On whether he feels LS Matt Katula is coming around with his snaps:"He had a very good practice today and yesterday. So yes, I do. I'm confident he'll play well."
On why the players didn't wear helmets at practice yesterday: "That's what Coach [John] Harbaugh asked them to do. That's why they weren't wearing their helmets."
On whether it was a lighter practice because they weren't wearing helmets:"Oh, you have to be smart if you don't have any helmets on. You're not going to do any face-up tackling drills then."
On whether they did that last week also: "I don't remember if we did that last week. I think we may have, yeah."
On how tough the kicking game is in a place like New England: "This time of the year, I mean, you're expecting to play, you're hoping to play in January. And when you find out where you're playing, you kind of have to deal with it. And the good part of playing in New England this time of the year is they have a good surface, and the kickers can plant, and the returners can cut. So, that's a little bit different than it has been in years past up there and [in] other places like that. So, it sounds like it's going to be a good winter day up there, and this is a fun time of the year to play. So, I think our guys will embrace the environment."
On whether he believes Coach Harbaugh enjoys matching wits with Bill Belichick: "I think any competitor would relish the opportunity to go up against a team like we're playing. I mean, they've had a great decade of football, and this is a wonderful challenge for not only the coaching staff but all of the players as well."
On whether Coach Harbaugh takes it more personally: "I honestly don't know. You'd have to ask him about that. I'm not sure how he would feel about it."
On whether he has been contacted by anyone from the Buffalo Bills organization, and if he is interested in being a head coach again:"Well no, not to my knowledge. And that is the furthest thing from my mind, as you guys know. Our focus is strictly on New England. But [I have] no problem talking about that after the season if you'd like. But this is too great a group of guys to be around to let my focus be anything but just win this football game."
On whether there is something about New England's defense that has allowed him to have success with his offenses against them: "Well, not to my knowledge. There is a bottom line to it all: We're going into this thing to win a football game, and I've got even more respect for their defense. These are the kind of defenses over the years you enjoy going against. From the first snap to the end of the game, it is – if you enjoy chess – it is the ultimate chess game for us as coaches. And I always enjoy the challenge of going against these guys."
On whether CB Shawn Springs and FS James Sanders have given New England a boost in the secondary: "In some ways. I thought they played earlier in the year with just tremendous enthusiasm, tremendous effort to the ball. And they had some young guys break down in some areas, which isn't uncommon. And I think the veteran guys have kind of come in and been a steadying influence for them, but we've seen that with this defense for years. The veteran players that come in there early, within a year, just come right in, and I think that's what they've done. They've just kind of given them maybe just a little bit more consistency."
On whether a balanced attack works best against New England:"Well, you go in… And that's a great point. We also had the most two-minute snaps [against New England in Week 4]. We've had three two-minute – technically three two-minute – series in that game, one at the end of the half, which was a long one, and then really two at the end of the game. Our defense got us the ball back after we basically just tripped over ourselves for a couple of plays, so I think that factored in. But in any game plan, you really want to be balanced. But you're not going to be balanced, just to be balanced. You start off, you want to be able to run it, you want to be able to throw it. How you're protecting, how they're defending you, all of those things factor in. You know, some of the best throws we made the other day were running plays because my instincts said throw it, throw it, throw it. But you just need to know this is a time to run it. Next thing you know, instead of getting the 77-yard completion, you're getting a 77-yard run. And so, you really never know how it's going to play out. So, balance would be the optimal."
On how he felt QB Joe Flacco played at Oakland: "I mentioned earlier, the one thing that I really asked of our guys was, having been in that stadium against that organization for a long time and knowing how good that defense really is, I just said, 'Offensively, we refuse… We will not put our defense in a compromising position. I don't care what we do. If we have to take a sack, fall down, throw an incompletion – we're going to punt that ball back to them.' Over the years, we've found that if you do that, you tend to get the ball back maybe as if you've scored a couple, or gotten a couple of first downs. I thought Joe [Flacco] took two great sacks and threw two great incompletions in the game because that was the game plan. There are some other games where you really have to take more risk than you want to. That game was a zero-risk game. I remember with Philip Rivers, we threw it 17 times with Philip Rivers, and everybody said the same thing. But he didn't turn the football over and we won the game, and that was the goal."
On if it's part of the maturation process to have his quarterback take some criticism that's not his fault: "Absolutely. That's what we do. That's what coordinators, head coaches and quarterbacks do. That's because we're really accountable to the big picture, and that's what we do. That goes with the territory. If you're not cut out for that, then you're probably going to have to do something else."
On if he's seen Flacco take the heat well for stuff like that: "I don't think he looks at it… That's just a part of what we do, and I'm not dodging the question. We don't look for praise. We expect criticism. We expect second-guessing. We expect all that stuff. That's what makes this game so great. The great thing is, he's cut out for that. He can move beyond criticism, and every guy really can't do that. It's probably hard for some of you guys, truth be known. Criticism is not for everybody."
On if protecting the ball more is part of the game plan for the playoffs: "No doubt. In the playoffs, that is a critical element. Sometimes the score, or the situation in the game, doesn't allow you to do that. An eight-point lead, or late in the game, if you happen to be… Depending what the score is, it can change a little bit. Obviously, you don't want to turn the ball over. There is no circumstance where you would want to turn the football over. There really isn't, but at the same time, you're not winning playoffs games going into a shell as a play-caller or going into a shell as a quarterback. I can't guarantee my score on this week, but those two things aren't going to happen."
