Q: Going back to the AFC Championship isn't an easy thing to do. What does it mean to you guys?
RN: No, it's definitely hard to get to the AFC Championship game. It's a long road, You think back on when you start the offseason. For me, I've played in all these games and it means a lot to me because last year I think of how hard I worked to get to an AFC Championship and then when you lose, it hurts. For me, I'm like, 'I'm going to work out, I'm getting back in the offseason, I'm going to training camp, just to get back to that same point.' There are a lot of games you have to win and a lot of great things you have to do on the football field to get to that point. We definitely have to take advantage of our opportunity here and just do like we always do and that's put in all the work. That starts tomorrow.
Q: You talked all week about leaving everything out there. The pushes you and Chandler Jones got on the edge and rolling the dice bringing Jamie Collins up the middle, it seems like you were so close so many times, but then Andrew Luck would make a play. Something finally changed late in the game. What was it?
RN: You know, you've got to give Luck credit for being a quarterback that's able to throw the ball as well as he does and then also break the pocket and make plays with his feet. Coming in this week, we really had, as defensive ends, our responsibility was to not let him do that, not to let him scramble around and make those plays. Sometimes does that take away a little of your rushing up the field? Of course, because if you do that he can step up and run for a first down. So the game plan: jam receivers, get them off their routes early, not let the quarterback beat you with his feet. And then as the game progressed and the score was higher, then we were able to cut it loose a little bit and get some more hits on him.
Q: How much does the defense feed off of watching the offense perform the way they have the last few games?
RN: I mean, it's great how we're able to run the ball. It sets the tempo and the tone of the game. When they start the game off running like they do, the other team knows they're in for a long game. We have a pretty big back back there running the ball. [LeGarrette] Blount has done a great job for us and I'm happy he's on our team because I definitely wouldn't want to be hitting that guy. He's like my size.
Q: You've had to hit him I assume?
RN: Yeah, in training camp. That was a long time ago, so I'll leave the hitting up to the other team to take all his hits that he's dishing out.
Q: Four interceptions by your defense. Right place, right time?
RN: I mean, right place, right time – execution. We executed our game plan and we did a great job of being where we needed to be to make those plays. Again, I say it every week: it started Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, just that whole week of preparation. Knowing who their go-to guys were, what their route combinations are, what they like to do. That sets you up to succeed right there. Our success is preparation and how we go about the week in preparing for the teams that we're going to play.
Q: Three AFC Championship games in three years. What does that say about this organization and you guys?
RN: It's pretty consistent. I know we do it year-in and year-out and that starts with the way that we're coached, how we go about playing situational football, which is huge in the NFL. Bill [Belichick] says it all the time: there are more games that are lost than one. You just try not to put yourself in a position to make the mistakes to lose a game.
Q: Everybody keeps stepping up and there are always different guys in there. What's Matt Patricia telling you guys when that's going on?
RN: Really, to be honest, in the NFL, everyone that's on a football team, you're hungry to be on the field and play. When I was a guy that just got here and I was running down on kickoffs I wanted to be on the field on defense. That's what your ultimate goal is: to get a chance. And when you get a chance, you want o make the best of your opportunities. I think the guys that have been put in those roles have done the best with their opportunity. We've been successful with understanding the concepts of how we're playing our defense and how each individual person has to play for us to be a good team defense, because it's not about one person; it's about everyone playing together.
Q: Do your rookies feel like rookies to you? Some of these guys are in their twentieth or twenty-first game now.
RN: A little bit, yeah, when I talk to them, but they're playing well. I try to stay positive with them and keep them going. It's not an easy year your first year in the league. It's a long season and you're not used to playing that many games. Those guys were out there in the preseason, too, and they weren't just playing the first quarter; they were playing four quarters a lot. I think, again, me being an older guy, just giving them support and just saying, 'Hey, the light's at the end of the tunnel now. We just have to keep going and keep fighting because we know what our ultimate goal is.'
Q: Did you see the potential in Jamie Collins all year for what he did tonight?
RN: Of course. Jamie is an unbelievable talent, athlete. I mean, the guy can run, he can cover, he's fast and explosive, he can get up and rush. You see a guy like that, and he's one of those guys that's got that wow factor – you see him play the cut, spin on the ground and still make the tackle. His is future in the NFL is very bright, so I'm happy that he's on our defense and he's playing well now. This is the perfect time for everyone to just be flying around and making plays.