Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) breaks up a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Q: Did it settle your nerves when Tom Brady spoke to the team yesterday? What does it show about Tom taking it head on?
DM: I think this team understands we’ve got a leader that we never question. There’s never any doubt no matter what the situation is – whether it be on the field or off the field – this team has a lot of trust in Tom. Honestly, I don’t think anyone in this locker room is worried about it. We know next Sunday we’re going to get the best number 12 than we’ve gotten all year. That’s how he prepares and like I always say, he sets an example for preparing. So our goal is just to be ready for next Sunday.
Q: Tom said when he plays he always wants to play within the rules and that he didn’t doctor the ball in any way or have any knowledge of anyone doing so. Do you believe him?
DM: Does it matter? I’m kind of past all of that. I think just off of what Vince [Wilfork] said, we went out there and won a game in the AFC Championship and got the right to play in the Super Bowl. I think that should be the focus and the topic so that’s what I want to talk about today, the Super Bowl and the opportunity to go out there and win a big game.
Q: Did you watch Tom Brady’s press conference?
DM: No. I was actually still here, so no.
Q: D’Qwell Jackson said he wasn’t the guy who noticed the deflated ball on the interception. Is it hard to fathom that someone who would intercept a ball would notice deflation?
DM: Notice that we are playing in the Super Bowl?
Q: No, is it weird to think that someone just catching the ball in that situation would notice a deflated football?
DM: No – I don’t think anyone notices that. It’s an interception, it’s a big play – [go to the] sideline, give it to the equipment manager [and] save it for later.
Q: Any thoughts that someone in the NFL has it in for the Patriots?
DM: I don’t know. I don’t even know that many people at the NFL so no, I don’t know.
Q: Are Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Russell Wilson an underrated group among the NFL?
DM: I think overall national media doesn’t give them a lot of attention. I’ve watched a couple games now and they jump off to me – whether it be a ball where Russell Wilson is getting pressure and he just gives them a chance to go up there and they make plays, catching balls deep downfield, breaking tackles. I mean the catch Kearse had to end the game against Green Bay was huge. Tramon Williams was all on his back, to keep him on his back and to make that catch was huge. I think they have a good skill group as far as guys that can catch and run. They have a lot of guys that can fly down the field and get by any defense. For us, we look at that group as obviously we know it starts with [Marshawn] Lynch and running the ball but [if] your secondary starts worrying about Marshawn Lynch all the time they’ll hurt you. They’ll get deep, they’ll make plays. I think people hear us say this all the time, but this game is going to be huge [for] just doing your job. If you’re up there to stop the run, you’ve got to stop the run. If you’re in pass coverage, you’ve got to cover these guys and not allow them to make big plays.
Q: You’ve seen a lot of mobile quarterbacks all season long, what makes Russell Wilson so different?
DM: I don’t know what he has in him, but his ability to just take a play – whether it’s a straight drop-back or some type of boot and he’s going one way and somehow ends up on the other side of the field and still looking down the field and finding a guy wide open is tough. Even looking at the two-point play against Green Bay, that play looked like it was over. As a defense you get a quarterback running all the way to one side of the field and he throws it all the way back to the other side of the field, that’s our goal. If you get that everyone should be happy. His just play-making ability is huge. I think what sticks out is a lot of time we see guys like that [and] they usually have a lot of turnovers but he doesn’t. He has seven interceptions on the year and he’s making so many big plays where there’s running around and running with the ball. He doesn’t lose the ball much on fumbles. I think that’s the tough thing with him. You hope a guy that’s trying to always make a play will have some mistakes, but he doesn’t make many mistakes either. It’s definitely going to be our toughest challenge of the year.
Q: When he’s pushing the edges, does he want to throw first and then run second?
DM: I think what’s tough about him is he doesn’t mind doing either one. If it’s too many guys in front of him, his head is down, he’s looking at them, but as soon as it clears up he’s right back downfield. You see a lot of maybe third-and-15s or third-and-16s where it’s almost like they know this play is probably going to last six, maybe eight, ten seconds and the receivers never stop. They might run a route and then as soon as they’re at the end of the route, they look back [and] they’re running another direction because it’s not just him. They understand fully that he’s going to stay alive and if we can get open we can get a big play. I think that’s the toughest part on the secondary of having a guy like that, but then having a whole receiving group that knows it and they’re either running deep or if they’re deep they’re coming back to him. We’ve really got to defend every part of the field.
