PATRIOTS SAFETY PATRICK CHUNG
January 17, 2019
Q: What's the biggest challenge of going up against Patrick Mahomes?
PC: He can make all the throws. He can make all the throws, he's athletic enough to extend plays, you don't really know where he's going to throw. I mean, he's a playmaker. So, he can do it all. He can make all the throws.
Q: Can you use that Week 6 game to scout him or is it totally different?
PC: No, it's different. I mean, we've got the whole season to scout him. So, you can't really live in the past and go back to that game. He did some things that hurt us, but he's played a whole season, so we've all seen it.
Q: What kinds of problems does Travis Kelce pose at tight end?
PC: He's good. He's athletic. He has a big catch radius, good quickness, savvy, he's hard to tackle. He's a really good player.
Q: Bill Belichick always tries to take an opponent's No. 1 weapon away. If that's Tyreek Hill, will you be on Kelce? They've got other weapons, too, like Chris Conley and others.
PC: I mean, that's just a big secret.
Q: Looking at an offense like Kansas City, which runs some college-style concepts, what challenges are there as a defense to stop that?
PC: Just doing your job, man. Really, it comes down to just being focused and doing what you're supposed to do. Playing good team defense is what's going to help us – no individual playmakers out there, just everyone doing our job.
Q: One of the things you've excelled at over your career is covering tight ends. When you see a tight end like Kelce, does that get you excited for the challenge?
PC: Yeah, I mean, whenever you're going against a team that has a lot of playmakers, I mean, it's going to be some competition. It makes it more fun, makes it more intense. So, they have a lot of playmakers out there on their team – pretty much on their whole offense. So, it's definitely going to be fun. They're a good team, we're a good team, so we're just going to battle it out.
Q: Does it give you more confidence that you met this team in Week 6 and realize that you can beat these guys if you play well?
PC: I mean, that was Week 6. That was a long time ago. We can't really worry about that. They're a better team and they're on a roll. It's the two best teams in the AFC, so you can't really worry about, 'Well, we beat you guys last, so we're going to win.' If we have that mentality, we'll get kicked – they'll kick our ass, pretty much.
Q: You've had a few guys on your defense with takeaways in the last few weeks. What do you think about your ability to make plays?
PC: Yeah, I mean, the more plays we make, the closer we are to winning the game. So, turnovers, we all know that makes a huge impact in the game. If we can get turnovers and limit our turnovers on offense, then that's putting us in the right direction. But, we still have to play a good 60 minutes because they're going to play 60 minutes.
Q: What's your mentality in terms of going into a hostile environment like Arrowhead and knowing this is the biggest game in their franchise's history?
PC: Yeah, I mean, it's going to be loud, man. Their fans, their stadium, it's a great atmosphere. We know that going into it, but really it means nothing. We're going out there to win a game, and they're trying to win, also. Like I said, it's going to be a battle. Home or away, it doesn't matter. It's win or go home. So, we're going to show up to play.
Q: What does it mean to you to have this opportunity again?
PC: It's big. I mean, there's a lot of players throughout the years that have never even gotten to this game. So, it's definitely a blessing. We work hard. They deserve to be here, we deserve to be here, so it all comes down to execution and playing some ball.
Q: Can you talk about the job Brian Flores has done and what he's meant to you?
PC: Yeah, I mean, obviously he's done a great job – we're in the big game. He's definitely a good coach and he likes to mix things up, so it keeps guys off-balance.
Q: A defense never wants to give up a big play. With this offense on the other side, is it almost more paramount to highlight that, just because of how quick they can score?
PC: Yeah, you've just got to take it play by play, limit their big plays and try to contain them. They're going to make their plays. I mean, they are great players, also. They get paid, too. They're All-Pro's. So, just take it play by play – good play, bad play – move on and just see what it looks like after 60 minutes.
Q: Speaking of big plays, Tyreek Hill is one of those guys. What do you remember about him from Week 6 and what you've seen throughout the season?
PC: He's fast. I mean, you guys have all seen it. We see the same things. He's explosive. He's an elite player. So, got to try to contain them a little bit and see what we can do.
Q: Can you think of anyone faster than him?
PC: Nope. We've got a couple guys on our team that are fast, now, but maybe I'll check them out in a race or something.
