CHARGERS HEAD COACH MIKE MCCOY CONFERENCE CALL
Q:** What have you seen from the Patriots thus far on both side of the ball?
MM: Obviously a very well coached football team that does all the little things right. [A] great situational team that's well prepared week-in and week-out with a lot of good playmakers on both sides of the ball. They make you earn everything you get. We've got to go out and play our best game.
Q: What did last week's win mean to your team? Has the team put it behind itself?
MM: We're going to play this game week to week every week. It doesn't matter what week it is 1 through 17 as you play during the season. We take it one week at a time. We can only control week-in, week-out how we go out and play. That was a big win for our team coming down winning the way we did. Shortly after the game we got back here to San Diego, we've moved on and we've got a good start to preparation for a very good football team coming in. It's the next big game we've got to play. You're trying to get to a win each week, that's all it is – one week at a time in this business.
Q: What have you liked out of Philip Rivers game this season? Has he refined his game this year?
MM: I think Philip has been one of the best in the business for a long time. You love the way he works – his preparation week-in and week-out has been outstanding. He's a winner. He's great to have as the face of your franchise. Having a franchise quarterback like who he is, he goes out and earns everything he gets. It's great to have him on our football team. He's been very efficient. He's done a great job of leading not only the team, but the offense week-in and week-out.
Q: Can you talk about some of the challenges you've dealt with at the center position?
MM: I think the players have done an outstanding job week-in and week-out of preparing themselves regardless of who was playing. Along with the rest of the guys on offense working together and the communication part has been outstanding. I think the coaches have done an outstanding job of preparing all the players, not just at that position but all positions on our football team. Injuries are all part of the game and the players that are standing, it's the next man up mentality. You're always getting ready and you've got to make changes from time to time throughout the year. The players have done a great job of adjusting.
Q: Can you comment what running backs coach Ollie Wilson has brought to the team this year?
MM: He's an outstanding football coach and even a better person. He's great to have. When I took the job last year, obviously having known his history, I'd had known of him back in the days he was at Cal Berkeley and I went through football camp years ago ---he was there. His reputation being in Atlanta, whether it was there or being here – when I was in Carolina having played against him a couple of times, obviously twice a year being in the same division, and seeing the production his players always have regardless of who is in the game, they are well prepared. They work extremely hard for him. I know the players love playing for him, the type of person he is. He's done an outstanding job with the players in the two years I've been working with him. I'm very fortunate to have him on my staff, and [he's] a great guy to work with.
Q: Can you speak to what Ryan Mathews brings to the game? He seems to be a power guy that adds a different look to your offense.
MM: It's great to have him back. He's worked extremely hard to get back where he is today. He does everything the way you want him to do it. He's a physical runner; it's always nice to have in the backfield. He's had a solid year for the number of snaps he's had. Unfortunately we haven't had him the whole year, but I think he's a player that's made the most of every opportunity. You love having him in the backfield with his flexibility of what he can do –- whether it's catching balls out of the backfield, blocking and protection, and as we know the way he runs ball. [He] works extremely hard and [is] a very talented player that we are very fortunate to have back in the lineup.
Q: Tom Brady is having a great year. What has stood out to you about him this season and throughout his career? What makes him Tom Brady?
MM: He's a winner. From the very first time he's stepped in the huddle there they've won football games. Anytime you have a franchise quarterback like that you have that opportunity. All the players on your football team have [all] the confidence in the world. You love the way he plays the game – his fiery approach to the game. You see how excited he is, the leader he is. He's just so efficient –- he knows the game inside and out. [He's] one of the best of all time. It's great to play against guys like that. You always want to play against the best, and he's one of the best of all-time so we have to do a great job on Sunday against him.
Q: What are your thoughts on your defense and what has been their strength?
MM: I think when you look at the game there's going to be pluses and minuses to every game. You grade it from week to week. You try to minimize the number of mistakes and correct those mistakes as soon as you can once they happen in a game. I think we've had a number of guys step up throughout the year. The most important thing is that you continue to get better week-in and week-out. I think the way Eric Weddle on the backend has led the defense – his leadership leading those guys, getting everybody going, getting everyone the same page week to week. We've got to play our best game this week.
CHARGERS TE ANTONIO GATES CONFERENCE CALL
Q:** As a fellow tight end, what are your thoughts on Rob Gronkowski and what he's been able to bring to the position over the past few years?
AG: Obviously, he's been effective in what they like to do. He's a good part of their success offensively. Just the position in general, the way it's emerged over time, it's good to see guys keeping that tradition going. He's one of the young guys that I look at – him, Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas – those are the guys that are kind of keeping the tradition going at the tight end position.
Q: What have you seen change in New England's defense over the last few years, specifically this year with the addition of Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis?
AG: They've always been a very disciplined defense before Revis and Browner got there, but I think when you add guys like that – veteran guys who understand how to play – and then they bring that talent and experience to that defense, it makes it very difficult from an offensive standpoint. In order to beat a team like that, you just have to do the things that you're capable of doing in terms of executing. It's going to be tough when you've got guys like that – I love the way the safeties play as well. I love the way [Devin] McCourty and [Patrick] Chung play. It's just a whole complete unit. To me, they're one of the better units in the league at covering and doing the right things from a defensive standpoint.
Q: You and Philip Rivers are the most successful quarterback-tight end duo in league history in terms of touchdown catches. Could you speak about your relationship with him on and off the field?
