QB Brad Johnson
You upstaged Donovan McNabb on his own field; how does that feel? "This was all about our team. We came here October 20 and when I left here, I left with cracked ribs and now I walk away with an NFC title. I never really take the battle as between me and Donovan or any other quarterback. I take it as make the read, make the throw, give our team a chance to win, get completions and be consistent, and that's what I've done this whole season long. The improvement of our offensive line has been awesome this year. We have been 3?1 in every quart they are year, 6?2 in the first half, 6?2 in the second half. We're a very balanced team and we have progressed in the last eight games of the season, from the last Philadelphia game we have improved drastically as an offense, especially up front. That's been a big improvement and it's been the heart and soul of our team."
Can you talk about the game plan that you came up with to deal with the defense that everyone is talking about all week? "Philadelphia has an incredible team. There's a reason why they are 12?4, had home?field advantage. Their team has owned us last two times we've played them. We felt like every time we've played them, we have gassed it ourselves. They have some tremendous players, but whether we've turned the ball over or protecting or just making plays ?? we want came up here and felt confident and felt like we were going to come in here and get a win. They have some tremendous players but we are were going to attack at all costs and that's what we did. We switched up our protections from a three?wide set to a regular set all night long tonight. We only had one turnover battle again. I think we were No. 1 in the League this year and carried it over to the playoffs. A big thing for us tonight, we didn't panic after the Mitchell kickoff return, and we go right down the field and score and make it 7?3. We didn't panic again after the interception and scored on the third drive with Joe's 71?yard pass and then we score on the fifth drive. We were just making plays tonight. It's fun playing or Jon Gruden, I've talked about it, his attitude is contagious and it's carried over to our team and shows in our play."
Did you believe coming into the game today that the underneath routes would be so effective? "I hoped so. A lot of time against these guys they put you in third?and?long situations. You do that, they are going to blitz you and you are in for a hard night. They have made a lot of teams and quarterbacks look bad this year and in the past. The biggest thing to stay out of long situations, change up our protection constantly and just let guys make plays that's what we did. We won the turnover battle like I said and we made plays. Joe's play on the third possession really kind of gave us some confidence and I believe that ?? when Alstott scores on the one or two?yard run, first time we've squared up here in three or four games, that gave us confidence. When we came up here last time we were unsure what we were doing in protection schemes and we were improving ?? we kept talking, it's a work in progress, work in progress and it got better. It showed during the course of the second half of the season and it showed tonight."
Can you talk about Joe Jurevicius' effort just to be here, and then the catch he made in the first quarter? "Joe is a sparkplug. He made one catch tonight and he's Superman. That one catch, it's going to go down in Tampa Bay history. That 71?yard play, we actually caught him in a man?to?man combination route and against anyone he's very big, physical and we always talk about he gets yards after the catch. He goes down there, there was some great down?the?field blocking, and it seems like when he ?? after he gets a tackle, he's got his fist pumping and he gets up. Obviously he didn't practice all week long. I just love playing with the guy and it's a lot of fun seeing him do what he did to it tonight."
Can you offer any anecdotes of what Gruden brought to the team that's different from before? "Well, Jon talks in a lot of analogies and he communicates with anywhere from Warren Sapp to Keyshawn to me and those are three different personalities. And not only to the main guys; he gets to the guys you don't hear of. Our whole building is a different building. There's a buzz around there, just the way people come to work and what we were ?? what the expectations are around there. Some great things have been done in the past and Tony Dungy deserves all the credit building up to this. But Jon came in here and it's carried over to our team. I love playing for the guy. I felt like I've never been prepared going into a game as I do with Jon, and I'm still learning from the guy. It's a lot of fun to play with him.
"You know when I go into work every morning, I'm telling you, I wish we'd keep on playing through the month of February and March. I'm excited to learn when I'm with him. He's fun to be around. It's contagious. I'm in my 11th year of the League and I want to play through February and March. Not just because we won tonight, but that's the way it is every day when I come to work."
How is he funny? "It depends, he can be funny and he can be serious. You're never going to fall asleep in one of his meetings. He's either going to keep you entertained or you're going to learn; one of the two. He's up there drawing up plays on the board and the man has got a sweat ?? he's drinking Gatorade drawing up plays. He's intense about football. He loves it. It carried over. The guy is one of the most positive people I've ever been around. We lost the first game of the year this season to the Saints. It was a heartbreaker for our team; at home, his first game, a division game and the next day I'm in there, he's saying, "hey, we have got another game, you've got to get ready." He is "let's go." He never lives in the past; he's always "get better, get getter."
As much as this is a team victory how personally satisfying is this for you after all of these years and playing all of those years in the World League, now you're in the Super Bowl? "I really haven't thought about playing in the Super Bowl yet because I'm always about living for the moment.
"It probably won't hit me playing in the Super Bowl until about Thursday or Friday, to be quite honest. We were so geeked up playing for this game ?? all season long, that's the way my focus has been, what am I going to learn from Jon today, what's he going to teach me today. That's been my process. It's been fun, I think you've seen improvement as the season has come along. To make it to the Super Bowl is a dream come true for all of us.