Q: Why has this team been so successful against rookie or first-year starting quarterbacks?
PC: I mean, we don't really care if it's a rookie – it doesn't really matter. It's all about what we do. Rookie quarterbacks can come here or we can go out there and get whooped if we don't do what we're supposed to do and execute what we've been executing on the practice field. So, it really doesn't matter. It just comes down to what we have to do.
Q: Since your team has struggled on the road this year, what have you guys been doing to prepare?
PC: Just been preparing the same way we're preparing. Yeah, it's an away game, but it's only one more left. So, we're not really treating it like an away game. We're treating it like we're going to have to go out here and play. Because, like I said, you lose it and then we're out. So, just playing our ball, been doing what we've been doing the last 20-something weeks and just go from there.
Q: You've played in a lot of big games. How much does a week of good practice and preparation correlate to good play on Sunday, or are there times where that's not necessarily the case? How has this week been so far?
PC: Good. We still have a couple more days to go, but practice execution becomes game reality. We all know that. They make it hard in practice so it's easy in the game. So, that's what we always do, that's what we've always done since I've been here. That's what we've been doing.
Q: JC Jackson was not active in the Week 6 matchup with the Chiefs, but now he's starting. What's impressed you most about his development?
PC: He's learning. I mean, he's a young dude and he's learning. He's got a lot on his plate and he's handling it like a professional for a young guy. Hopefully, he can continue to do that throughout the years, especially for this game, and hopefully he can grow and be a great player.
Q: When you're going up against a guy like Kelce, how much does it help you to practice against a tight end like Rob Gronkowski?
PC: Definitely helps. I mean, it's two of the best – two totally different but two of the best. Me and Gronk go at it a lot, so he's definitely helped me in my eight, nine years with him. He's made me a better player, so it definitely helps.
CORNERBACK STEPHON GILMORE
January 17, 2019
Q: A lot of times big games like this are won and lost by the preparation over the course of the week. Can you speak to the work that the scout team does for you guys when it comes to preparing you for a game like this?
SG: Yeah, a lot of times those guys get us prepared for any game during the year so sometimes it's harder in practice than it is in the game. Those guys get us ready every week. They work hard and push us every week.
Q: How do you mimic Tyreek Hill's speed with the scout team? Is it one guy, is it a couple guys?
SG: It's a couple guys. You can never really mimic his speed because he's got great speed, but we just have to trust each other as a team and play fast and play physical.
Q: Who's the top guy that's been Tyreek Hill on scout team this week?
SG: I don't want to say. He's fast though.
Q: Does the absence of Kareem Hunt change your preparation for this game at all?
SG: It doesn't change. He's a great player but the other back stepped up. He's playing good football and they haven't missed a beat. They can run the ball, throw the ball, they can do it all. They're a very explosive team.
Q: J.C. Jackson didn't play in the regular season game against the Chiefs. What's it like to have him playing across from you at this time of year?
SG: He's a great player. Ever since I came in he's sat beside me and asked questions and got better every week. He doesn't like giving up passes and he's helping us out as a defense. I'm happy he's on our team.
Q: Do you enjoy mentoring young players like that?
SG: Yeah, for sure. Any time I can help my teammate be a better player to help this team out, that's what I'll do.
Q: Talk about the opportunity in front of you and your teammates. What does it mean to you?
SG: It means a lot. I just know how hard it is to get to this position and it doesn't come too often so you've got to take advantage of your opportunity and leave it all out on the field for your teammates to come out with a win.
Q: What has Brian Flores meant to you?
SG: He's done a great job. He can be a friend, he can be a coach and get on you so he can do everything for you. He really cares for the players. He pushes everybody every week and gets the best out of his players.
Q: So it doesn't surprise you that teams are interested in him as a head coach?
SG: I'm not surprised. He's a great coach and he pushes everybody to get the best out of them.
Q: Would you like to shadow Tyreek Hill?
SG: Whatever the coaches want me to do, that's what I'll do.
Q: Is he a difficult guy to jam because of his speed?
SG: He's got great speed. You can get your hands on him and he can still run past you. Even when he gets the ball in his hands, he's hard to tackle so everybody will have to do their job and play together as a team.
Q: Is there another part of Tyreek Hill's game besides his speed people don't talk about enough?
