Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
You have been with Chuck Pagano for a while, going back to Cleveland. How much does a challenge like this get him going? Has he been the same Chuck you are used to during the week? (Jeff Zrebiec)
"Oh yeah. He's still got his sense of humor. He's still got his biting wit. I don't think Chuck is going to change regardless of the game. It could be a junior high game, and he would be the same way. He would be coaching hard and making comments that get your attention. He is doing a great job with our defense, obviously, and his personality is one of the things that pushes that."
Jerry, what is your take on their [the Patriots'] kicking game in general - the Patriots - the kind of personnel they have at punter, kicker and returners? (Aaron Wilson)
"They have had a great year. They have been really solid in their coverage game all year long. Their punt team, even though they have not used it very much, has been very much a weapon for them. I think they are in the top five in net punt [average]. Stephen Gostkowski is a Pro Bowl kicker and he is back from his injury and kicking the ball well on kickoffs and also making about 85 percent of his field goals. Their special teams have been a real positive for their club. We talked to our guys this week about [how] this is a playoff game. We have to win this game. Our challenge is to try and win the special teams field position battle, because when you are playing football in January in New England, that is going to be an issue, and we have to hold up our end. "
Billy [Cundiff] had a strong game against the Texans. What did you see from him, and is that the best he has kicked in a long time? (Aaron Wilson)
"I thought he kicked well. He was strong all week in practice, and I thought he really took the practice to the game. He was aggressive on the ball. He went out there and made two really key field goals that were by no means easy in the weather conditions. He put them right through. It was a really a strong performance."
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
Is it overstating the obvious that you guys really want to establish the run behind Ray Rice in this game, for reasons that even transcend keeping the ball away from [Tom] Brady? (Dave Ginsburg)
"Absolutely, because that's who we are, that's what we do. Our offense is still evolving to some degree, but it's built for this division. We've tried to build this offense to win a division championship first, and then a conference championship second, and then on from there. A big part of that in this division is being able to run the football. And then, obviously, do other things, too. I think Joe [Flacco] said, talking about the way we run our offense from a complimentary standpoint, we can be a complimentary offense and situational offense. But, our running game sets it all up."
Cam, their last couple of regular season games they fell behind. Anything of note that you found them to be susceptible to in those two? (Drew Forrester)
"No. They've had a lot of injuries. The healthiest they have been [is] now. They have gotten some guys back. I thought they played extremely well, obviously, against Denver. They have had a lot of different combinations out there. Some of it was probably just some of the injury factor, but other than that, they understand, I think, that it's a 60-minute game, and you don't win or lose a game in the first 15-20 minutes. That's why it's going to be that same kind of game coming up on Sunday."
Cam, a lot of people are calling this a career-defining game for Joe [Flacco]. Your reaction to a statement like that? (Jerry Coleman)
"How does that saying go, 'That question kind of insults my stupidity?' (laughter) That's about all I can say to that. Joe's play speaks for itself. And this offense, this team, our defense and our special teams, we have a style that we think fits who we are. We have a style we think fits this division. We think we have a style that fits this town, this conference, and that's what it's all about. We know, obviously, Joe is a big part of our style. This division is a Fu Manchu kind of division. It's not a clean-shaven one for sure. We've got a style, and we like it."
Cam, along those lines, criticism comes with the territory, as you have said many times. Some guys, like Greg Cosell that works at NFL Films and watches a lot of tape, says that he has found the offense, in his study, to be predictable. What would you say to people that call the offense predictable? (Aaron Wilson)
"It's kind of what I just said. We're trying to build an offense to win division championships. That's what it's about to us. They said the same thing about us in San Diego when we were the No. 1 offense in the league. I hate to make that comparison, but just so you know, they said the same thing. So, when you've seen and heard all of those things over the years, you don't let that deter what you believe, and what you believe as a program, and what our head coach believes, and what we believe and how you win. We are an outdoor team in a tough division. I think the people that I would say I would listen to the most are people that have been in this division and that know what it's like, the men on the ground in this division, that have to go out and compete in these stadiums against these defenses. That's how we're built. There's probably some predictability to it. If they can just keep predicting we're winning, then that's the prediction that I am going to be happy with."