AG: The continuity and the chemistry we've built over time comes with preparation and obviously repetition over and over and over. We've been playing together – this is our 11th season together – and I can't say enough about him and how he's able to lead and how he's able to put us in a position to be successful. I think collectively, we understand the dynamics of winning a football game and trying to win a championship, and we've always focused on the detail things. We've just been fortunate and blessed to have the talent that we've had and being able to go out and execute every single week over these past 11 years. A lot of credit goes to obviously the execution of the offensive coordinator, him putting together a plan, and we've had so many over time. It starts with, obviously, the execution, what we believe in and our competitive nature being able to go out and make those plays on Sunday.
Q: You've played a lot of seasons. What keeps you going?
AG: Obviously, you come into this league with a certain drive and a certain goal. And obviously you reach goals from an individual standpoint and, collectively, our team goals have not been met. Who's to say if we were to win a championship this year that I would retire? But the idea is that you try to give it all you can and somehow get to a certain goal. I think the drive every single year, because it's so competitive in this league, I think the staple of any good player is that they want to win a championship. I think that's what it's about. That's why we play this game. We fell short numerous times, and every single year it's the same concept, the same preparation, the same goal that we've got to get a championship here in San Diego, and we've been doing everything over the past decade to try to make that happen. Unfortunately it hasn't happened, but it doesn't change my preparation, and it doesn't change my belief. I just keep trying, keep striving for better, and I think that's my drive every single week.
Q: Could you talk about the depth and talent of your receiving corps and how they help make your job easier?
AG: The depth of what we have from a talent standpoint is probably the strength of what we believe in and why we always like any guy can go out and execute and make a play to help us win a game. I can't say enough about Malcom Floyd and my relationship with him over the years and how we've been able to lay down a foundation of what we expect to do from a skill position performance. And then obviously Keenan Allen in my opinion is, if not the best, one of the best receivers in the game – young receivers I should say – in the game at this point. And then we add a guy like Eddie Royal, and then Ladarius Green, another guy to me is one of the better young tight ends in this league. It gives us depth at that position and it gives us depth where we can make things happen from an offensive standpoint. Ryan Mathews and I could go on and on – Donald [Brown] and Branden [Oliver] – when those guys start adding in and chipping in the running game, it makes us difficult to defend.
Q: Your team had an impressive win in Baltimore last week. Could you speak to the meaning of the win, but also how important it is to put it behind you since you're facing the Patriots next?
AG: That's every Sunday, and the leaders on this team, the guys who have been around, we make that clear. We have no problem with celebrating because you can't take a win in this league for granted. But you have to kind of [on] Monday, Tuesday, get through it, get past it and make the corrections that are necessary and move forward because that was last week. I've always felt this way in my heart: any given Sunday you can be beat in this league. There is a ton of talent in this league. It's the small, detail things that separate the good teams from the great ones, and that's what we're trying to be. We're trying to be a Super Bowl-caliber team, and it starts with this Sunday going in and facing this good Patriots team, which we've struggled to beat in the past. We've got our hands full and our work cut out for us. They understand that in order to control this kind of game we have to be fundamentally sound and we have to play at a high level.
Q: Patrick Chung has had a resurgent year this season. What have you seen from him that's made him effective?
AG: I've stated earlier in the week about the respect I have for that corps back in the secondary. Obviously, he's a physical guy. I've played against him before, and he's a guy that understands how to play the game. And so does the other safety – McCourty. You can say that about just about anybody in that secondary. They're a veteran group, who enjoys winning, and I think that's what sticks out about them the most – they know how to win football games. And I think we have to go into this game and try to match that, match the intensity that they're going to come with and be efficient from an offensive standpoint because this is, if not the best, one of the best secondaries we're going to face this year.
Q: Rob Gronkowski has spoken recently about his ability to avoid the big hits in order to stay healthy through the season thus far. Is that something that you've kept in mind over the years, seeing that you haven't missed many games?
AG: Yeah, I do. I've always been a big fan of the game. I think for one, you just have to be lucky and fortunate because this is a man's man game. It's very difficult and physically challenging. At the same time, you have to somewhat take the stress off yourself and make better decisions in the game. What I mean by that is that I'm a firm believer in being physical, but there are certain unnecessary hits that you don't have to take. Still, some people think you can't be physical and not have aggression, or be physical and not be mentally … How can I put it? We've got this term in our locker room where we talk about having aggression but still staying fundamentally sound. What that means is you can go out and play hard and be physical, but then still be smart at the same time. I think that's what maybe he's added to his repertoire this year or that's something maybe the majority of the young guys need to understand because it's a very physical game. This is not like college because these guys are getting paid millions of dollars to come out and play. You just have to take care of yourself. It doesn't mean don't be aggressive, but understand you can be aggressive and still mentally stay smart and do the right thing because you're a big asset to that team, which he is to that offense for New England.
Q: You guys have played your best football down the stretch in recent years. Do you think there is anything that allows you to peak at the right time, and was there a turning point this year where you guys started to kick it into gear?
AG: We started off at 5-1, which was one of our better starts in a long time. And then we hit a bump in the road, and we lost three straight. We kind of turned that around and rattled off a couple games in a row. To me, it's all about the focus on the fact that this is a marathon. What I mean marathon, most people hear that and maybe think just cruising the whole way, but it's one of those kinds of marathons where it's 16 sprints, where you sprint one and you gather yourself and you sprint another one and you gather yourself. And that's kind of how our philosophy is. We don't ideally want to be in a position where we have to win a whole bunch of games around this time. Obviously, you would love to be in a position where you've clinched a spot, but for the most part, this is a very difficult league. This is a very talented league. Especially this division is very talented. We're just fortunate that we've been able to put some things together late throughout the duration of my career where it gave us the opportunity. We understand that this is the time that championship football is played. Despite what you've done up until this point, when you have a chance to control your own destiny, that's all you can ask for in this league.