"It's funny, when we played Chicago, one of the coaches said, you finally got a chance to live out your dream. I said it's not about me, it's about "we." We all have our chance to live out our dream and that's something special about our team."
CB Ronde Barber
Have you ever heard a stadium go so quiet on one play? "You're talking about the interception? No, I haven't. But it was pretty sweet. Considering it was this stadium, dealing with these fans the way we've had to deal with them for the past two or three years, it was a pretty sweet feeling."
Can you articulate what it means not to have the expectations on you that the Eagles did? "We have our own expectations. We try not to deal with what's going on in the outside world. Jon puts it on us. We are responsible to the people in our locker room and that's it. There's nobody in this world that gave us a chance, or at least nobody publically gave us a chance to win this football game. That makes it even more sweeter. We can cliche this thing to death about winning as an underdog, but we knew going into this game we were the better football team. He expressed that to us all week, and we went out and proved it."
Can you tell us what was said after that first drive? "You know what, people have driven on us before. That was a bad special teams play to start the game off, somebody slipping in a run gap on that touchdown. That's all it is. We deal with it on the sideline and get rid of it. We have 70 more plays to go. We knew that was not going to be a deciding factor, and as you can see we went out and dominated the rest of the game."
You talked about the reaction of the fans and what they have done to you here in the past, what were your thoughts when they booed the home team? "That happens, when you get dominated like the way we were dominated, I think someone gave me a stat, they were 5?for?16 on third down, playing our type of football, getting up there, playing zone, man, and we were winning every situation. They were frustrated.
"This is a crowd that just judging from what I've seen these two days I've been in town, they expected us to get dominated. Nobody gave us a chance to win. When you see your superstar quarterback struggling, your running back and receivers not gaining yards and converting on third down, yeah, they are frustrated. That played right into our hands."
Q. They seemed out of their rhythm . RONDE BARBER: I think we were just getting after them. We were playing a lot harder than they were and it showed our two sack fumbles that were game?turning plays, that's a characteristic of this defense. We create turnovers and score on defense when we get opportunities. It's nothing that's going to surprise us when we watch it on film. We have 11 great players on defense and it's always fun when we go out and dominate the way we did today.
Did you think that your defense was being disrespected all the way this week? "I don't know, this week, I think we get our due. I'm not going to lie. We have great players on our team and everybody knows we have great players, up front with Simeon and Warren and the secondary. There's no doubt we have great players and I think people recognize we have great players. It's just that every week, every week, we go out and say we have to out play our opponents defense and all we heard this week was how great the Eagles secondary was, three guys going to the Pro Bowl, whatever. It doesn't matter to us. We know we're the best out there and we prove it every week."
Talk about the emotions of being down and then you go back up 7?3, and then they get the ball in good field position? "Regardless of the circumstance, the situation, we have a job to do. We always have a job to do. If they get down in our red area, make them kick field goals. A touchdown at the beginning of the game is unacceptable and we know that. It's nothing that we are not accustomed dealing with and this team is a veteran, smart team and we are mature. That pay the dividends in situations like that."
Can you talk about what this means for the franchise? "For me it's hard to put it in perspective. A lot of people came into this game saying we have never won an NFC Championship, which is true, it's all true. You put this game on a pedestal and say this is the end?all but I took a completely opposite approach; this is another game for us. If we win this game, who cares? We've got something bigger we are looking for. We are on a path of destiny and we don't want to mess it up. This is a must?have game because of that."
Head Coach Andy Reid
On the loss "There's not a whole lot you can say. The guys battled like crazy this year and played very hard. It's my responsibility for us to perform better in this game, and I didn't get that part done. We'll get right back on it and figure out the reasons why."
On what caused the Eagles struggles offensively "There are a variety of things. I'm not going to get into all of them, but there are a variety of things. As I look at the film, I'll find some things."
On the struggles of the Eagles running game "They put a lot of emphasis on stopping the run and they did a good job with that. We weren't really effective there."
On whether he considered going on fourth down early as opposed to Lee Johnson's pooch punt "Not there, no. I thought that was the right thing. You're giving them a field of 97 some odd yards to drive against a pretty good defense."
On whether the games struggles offensively can be attributed to a bad day for Donovan McNabb, or the fact that the Tampa defense took a lot of things away from the Eagles offense "I'd probably say the latter. I didn't do a good enough job from my side of putting him in good positions. I need to do better there."
On the Eagle offense never finding its rhythm "I have to give credit to their defense. They did a nice job and we didn't get into rhythm. That's my responsibility – to get us into rhythm – and I didn't."
On the success of the Tampa passing game underneath "They had good match-ups under there. They were getting receivers on linebackers and that can be a positive for the offense."
On what he told the team after the loss "There's not much you can tell them. They've battled like crazy this year and I'm proud of them for that. We'll go back to the drawing board and try to get ourselves back into this position and then win the thing."
On his assessment of the performance by Donovan McNabb "I'll see it better after I look at it [on tape]. I know I could have helped him out there a little bit."
On when he will review the game tapes "There's a chance I'll look at it fairly quick. We'll have to see how things go here."