Cam, there has been a lot of criticism of the New England pass defense, but they've led the conference in takeaways this year ... (Luke Jones)
"They are some things they get, and I'm sure that's why they win, too. They get it; it's about not giving up points, it's about getting take-aways. The total yardage thing? I have never bought into the total yardage, as in terms of ranking defenses, or offense for that matter. They don't give up a ton of points. They've had some big leads, and so when you have a big lead, you are going to play smart, you are going to give up ground grudgingly, and you may give up some passing yardage. But then you stand your ground when the ball gets to the 20-yard line. They've always been outstanding at that. I don't put a lot of stock in that either. This is an underrated defense. I am sure they probably feel that way. We look at the tape, and it's the healthiest it's been, and it's a defense that's playing its best football right now."
Cam, do you like the way that Joe often times has responded to the criticism? It seems like whenever it has gotten the loudest, Joe has come out and had a great game the next game. Do you like the way that he kind of hunkers down in those situations? (Ryan Mink)
"I wasn't aware of that [notion]. I'll give you an example: The other day he had six plays, as we looked at the tape on Monday, [he] had six plays that he didn't get a 'plus' [grade] on. He would say it's probably six too many. So, we don't put a lot in all of that. He's going to play as well as he can play. I grade him very, very, very hard - I am a hard grader. We look at a lot of the little things. The biggest issue we have from the game the other day is footwork and ball security. We had a ball go on the ground in the low red zone that we were fortunate Ben Grubbs got back. Ben Grubbs got another one back. We got two fumbles back. As you guys know, what we struggled [with] this year was ball security. If we keep that cleaned up, that's all the stuff that matters. How Joe responds or doesn't respond to criticism, I feel good about Joe Flacco and his response to most things."
Just to clarify, Cam, you said of the entire Houston game, there were six plays where [Flacco] didn't grade out as a 'plus?' That was it? (Dan Kolko)
"Yeah, that's it. He played at an extremely high level against a very good defense. Again, that's through my eyes, and those are the eyes - and his, us collectively - those are the ones that matter to us, because we know what we are trying to get done. We know what the audible packages were. There were 12 plays in that game where he made the exact audible that he needed that got us two touchdowns, and a lot of others. Obviously, those are things, I've told you guys, I don't really talk about. But everybody wants to talk about those last two plays. Joe and I were both in sync on that. We were just overly aggressive. We were trying to get a two-score lead and probably made it a little bit harder than we needed to by getting the clock stopped there a couple of times. That's just he and I being over-aggressive, and I probably should've communicated better to him. The bottom line is we were on the same page, and we were probably both wrong. I think we both admit we were wrong. But, we were able to get three [points] there and make it a one-score game. Putting our defense back out there ... These guys are unbelievable."
So both touchdown passes were changes by Joe at the line of scrimmage? (Julian Benbow)
"I didn't say that. It is how you package it. There are all sorts of options. Sometimes it is option one. Sometimes it is option two, as you are alluding to. Sometimes it is option three. The bottom line is he had two or three options on a lot of plays and made the right one 98 percent of the time."
If it calls for it, can Joe Flacco put up the same type of game [Tom] Brady can if it ends up being a shootout? (Jason Butt)
"We don't really look at it that way. We are not trying to go out there and outperform the other quarterback. We are trying to play the way we want to play based on the way the defense is playing us. To us, it is never about that. Our defense handles the other team's offense. Obviously, we want to throw completions. We want to run the football. We want to be as balanced as we can be. We want to play the game as situations come up and be ready for any situation - two-minute at the end of the half, four-minute at the end of the game, whatever it might be - whatever it takes to get the job done. That is what we are concerned about."
Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano
Would you say this is the biggest challenge that you guys will face this year? (Jeff Zrebiec)
"Yeah, I would have to say so. [They have a] first ballot Hall of Famer at quarterback; arguably top two or three that's played this game. [They have] great skill all around, offensive scheme that poses you a ton of problems; not only personnel matchup-wise, but tempo-wise. So, our guys understand what lies ahead of us. I would definitely have to say, yeah, this is No. 1."
How important is pre-snap against Tom Brady? What you guys do as a defense, disguising things a little bit more than you would? (Evan Washburn)
"You know they're going to give you certain... There's going to be opportunities to do that. But then there [are] times where they're going to speed things up, and play speed ball. The tempo is going to dictate that you get lined up and you get in position. There's a ton of tape that we've seen that they're on the ball, they're snapping the ball, and guys are still running around trying to get lined up; not only front guys, but guys in the backend trying to find their coverage. They steal a ton of plays that way. There's going to be, certainly, opportunities for us. You just can't sit... He's going to know, just like [Peyton] Manning knows, and you try to do everything you can to try to disguise and hide what you're doing. At the end of the day, if we just sit and play one or two things, and let the tempo of the thing dictate what we do, then he'll shred us, he'll pick us apart. They're just too good. So, we've got to do as good a job as we possibly can, and at the same time be able to get lined up and play our responsibility, too."