SG: His yards after catch. Even on reverses sometimes he can go the distance. He can do it all.
Q: You guys have said Patrick Mahomes is a quarterback that makes you cover the whole field. As a cornerback, what's the top thing you need to remember technique-wise against him?
SG: He can make all the throws. You can't relax on the back side. He can throw it across his body. Like I said, he can make all the throws and he has great athletes around him to make him better. He's in the position he's in now for a reason.
Q: What's the toughest challenge for you guys on Sunday?
SG: I don't know. I can't answer that. There's a lot of challenges going into this game. They've got great players so we've just got to trust each other and play for each other.
Q: Do you feel comfortable covering any of the Chiefs receivers on Sunday?
SG: Yeah, we do that a lot so whoever the coaches tell me to cover, that's who I'll cover. Whether he's big or small or fast, I just try to go in with confidence and try to make plays for my teammates.
Q: Does the range of the skill sets of the Kansas City players make them a challenge?
SG: They're very skilled. Everybody on their team is explosive and can make a play at any time.
Q: How have you guys gotten to this point where the defense has improved and started to give up fewer points than earlier in the season?
SG: I think preparation, working hard in practice and it's carrying over to the game. Just trusting each other on the back end and those guys getting pressure up front. Everything goes hand-in-hand and we're just trying to play fast and aggressive.
Q: How big of a help is it for you guys in the secondary to get that pass rush from the secondary?
SG: Yeah, any time those guys get to the quarterback as fast as they can, it allows us to play aggressively and play fast. If we can play tight coverage on the back end and they can get pressure, I like our chances.
Q: How much experience do you have covering tight ends?
SG: I've covered tight ends before. Like I said, I just do whatever the coaches tell me to do and cover whoever.
Q: You did cover Rob Gronkowski when you were in Buffalo though, right?
SG: Yeah. He's a great player, had to play him a certain way. It's a different challenge but like I said, I'll cover whoever the coaches say.
Q: When you go against a team coached by Andy Reid, do you just have to put in that much more preparation because of the creativeness on their end?
SG: Yeah, they do a lot of stuff and everybody has a job to do. They do a lot of stuff but we have to trust each other to get the job done.
Q: Do you guys spend more time on situational football this time of year or is it the same as the regular season?
SG: We do it the same. We do a lot of situational football around here and that's what Coach [Bill Belichick] preaches to us all the time.
Q: You made the game-sealing play against Jacksonville in last year's AFC Championship Game. Does that give you more confidence now going into your second AFC Championship Game?
SG: It's a great opportunity to be in this position. It's a new year. You have to prove yourself every year no matter which game, no matter what happened last week. You have to go out and play good football for your teammates.
Q: What is it about Josh Boyer's coaching style that stands out to you?
SG: I just think they use everybody to their abilities as well as anybody. They're always hard on our technique and being physical and leaving it all out on the field. He's helped my game out a lot and pretty much everybody else.
Q: Do you have to remind yourself that even as good as this Chiefs team is, that you did beat them earlier in the season so if you play your best game, you can win?
SG: No, I wouldn't say that. It's a new game so no matter what happened that week, we are in the position we are now. We still have to prove ourselves and do whatever it takes to win.
Q: Do you see anything different from Sammy Watkins on the Chiefs than when he was with you on the Bills?
SG: He's still the same player – explosive, quick and a big receiver. He missed a couple games, came back and looked pretty quick too. He's still the same player.
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
January 17, 2019
Q: What does it mean to you to be heading to the AFC Championship again?
RG: It's huge. It's a huge accomplishment this year. It's a huge accomplishment as a team. This is our eighth straight year going to it and every year we don't take it for granted. It's just like this year; we worked our tails off since the summer, since training camp. It's a huge game but you've also got to treat it like any other game. It's another football game. You've got to go out there and do what you've got to do and play well.
Q: Did the Chiefs give you different types of coverages the last time you played them?
RG: Yeah, I've seen many different coverages with them from man to a guy trying to jam me. I'm trying to jam the guy, they're trying to jam me. Sometimes it mixes up like that. You see some double coverage, a lot of post safety, but a lot of guys switching up too. Different players, safety, corner and then also you can see it a couple of times too. You can see the same coverage once or twice, three times, but also you can see a different coverage many times too. It switches up and you've got to be ready at all times.
