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Chuck Pagano Transcript: 'Rob's a matchup nightmare'

Q: Can you talk about the importance of the game this week, with two teams that are in first place in their divisions?

CP: Well, it's obviously a great opportunity for both teams, both clubs. We know the magnitude of the ballgame, but it's the next game ballgame, that's why it's the most important ballgame. There's obviously ramifications there, but we're really just trying to stick to the process and do the best job that we can of preparing and taking care of what we need to take care of and what we can control and prepare as best we can for a great Patriots team.

Q: What have you seen from Tom Brady in the last five games?

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CP:** Same thing I've seen for a number of years. [I've] faced Tom a lot. He's a great, great player and a great competitor and arm talent has not dropped off. He still makes all the throws, manages the game extremely well. He's handling everything at the line of scrimmage. He finds a way; he gets the offense in the right play 99.9 percent of the time. [He] manages bad plays; he's taking care of the football. They're number one in the National Football League in turnover margin right now at plus-12 and I think they've only given it away six times. So, he's doing a great job of managing the game and taking care of the football and getting the ball to his playmakers.

Q: In regards to taking care of the football, how would you characterize Andrew Luck's development and progress this year in that category?

CP: Certainly we did a really good job last year. It's something that everybody emphasizes. We emphasize it all the time. There's no bigger tell other than the score; winning the turnover battle and wins and losses. Certainly we've had a hiccup or there, but again, a year ago we were excellent. We were number one in the league in fewest number of giveaways. We've had a couple here and there, so it's something that obviously we pay close attention to. It's going to play a huge factor obviously in our success. We're well aware of the last two ballgames versus this club that we haven't done a good enough job obviously of taking care of the football and give obviously the Patriots credit for forcing those turnovers. So, we have to be better.

Q: With Andrew, there are a lot of rookies that start their first game and a lot of them don't last. What's been the key to him being able to remain a starter since the beginning?

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CP:** The guy obviously came in with all the measurables: physical, mental, all the intangibles. He's a great, great competitor. He's a brilliant guy, a smart guy. He's very passionate about the game. Like I said, he's a great competitor and he's able to put things behind him if things don't go according to plan. He's one of those guys, he's like a great corner that's got to have amnesia. You're going to give up a play here and there, but you have to be able to put it behind you. Probably like Tom [Brady], he's a tireless worker. He spends a lot of time working at his craft and studying the game. I think things are slowing down for him, have slowed down for him quite a bit. But his competitive drive is – all the talent is there – but he's a great, great competitor and he probably hates losing more than he likes winning.

Q: There's a trend toward bigger receivers in the league right now and yet T.Y. Hilton is one of the best. What stands out to you about him?

CP: Yeah, he's a playmaker. He's got a great, great skill set: unbelievable football instincts and awareness, finds a way to get behind the secondary and everybody fully – I know they're aware of his talent and his speed, but he does a great job of finding a way to still get behind people and he can take the top off the defense. He can catch a shallow crosser and turn it into a huge play. The guy is just a special, special talent. Again, he's got great instincts and a great skill set.

Q: What do you see different from the Patriots secondary with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner compared to what you saw in the playoffs last year?

CP: They've always been good back there. They've always had playmakers back there. They've got two great ones in the two guys that you just mentioned. I look at the rest of the guys, [Malcolm] Butler coming in and playing well and [Kyle] Arrington and of course [Devin] McCourty and [Patrick] Chung. They've got a great unit back there. Obviously [Defensive Coordinator] Matt Patricia and the defensive staff do a great job. They're very well coached. They're very aggressive. They do a great job of disguising. They do a great job in coverage. They get their hands on you. They make it very, very difficult. They force the quarterback to do a ton of thinking pre-snap and post. They make you work. That's a credit to that group and the coaching. They make it awful difficult; you have to throw it into tight coverage because they're going to be all over you. They do a great job of it.

Q: How would you characterize the state of your defense right now?

CP: We've had a hiccup here or there, but I think we're starting to see what we envisioned when we first got together in 2012; starting to get to the point where we've had some performances, some outings that we're very, very proud of. You're only as good as your last ballgame and we're headed in the right direction. We've got a great group of guys. Greg Manusky, defensive coordinator, and our defensive staff do a great job with them. We've got a great group of guys that love football and are passionate about football. We've made a ton of progress going into our third season. I think we're headed in the right direction. Certainly there are always going to be things that you want to get better at and you can improve on and be more consistent, but I certainly think we're headed in the right direction.

Q: The Patriots didn't have Rob Gronkowski in the playoff game last year. How does their offense look different last year compared to when you faced them last year?

CP: They obviously had playmakers a year ago. It just only makes them more of a nightmare, if you want to put it that way. Obviously Tom and [Julian] Edelman on the same page, as well as Gronk and [Brandon] LaFell and [Danny] Amendola and [Tim] Wright comes in and makes plays. The two running backs are doing a great job; they're having success on the ground. Tom's spreading the ball around, but Rob's a matchup nightmare. It's all hands on deck to try to make sure that that guy doesn't wreck a game. You see everybody trying to do that, but he finds a way to make unbelievable plays. He's a great player and they've got a bunch of them, a bunch of skill guys that are making great plays.

Q: The vast majority of Rob Gronkowski's catches have come when he has a free release off the line. What are the challenges of deciding to let him go free or deciding to man up on him?

CP: Again, you have to make a decision, because there are other guys to tend to. You always go in saying you have to stop the run and you have other problems out there to take care of. He's one of them. The more weapons that you have, certainly we're going to face a team that's got a ton of them at the skill positions. I know that given free access and all those kind of things that he can do a ton of damage to your defense. We've got to do as good a job as we can of trying to find the right matchups and try to figure out a way to, you're never going to stop a guy like that, but hopefully just slow him down enough to where, again, he doesn't wreck the game on you.

Q: Clyde Christensen, your quarterbacks coach, has a local connection here. Part of his career was spent at Holy Cross. What has he done with you and Andrew?

CP: He's been outstanding. I'm really fortunate that when I got the job here we were able to keep Clyde. He's been here a long, long time. He's been a staple here for a long, long time and he's done a great job with Andrew and his development. [He's a] great coach and better person and I feel really fortunate that he's part of our program.

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