DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD BOWLES
(On preparing for Saints QB Taysom Hill's versatility)
"It's tough. He can do a lot of things. He's a very good athlete as well as a very good quarterback. He's a very good running back too, and he runs routes. You've got to know where he is at all times and he's just one of the many weapons that they have."
(On having WR Travis Jonsen replicate Hill in practice this week)
"He's big enough, obviously he's quick enough. He's not as big as Taysom, but he fared pretty well. He can run the ball very well – he's got some speed on him – and when he lines up at the wideout spots, he can do a lot of things for them. You can imitate him as close as possible, but it's not the real thing."
(On where the defense needs to improve from the Wild Card Round against Washington)
"I thought we busted some plays in the second half [and] I think we let the quarterback out of the pocket a couple times in the second half and let him run from that standpoint. I thought we busted a couple of coverages that led to some points."
(On the energy and play-making ability LB Devin White brings in his return)
"Any time you get a starter back, it's great – especially the quality of Devin with the production he's had this year. To lose a guy like that – there's a big hole in the defense, so we're happy to have him."
(On where the defense has improved the most since its Week 9 game against New Orleans)
"Just maturity. You learn something from every game as it goes along. We've got a lot of young guys back there from a maturity lesson and learning standpoint – and hopefully a patience standpoint. You learn a lot more going forward and it builds more character. You don't want it to take getting your butt kicked to build character, but some of these games are important that you build things like that and you learn from them."
(On what the coaching staff can do to prevent the team from doubting its ability to beat New Orleans)
"We're in the right frame of mind – we don't have any doubts. That's one thing we don't have – doubts. We're going to go in with guns blazing, we're going to play hard and they're going to play hard, so it should be a heck of a football game. We should be able to handle the ebbs and tides of the football game. Not everything is going to go our way – we've seen that throughout the season and the guys have responded, so that's all we can go off of and that's how we're going to play it."
(On if there is anything he wishes he would have done differently against New Orleans in the regular season)
"I wish we would've won. That's all I can take off of it. Now it's in the past, so we move forward."
(On if he feels he may expect too much from the young players in the defensive secondary)
"No. You expect a lot from guys because you want to win. That's easy – that's just coaching. You expect a lot from your guys as the season goes forward. You expect a lot from the coaches [and] you expect a lot from the players – that's just part of it. They understand that and they know that as well as the coaches know that. It's all inclusive – when they fail, we fail and when we fail, they fail. It's all tied together and we're trying to win this thing."
(On QB Tom Brady and Saints QB Drew Brees competing against each other in the year 2021)
"It's a credit to those guys. Their health, they take care of themselves, their bodies and the mental part of the ballgame. They're very competitive and they've been very successful, so that's a credit to how those guys prepare."
(On if he finds Sunday's game to be special)
"No. We're playing the Saints – I don't look at all the other stuff. We're playing the Saints' offense and that's it. We're going to try to win the game that way and whatever else happens, that's for everybody on the outside to compare. We're just trying to play a good ballgame on defense."
(On what went wrong for the defense in its regular season games against New Orleans)
"The first game, we actually played pretty well. It kind of got away at the end, but it was one of our better defensive games. The second game, it was one of our worst defensive games. We did a lot of things right in the first game, but we still lost. We didn't do anything right in the second game and we still lost, so hopefully we learn from that going forward and try to make Round 3 a better game."
(On if he has to gameplan for both Saints QB Drew Brees and QB Taysom Hill)
"Yeah, you do. They have a lot of guy you have to gameplan for, so you've got to understand who is where and where is what. Sean [Payton] does a great job of moving those guys around, personnel and those type of things. He gets a lot of guys involved, so it takes all 11 guys to be very disciplined and we've just got to make some plays."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BYRON LEFTWICH
(On if New Orleans' confidence after winning both regular season games gives them an advantage entering Sunday's game)
"I can't really speak for how they feel and how they should feel about this [game]. We're going to accept responsibility for the times we've been here and haven't found a way to win. This is a whole new ballgame Sunday night, so all we can do is prepare, get ourselves ready to roll and that's what we're doing. We're getting ready to play a tough football team – a team that's been together a while now. These guys have been in a lot of these situations together – coaches and players – so we know what we're up against. It's exciting for us to have this opportunity to compete against a team like that, so we're going to do what we need to do to get ready this week and get ready to roll Sunday evening."