Q: Is there a different mentality this week given how long it's been since this team has had a road win in the playoffs?
RG: I mean, going on the road, being at home – you've got to play your best football, no matter what, to win the game, if you're at home or if you're away. We've just got to treat it like any other game. Going into the stadium, we know it's going to be loud. We know the atmosphere is going to be hyped. It always is every time we go there even during the regular season. I just can't imagine what it's going to be like in the playoffs, so we've got to treat it like any other game but also you know what type of atmosphere we're going into. We've got to be ready. We've got to be focused and we've got to be mentally prepared to go into it.
Q: Travis Kelce has been very complementary of you this week. What have you seen out of him?
RG: Yeah, he's a very excellent player. The way he can move, the savviness he has is second to none. The way he can go up on a defender and plant one way and go the other, his size, his speed; that's what makes tight ends special in this league, a top tight end special, is when they can plant, go the other way at our size, with his speed and stuff like that. He's a great player. You've got to give it to him and it's going to be fun to watch.
Q: Do you feel like he's coming for your throne as the best tight end in the league?
RG: I know he competes, competes hard, competes every play, competes every game and that's all you can ask for. That's what I do too, so you've just got to go out there and play your best ball.
Q: You seemed to be dominant in the run game last Sunday with your blocking ability. Did you find another gear or another level to go this time of year?
RG: I mean, it's the playoffs. It's one-and-done. During the regular season and all, you know you've got another game in that, but this is one-and-done. Every single play counts. Any play at any given time can boost your team into the next round. You see that happen throughout the playoffs too. You see it happen many different times throughout the playoffs, throughout the years, that it doesn't happen during the regular season. One little play there, one block there, so you've got to be on top of your toes and bring it at all times.
Q: There's a lot of focus on some of the younger quarterbacks going into championship weekend here. What does it say for you guys to have a player like Tom Brady who's been doing it for so long and so consistently over the years?
RG: Yeah, it's just unreal, just having him at the quarterback position. Not having any change, don't have to worry about that and just the consistency he's been bringing year in, year out. It's been the same. How prepared he's been, how prepared and ready to go he is. There's just no reason to ever worry at that position for us.
Q: Do you ever marvel at how fast he can get rid of the ball at times over the years?
RG: Yeah, I mean it's impressive. I mean, he works on every skill set and when he feels like he doesn't have a skill set – for example, say he's not getting the ball out quick enough, you'll see him in practice. He'll be working on that. He'll be getting better. He'll be learning how to get the ball out quicker and that's what just makes him so great. He can hold the ball for however long he needs to and he also can get it out as quick as possible to get it into a flat route, a quick hook route, whatever it is to get the ball out and let the guy run and make a guy miss and make some yards.
Q: What's it like playing in these types of games that are dubbed heavyweight fights between two teams that may be used to having the upper hand on their opponents normally?
RG: I mean, it's always a heavyweight fight going versus the Chiefs, no matter when it is, regular season, playoffs. It's just going to be that big and that tough of a matchup again. The stakes are high. It's to go to the Super Bowl. Both teams – we're going to be going at it so it should be a good battle.
Q: Can you feel any tension on the field when it's a big game like this? Is there a noticeable difference?
RG: I would say so because of the atmosphere of the football game, the atmosphere of the crowd. I mean, the same with last week at our stadium. You just knew it was buzzing right from the beginning and it's going to be the same out at Arrowhead Stadium. It's going to be popping 30 minutes, 60 minutes probably prior to kickoff and then right at kickoff you know it's going to be a playoff atmosphere there. I've been there in the regular season. It felt like a playoff atmosphere so I just can't imagine what it's going to be like going into a stadium like this.
Q: What do you think of the job you guys have done offensively in the run game?
RG: I feel like overall we've done a good job. There's always room for improvement, always room to get better in the areas that we've been doing well too. It's been great just working with the offensive line and seeing Sony [Michel], just the development he has had throughout the year since training camp. You see it every other week and just how he's been approaching practice, coming out, trying to get better every single week and it shows. He's been doing a great job. The offensive line's been doing a great job and it's just cool to be a part of it.
Q: Has the overall health of the team allowed the team to just focus on preparing for the game and not have to worry about anyone being limited?
