Q:A midseason poll found Bill Belichick the second-least liked coach to play for. You talk to other players around the league, does that surprise you?
TB:I don't talk to many players around the league about Coach Belichick so I wouldn't know that one either.
Q:Does it surprise you players wouldn't want to play for a coach as successful as Bill Belichick?
TB:That's a good question. I like playing for a successful coach. That means we're successful and winning and ultimately that's hopefully what we're here for.
Q:Some of the other guys seemed to say he was too hardnosed and old school. Are you surprised some guys would put a comfortable playing situation over success?
TB:I think success is the most important thing, no question. There's nothing that's better than winning games as far as I'm concerned.
Q:Have you seen a difference in the looks you're getting from defenses as a result of the successful running game in the past few weeks?
TB:Every team has a little different game plan so every week seems to be a little bit different. I'm sure this week will have a different flavor than what last week had. Like I said about six hours ago when I was up here, I think that we always try to find a strength and weakness to the defense and then end up trying to figure out a way around that. So, if a team is really geared up to stop the run, then we have to do things to throw it well. If they're trying to stop the run game, we have to try to pass it. If they're trying to stop the inside runs, we have to run it outside. If they're going to stop the outside runs, we run inside. If they're going to stop the short pass, we have to throw it deep. If they're going to stop the deep pass, we throw it short. If they're going to stop the screens, we have to do something. That's the idea behind offensive football is you really have to do enough things, have enough things in your arsenal to be able to adjust to whatever they're doing. If your whole game plan is centered around one particular aspect of the game, then it's going to be pretty easy to shut you down. I think the best teams have the best variety and have enough players within their system to be capable enough to adapt and change and still ultimately go out and be effective in a lot of different areas, whether it's a driving rainstorm like we had a few weeks ago or it's perfect conditions like we may have this weekend, whether you're down by 24 points like we have been at times, whether you're up 24. All those different brands of football really come into play. I think to be a good team over the course of a long season, you have to be good at all those things and then play to whatever situation ends up happening.
Q:Is that why you think you've been so successful in the second halves of games? You can change what you're doing, because likely they're trying to do the same thing for you guys and playing off your strengths and weaknesses.
TB:Sure. I think times where you go out – like the example where we played Denver and we were down 24-0. It's not like they're going into halftime going, 'We'll, let's change everything up,' because obviously what they're doing is working. I wouldn't necessarily [say] we did that either, because we were effective at times moving the ball in that game in the first quarter we just were turning the ball over. I think you just have to have an understanding of what's working, what's not working, where your matchups are. Everyone has an idea of what you want to do on Friday before the game. Then Sunday midway through the first quarter all that stuff might be thrown out the window and you're maybe onto something else. I think in the playoffs, when everything is on the line, you have to do whatever it takes. You're not concerned with anything else other than winning and trying to score points and getting the ball in the end zone.
Q:Austin Collie has been on and off the roster this season. How has he been to work with and how has he weathered that?
TB:It's been great. He came onto the roster late in the season – [fifth] game after missing all the spring and summer and the early part of the year and then worked a way to find a role on the team and that got injured which was unfortunate because he was really starting to come on. Then he's fought back to the point where now he's a really trusted receiver on our team again. We had a lot of guys come in and out of that position; a lot of guys come in and out of that receiver spot. Austin, when he's been in there, has been very dependable and consistent and really knows how to play the position. He learned playing with Peyton [Manning]. So you're in kind of sophisticated offense and you're moving around different positions, you run different routes, there are route adjustments. In that sense, there's a lot of familiarity with what he's done. Hopefully he can go out and make some plays this weekend.
Q:Did his background probably help with his transition here?
TB:Sure. I think being in a system where it's about route running and route technique and route discipline and concepts and signals and adjustments and things like that, that's kind of the way our offense is, that's the way that offense always has been. Not that the offenses are the same because there are some different things but when you run a 14-yard in-cut, whether you're wearing a Patriots jersey or a Broncos jersey, those are the same things. Ultimately it's going to be about running routes and creating separation, enough separation enough where I feel confident to be able to throw you the football. Austin has a good idea of that. Julian [Edelman] has a good idea of that being here with me. Danny [Amendola] came in and he's getting an understanding of that. Al the rookie receivers, they haven't been anywhere. A lot of times for a rookie player, they're just faster than everybody else in college so they just run by everyone and everything looks good. It's probably why it's hard to draft a lot of those young players because it's hard to evaluate because they're so much better physically. Then when you get to the NFL, there's not that physical gap that there is in college. Most of the guys that I played with in college, I don't think any of them are playing anymore, maybe one. It's just the way it goes. You have to be a technician, you have to understand, you have to be a student of the a game, you have to work, you have to understand what the coaches are asking, understand what the team is looking for and just keep working harder and harder and harder and then when you get your opportunity you have to make it pay off.
Q:All these matchups with Peyton Manning, can you appreciate the history of it even though it's still going on?
TB:I appreciate playing great football teams and he's a great leader for that team. This game is about the Broncos and the Patriots. I know that they have a great quarterback on the other side of the ball. We're going to have to score some points. They've scored points all year. I think they set a record for scoring points this season, more points than any team in the history of the league. We'll be challenged because they have a very good defense and they play well at home. I think we just have to understand what it's going to take from our offense to go out there and win a very tough game on the road against a very good team led by one of the great quarterbacks of all time.
Q:Do you enjoy matchups with teams quarterbacked by Peyton Manning?
TB:I love playing football.
Q:From a history standpoint. This is part of NFL lore.
TB:Truthfully, I'm just not focused on that at this point. I wake up every morning to try to come here and focus on my job and do what I need to do. I don't read much, I don't do much. I just show up and get ready for practice and then get my treatment and go out and get ready to play and know the challenge ahead. It's just not really on my mind, not this week.
Q:Is it something that after you're done playing or after the season you might look back on?
TB:I love playing so I enjoy all the games. I enjoy AFC Championship Games. I enjoyed last week's game, I enjoyed the game against Buffalo, I enjoyed the games against Baltimore and Cleveland. They all mean something. They're all important. I think we all work hard and sacrifice a lot and it's all worth it because that's our choice. We're fortunate to be able to do a job that we love to do and get paid for it and certainly have fans that cheer us on and family that support us. There's a lot of things to be grateful and appreciative [for] and things I'll miss when I'm done playing so hopefully that's not anytime soon.
Q:You talked about the importance of mentorship. What have you said to some of the younger players about games of this magnitude to keep those emotions in check?
TB:There are a lot of guys who have talked all week. We take our cues from Coach Belichick. He's said a lot this week. In different individual settings you just kind of communicate what it's all about and the meaning of it and just try to keep guys focused. We have a lot of really good leaders on this team: the captains, the veterans, guys who have been in pretty meaningful games. Look, the margin of error is very slim. They're a very good team. They play well at home. We just can't go out there and turn the ball over four times, be 25 percent on third down, be one-of-four in the red area and think that we're going to win the game. We just have to do a lot of things well. I think that's what you just try to express, that this has to be our best effort, it has to be a great week of preparation, which we've had two really good days of practice and we have to finish strong today. It's all football. There's almost 48 hours to the game. There's nothing really else going out in our lives other than football at this point.
Q:This is the first time you'll be visiting an NFL city where recreational marijuana use is legal.
TB:Are you excited about that?
Q:Has anyone advised the young players against it?
TB:We haven't talked about that. Maybe you guys [can] tell me what that's all about.
Q:I was just wondering if it would be a temptation.
TB:Hopefully not. This is a very important game for us and it's a business trip.