(On what QB Tom Brady is like during the postseason)
"Very similar to the regular season guy. He approaches it the same way week in and week out, and that's probably why he's been so special for so long. The way he views the game of football and the way he prepares for the game of football – it doesn't matter if it's Week 2, Week 16 [or] playoffs. He's always going to be ready to play and put us in a position to have as much success as possible. I don't really see a difference because the way he approaches it is the way everyone should approach it week in and week out."
(On G Aaron Stinnie replacing G Alex Cappa)
"He kind of reminds me of 'Cap' (Cappa). People didn't know Cap too much either until the past couple of years or so. He plays physical – he's a physical guy. We like the way he plays the game. Obviously, it hurts us any time you lose a guy like Cap. Cap was good for us not just on the football field. He's just a good human being, a good player [and] he's always giving off good energy. That was tough for us [and] that was tough for me – just having the guy that gives you everything and then [you] lose a guy like that. That's tough, but that is football. We believe in Stinnie – I believe he'll be ready to roll. He works his tail off every day [and] he's a physical guy, so we'll see."
(On working with QB Tom Brady, being a part of Brady's legacy and if it concerned Leftwich)
"That's a fearful way of thinking. I was thinking 'Man, I get to work with Tom Brady.' It all depends on how you look at it. I was never nervous about the situation – I was more excited to have a guy who has been as accomplished as he has been and have an opportunity to coach him. I guess some guys look at it that way – I looked at it as the complete opposite. I saw it's an opportunity to coach and learn from a guy who is, obviously, the best to ever play. That's how I saw it [and] that's how I looked at it. Nothing to me had any fear [and I] had no doubt at all of being able to work with him. Having the opportunity to work with him is a great thing."
(On how his relationship with Brady has grown throughout the season)
"It's great. I think what helps is we're around the same age. We like the same type of things, we see life kind of the same [having] grown up in the same area [and have] seen the same things. We just clicked from the time that we had an opportunity to work with each other. It's a lot of respect there. I have a lot of respect for Tom – there's a lot of respect – [and] I think it's the other way, too. We just work our butts off every day trying to put our team in the best position to win football games. It's exciting every day to come to work for a guy like this. It's just a blessing every day when you come to work because we're going to come in here, we're going to put the work in that we need to put in, we're going to enjoy it while we do it and we're just going to see where that takes us."
(On C Ryan Jensen's play this season and if he is playing better than he did last season)
"I think if anything, he's playing smarter. Ryan was a guy that was always giving you everything that he had. He competed at a high level, but what you see more his year is he's playing a smarter game. He's not getting caught up in the game with stuff that's dealing with things that's not conducive to winning football games. He's really locked in on that. I guess with the guys that we have around him, with his growth [and] with his leadership, I think he kind of knew, 'I've got to be the leader of these guys up front. If I am, I can't be the guy that's getting 15-yard penalties late after plays and all that.' That's where I see the biggest difference. He's always been a really good football player. He played great for us last year, he's playing great right now, so I just want him to keep doing what he's doing. He leads us. He's the first guy to touch the ball, he gets in and out of the huddle the right way with the right energy week in and week out and we appreciate that as coaches."
(On opposing defensive coordinators having to gameplan against the depth Tampa Bay has offensively)
"I really don't think like that. I really don't worry about what the coordinator is thinking on the other team. I just try to put my guys in position to be honest with you. Play in and play out, let's put my better players in the best position at what they do better from a skillset. Let's try to get them the ball and let's try to put them in position so they can make football plays. That's really how I see it. I've got a lot of respect for the coaches around this league – there's some very good coaches around this league and I know we've all got to put the work in. I just try to worry about the things that we need to do as an offense to win football games."