Q: What have you seen from Brandon Browner this year? Has he made your job easier?
DM: Like I always say, he’s a great player. Whenever you add any type of great player to your defense especially the cornerback position, which is probably the toughest position to play in the NFL and really on defense, when you’ve got a guy that can go out there and cover guys and stop guys and then also be intimidating when a guy catches a ball or if a running back comes in their flat, it’s huge. He’s brought an edge to the defense. He’s continued to play at a high level all year. I think he deserves a lot of credit to sit out four games and then come back and fall back right in stride and bring something to [our] defense. It’s tough. Nobody wants to play all throughout training camp and then have to sit out and then try to come back. I thought B did a great job of that and he hasn’t missed a beat since he’s been back.
Q: A lot of your peers are doubting Tom Brady’s character. How do you deal with that?
DM: That they’re not playing with us so it doesn’t matter. I think we’ve learned this year that it can be a lot going on outside of this building, but if everything’s right inside of this building we give ourselves a chance to win. I think being in the Super Bowl is a prize example of that. After we lost to Kansas City, I don’t think there were many people that believed in Tom as a quarterback. It sounds crazy for me to say that right now and during that week it sounded crazy for us to hear it. That hasn’t changed and I think we’ve got to just continue to be that close-knit football team that is playing in the biggest game of the year and that closeness will give us a chance and help us win it.
Q: Does it surprise you that some pretty high profile professionals like Troy Aikman and Hines Ward are out there saying they don’t believe Tom?
DM: No – there were some pretty high profile pros doubting him as a quarterback too, so it all falls into the same group for me.
Q: When Brandon Browner came here his reputation was as a big hitter. From what you’ve seen do you think he’s more than that?
DM: To me you can’t just be a big hitter at cornerback in this league. You’ve got to be able to cover guys. I don’t care what type of defense you run [or] where they put you, you’ve got to be able to cover. In a league where we play teams that sometimes only run the ball maybe 10 or 15 times, every other play is a pass so you can’t hide guys. Everyone that is out there has to be able to do their job [and] when you get a guy that does his at a high level that makes your secondary even better. As a group I think each individual that has had a role for us has tried to perform at a high level and get the job done and that’s been the reason why we’ve been able to win games.
Q: You mentioned Tom in Kansas City, was that game the turning point?
DM: In a way I think just for us it was an opportunity to show our character as a team. We just used that as ‘We lost this one, it was a tough one,’ but to see how good of a team we are is all about how we bounced back.
Q: With as much as we hear about the ‘Legion of Boom,’ how nice would it be win the game and be able to say the Patriots were the better secondary?
DM: I think every game we go in that’s our goal. Whoever we play we want to be the best secondary on the field. It’s no doubt we’re playing against a very talented group, a group that’s proved to be the top secondary last year and this year so we take nothing away from them. I think our focus is all about playing great and being a great group next Sunday. Our best foot is going to definitely come forward and we’re going to be prepared and ready to go.
Q: What are the challenges of playing against a team that’s mentally tough and not afraid to play from behind?
DM: It’s like us I feel like. We’re playing a team that mentally they’re no different than us. There’s no game that they feel they’re out of. There’s no game they walk into and have any doubt that they can win the game. To me it’s going to be a test of both teams’ will, to just keep battling and whoever makes enough plays at the end of the day will probably be the winner. We know this is going to be a 60-minute contest no matter how the game starts – whether they jump out, we jump out, or it’s neck and neck. We know it’s going to come down to the end of game, probably some type of two-minute drive whether we’re on offense or defense – that’s what these games are. You’ve got a chance to win a Super Bowl, to be champions, nobody is giving up [and] everyone wants this.
Q: How is to play for someone like Coach Belichick who has been on this stage so many times?
DM: It’s huge. For us there’s no doubt in anything we do as far as schedule-wise or practice-wise. We just continue to do what we’ve done all year, just whatever Bill has for us that’s what we go out and do. So far that’s steered us in the right direction, so I think as a team sometimes you play in the biggest game you might have doubts, but we’ve got a leader that has done this plenty of times. He’s won these games so it’s all about listening and executing whatever game plan we have.
Q: What are your thoughts on Jeremy Lane’s comments that Rob Gronkowski is just an ‘OK’ football player?
DM: I can’t even comment on that one. I don’t know. I guess the best way to sum that up is everyone has their own opinion. We’ll see next Sunday.