On how Patriots NT Vince Wilfork changes things offensively: "He's a great player. He's a Pro Bowl player. It's like going against any great player. It's easier if you don't have to go against him, but I think we're pretty formidable up front, too, and Matt Birk's here for a reason. He's easily one of the best, too."
On if it's like preparing to block for Cleveland NT Shaun Rogers: "Yeah, similar. I think that's probably a good analogy. But at the same time, I'm not saying those two are one of the same. This guy is very poised. The one thing I like about him as a player: He understands what offenses are trying to do. He's not just some big guy in there clogging up the middle. He understands how he's being blocked and why he's being blocked the way he's being blocked, and then reacts to what you're doing. So, that's another one of those challenges going into the game."
On if head coach John Harbaugh and New England head coach Bill Belichick have more similarities than people think: "Obviously, Bill and our fathers worked together. So, I've known of Bill for a long time, actually, since I was like 13, believe it or not. It goes back that far, but I don't know him that well. I really don't. The one thing I do know is I'm working for a guy that's a great football coach, and I think everyone knows Bill is a great football coach."
On if he feels like when the Ravens play top teams, they hurt themselves with penalties, etc., more than the other team hurts them:"I know we've hurt ourselves. I've not looked at it where they hurt us more than us hurting ourselves. You just know, if we do a study at the end of the year, and see how many third-down conversions have come because of penalty, that's a big thing for us, getting off the field on third down. There [are] only so many opportunities to do that. If you let one slip, that really puts pressure on your on defense. I know our guys have worked hard on it. We, as a defense, have worked very hard on trying to do… Keep our hands off them and do the things, don't jump offsides, those kinds of things that, when you're in games and playing great offenses, you can't give them a second chance. After a while, that clock ticks, and it gets you. We've worked very hard on it."
On how he reminds the defense that the Patriots' offense shouldn't be taken lightly, even when banged up:"I don't have to say a word. When you're a Raven, and you get to this point, this is what you play for – the playoffs and go from there. We respect the Patriots. We know what they have offensively. We know what they have defensively, and we don't have to say a word to our players. They know what this is all about."
On how tough it will be to defend Patriots WR Randy Moss:"Yeah, you don't know what they're going to do offensively. [Julian] Edelman is, like everybody says, he's a [Wes Welker] clone. The good news is we've spent a lot of time watching that offense without thinking Welker was going to be in there, when we played them the last time. The offense doesn't change. I think what happens when a key player goes down like that, the players just talking about stepping it up. Somebody else has to step it up. Moss is a tremendous receiver. Our guys know they've got to be on their 'A' game. That's what happens when you make the playoffs."
On if having faced Patriots QB Tom Brady before will help in the game plan:"Yeah, that's this league. That's what's been interesting to me. This league, you've got tremendous, tremendous quarterbacks. They all, if you give them the opportunity to get hot, they'll all hurt you. We've got to, again, do a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback and play in coverage behind it. That's been the key to us when we've been successful – our guys working very hard at doing that."
On if he's mentioned Brady's strike zone to the players:"Coach [John] Harbaugh has done a tremendous job of addressing that. Our guys, I think, over the last three or four weeks have done that. I don't know that our players have ever tried to maliciously hit a quarterback. They just don't play football that way. They're as physical and as tough as anybody in the league, but they understand the rules, and they understand how they're supposed to hit quarterbacks. I hope we have this conversation afterwards, you know, 'How was the strike zone?' That's a goal for us."
On Patriots TE Ben Watson being a factor:"Very, very good receiver. Very good receiver. He's the kind of guy, if you do put too much in those other two guys when you're playing against both of them, you notice in the games, he's the guy that gets open down the seam. He's the guy that makes a big catch. In the red zone, he's been very efficient. He's also a very good receiver."
On the defense's progression over the course of the season:"I think anytime in this league, a defense either gets better or worse, depending on who steps up, because you're never going to go through the season 100-percent healthy. I think when you look back over the years, everybody starts out the same. Everybody starts out with pretty darn good football players. When the guys get nicked up or get hurt, then the next guy that steps up, our guys have taken great pride in that. They understand that if you're going to be in that Raven huddle, and if you're going to be a Raven defensive player, you better play at that level. And guys like [Dannell] Ellerbe, [Jameel] McClain, you can go right down the line, we've had a lot of them. Each and every one of them has started to step up and play the way we wanted them to play."
On how much more comfortable he is with LB Dannell Ellerbe:"He's improved a great deal. I think being on that field and being in that huddle, if you watch practice, a lot of that too is Ray Lewis.* *When you're playing next to Ray Lewis, and he understands the game so well, you'll hear him constantly talking: 'Look for this, look for that,' and I think if a young rookie is in there with another young guy, it's going to be a lot tougher. But, when you've got a guy that's as great a football player as Ray is there next to him, I'm sure he probably feels obligated to play better because he's a linebacker, and that's what Ray is. I think all those things go into it, too."
On if he senses that head coach John Harbaugh enjoys going into this chess match with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick:"Do I sense that? I think John Harbaugh looks forward to that every week. That's the kind of head coach he is. He understands that every game is a chess match and every game you've got to… You can't just go out there and play what you're playing. You've got to be able to be a step ahead of everybody, and he's done a great job of making sure our team knows that and making sure our coaches know that."
On what it meant to have director of player development O.J. Brigance, who is battling ALS, back at practice to break down the huddle:"First of all, with O.J., just to have him around is everything. I mentioned to him when he was coming out that this is going to be the kind of defensive game that O.J. is going to be proud of, just the way he played the game. It's just so great to have him out there. He's what the Ravens stand for. He is the Ravens, so when we have those kinds of people come out, that's special."