Are those tight ends keeping you up at night? (Kelli Johnson)
"There are a lot of people in New England keeping me up at night. [Rob Gronkowski] got 17 touchdowns in the regular season [and] three in the playoff game. [Rob] Gronkowski, and [Aaron] Hernandez is a great athlete. They move him all over the place. He's huge in the red zone, up and down the field, so they're definitely a matchup nightmare. We've got to do a great job, collectively as a defense, taking care of those guys."
With TE Rob Gronkowski, how important is it to bracket him? It looks like Brady, even when you have coverage on him, he'll just throw it up and let him go get it if there isn't help on the backside. (Kelli Johnson)
"Like [Terrell Suggs] said, he said he was 6-foot, whatever... He's got a huge catch radius. He's got huge hands; he holds the ball in his hand and it looks like a Twinkie. (laughter) So, there are guys that are lined up on him, and they're right there, but Brady puts it in spots where only he can go get it. He made a phenomenal catch against the Broncos in the corner of the end zone, among others. So, it's a nightmare. Like I said, it'll be... The whole defense collectively has got to do their part to help. If somebody has got him in man coverage, somebody else has got to help him."
Is it all hands on deck with the defensive backs and the secondary, as far as CB Chris Carr and guys who may have toggled on and off the active roster? Is it all hands on deck with them? (Glenn Younes)
"Yeah, absolutely. Because they're going to be running around and you're going to need as many as you can. If they allow you to get some extra guys on the field, it's always good to have those guys up."
Do you have to be more creative with finding ways of making OLB Terrell Suggs a part of the game, knowing that they'll probably throw doubles at him? (Julian Benbow)
"Our guys do a great job of breaking these guys down. Obviously, you know with [linebackers coach] Dean Pees having this experience up there, he knows first and foremost that the first thing [Patriots head coach Bill] Belichick went in and talked about with the offense. He says, 'No. 55 [Terrell Suggs] is a game wrecker, and we can't let him wreck the game. So, we've got to make sure we know where he is every snap, and we've got to take care of him.' So we know that - whether they keep one of those guys in to chip him before they release a back or a tight end, and slide the protection to him - we've got to come up with some things to try to negate that and help him."
I've heard them say, allegedly, that they don't double... Like they try to let their linemen do their own jobs. Is that true? (Julian Benbow)
"If they do, that's great for us. I hope that's their plan, but I don't believe that to be true."
A lot of attention has been paid to their tight ends, but what does WR Wes Welker do to make that offense tick? (Ryan Mink)
"Make plays; 122 catches, 1500 yards. He's a safety net for [Tom] Brady, it's his reliable guy. He gets open. He's quick as a cat. He's got feet like a shore bird. He's just underneath, down the middle, in-and-out. They move him around out of the backfield; he's all over the place. So we've got to, No. 1, identify where he's at and what the situation is; what the down and distance is. Like I said, Brady has got a certain comfort zone with him. He's his go-to-guy, among others, but he makes that thing go."
You're a coach's son. You've been around the game for almost three decades, working with a lot of different people. How much do you draw on those experiences with people you've worked with in challenging weeks like this? (Jeff Zrebiec)
"Among the guys that are in the building you try to draw on as many as you can, and look to certain games and situations that you've been in; whether it's been in the NFL or at the collegiate level. So collectively, we're all trying to draw on as much as we can together to put together a good plan that gives our guys the best chance to go up there and win."
ILB Ray Lewis broke out his Super Bowl ring with the game day attire last week. What kind of reminders or stories has he shared to tell some of these guys that he's the only guy in that locker room that has been there and done that? (Jason Butt)
"We started once we got these guys back, after the lockout. You know, first thing we said was, 'Our number one goal is that thing, right there [The Lombardi Trophy].' That's why that's hanging there. Ray, from time to time, will remind guys as a whole and individually about what it takes to achieve what he achieved in 2000, and share his wisdom and knowledge about that. But we've been talking about that since Day One. First thing I told them back in July was, '32 teams are all getting together today, and there are 32 defensive coordinators and head coaches talking to their teams about winning [The Lombardi Trophy]. There's a handful that realistically have a chance, and there's a handful that has no chance.' So here we sit, 60-minutes away from the show, from the dance. I'm glad he's here, because he's going to make sure that everybody is on point and everybody does exactly what they need to do to give us the best chance to make it to Indianapolis."