Note: The following release is courtesy of the Patriots Media Relations Department
Q: After the last game vs. Houston, you talked about having a chip on your shoulder and there was too much talk about the Texans leading into that game…
JM: Obviously we’re still trying to – those guys have won a playoff game and we’re 0-0, so I guess that’s our chip. We know a hungry Texans team is going to come in here ready to play. I’m sure those guys have been talking all week on how they want to play this game. We know the last game could’ve been a lot closer than it what it was. There were plays in the game that just kind of bounced our way. We know this is a good team coming in and we have to be prepared and ready to go.
Q: Is the defense better now than it was at the start of the year?
JM: Obviously when you get a group of guys together for an extended period of time, you’re going to get better. But, there are also things we had to improve at – especially communication, getting on the same page and doing things like that. But overall, that’s probably a question you have to ask Coach [Bill] Belichick. I’m not really sure.
Q: Can you talk about Arian Foster’s ability to create his own opportunities and what that does to a defense?
JM: You know, Arian’s great. He makes a lot of cuts where he makes the offensive line look good, but they’re also a good offensive line as well. He’s such a patient runner. I like to liken his running style to water. He’s not that guy that’s going to stick real hard. He’s going to be patient until the hole develops and he makes the whole team better.
Q: How much did the big lead affect their running game last time or was it a matter of executing the defense’s game plan against him?
JM: Obviously they started off the game with two big runs. I think one of them was called back on a penalty, but they did an excellent job. When you’re playing catch up, it kind of makes a team one-dimensional. I think that’s what kind of happened in that game.
Q: How do you raise your edge from the end of the season through the bye week to this week?
JM: Obviously you have to talk about it, but I think that the sense of urgency is there. We have a young team but guys have been playing a lot of games and the coaches are doing an excellent job making sure everyone knows: ‘You’re one play away from being at home.’ I think guys are ready to go.
Q: This season the defense has forced and recovered a lot of fumbles. Is there a skill to getting on the ball?
JM: We practice these things every day. Going against a great offense, we practice getting balls out. But like you said, it is tough recovering those fumbles. I think guys like Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich, I think they have five apiece. They have a special knack at getting on the ball and have been doing a good job all year.
Q: What are the challenges of going against an offense you just faced a couple weeks ago?
JM: Obviously, they know what we’re going to do, but we know them as well. I’m sure there will be a couple different wrinkles but the personnel is pretty much the same from the last time we played them. They have a couple guys coming back. We know each other. It’s kind of like a division game [when] you play a team twice in a couple weeks.
Q: In what ways has Arian Foster’s game grown since college?
JM: I’ve always thought highly of Arian as a running back. Obviously now you guys get to see what the can do. I went against him every day in one-on-ones [at the University of Tennessee]. I think he’s always been a good player.
Q: Has his game changed at all?
JM: I mean, he’s probably more patient now. He’s lost a couple pounds. He might have been a little heavier in college. He’s faster now as well. He’s doing a lot of different things. He’s catching the ball well out of the backfield, just an overall good running back.
Q: He said he modeled his work ethic after you. Did you know about that?
JM: Well to be honest with you, when we first came into school, we weren’t – it wasn’t like, ‘We’re here, rookies, we’re best friends.’ What happened was he was always at the facility late and I was always at the facility late. So it was kind of like, ‘Well, we’re both here at 8 o’clock at night so we might as well work together.’ That’s kind of how it happened.
Q: What do you see in Matt Schaub?
JM: I see a guy who’s throwing the ball well. The play-action is great. He can throw the ball deep. He has a lot of weapons on the outside and also on the inside. He’s throwing the ball well, making all the checks at the line of scrimmage, great with recognizing what the defense is doing. He’s playing well for them.
Q: Schaub has struggled a little bit late in the season. What have you seen from him in the last several games?
JM: Well to me, he’s still making all the throws. I can’t really sit here and say he’s really doing that much different than the early part of the season. The play-action game’s still going. Guys are just, I guess, making plays on the defensive side of the ball, some of those balls, but he’s making all the throws.
Q: When he is on like he was earlier in the year, what is he capable of?
JM: He’s tough. Anytime that team is two-dimension, anytime they have the running game going, the play-action opens up. They like to take a lot of shots down the field. They can eat up yards very fast.
Q: Do you almost have to forget about that last game?
JM: Oh, definitely. That’s not even in our mind to be honest with you. Obviously you have to watch the film to see what happened, see what plays hurt us. We still were hurting some of those plays and we still had people running free down the field that could have been big plays. You have to take some of those plays, but at the same time, you have to be ready to know that this is the playoffs. It’s different; you’re one play away from being at home.
Q: What has Rob Ninkovich brought to the team at his new position? How has he improved from last year?
JM: He’s an overall smarter player. He’s doing a lot of different things as far as the communication aspect. He’s getting guys lined up, he’s helping with that. He’s always been a good pass rusher. I’m not an overall great evaluator. That’s another question you have to ask Coach Belichick, but he’s really helped us this year - the sacks, the strips, the fumble recoveries, things like that
Q: What have the young guys like Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower brought to this defense?
JM: Some great dances [Laughs]. No, those guys really bring a lot of energy. Those guys are hungry. Those guys have really kind of fit in very well. They came in trying to learn as much as they could. I always talk about when I came in as a rookie trying to be a sponge and learn as much as I could and those guys have done the same.
Q: What has Chandler Jones brought to the team?
JM: Oh man, he’s one of the first guys here and one of the last to leave. As you can see on the field, it’s really paying dividends.
Q: Specifically, what has Chandler done from the beginning of the year to now where he has made improvement?
JM: Well, when he’s healthy, he can rush the passer. He’s a long guy. He’s doing a lot of different things. The coaches, as the season goes on, they start to place more on these rookies and I think he’s doing a good job handling that.
Q: With one more win, Tom Brady will become the all-time winningest quarterback in postseason history. What have you seen from him that does not make you surprised to hear that?
JM: Yeah, he’s one of those guys who’s in early and out late as well. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback and he’s still putting in the work, putting in those long hours.
Q: What about how he has raised his level in the postseason?
JM: I mean, it’s a joy to watch from the sideline anytime we’re able to catch our breath and he’s moving the ball down the field and that offense is at work. He gets better as the game goes on once he figures out the defense and does a good job.
Q: Is it important to understand you have to play conservatively at some points in these playoff games because it is a one-game season, but still take the risks when a play is there to be made?
JM: Definitely. You know, those are calculated risks that you have to take. Especially, I think the biggest thing for us is third down, getting off the field and getting that ball back in our offense’s hands.