system and these coaches and the players as the team is currently constructed. Sure that's a little bit of an unknown because we haven't done it, but we have been through a lot of other things together and I think that again this team ahs shown some consistency through the year particularly in the last couple of months and I think that is what we are going to get Saturday night.
Q: What sense do you have right now during the week going through practice?
BB: I think we are anxious. Any time you have that week off you are a little bit anxious to play. Your mental clock is to play once a week so we have had a little time off. We are getting close to that time where we have got a lot of time to prepare for the game and we have got a lot to prepare for, but I think players and coaches, you get to the point where after awhile you are kind of sick preparing and you are ready to start playing and I think we are approaching that point.
Q: Has preparation been basically the same as for a regular season game? I know you went to BC [Boston College] the other day, would that have been done if it was October?
BB: Right. If it had been the same scenario in November or December we would have done the same thing. Yeah I think the preparation is generally the same, but I do think there is a little bit of an extra urgency, alertness, by the players when you get to playoff time. We all know what's at stake and it's not…sometimes you have games like that during the season where everything rests on the that last game. Either you win and you are in or you lose and you go home, that kind of thing. But that's truly what it is now, so there is a heightened urgency and awareness and everybody wants to be at their very best. It's a short season at this point, so there is really nothing to hold back for in any phase of the game. And I think there is a little more urgency from the team and I'm sure that is like that with every other team in the playoffs as well.
Q: Rice and Brown are very difficult to cover. Does most of your defensive success revolve around getting pressure on Gannon?
BB: Yeah, well I think in order to defend the passing game disrupting the quarterback is part of it. Obviously there are two elements involved, one guy is throwing and somebody else is catching. So you want to disrupt the guy that is throwing and you also want to disrupt the guys who are catching. Both of those elements are important in the game and to be successful, if you are really successful you are disrupting both of them. If you can do one or the other, then you are going to have some degree of success that way. If you don't disrupt either one, then Gannon will probably be about 85 percent completion and they'll move the ball up and down the field. So it is our job defensively to try to do both of those things at the same time. We have to be aware of the running game and the other threats that they have offensively: the tight ends and they have any array of backs and they bring in third and fourth receivers and those guys can, they can threaten you too.
Q: I assume that you are assuming that you are going to stop their running game because if you can't do that then that is whole other issue?
BB: Yeah. Well I don't assume that we are going to stop anything. I think we are going to have to establish that in the game and the plays that they call, that's…when you are on defense you don't have any control over the ball. All you can control is how you want to deploy your personnel and really what you want to try to stop. I mean there isn't really any defense that stops every single thing that the offense does or we'd all be playing it. So you have to put your chips on some number and know that you are going to be a little light in other areas. When you are on the offensive side of the ball then you can really control everything that you want to control. You control the snap count. You control whose hand the ball is going to be in--whether you want to give it to your quarterback and let him move it from there or whether you want to get it to a certain guy. And you can, in a lot of cases, determine…you have control over it. If you want to throw it deep, you can throw it deep. If you want to give the quarterback the option of putting the ball in different places, then you can call that kind of a play. But defensively all you can do is set up your men and put your chips on where you think the percentages are of what you want to defend. What they elect to do with the ball, that is there choice. So the running game I am sure is going to be a big part of it. The play-action game is a big part of it. The quick passes, the deep passes, again Oakland has got a wide array there in their attack. So we are going to have to play good team defense. I just don't think we can settle all our defensive calls or our personnel towards just stopping one thing. Now maybe in a particular situation we might want to bet on, 'Well this is where we think it is going to go and here is what we are going to stop in this one particular situation,' but I don't think it is going to be like that very often in the game. They just have too many, they have too many options.
Q: With all the time off you've had has Drew [Bledsoe] been able to get more work? Is he more prepared?
BB: Well last week, as we did a little bit for the Carolina bye week, last week all the players took their turns kind of more like a training camp type of a rotation where we rotated every few plays whether it be the offensive line or the quarterbacks or the linebackers, all that. As we've gotten into more of the specific preparations, whether it be the Carolina week of preparation or really this week starting on Monday for Oakland, then the players who are most likely to play in those situations have gotten the majority of the reps just like New Orleans or Buffalo or Miami or any of those other weeks. So once we got into the preparation week it's been like a normal week from that standpoint.
Q: Does he look stronger to you as the weeks have gone on here?
BB: I think initially he did. He gained some strength after those first two or three weeks when came back. After that I think that it's leveled off. I mean it is what it is.
