Q: What have you noticed from the way Ndamukong Suh impacts games?
TB: He's a phenomenal player, and we've got to think about him on every play. He can ruin a game. He's a big, physical presence, and I think he really sets the tone for that defense. He's a great player. They've got a lot of other good ones on the front – Ziggy Ansah and [Jason] Jones and [C.J.] Mosley. They rotate a lot of guys in there. Definitely, the front seven is big, fast [and] athletic. I think they're one of the best defenses in the league. They're rated I think like top five in most every category. It's a big challenge for us. I think we're going to have to have a good week and really a good week of execution because that's what it's going to take to score points. They've shutout some pretty good offenses, so it's going to be a tough week.
Q: What are your thoughts on Jonas Gray winning AFC Offensive Player of the Week?
TB: That's great. He's earned it, and I think we're going to need a lot more from him. This is a big stretch for us. Things start getting really fun around this time of year. It starts to feel like football weather out there. I think the toughness really starts to play a part of the team, and we're going up against a real tough team in and of itself. They're physically and mentally tough. They've been in more close games than any team in the league the last two years. They're real good, they're tested, so we're going to need our guys to show up and really play their best, too.
Q:** What have you guys done well in the red zone, and what is the challenge of facing a team that's been one of the best red-zone defenses?
TB: Yeah, our execution has been better. That's the main thing, I think. This team does a great job in a lot of areas. Certainly, their run defense is phenomenal, so they gave up just a few yards – 60 yards – last week to Arizona. When you start trying to throw it into real, tight spaces, it gets tough down there in the red area. But they challenge you in the run game and the pass game. They put a lot of pressure on you with just their front four. They don't blitz a ton, but I think they have a lot of confidence in the guys they have up front, which they should. This is when we've got to start playing our best because this is when it matters the most. Every game gets bigger from here, and I'm excited for it.
Q: When someone like Jonas Gray goes from being relatively unknown to the cover of Sports Illustrated, is there a point when you have to go over to him and remind him that it's just outside noise? Does his mindset seem to be mature?
TB: Absolutely, yeah, he's a very mature guy. Similar to when things don't go well, I think when things do go well, it can be equally distracting. There's a reason [for] how you get to this point, and you've got to stay focused on that. For us as individual players and then collectively as a team, one good week is great, but it's in the past now. It means nothing going forward. It's great, yeah, we did it, but OK, what are we going to do this week because that's always kind of been our mindset. You can learn from the previous week or you can learn from a previous month, but ultimately it's not going to help you at all for the upcoming game. You've got to put the same work in. You've got to treat things the same way. You've got to still prepare as hard as you possibly can so you can be prepared to give yourself the greatest chance for a positive outcome. Everyone is trying to stay grounded, and Coach [Belichick] always does a pretty good job of keeping us humble.
Q: You missed a few throws in the first half, but then you went 9-for-11 in the second half. Was there anything in your mechanics or fundamentals that you adjusted at halftime?
TB: I always need to do a better job. Obviously, when you're there at halftime and I didn't play as well as I'm capable, then I've got to do a better job. It always starts with me, and that's where my focus is. Hopefully, I put together four quarters of good stuff this weekend, not just two.
Check out photos from access to players and coaches during Week 12 as the Patriots prepare to play the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium this upcoming Sunday.
Q:** Rob Gronkowski had the one-handed catch against the Broncos and then the catch and run for the touchdown against the Colts. Which play was more impressive to you?
TB: They both highlight what his strengths are. He's got phenomenal catching ability. I don't even think he thinks about it. All these guys do catching drills and stuff like that. I don't think Gronk has ever done a catching drill in his life. He just doesn't even have to think about it. He does a great job run after catch. He always has. They're great individual plays, and we need more of it if we're going to keep winning games against … This is our third opponent that's first place in their division, so if we're going to keep trying to beat these teams, then we're going to have to be at our best and make plays like that.
Q: The offensive line helped you rush for around 250 yards last week and have only given up two sacks over the last four games. How happy are you for those guys up front and what do you think has been the key for their improvement?
TB: It's a great group and they've really come together here. I've got so much respect for those guys and appreciate them so much for what they do for our team. It's such a selfless position to play. You really don't get mentioned unless something goes wrong. It's great for those guys to see, and to be challenged like they were last week and then to run for 250 yards, that's a great accomplishment. It doesn't happen very often. I just have a lot confidence in what they're doing, and they set the tone for our team, certainly for our offense. This is one of the biggest challenges they're going to face this week and one of the best defenses in the NFL. We've got to kind of meet force with force and stand up to the challenge and see if we can go out there and make a bunch of good plays.
Q: Can you talk about how the offense has developed with getting more people involved, compared to earlier weeks where people we're saying it was mainly just Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.
