Heading into their matchup with the Ravens, both New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork talked about some hot topics surrounding their team.
Here are some highlights from this week's conference call with media:
Head Coach Bill Belichick
What are your thoughts about the Ravens playing without Ed Reed on defense?
*BB: *"There's no way that I could understate his playmaking and just playing ability. But they've done a great job defensively. They're strong as usual in every area – good against the run, good against the pass, third-down, red area's been exceptional. They play well on their side of the field. They've had a few field position situations where they come in on short field and kept their opponents out of the endzone. You've just got to give a lot of credit to the entire unit.
"It's about all 11 guys doing a good job and playing together – being physical, tackling well, playing good situation defense. They do all those, led by Ray Lewis. He's got a lot of help. It's a strong front and a good, competitive secondary. They've got a lot of good football players. They already play well; they're well-coached; they're tough."
How do you think Joe Flacco has developed as a quarterback from his rookie season?
*BB: *"Joe's an impressive guy; he stands in the pocket, he's strong, he's athletic, he makes some plays with his feet, he's got a good touch on the deep ball and does a good job of throwing the ball underneath on possession-type situations and can execute their passing game. Whether it's the short, intermediate game or whether it's the deeper, play-action and long-yardage, third-down game. So, he's done a solid job for them, and the bottom line for a quarterback is doing the right things that your team needs you to do to win, and he's done a real good job of that.
"That's really how quarterbacks, I think, should be measured, is based on whether they can get their team to win games, and he's been a big part of the Ravens winning."
How does Deion Branch fit into your offense now that Randy Moss is gone? BB: *"It comes down to team offense. How our team performs offensively. And that includes everything – the running game, the passing game, receivers, tight ends, backs, you name it. We'll try to have everybody involved the best way we can match up against the Ravens. Deion's been a good player in this league. We have some history with him, obviously. I think he brings a lot of positive attributes to our football team. We'll take him and whoever the other 10 guys are out there when he's out there, [and] just play better as a team than the Ravens. That'll be a big challenge for us."
*Is there a revenge factor for this game after what happened in the playoffs last year? BB: "The game sticks with all of us. We split with them last year, but they won the one that mattered the most. It was a great performance by them in the playoffs and not a very good one by us. They were clearly the better team that day, and they deserved to win. There's no question about that. It's a new season, new game. We'll see how this one comes out."
What does it mean to have such success after bye weeks?BB: "I don't think it means much. It's a new game. I'm sure the Ravens don't care about that record or anything else. Right now, it's just all about this one game. So, we're going to prepare for it and use our time the best we can. Everybody gets one during the year. Whenever it hits, it hits, so you try to take advantage of the time you get with that week. Sometimes, you're playing on the long end of it. Sometimes, you're playing on the short end of it. We'll have that later on in the season, but that's football. I think seven days is enough time to get ready for a football game in this league. That's the way it is 16 out of the 17 weeks."
*Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork
Are you motivated more by the Ravens' playoff win at New England last year?VW: *"No, last year was last year, and that's how we're keeping it. It's a good film to pick out a few things to go over and cover, just to see the way the Ravens play football. But as far as dwelling over it? No. We're way past that. This is a different Ravens team; they added so much firepower on offense, and then their defense is always one of the best in the league. And I think hands down, they're probably one of the best teams in the NFL right now. So, we've got our work cut out for us, but at the same time, hopefully we can get to work on Sunday and walk away with a 'W.'"
*What do you think makes Ray Rice so effective? VW: *"Well, first of all, he does everything in the backfield that a back can do. A lot of times you have a back that's one dimensional; either he can run or catch. But this guy, he can do it all. On third downs he doesn't have to come out of the game, and he's just a low center of gravity. He's a tough runner. And you know what, you've got to give a lot of credit to the offensive line, too. They're one of the best around; they play well together, they're tough, they're physical, and they want to pound the rock. So, we know coming into this game that we're pretty sure they're going to do what they do. And that'll be physical, play fast, be aggressive. That's what they do, and why change it now?"
*What has Flacco done to avoid sacks and what can you do to sack him? VW: *"Well, he is doing a really good job of getting the ball out and letting his receivers and backs make plays in the passing game. He's getting better as time goes on. He's going to be another good one down the road. And for us, we've got to put pressure on him. Every week we go in saying, 'Hey, we've got to control this, we've got to control that.' But this week, it's like we've got to control everything.
"With how explosive this offense is, they can score on one play, and they can score in a hurry. But Flacco is going to make sure he gets the ball to his playmakers, and his playmakers are going to make sure they are that playmaker. We've got our hands full, but at the same time, this is NFL football. We've just got to be prepared."
*Do you remember what went wrong for your defense on Rice's opening-play, 82-yard TD run in the playoffs? VW: *"No, I can't remember what went wrong there. But I'll tell you what, it was a crease that he hit, and then it was a regular play. I mean, we played that play 100 times before and it's just a crease he hit and then was out of the gates. So, yeah just little things like that. We'll learn from the past, and that's something that we'll try to do this week, because last year was last year, and it's a whole new season."
*Does losing Randy Moss make any difference as far as the team is concerned?VW: *"We're way past Randy. I mean, it's about the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens right now, so that's old in this locker room."