Q: How come you don't have a nickname like Matty Ice?
TB: I don't know. Do I…I don't have any nicknames? That should be the thing. That's a good story for this week too. TB12 is pretty good, I like that.
TB: Not as good as Matty Ice? I know, Matty Ice is pretty sweet.
Q: What did you learn about your offensive unit on Sunday that you didn't know in the previous two weeks?
TB: We made a little bit of progress and we were a bit more consistent. We still left some points on the board. We had a good week of practice and I think it showed. Hopefully this is a good week of practice and it shows. It's a good challenge for us. It's a good team and it's a really challenging environment to play in because the fans are behind them, it's loud, it's a dome, it's Sunday night. It will be great. Coach always says, 'If you love football, then Sunday night at 8:30 in Atlanta will be the place to be.' I totally agree. It will be fun.
Q: How was communication in Buffalo? That's the only time you've been in that atmosphere on the road this year.
TB: It was pretty loud up there too, but Atlanta is probably – those domes get pretty loud because you know, there's just no place for that sound to go. If they get going, it gets loud. We've played there a few times so I think we have a little bit of understanding of what it's about. They're a good offensive football team so there are usually a lot of reasons for them to be excited. Their skill players and the way Matt [Ryan] plays, it's going to test us all the way around in all three phases so hopefully we're ready for it.
Q: You guys struggled in the red zone. Why is that and what have you been doing to try to improve that?
TB: We've been practicing it quite a bit. We've definitely left some points on the board, just poor execution. I've been one of the main culprits. Hopefully I try to improve that. You have to get down there and score points. Especially when you play good teams, you can't leave points out there. Like last week, we had a great opportunity for seven points. Not only did we not get seven, we didn't get any. You have to be able to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Q: When you judge the tenor of the game, beyond just scoring points, how important is it to sustain drives?
TB: That's a great advantage to playing at home because the momentum changes so quickly and it can go the other way too. If they don't play a good game, it goes the other way. We've had a few of those situations here. I remember, like the Jet playoff game a few years ago, where we just didn't play well and it just feels like 70,000 people are totally deflated. That's the goal, is to try to set the tone in that area. The way you do it is ultimately executing on a down-by-down basis. They make it challenging to do that because they're an athletic team and they do a lot of different things in their fronts, so it's not like it's just the same coverage, same front every play. They make some plays defensively and you have to be able to counter that. What we have to do is start fast – they're a team that starts really fast so we have to get off to a good start. We have to get the running game going, get the passing game – we have to be clicking on all cylinders.
Q: Can you feel when those plays are coming, those momentum breakers?
TB: That's how they play. They were one of the best teams in the league last year. What were they [13-3]? They had a great team – number one seed, they played all those playoff games at home and there's a reason why. They play good at home, they score points offensively and they defensively feed off that emotion of their offense. It's going to be a challenge for our defense; it's a challenge for our offense. I think we have to play our best game, there's no doubt about it. You can't, like you said, if you go three-and-out, if you just put what happened last week with us, we had three three-and-outs to start the game, it could be 21-0. That's the way they play. We have to be able to start fast. We have to put points on the board, we have to get people in the end zone. Obviously the critical plays like turnovers, critical third downs, scoring opportunities in the red area are all going to be crucial to winning the game.
Q: In years past, why has Rob Gronkowski been such a big part of the red zone execution?
TB: He's just a big target and he's got a great catch radius. He really hasn't been out there this year. Hopefully at some point when he's back, he can play a role. When he's not out there, look, we have to count on the other guys to do it. I know we haven't been great in the red area this year, but it's no excuse. The guys that are out there are plenty capable, I'm plenty capable of getting the ball into tight spots and making the plays. We have to run the ball in. if they're taking away the run, we have to throw the ball in; critical plays on third down in the red area that are four point plays typically. We can be a better red area team than we've been, we just have to go out and execute better.
Q: Do you have different expectations for guys that have been out, like Rob Gronkowski, for when they come back?