(On how critical the offensive line's performance has been in the team's five-game winning streak)
"I think any quarterback that has four seconds [to throw] – it's beneficial to them. I think these guys have been playing at a high level all year, really. We've got a tough task ahead of us Sunday, but with that being said, these guys come to work every day, they play their tails off week in and week out. Sometimes we won [and] sometimes we lost, but nothing has changed with them. The way we're approaching the game is going to be the same week in and week out. We're here to get better and win football games, and they take that approach. They work their tails off a lot. Throughout practice you always see them doing drills [and] doing things together, collectively, to allow them to play well on Sunday. As a coach, you've got that appreciation for a group of players to be able to go out day in and day out [and] put the work in that's needed to be done so that we can play well week in and week out."
(On what makes New Orleans' pass rush effective)
"The players that they have. Obviously, they've got good football players with their hands in the ground [who are] trying to get to the quarterback. They have a really good scheme, so they're well coached. They have a lot of good football players – that's what it is, really. This game comes down to football players. You win and lose football games and this time of year it's good on good, so we understand that it's going to be another good on good football game Sunday evening. My guys are trying to get ready to roll [and] get ready for the ballgame. [We are] just ready to have fun Sunday evening."
(On the difference in the offense when RB Ronald Jones II is available)
"I think he's one of the better runners of the football in this league when he's healthy. I think that's what he is. Any time you don't have the opportunity to have that type of guy, it's tough. We'll see. Hopefully we have the opportunity to have him out there, but we'll see. RoJo is a special guy with the football in his hands. The more guys we can have to put their hand in the pile to try to help us win this football game, the better."
(On if QB Tom Brady's interceptions this season against New Orleans were primarily due to the pressure their defense put on him)
"Just watching, I think there's a combination of a few things. But, it doesn't matter at this point. It doesn't matter at this point what really has happened in the past. We're more focused on Sunday [and] what we need to do Sunday to find a way to win this football game. None of them really matter – not just against this team that we're playing, but all of them. The touchdowns don't even matter – nothing matters. We've got to do what we need to do to try to find a way to win a football game Sunday evening."
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
(On Saints QB Drew Brees' familiarity with New Orleans' offensive system and how that plays to his advantage)
"I've always said [that] continuity is the key in the NFL because there's so many situations that come up on a weekly basis. For you to have the years of experience with a play-caller to think, 'Oh, this is exactly how we're going to handle this particular situation on the fly.' You don't have to wait until Monday to correct it. I think situational football is really important and you can't cover 1,000 situations every week because you're just guessing at what the situation will be. At least in my past, I looked at those and say, 'Hey, remember this in 2014? Those same things happened six years later.' You can't really do those things [in a new system]. Whether it's offense, defense or special teams, all of those things are really important. They won the division, they're a great football team, [have] great coaches, a great system [and] so many great players. Their defense is a phenomenal – a top-five defense, basically, in every category. Great rush, great cover linebackers, they blitz well, a lot of continuity in the secondary [and] a lot of ballhawks in the secondary. They've been one of the top teams in the league for a long time and they've had some tough playoff losses [on] some really fluke plays. Other than that, there's not a lot of bad about this team. They're pretty spectacular."
(On where his pre-snap and non-verbal communication is with his teammates compared to earlier in the season)
"I think we've certainly come a long way. I think we're just going to keep improving. The more we're together, the more we're talking about football, the more we're trying to be on the same page, the better it is. It's a complex game – there's a lot of moving parts [and] there's a lot of coordination involved between a lot of different positions. I think the quarterback-receiver relationship is really important. The more that I've been around Mike [Evans], Chris [Godwin], Antonio [Brown], 'Scooter' (Scotty Miller), Tyler [Johnson], 'Mick' (Jaydon Mickens) – the better it gets. The tight end position, I've been around Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) for a long time – I know exactly what he's thinking [and] how he looks. Cam [Brate] is a pretty easy guy to get up to speed with, too. We're just going to keep trying to make improvements. We've got a big test this weekend [against] one of the great teams in the NFL [who has] consistently been one of the great teams for a long time. We're going to have to go play a great football game."
