Q:Aqib Talib seems like the kind of guy who would want and maybe ask to cover the best guy on the opposing offense. Is he that kind of guy?
MP: Obviously, Talib is a highly, highly competitive person and competitive guy. He wants to go out and put pressure on himself to perform and compete at the highest level against the highest talent and the highest opponent. You've got to really admire that and love that from the standpoint of a coach, but he does a great job of understanding this is a team game and he is certainly going to do whatever it is we ask him to do within the game plan. So, he is very flexible, very adjustable like all of our guys are. We really try to preach that to everybody out there to be able to handle multiple positions and multiple roles. He is certainly someone that has been able to do that. You may see him line up in a couple different positions or responsibilities. He understands the concept of what we are trying to get done defensively and will put that first and foremost before anything else. But, as far as a competitor, he is a tremendous competitor and someone that you really like the aspect that he will want to come in and go against the toughest opponent he can.
Q:As you get into game planning against the Dolphins, what strikes you as being the most different about them from when you faced them earlier in the season?
MP: I really think what they've been able to do here recently is, offensively, is kind of get into a pretty good rhythm. They've become very balanced with the run and the pass. They have used their play-action well, along with some of their quarterback move-the-pocket type plays, and then obviously with the quarterback being a tremendous athlete and someone who is very good at getting out of trouble, he's had a real good feel of being able to escape and extend plays and do a tremendous job there. I really think they've – obviously they had a big game running the ball last last week and have been able to capitalize in their passing game utilizing the skill positions. Obviously [Brian] Hartline and [Mike] Wallace are two tremendous players for them. [Rishard] Matthews has been able to step in for them and be very productive, and then certainly [Charles] Clay is a real, real key for them offensively and is someone who has done a great job. But, you know, all the tight ends will rotate in and you'll see them all being productive. They have a good system in place, which has allowed them, I think, over the steady course of the season to continually improve, whereas they're just putting the pieces together and building on what they've done week-by-week. So, now they are at the point where obviously they're operating at a much more efficient and productive manner. Certainly, that's something you can see on film.
Q:Clay has always been interesting because he does not seem to have a natural position. Is he a fullback, is he a tight end? How do you view him and what characteristics and skills does he possess that make him a challenging matchup?
MP: I think he is definitely a guy that they have been able to fit into a multitude of roles, which makes it very difficult to defend him. He is a big guy, obviously. He's got extremely good quicks, good speed – he can get into his routes. He does an excellent job of working leverage and understanding coverage and how teams are playing against him and being able to find open spaces at the top of his routes. He is really, really good and he can line up at multiple positions. That's what really makes it difficult. He can be in the backfield, be attached to the line of scrimmage, be off the line of scrimmage or even spread out. They'll do a lot of good things with him moving around, detaching him from the formation. He does a good job of going up and getting the ball – he has great hands. Really, when you have a player like that who is reliable and dependable in possession type situations and is multiple, then you can do a lot of creative things with him. I think that's really what they've been able to do and I think that's what makes him a valuable asset to their offense.
Q:You look at the box score and you see double digit tackles for Dont'a Hightower, his most productive effort of the year. Obviously with all players, the evaluation goes beyond the box score, but with Hightower in particular, because of the fact that he is absorbing a new position that involves more responsibility with Jerod Mayo being injured, does the evaluation for him go way beyond just what you see in the box score?
MP: I think that is an excellent point. I think that, in general, is the game of football. I think, like we talk about all the time, there is only one stat that we look at the most, and that's what the score is at the end of the game. I think with our players defensively, they're going to be doing a lot more things on the field than what you physically see in numbers that are written down in paper after the game. Some of those things that they are asked to do in a team game may not be necessarily very glorious and glamorous and be the person standing at the end of the play, but yet may be in the background occupying different players or covering different players or trying to establish a defense in the particular part of the field. The point of attack on offense may be directed now away from that particular player, and all that stuff doesn't really show up. I think that, defensively as a whole, when you are trying to play good team defense and conceptual defense, that's what happens. I think that Dont'a has done a great job of improving and trying to get better and accepting multiple roles, which he does week-in, week-out like a lot of our guys. I think that's something that we're just going to try and improve on and keep working on him getting better at and build on everything we've done week-in, week-out. That's really what we're going to try to do. Obviously, the production is what you're looking for, but it's not really the end all answer to the equation. There are a lot more things going on that certainly don't show up in just the numbers. He is a guy that, very unselfishly, does all that for us.