Q: Do you think the team would be in the same position that it is now if Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback?
BB: I don't know. I can't answer that. We've had a lot of things this year that have come up, a lot of different challenges to meet and whatever we tried to take what we had and meet them. There have been injuries on both sides of the ball. There have been some players that if we had sat here in July and talked about who would be big participants, some guys haven't participated as much and other guys that we wouldn't even have been talking about back there have participated more. So there is really no way to answer those kinds of questions.
Q: Drew has obviously led this team to the Super Bowl before. What kinds of things can he impart on Tom [Brady]? I know he has been a help all year, but are there specific playoff-type things that he can impart to Tom?
BB: You know he may have talked to Tom about some of those things specifically. You'd have to ask them. I'm not sure about that. I mean Drew sees the game through a quarterback's eyes and that's a great perspective to have as experienced player see it through. You know as a coach you see the game as a coach, as a player you see it as a quarterback, the position you play and that's…both are good but they are different. They are not exactly the same. So I think that's probably the biggest thing that Drew has done and can do and will do, is see things that a quarterback, not necessarily the way a coach would see it.
Q: Do you prepare your pregame pep talks or do you just go in and wing it?
BB: Well as the week begins I think you…I try to pick out a theme and things that I feel like are going to be important to the game and then as the week goes I usually adjust things daily as to either what I'm going to say, what we're going to do, what I think the…what things are important. When you start preparing for a team on Tuesday or Wednesday you don't know where your team is going to be on Friday. When you get to Friday you have to assess things then and try to figure out what you need to do between Friday and Sunday to better prepare your team and then you reevaluate that on Saturday and do it that way. You know sometimes there are certain things that at the beginning of the week you kind of know are going to be key points you want to make at the end of the week, but I think there is part of that and then there is the other part of as things go along during the week you have to adjust and see what things maybe you thought the team would have a better understanding of or they would be more focused on and maybe they're not. So you need to change that focus and make sure that…I think the bottom line is you want to make sure that your team is going into the game the way you want it to go into the game. You want them to be thinking a certain way in the game and by Sunday at one or Saturday at eight or whenever the game is scheduled, that's when you want to make sure that that's the way they are thinking about it.
Q: Themes of the week?
BB: The themes of the week were maybe the themes that have evolved during the course of the week.
Q: How much credit does Larry Izzo get?
BB: Well Larry's been a…you know he's really done a great job for us this year. He's given us fine play on the field and he's given us good leadership off the field. He's a guy that gets the special teams players together and they look at tape and they spend extra time going over things that we've already covered, you know Brad [Seely] has already covered. But when the players get together and talk about the way they would talk about it on the field, things like punt protection and kickoff return, punt return, you know plays that are really pretty complex and a lot of things can happen. Once the ball is snapped then all hell breaks loose. You've got guys running all over the place. It's kind of organized chaos is really what it is. The players being able to work together and handle those different situations on the fly, on the run, that's something that only the guys out there on the field can do together and they have to understand each other and understand what the overall concept is. Larry's done a good job with that. I think that his commitment to special teams has certainly carried over to some other players, seeing that commitment, and getting them to see his example and work toward it.
Q: Jon Gruden on Monday was real complimentary of you…
BB: That's real nice of him.
Q: How did you score the Bon Jovi tickets?
BB: I've got a good broker. No, Jon Bon Jovi is a guy that I've known since I was with the Giants. So it's been quite a few years and we've gone back a ways. So he's done some favors for me and I've done some favors for him or somebody that I know is interested and he can help me out with tickets sometimes. He's a good contact there on those concerts.
Q: How might the elements affect the punting game and the approach to the punting game?
BB: The elements of…?
Q: Weather conditions.
BB: I think in terms of what we talked about earlier, in terms of wind, that's the number one condition that affects you and you know that's kind of a two-pronged thing. Everybody thinks about the punting game with the wind just or how it affects the punter. But I can tell you it also affects the snapper because that's…when you are kicking with the wind, punting with the wind, then the snapper is snapping into it. So being able to handle the ball and the fluttering of the ball or the rotation, if it's not tight there, that's an important part of the play too. So it's just I think a heightened concentration and understanding the situation. And obviously playing the wind conditions, for a punter to, regardless of which way the wind is blowing, the longer the ball is in the air between his hand and the foot then generally the less control you have over it. So you try to change your technique a little bit and it's important for the coverage people to understand when we are punting into the wind obviously the ball won't go as far and to be more intent going toward the middle of the field versus kicking with the wind where you're expecting a longer ball and you really have more room to cover