RG: Of course it does. When you're dealing with that type of stuff with a lot of guys, you see what you can do and stuff like that. When that's out of the picture, I mean, it just makes practice that much easier, that much better. Just go out there, do what we've got to do, focus on the job that you've got to do and do it at full speed, do it however you need to do during practice so you can go out and replicate on game day on Sunday.
Q: Is it an extra emphasis to start fast this week because if you start fast you can keep running the ball, whereas if you get behind it becomes tougher to run the ball and that seems like an advantage that you've developed late in the year?
RG: Starting fast is a huge advantage in the league, big time. Especially going on the road I would say and in a playoff atmosphere. It's always good to start fast. If it doesn't happen, you've got to catch up. It's going to make the hole that much tougher to get out of if you don't get a fast start. It's definitely crucial. You always want to get out and especially going on the rod, a stadium like this, a team like this, it's going to be crucial to go out there and make some yards, get some points right away.
Q: How has your mindset changed from when you're a younger player to now realizing that it's not a given that you'll necessarily head back to another Super Bowl?
RG: As in what way?
Q: Like maybe taking things for granted?
RG: Yeah, no, when you're a young buck, really young, you feel like you're going to be here for a little. I would say now, seeing everything, seeing how fast it goes, you know how much work it takes to put in to get to this level. As you get older, you've got to put more work into it to get this far, to get to this stage, to get to the championship game. You feel like when you get to these games like, you feel all that work you put in. You feel accomplished when it happens. You feel accomplished when you've won them because you know you put all of that work in and that's what we've been doing all year. You know you can't take it for granted. I've been through it now, have lost some games now and then you understand like, "Wow, I really wish I won that game." You just can't take anything for granted at all.
Q: When you said you feel like it goes so fast, were you talking about your career as a whole and do you feel like it's flown by?
RG: I mean, just our eighth championship game in a row. It's just unbelievable that we're in our eighth. You know what I'm trying to say? It's like, "Wow, we've got another one now." You've got to prepare and you've got to take it in but also at the same time you've got to be ready for the game Sunday mentally and physically.
PATRIOTS IN THE LOCKER ROOM
Ted Karras, Offensive Lineman
(On the consistency of the offensive line group this season)
"Yeah, very grateful to be here and be a part of it. Our guys, we have a group that works really hard and everyone just tries to do their best to help the team."
(On how much fun he has run blocking versus pass blocking)
"I just do what I'm asked to do. Either way, you've got to get your job done and hopefully it's a good play."
(On the importance of being able to open up holes for the running game this season)
"Yeah, very [important]. [We] stay balanced and everyone is working hard to get their techniques right and our assignments. On Sunday we are going to have to bring our best."
(On if successful running plays are motivation for the offensive line to keep being physical)
"Yeah, I'm just going to run the play that's called in the huddle, but I'm glad that when we do bust some runs we can get them called again and hopefully Sunday we'll bring our best and do it again."
(On how hard the communication will be at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday)
"Well, I've never been [to Arrowhead Stadium], so I don't know what the atmosphere is like there, but I'm sure it will be loud and we are prepared for it. On Sunday we are going to do the things we've done in practice."
Shaq Mason, Offensive Lineman
(On Kansas City's pass rush)
"They have a good pass rush. They definitely deserve the respect they're getting."
(On how the offensive line can keep Tom Brady clean against the pass rush on Sunday)
"Just take it one play at a time. Communicate well and go about business the way that we plan on it."
(On if the loud atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium will be an issue)
"It is loud. Communication is going to be tough, but it just goes to us being a solid unit and relaying back to all of the things that we worked on this week."
(On the offense running the ball more often over the past couple of weeks)
"It's been a lot of fun. A lot of fun. As an O-line you want to run the ball. You want to impose your will, so that's definitely been fun."
(On how good the run blocking has been this season)
"I think we've done a good job of getting the ball rolling. There's definitely stuff we can do better, but I think overall we came together as a group and have done a good job moving the football and running the ball."
(On the consistency of the offensive line this season)
"It's definitely important. Just to have the same guys and build the same camaraderie. I think that's definitely played a big part of it."
(On if he is ready for the crowd noise on Sunday)
"I can imagine it's pretty loud there. I've heard about it. I've never played there, but I've heard it gets pretty loud, but we're very much looking forward to the task at hand."