TB: We've played with him for a long time and had him in our offense so you realize the caliber of player that he is. Look, we're 3-0 without him out there. We're just going to play as long as we need to play until he's healthy enough to play. Whenever that is, who knows? We're focused on trying to be a good offense no matter who is out there. Whenever guys get back, they'll have to deal with a different skill set, but we're just focused on having the guys out there that have done the job for us thus far.
Q: When Brian Hoyer was here, did you see the potential for him to be a solid starter in the league even though he didn't play a lot here?
TB: Yeah, we have a great relationship and a very close relationship. The backup quarterback, there's only been two of us, Brian and I at one time and now myself and Ryan Mallett. We have a great rapport. I'm friends with all those guys. Matt Cassel I talk to – he may be starting this weekend. Brian, we text back and forth and talk with him. It's great to see him and it's hard work really pays off and guys that stay at it and are mentally tough, always trying to do the right thing, like Brian has done, like Matt has done, like Ryan Mallett has done, it's great when they finally get an opportunity to play.
Q: You're not surprised he's playing the way he is?
TB: No, I've seen it in practice from Matt when he was here, I've seen it from Brian. I saw it from Ryan Mallett. It's just a matter of getting opportunity.
Q: Is the fact that you're dealing with new players right now throwing your timing off a little bit in the red zone?
TB: I think throwing an interception right to a strong safety last week doesn't help. Especially two plays before, I had a wide open guy. I think plays like that are more the problem. I have to a good job finding the open guys, guys that are running free and then hit them. That will help our red zone offense more than anything.
Q: It does take time to develop timing though, doesn't it?
TB: You're always trying to develop that over the course of the season. You don't really have it figured out to start. You just have to work at it and when you get the opportunities you have to take advantage. Look, it's hard. There are 22 guys, if you're inside the five, within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. They're pretty good at regular defense because typically you have a limited number of calls that you play a lot, you get good at it. It's tough. There are tight spots, there are tight throws, there are quick decisions. Guys aren't open for very long down there. You have to make the plays when they're there, when you have a great opportunity like we had last week, you have to take advantage.
Q: When you're playing in a dome, do you have to do things differently in terms of communication?
TB: We work on it quite a bit, yeah. It's different than playing at home, no question, but it's not much different than practice. Their speed and what they do and the tempo which they play is different. For us, we try to duplicate it as best we can in practice. I saw nonverbal communication, you're using signals and silent counts and all those things. You just have to try to practice it. Typically as the season goes on, you get better at it. Yeah, it challenges the communication.
Q: Is the red zone where a pass-catching tight end is most important?
TB: Big guys, whether they're receivers or tight ends, are typically more red area threats because like I said, the catch radius. You're on the back end line, you have a big target to throw to. They can take some tights in tight coverage. You see some red area receivers, like a guy like Anquan Boldin who catches the ball, takes the hit – he's a great red area receiver. The bigger you are, the bigger the target you are, the tighter space, you can catch a ball, take a hit, you don't have to run anywhere. It definitely helps.
Q: How reliable has Julian Edelman been given his experience in the system?
TB: He's been great. He's worked so hard to get this chance and he's really taken advantage of the opportunity. He's done just a great job. It's great having him out there. The trust and confidence level in him and what he's able to do, it's been great. With Danny [Amendola] out, Julian has to fill that void and he's done a great job with that.
Q: As you go through a game, how much do you check off in a game where you can go to certain guys in a game in terms of what you trust?
TB: A lot of that is in practice. When you get out there on the practice field and you do it and if it doesn't go well, you just cross it off the list. In the game and you have the same opportunity in one-on-one coverage and you go, 'You know what, let's go somewhere else.' That's why you develop some guys that are consistently in the right spot and dependable at catching the ball. They keep building on their receptions week-to-week, because you just give them more and more trust. A guy like [Wes] Welker has 125 catches when he's here because he did it. He did it in practice, he did it in the games. Our games are doing the same thing. They've been working hard in practice, they've been out there every day, building that trust with each other. It's been a lot of fun. We're working at it. Hopefully this is our best week.