New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel addresses the media during his postgame press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 20, 2008.
Q:Mike, can you start by talking about red zone defense in this game and the performance that you guys had?
MV: Yeah, all year we were either giving up touchdowns or we were playing great. There was no in between. I think you saw the great tonight. We forced them to kick field goals and let them get down there unfortunately, but we did a nice job and we were very well prepared. [The] coaching staff really had a good grasp on what they were trying to do when they were down there. They would see a formation and we would be able to check into something and get the right play called and do a nice job with it.
Q:Was it a bad game for Tom Brady? Clearly not his best game of the season.
MV: Yeah, it was probably our turn to win a game. Yeah, I think that was the Patriots of, you know, of old, where you would just kind of hang around and make the big plays and make the plays when it counted and defense would play, you know, well in the red zone, force them to kick field goals. We rushed, kicked pretty well. I thought we had a pretty good chance there with Richard [Seymour] a couple times getting some penetration on the field goal. You know, I think the more times our offense has the ball, the better. We learned that last week and certainly, you know, we'll take our chances with Tom having a football 12 times instead of eight.
Q:Early in the season, Bill had expressed concern about the red zone defense. What was happening early in the season and what were the corrections made?
MV: I think it was a combination. We had some calls where we pretty much sell the farm, and everybody hits us and they crease us for one and they run it in. I think we were allowing teams to run the football in. Certainly when you get down there, the easiest thing to do is run it in. When you drop back and throw you have a bunch of defenders and receivers in a tight area. We were kind of able to make some adjustments early in the year, not let them run it in, and then we had a good pass defense coverage down there today; and being able to recognize what formations they were in with the back offset and he's running the wheel route and then just everybody being on the same page.
Q:What was Junior Seau like out there?
MV: Just emotional. The excitement and energy he brings to this team and in the locker room, I heard Bill [Belichick] say, you have to be happy for guys like that that play so hard and put everything into it throughout their career and certainly the type of player he is, Hall of Famer. I'll be happy to go on a Super Bowl trip with him and hopefully win the game with him.
Q:Junior had a big third down stop before the last field goal.
MV: Yeah, it was a good call, I was over on the sidelines and I heard Bill say, let's run the out, and it was a good call because they tried to bounce it off our right side and Junior hit it up in there and made a great play. I think if anybody has watched Junior through the course of his career, you've seen him make those kinds of plays where he can shoot the gap and he did, he shot the gap and flattened out and made the play.
Q:Can you talk about the interception? You were pressuring the quarterback on that play and it looked like your leg got him a little bit. What happened on that play?
MV: Just, you know, I gave up a third down. It was third and two and I was trying to jam [Antonio] Gates on the play before, and they got [Darren] Sproles to the flat, which was my responsibility, so I was a little upset about that. [I] tried to come back and make a play. Had a good rush inside him. You know, he kind of stepped up and as the tackle was pulling me down a little bit, Asante [Samuel got it], and any time you allow one up there, chances are Asante or somebody is going to come down with it.
Q:How does it feel to go to the Super Bowl 18 0 versus the previous three times?
MV: We've left that 18 0, we've left that back in the regular season. We've won two games in the playoffs, just like the Packers [if they win] and the Giants [will] have won three. We're going to try to just continue to do this thing and we are not going to really get all carried away with it, the undefeated season, and certainly that was what we did in the regular season.
Q:Was today one of those poster games, 25 deep?
MV: I think we need everybody. Every week everybody that we've got, and you're just happy for Laurence [Maroney] taking a lot of criticism through the media throughout the year and you know just really showing what kind of back he is. Running hard, tough yards, big runs; I think watching from the sidelines, he certainly gave us a spark defensively, watching him run the ball, cutting back and running with a lot of enthusiasm. So certainly that's one example of everybody just kind of doing their job and making the plays that you're supposed to make and that would be pleasant.
Q:Were you surprised LaDainian Tomlinson played so little? Did you see him get hurt or anything?
MV: I don't know. I think we prepared for everybody. So I hope he didn't, you know, re injure it any worse. I'm not sure what they were thinking there. From what we heard out of San Diego, with [Philip] Rivers being doubtful, I thought that was a pretty gutsy effort for him to come out and play the game, play the whole game and finish it and play well.
Q:What does it mean to be going back to the Super Bowl?
MV: I mean, it's the best thing we've got in our league. It's the best thing we've got in our business. That's what we shoot for every year, is to make it to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. I know guys are excited to be here and be AFC Champions, but we've still got work to do and we've still got a game to win.