Q: **Another big performance defensively on third downs. You guys stepped up well on third down.
VW:All year, we've always talked about third downs and red area, certain situations and being able to get off the field. We've done a pretty decent job of handing third down and making some key stops when we need it. Rob Ninkovich making the interception, that was big for us. So we stepped up. At this point, you want to be having as much success as possible and it starts with a good week of preparation and being able to execute. You can never be perfect, but at the same time you have to be able to make more plays than the opponent, and that's what we did tonight.
Q:You mentioned Rob Ninkovich – this guy doesn't seem to quit, despite injuries and changing positions.
VW:He's a tough guy. He's a great, great player. He's a student of the game. He loves to play. The passion that he has for the game – everything you want in a teammate, that's what he brings to the table. His leadership – he's kind of behind the scenes, but he's a great leader on and off the field. He's a special player for us, and it shows. He makes play after play because he puts the time in and he puts the work in. He works his tail off. We see a lot of plays being made in practice, so we expect it in the games. It doesn't come as a surprise to us as players because we know what type of player this guy is.
Q:On the other side of the ball, how much does it hurt to not have Rob Gronkowski in the playoffs?
VW:We don't have him?
Q:That's the talk.
VW:I have no clue. I'm sorry, I have no clue on that and I'm being dead serious. He's a tough player. He's probably one of the best players at that position. But what can you do? You have to move forward, be able to move forward, and we have a lot of guys that can step in and make plays. We've seen it throughout this season: guys stepping in because of injuries or whatever it may be, guys stepping up and making plays for us. It will be another case where somebody has to step in and step up and make some plays, and I'm pretty sure that our guys will do that.
Q:How sweet is it going to be to play the AFC Championship game at home?
VW:It's sweet just playing in the AFC Championship game, I don't care where it's at. It's sweeter to play at home; that's the bonus. But it won't matter come Sunday or whenever we play. It won't matter. We're going to have to beat a good football team, a team that beat us earlier this year at their house, a team that's riled up for us. I'm pretty sure they're going to be ready to go, with Ray Lewis and that whole outfit coming to town. It's going to be a tough one. It's going to be a dog fight. It's going to be a physical, mentally tough game and at this point in the season, you have to put everything you have into it. It's a one-week season for us and we have to approach it like that. So, we're going to get to work starting tomorrow and hopefully we can get some things done early in this week that can make us better off in that game.
Q:What is it about the Ravens that have made them so successful against you guys, even here at Gillette?
VW:Complete team. Everywhere you look, they have playmakers. They have a tight end, they have running backs, they have several receivers, they have a good offensive line, good quarterback, good fullback. Defensively, I mean, where do you start? They have guys that rotate in that could be starters anywhere else. And on special teams, Harbaugh is a special teams guy. His special teams are always good. Jacoby will be back there returning kicks, so they're a complete football l team. They stack up well against a lot of teams just because of the people they have on that squad. It makes it tougher for teams to play against them because they really don't lack in any area. You basically have to play your best football against them and try to make plays, but plays won't come easily against this team. They showed last week what they can do. It's just a team that has a lot of fight in them. No matter what it is, they have a lot of fight and it starts with Ray and what he brings to the team. We're up for the challenge and it's going to be another one. It's going to be a physical football game, but we've been there before.
Q:Do you like where the defense is at right now?
VW:We can get a little better. We can play a lot better.
Q:Is it good enough?
VW:No, we need to be a little better. I'm pretty sure we'll watch this film and see some things we need to clean up. As soon as we make those changes, we can be a pretty good defense, but overall this team – this defense is taking the right steps. That's the only thing you can ask for – to take the right steps – especially at this point in time. The goal right now is to win. No matter how you win, that's the goal. You lose and you go home. Whatever we have to do to win, that's what we're going to do.
Q:Can you talk about Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley over the last few years and how they got to the point where they had the impact they did today?
VW:It starts with their coach. Ivan [Fears] doesn't let them slack. These guys, they come out, they work their tails off and when they make a mistake, they hear about it. But they never mope; that group never mopes. They're always trying to get better. They're very competitive. They all bring differences to the table, but all of them have heart. Being a running back, you have to have a lot of heart because you take a lot of hits. That's the last thing I want: a wimpy running back running the ball, touching the ball. But we don't have that; we have some good backs. Like I said, they all bring something different to the table and it showed tonight.