Q: First off, congratulations. You guys have started off pretty well.
MS: Well, thank you.
Q: One of the things I've wondered is how radically different is your defense this year from last year, and why are you having so much success against the run? It doesn't seem like the score is dictating any of that success.
MS: Yeah, I agree. Hopefully we'll get a little bit better in that area. Number one, I think that Trevor Pryce at defensive end has helped us. Lionel Dalton and Montae Reagor along with Chester [McGlockton], we didn't have any drop-off there. Moving Trevor Pryce over a slot, I thought that helped us. We're rotating our guys a little but more, which keeps them fresh. The addition of Ian Gold gives us a little more speed at the linebacker position and Izell Reese is a veteran defensive back that has come in and has picked up the system quickly.
Q: Looking at the Patriots, they haven't been balanced at all offensively in terms of running and passing. Do you look at that as somewhat of an X-factor as you enter this game in that you don't know what they'll do on the ground because they haven't really dedicated themselves in a single game?
MS: You really don't know, because you know they can do both, because you watched them play last year and they were more balanced that they are this year. With an open date, you don't know if they're going to go back to emphasizing the running game more and taking some pressure off of the quarterback or if they'll come out and throw like they have been throwing. From our perspective, we're just going to have to wait and see.
Q: Can you talk about the loss of Tom Nalen and what it does to the consistency of your offensive line, which has been so consistent over the last couple of years?
MS: It always hurts anytime you lose a veteran like Tom. That's always a setback. But, we've got a young guy in Ben Hamilton that I believe will play extremely well. He was very impressive throughout our preseason, both at the center and the guard position. His natural position is center, rather than guard, but he's such a good athlete that we've played him over at the left guard position. So, I think he'll come in and play quite well.
Q: What happened to light this fire under Shannon Sharpe the other night?
MS: Well, that's a great question. Heck, I didn't know until after the game when they told me that he broke the all-time yardage record for a tight end. I had no idea that he had that type of game. But, he had some big catches against the two-deep coverage, and he did that. One was kind of a busted coverage and one was pretty well executed. He just got on a roll. He caught almost everything that was thrown to him and he enjoyed the day.
Q: After winning the Super Bowl in '97, what was the most difficult challenge as a coach in attempting to repeat the following year?
MS: Well, usually after you win a Super Bowl, usually your schedule is tough. We got a little bit lucky that year: the schedule, even though it's supposed to be tough, wasn't as tough as you would think after winning the Super Bowl. So, we got a little lucky there. We stayed healthy, and I think our team was … Everybody said we were so lucky, like many people do when you win a Super Bowl for the first time, our players wanted to prove that we could do it again, and we had a few things go our way.
Q: In 1999, after you had won two Super Bowls, Terrell Davis got hurt and things kind of spiraled after that. How difficult is it when things start to go badly for a team that's been at the top to kind of close the ranks and take on a bunker mentality? This team has lost three straight, and I think the emotion here is higher than it would be normally.
MS: Well, first of all, I think they have the same team. A lot of times you lose some players and it's not the same football team. So, when you have the same team coming back, you know what type of mentality the football team has. Every so often, teams go through a turnover period. When you turn the football over, it's hard to win, regardless of what your mentality is. Knowing Bill [Belichick] the way I know him, I know how they're going to come and play after a bye week, preparing for us as well as for their schedule down the line. There has been a setback, but that was mainly due to turnovers. They've played three pretty darn good football teams.
Q: Mike, how well do you know Bill? It seems like each year when your name comes up, he speaks of you in pretty respectful tones. How far do you guys go back and what's your feeling about him as a coach?
MS: Well, we really don't know each other very well except for going against each other. I think that's where the respect level comes in. I know that's the case from my perspective. It's always such a challenge because his teams are always so well coached. He makes adjustments so quickly that it's really a great challenge. I said that when New England first hired him. I said that they couldn't have gotten a better guy.
Some people at that time, because of the Cleveland situation, questioned him. But I thought that they just didn't know the makeup of this guy.
Q: What's been so consistent over the last five to seven years about your defense? Size? Speed? Execution? What's been your defining quality?
MS: Well, I don't know … I think we've got a few different things. I think in the Super Bowl years, we were a lot of the eight-man front, that concept. We were kind of doing some things that people weren't doing back then and the defenses, as they evolve, with zone blitzes and just playing sound defense. I think we've tried to adjust a bit. Offenses catch up and the defense has to adjust. We're just looking for guys who come out and play hard and can play sounds football where people have to earn everything they get.
Q: Looking at the standings in the league, how critical is this game for you this Sunday?
MS: I look at every one as critical, because once you start on a downward spiral, it's hard to get back. And, once you start to get a few wins together, the confidence level grows very quickly. If you don't treat each one like it's a playoff game, chances are, good things aren't going to happen.
Q: Is it more so that way because of your division, given Oakland's great start and how San Diego's playing so well?
MS: Yeah, I think that's part of it. But, not only that, when you look at the overall schedule of everybody, there's so much parity that you've got to be lucky and stay healthy and you've got to win those close games.
Q: I wanted to ask you about a local kid, even though he's hurt this year. Phil McGeoghan, did he have a chance to show you something towards the end of last year? In general, for a fringe player on the edge of a roster to miss a whole year, how tough is that and how hard is it to overcome?
MS: Well, it's always tough when a guy misses a year. But, when they have the type of athletic ability that he has, I think he'll be able to come back quickly. He's a good-sized kid with some great speed. He seemed like he always wanted to learn and work, so I'll be surprised if he doesn't come back.
Q: Thanks, Mike.
MS: Okay, take care.