TB: It's great. The more of those guys that can be involved, the better we're going to be as an offense. We need to find ways to distribute the ball to everybody because if you're on the roster, you have talent, and we've got to find a way to get the guys on the field and use that talent. Who knows who it's going to be on a particular week? You really have to see how the game plays out, and if things are working like they were last weekend then you've got to stay with it. You always have a plan for what you want to do and then when you get into the game, how that evolves based on how you're playing and what's working and what you need to adjust to, then different guys have to be ready to make those contributions. It's just too much pressure for an offense to have to go through one or two players the whole season. You're not going to be a very good offense. Probably like any team sport, you need contributions from everybody. That's why everybody that's on the roster has high expectations. We all practice, [and] we all sit in the same meetings together. Whoever is called upon has to go out there and execute.
Q: Your team hasn't been in a lot of close games this year. How do you judge your team's mental toughness when you have so many blowout wins?
TB: I think you see it in practice a lot. I think you see it when we're challenged. There are some points in those games, you're right, where the final score might not end up being close, but there is a point in the game where the game is really close, and we've found ways to make the plays to kind of pour it on, so to speak. The games are always close. At some point they end up not being close, and I prefer those probably a lot more than the close ones. It's all just about our execution. If it does come down to the last possession, I think we've proven that we can handle that, too. Whatever it takes to win I think is ultimately what I care most about.
Q:** You played the Lions in your first ever appearance on Thanksgiving in 2000.
TB: That's right, I know. That's a long time ago.
Q: What do you remember about that game?
TB: It was in the Silverdome, and we didn't play very well, so that's probably why I was in there. I was in mop-up duty. I don't remember much from that game. I'll have to go back and watch the film. But it was an inauspicious start.
Q: Do you remember your first completion?
TB: Who was it to – J.R. [Redmond]? Yeah, I think that was my only completion that day. I almost threw a pick-six going the other way.
Q: That play got wiped out on a penalty. Rod Rutledge was your first completion.
TB: Oh, Rutledge was? Hot Rod, yeah.
Q: What level of trust do you have to have to let go of the ball before a receiver is turned around on back-shoulder throws? You have done it a few times with Brandon LaFell, so how have you two developed that trust?
TB: We've been working pretty hard at it for a while, Brandon and I. I think it's a big trust thing. You've got to trust that when the ball is in the air that they're not going to make the play on it. And when you're in those one-on-one situations, as a quarterback, you can only really control it until it leaves your hand. Even though the outcome may not be good, sometimes you may make the right decision. But as a quarterback, when you're decisive and you trust that someone is going to make a positive play, it's much easier to just let it rip. He's really allowed me to do that. He's been such a fun player and a fun teammate to have. He's my locker mate, so we've got a great relationship. It's been a lot of fun.
Q: That throw is kind of the most evolved in football because it's totally based on timing and steps.
TB: It is. It's all those things that amount to a good passing game. When you see certain quarterbacks play with certain receivers, like I see Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson – they are probably the best at it. It's the timing of when to throw, how hard to throw. It's when to look. If you look too early, if you slow down as a receiver, it's a low percentage play. If you throw it too hard or too high, it's a low percentage throw. It's just a big trust throw, and both people really have to be on the same page. We'll just keep working at it. Those are big plays. You have to throw to the perimeter of the field. And it's 25 yards down the field and [when] you make plays like that where you can gain a quarter of the field in one throw, it's a big momentum play. That probably got me most excited. But we need more of those. Hopefully we can make a few of those this week.
Q: How much 'little kid' do you see in Rob Gronkowski and how infectious is that for the rest of the team?
TB: I think it's just the positive enthusiasm [that] is the best part. This is when football season really starts to challenge everybody, and when you have people in the locker room who are positive and are – not laid back – but just have a fun sense about themselves, it makes it a lot of fun. We've had a lot of guys like that over the years, like [Mike] Vrabel and Matt Light, who really soften the mood. This is still a game, and it's football. It's serious and it's fun, but at the same time, they bring a lightness to it, which I think softens the mood for everybody. This environment here, even when we win, it probably doesn't feel like it very often, but guys like Gronk always bring out the best in everybody and bring out that child-like enthusiasm that we all have for the game.
Q: On the back-shoulder throws with Brandon LaFell, how important is it for your guy to be willing to fight for the ball even if the timing is slightly off or the throw is slightly inaccurate?
TB: That's the advantage of having a big player like that, too, where you're physically bigger than the opposing player that you're going against, and you can use your body and your size to protect the ball. I think that's one of Brandon's great strengths. For those to come up, it's not a big surprise. He's a big guy. When guys get tangled up with Brandon, they usually get the brunt of it. The closer you are to him, sometimes I don't think that's the best thing because he's such a big presence, and he's got really long arms and he's got big hands to be able to make those types of plays. Those are good plays for us to make. Like I said, we're going to need to keep making them, and as the season keeps going on and the games get bigger, we need to have those plays in our back pocket and know that we have confidence that we can go out there and hit them.