PATRIOTS SAFETY DURON HARMON
Q: What differentiates Marcus Mariota from some of the other mobile quarterbacks you've faced this year?
DH: He actually knows when to run and when to pass the ball when scrambling. It's a very unique skill because a lot of guys, once they get scrambling, they're not even looking downfield anymore. They're just looking to run. But, he always has his eyes downfield, always knows when to run, when to throw the pass, and I would say his touch on the ball, too, that gets people open when he's scrambling is really good.
Q: What did you think about the touchdown pass he threw to himself against Kansas City?
DH: It looked like it was meant for them to win. I mean, first of all, that's a very, very hard play to make, and that shows you his skill set, his athletic ability. To be able to throw the ball, have it knocked down and be able to catch it where he caught it and go in and run and score and dive, I mean, it shows his athletic ability. It shows that any time he touches the ball he's dangerous.
Q: How do you make sure that this is not the last week of practice you have this season?
DH: You've got to focus. You've got to play every play, practice every play like it can be your last play because you're not guaranteed another week after this week. You've got to put everything in, you've got to prepare, you've got to practice hard, you've got to study hard, you've got to do all the little things that you know will lead up to you having success on Saturday night.
Q: At what point does the playoff intensity rise this week? Does it pick up mid-week?
DH: No, you feel it as soon as you start practicing. Everybody feels it. We know the importance of practice. Each play of the game is important, but the only way that you can have a lot of good plays on game day is by the practice week. So, we try to go out, execute at a high level like it's a game day, try to play as hard, try to play as aware as we can. We just try to do all the little things because we know if we have a great week of practice, it usually translates to a good performance during Saturday.
Q: How does playing other mobile quarterbacks this year help you prepare for this game?
DH: Well, I think the main thing is we know how teams are trying to attack us because they'll look at the success that other mobile quarterbacks might have had against us. So, we know we're going to have to be ready to fix the mistakes that we might have had against those mobile quarterbacks. And, we know when you give up something on tape, a team is always going to try to test you there and see if you got the problem fixed, and if not, they're going to keep running it. So, we've just got to look back and do a little self-scouting on ourselves and see where we're vulnerable at when going against mobile quarterbacks.
Q: When facing a big running back like Derrick Henry, how important is tackling well and making sure he does not get the edge?
DH: It's very important - tackling and also just swarming to the ball. I mean, he's a big guy. A lot of times it takes more than one guy to bring him down, so the more guys we can get to the ball, the better our tackling will be.
Q: What makes Eric Decker such a threat on each team he's been on that you have faced?
DH: I would say he's big, big catch radius and always making big catches, whether it's in the red area or on third down. They go to him in a lot of different situations because he's a reliable receiver, been around the game a long time, made a lot of big catches and he continues to do so.
Q: Why does Mariota seem so comfortable in play action?
DH: I would say probably because he has some more protection, being able to read a lot of the routes taken a longer time and then him being able to use his feet. I mean, a lot of times it's max protection when you're doing play action, so if it's not downfield, he's able to scramble a little bit and maybe get some guys open just while he's scrambling or run for the first down.
Q: You guys always say that it's about how you play, not where you play, but how happy are you that this game is at home?
DH: More happy just for our fans because of how great our fans are. They get to come out and support us and get to see us play again and bring that energy for us. But at the end of the day, like you said, it doesn't matter. I mean, you could play home, away, neutral. If you don't play good football at this time of the year, you're going to lose. We know it's all about playing good football and that's what we try to harp all throughout this week.
Q: As a defensive leader, is there one area that you point out on your defense that needs to be cleaned up in order to have success?
DH: Not really because, I mean, all throughout the year, we've been good, in certain areas we've been not as good, but all just need to try to be better in everything - just everything. We need to have our best football, we need to play our best football, everybody needs to be aware, everybody needs to be emotionally ready to go, physically ready to go, and we've just got to go out there and play good football. We know this is a good football team. They had a big win last week. They're coming in here feeling good, as they should be. That's a playoff win that they beat a good team in the Kansas City Chiefs. So, we've just got to be ready to go. I think if our energy is the right way and everybody's aware and playing good football and doing what we're supposed to do, playing the football that we know we need to play and that we know how to play, we'll be alright.
Q: Since you have been through the playoffs several times before, do you feel like the team is on pace right now in terms of preparation and intensity for this game?
DH: I would say the good thing about playing here, Coach [Bill] Belichick makes sure we're ready to play each and every game. He does a great job of making sure we have enough information to study off of, makes sure he puts a great game plan together for us - him and Matty P. [Patricia] - so I would say, each year, I feel like we're always ready to play. That's just me personally. Some years, we fall short because that's just football. You can't win every year, but I feel like we're ready to go. Everybody's mentally into it, everybody's practicing hard, everybody's focused. So, the only thing we can do is continue this process, continue working hard, continue to keep preparing and see where it takes us on Saturday.
Q: Before each game, it seems like Matt Patricia walks up to every player and shakes their hand. How important is it for him to get the team pumped up before these games?
DH: It's important. It just lets us know he has our back. He has our back, we've got his back - it's nothing more than just a relationship that he's built with everybody throughout the defense. And, when you've got that from your coach, knowing that he's going to go down for you and you're going to go down for him, it makes you want to go out there and lay it down for him.
Q: People talk about this team being the defending Super Bowl champions, but almost a third of roster has changed since last year. As a player, does the turnover from year to year ever strike you?
DH: I would say, just being here, you kind of get so used to it. I mean, there's turnover on every team each and every year. But, you just get used to it. Each year is so different. It's different guys, it's different relationships, and each year is its own year, and that's what we just try to look at. We don't try to say, 'We're defending this,' because like you said, it's a completely different team and it's different guys in different roles. So, we just try to take one year at a time, get better each and every week, get better each and every day and try to see where it takes us.
Q: Many of the team's defensive numbers improved throughout the season, most notably the points allowed in the fourth quarter. Are there any commonalities that have allowed you to close out those games or is each game unique?
DH: I would say we talk about finishing a lot. I mean, great football teams, they always finish. They always play their best football in the fourth quarter. That's something we harped on, that's something we go over each and every day, and I think it's a mindset that we're starting to have. It's good because, if you're not giving up points in the fourth quarter, it means you're usually winning. So, we're trying to keep it going the right way, keep that mindset and literally keep harping it on everybody. We want to be a team that finishes. Championship football teams, they finish, and that's what we're trying to become.