On whether he underestimated the talent of the Tampa offensive line "They did a good job. They did a good job of protecting Brad [Johnson] for the most part. In prior games, we got after him pretty good."
On whether he called the long pass play to Todd Pinkston that the Eagles scored on in their regular season win over Tampa "We called it a couple times. They did a nice job in the secondary on a play similar to that. They did a pretty good job with that."
On the Tampa no-huddle offense early in the game "It was effective for them. You have to give them a plus for that. They did a nice job with it."
On the disappointment in the Eagles locker room following the loss "Guys are going to be disappointed. When you go into a football game, you do everything possible to win that football game. You should feel disappointed at the end. When you get to this one, you also better understand that you've come this far. Not a lot of teams are playing today. As much as you're down, you come back with another opportunity next year and you try to get yourself in the same position and win it. Everything you want to look at pessimistically, you better look at it optimistically as well."
On the season ending on a single elimination playoff format "That's part of this business. Nobody wants this to happen. You want to go on and win the Super Bowl. That's what we were striving to do, and we didn't get it done. Are you going to be disappointed? Yeah, you're going to be disappointed. You have to step back up and you have an off-season to get things back together and get going."
QB Donovan McNabb
On the loss "You put all of the pressure on yourself. It had a lot to do with what we were doing on our side and it all starts with the quarterback. I'm very critical of my play and I know that I could have made a lot more plays out there, executed a little bit better and put us in a greater position to score."
On his injury having an effect on the game "I don't like to make excuses. I just feel that there were opportunities for plays to be made and I should have made them."
On whether his confidence level is down "Not at all. After going through what happened last year, the confidence level was definitely high coming into this game. For example, what happened early in the game; a great kickoff return from Brian Mitchell; us putting it in the end zone; the momentum was going our way. Obviously, it switched to their side, but there were opportunities for us to come and grab the momentum back and sustain a drive and put some points on the board, but there were penalties, there were mistakes and things of that nature that held us back. That's something that just can't happen in championship plays, and it definitely happened today."
On the hurt of losing the game "Ýes, it does (hurt). Knowing the situation, this being the last game here at the Vet, we wanted to make it special. Everything that's been happening this year, we thought that we were destined to get to this spot. Obviously, it didn't happen that way. It hurts a little but more this year, knowing the situation. The guys that we have on our team, we felt confident that this could be the year. But obviously, it didn't happen that way. You hate to say you learn from this and move on, but I guess that's something that you have to do. Not too many people get an opportunity to come back in the NFC Championship, but it happened today. We'll watch the film, obviously, and learn from it and get ready to start a new season when the time comes."
On what it's going to take to come back after losing in back-to-back NFC Championship games "You can't do nothing but comeback. You keep your head up and make sure the guys are ready when the time comes. Obviously, it's going to hurt but there's nothing you can do right now. There's nothing you can do but just move on."
On what he saw on the interception "The route which we were running it was a quick route, something where I could just get the ball out before anyone was covered. What they [Tampa defense] were doing all day is if you weren't looking to their side they were trying to fade inside to try to cut off the check down which was our running backs. Came right back ...I tried to put it into a position where [WR Antonio] Free[man] could get it, there just wasn't enough under it."
On the drive before he threw the interception "The momentum kind of went our way it was just mistakes that held us back. If it was a scramble here, a big play off a scramble, a guy catching the ball and turning up-field, we just felt that it was falling our way. Obviously penalties and everything held us back, but even after that we felt that it could be just one play to get us going and move us in the right direction."
On what he can learn from this game "I think when you have it in your home you have to take advantage of it. Opportunities that are there you have to take full advantage of those as well. There's nothing we can do right now. There's nothing we can do right now but continue to keep our heads up going into the off-season and use this as firepower to get better coming into the next year."
On Tampa being able adjust on defense "They did a wonderful job. Watching the film, obviously not many teams run some of the things that we run with some of the guys that we have. Obviously, the West Coast offense is big but people put their own wrinkle into it. They [Tampa] did a wonderful job of exchanging on some of our crossing routes. They also did a good job of if a guy was to come underneath and you see Antonio coming across the field, to switch that off as well. They were doing some different things. We went on the sideline and made some changes but there were opportunities to make plays in that game. Me being the quarterback, and the leader of the team, I have to make them."
On what he felt after the fourth-quarter interception "After everything that was going on, you're driving down and getting some big plays, you're putting yourself into position to score. On a three-step drop he undercuts it and all of a sudden you see him [Tampa CB Ronde Barber] running the other way. You don't believe that it's happening but it actually is. We went back out there and we felt we could have possibly put some points on the board, maybe get an onside kick and get it again and drive again, but they did a good job of eating up some clock."
On not running many counter plays or reverses "They did a wonderful job of stopping the run. They put eight guys into the box and the difference between this game and the last game was that they were tackling well. A couple of games early on, we were able to make some moves and make some guys missed. They secured the tackles this time. After you go down 17-10 obviously you have to change up your offense a little bit and put some pressure on them so that you're able to run the ball. We weren't able to do that."