New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2008.
Q: Can you talk about Randy Moss and the things that have surprised you about him this year?
TB: I've said over and over again that I think he's an incredibly smart player and I think that's what separates him. He's got great awareness on the field in terms of what he sees, and he's obviously gifted physically, there's no doubt about that. I think everybody can see that. For someone to have his size and his speed and his ability to stop and cut and track the football, [and to have] incredible hands -- But I think the thing that -- There's a lot of guys like that, but I think he takes it to the next level because of his awareness and anticipation of when the ball is going to be thrown and timing the routes and how defenses are choosing to play him and how to set defensive backs up. There're a lot of things, a lot of things that it takes to be a great receiver, and he has a lot of those traits.
Q: During the offseason, anybody could have had him for virtually a song. Were you guys at all apprehensive given his reputation?
TB: No, I wasn't at all. I wasn't. I had met Randy on a few occasions and always had a very pleasant experience with him, so I try not to prejudge anybody or stereotype anybody because that's what someone else might think. I kind of let the relationship develop as it has and we have a great relationship. We have a lot of things in common even though we're from very different backgrounds. We both enjoy playing football and I think that's the overriding characteristic with a lot of players in this locker room, and that you fit in real well here if you listen to your coaching and you do your job and you play hard and put the team first. So anybody can really fit in here if that's what you choose to be about.
Q: After one of Laurence Maroney's good games late in the year you said you hoped he used it as a springboard for confidence. Do you think he's done that?
TB: He played a great game last weekend and I think he has played really well down the stretch. I think anytime, as a second-year player, everyone expects such high expectations for him because you can see his ability to carry the football and be explosive in the running game like he has been at times throughout the past two seasons. I think he's just got more leadership now, I think he's got more awareness as a player, he's grown up a little bit. I think that always helps for all rookies. He's been in and out a little bit this year and he's finding his rhythm now, so it's an important time of the year to do that when the weather is colder and it's a little more challenging to throw the ball. Especially with the threats I think that we have on the outside of the field, Laurence can really take advantage when we get those one-on-one match-ups in the run game.
Q: After last week's win you mentioned last year's AFC Championship game. How many times in the last year have you let yourself think about that?
TB: I think it comes up throughout the entire offseason every time you're thinking about the season before, that's all you really have to go on. The nice part is once the season starts and training camp starts and we get into the regular season, you kind of put your focus where it needs to be, which is on the opponent you're facing. Hopefully, we learned some valuable lessons from that game last year. This is the fifth AFC Championship game that we've been in in the last seven years, so there are players that have been a part of lot of those teams and we're going to try to use what we've learned in the past to our advantage, wins or losses, but it's going to be very challenging. We're playing probably the best team in football over the last eight weeks of the season, so we've got to play our best game.
Q: As cold as it's supposed to be on Sunday, how much does that affect the passing game?
TB: I think anytime the cold weather -- It's fortunate, I think, we practice in it and we get used to hand warmers and wearing extra gloves and shirts and clothes and long johns and stuff like that. We just try to dress warm and deal with it and be a little more mentally tough than the weather. The opponent on Sunday is San Diego. It's not the weather and it's not the referees and it's not the crowd; it's San Diego. And the only thing we can really control is our preparation. The weather is what it is and it is for both teams, and I think that we've come to expect that late in the season with cold weather conditions. Hopefully we've been in it long enough that it's not much of a factor. We just have to go out and play our best against a good defense.
Q: You have always been very confident in yourself, but have you exceeded even your own high expectations?
TB: I think each year has been very different, and this year has been different than the previous years I've been here. [I've] been surrounded by great teams since I've been here and great coaching, and the way the receivers have played this year and the way the offensive line has played -- As a quarterback, it's great when you just have to worry about you, and I've said that over and over again. I just have to have to do my job. I have to drop back and find the open guys and throw it to him and I know that the guys around me are going to protect [me] and the receivers are going to get open. And the running backs will keep us in manageable down and distances on early downs, so even when we get to third downs and they know you're going to throw…it's not like it's third-and-12 all day. I've got great confidence in the players around me and I know we have confidence as an offense that we can score points. It's a very challenging defense that we're going to face. They've got 48 turnovers this season, averaging three a game, they've got five in the playoffs, [they've] given up 13 points a game in the last eight weeks, and have been undefeated since Thanksgiving. They've got 22 sacks between [Shawne] Merriman and [Shaun] Phillips and I think 42 sacks as a team. [They're] number one in turnover differential. They're very healthy on defense; they've got everybody there. They've got depth at corner, they can rush the passer, they've got linebackers who are athletic and powerful to stop the run, one of the best nose guards in football, so this defense will challenge you more than any defense we've faced all year. They're a very different team than we faced, whenever it was, in week two, and I hope we play as well as we can. That's the only way I think we're going to be able to advance through this round, is to play our best football.
Q: Is there anything in particular you've noticed about Laurence Maroney in the last three or four games that you would attribute his success to?
TB: I think he's probably just had more opportunity. I think he's gotten the ball more and I think there have been chances for him to run. We had a few weeks there without any tight ends, so if you try to draw up a bunch of plays with no tight ends, running the ball, it's challenging. He's got much more of an opportunity now when you can have a tight end in the game and you can have kind of your full menu of runs, and he's taking advantage of that. He's making a lot of guys miss, too. He's running with power, he's running with quickness, he's running---he's always had very good vision, so he's been a huge help to this offense in the last half of this season. He was early in the year, but like I said, now I think he's especially getting the touches that we all want him to get.
Q: Can you talk about Ben Watson and what it's meant to you to have him in there?
TB: Every time Ben's in there, he's making plays. He had two touchdowns last week and he's one of those guys that's been in and out for the last half of the year. [He] hurt his ankle early in the season against Dallas and he's been fighting that all season and again [against] Pittsburgh. He's a very mentally tough player and I think his role in the offense is what he makes of it. When he has the opportunity to make plays, he does, and he's dangerous as a player -- He's dangerous because he's got speed to run faster than most linebackers and he's got enough power and strength to run through most defensive backs. I think that's how you create mismatches at the tight end position. And to work the middle of the field, like I said, when you have Randy and Donte' [Stallworth] and Jab [Jabar Gaffney] on the outside, you need those inside players to complement that and Ben certainly does and Wes [Welker] does too, so that's a good tandem to have in there.
Q: How tough has the Chargers' pass rush been the last few times you've played them?
TB: Yeah, last year's divisional game, that was as tough of a game -- I remember firing the ball in there for three-yard gains. There was one series if the first half that I had -- We completed three balls and gained like eight yards, just trying to rifle it in there and not gaining any yards. I thought early in the year we executed better against them, but it's a very dynamic pass rushing team and I think all these guys can pass rush. They blitz half of the plays and [with] a 34 defense it's hard to figure out where they're coming from and they rush safeties and they rush--all those linebackers are good blitzes. They do a bunch of things defensively that challenge you and we need our best week of preparation.
Q: Can you talk about the job the offensive line has done this year? You seem to have a really good relationship with those guys.
TB: Yeah? It appears that way? They're a great group and I think the thing that has been so important to us this season is that they have been healthy, and they have played each game. [Dan] Koppen and Logan [Mankins] and [Matt] Light have been there and Steve [Neal] has been healthier and Nick [Kaczur] has done a great job. We have great depth and great coaching; so the longer they're together the more they communicate. Ultimately I think that's the better -- That where you find the better units throughout the league. The teams and the guys that are together to kind of stand up to those difficult tests each week that we face.
Q: It seemed like you tried to help them out against Jacksonville.
TB: No, I 'm just trying not to get killed out there.