(On if he uses QB Drew Brees' success as motivation to continue in his career)
"He's a lot younger than me – he's 18 months younger than me. 18 months ago, I felt pretty good, so I've got a little advanced age on him – and experience. I'm hanging in there. He's had a terrific year. He's a great player – I've known him for a long time. I've always had a great amount of respect for him going all the way back to his Purdue days. My roommate when I first got to the Patriots was from Purdue and was really good friends with Drew. I always just kept up with him and have gotten to know him somewhat well over the years. I just think so much of him as a person and as a player. I know what it takes to do what he's doing [and] he knows what it takes to do what I'm doing. I think there's just a lot of mutual respect."
(On the importance of limiting turnovers in this matchup with the Saints)
"It's big for both teams. Turnover margin – out of all of the stats – I think that one always speaks to wins and losses just about more than any other stat. Taking care of the football maximizes your ability to score. Taking the football away minimizes their ability to score. It's very difficult to score if you don't have the ball. If you give the ball away, it gives them more chances to score. When you play good teams it always comes down to that. That's a big point of emphasis – we've got to protect it in the passing game. That responsibility obviously falls on the quarterback, but it falls on a lot of other people too. It falls on all of us making a concerted effort to be on the same page in the passing game, so that we can play with anticipation [and] play with confidence. There [are] a lot of things that go into that. Obviously in the running game, same thing – [running] backs taking care of the ball, making sure there is no free runners at the back, so he has the ability to protect himself and the football. Hustling to the ball, which means if there's a ball knocked out, we've got to be there to recover it. It's more than just an individual thing, it's really a team thing. That goes both ways on defense too. You need a lot of guys hustling to the ball in case the ball does get knocked out, [so] you have guys there to recover. The pass rush and the coverage all work together. The faster you can get to the quarterback, the quicker the quarterback has to make a decision, the less sure the quarterback is [and] the better opportunity that is for the defenders to get hands on the ball. Those are both team stats and they're critically important to the success of the team. The turnover margin will obviously play a big role in the outcome of the game."
(On losing G Alex Cappa last weekend due to an injury, and his toughness as a player)
"One of the tough guys we've had on our team. We've had a really great group up front, [including] guys who have filled in at different times. 'Cap' has been there really the whole year [and] had a tremendous year. [He is] a tough, hard-nosed football player. I know when he got knocked down it was hurting him, [but] I didn't know what it was. Then he said, 'No, I'm staying in and playing.' He didn't even make a sound. It was like, 'Cap, what happened?' 'Oh nothing, I'm just going to keep playing.' Then he tried to stand up on it and he was like, 'Ah, I can't.' Nobody really knew the extent of what the injury was until after the game. That's a tough injury for him. He has done an incredible job for us. It's a tough role to take over at this point in the year, but we're going to do the best we can do. It gives some other guys different opportunities to step up, but everyone hates seeing him out and really appreciates what 'Cap' brings to our team."
CENTER RYAN JENSEN
(On how he feels the offensive line has played over the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs)
"It's kind of the ebb-and-flow of the season as a whole unit, but as a unit, I feel like since the Bye Week we've really been putting games together. That's really what it is – gaining that momentum, continually playing and being next to each other has been huge."
(On what he has gained from his journey as a Division II college player to starting in the NFL Playoffs)
"For me, coming from a small town in Northeast Colorado, not getting a D1 look [and] going to a Division II school at CSU-Pueblo – for me it's always kind of that chip on my shoulder to improve and to prove a lot of people wrong. Coming from a Division II school, I never really had anything given to me, so I always kind of approached the game that way and attacked the game with that kind of passion of trying to prove people wrong."
(On G Aaron Stinnie and how Stinnie's career path has followed similar to his own)
"My first start came in, I think, Week 12 of my third year. Stinnie is a pro and he's continually trying to get better throughout practice. Being a young guard and being able to watch Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa – who has really come along the last two years – it teaches you a lot sitting behind those guys [about] how to do the job, how to approach game week and stuff like that. Stinnie has been doing that. He wants to get better every day and he has gotten better. I have the utmost confidence in Aaron stepping in."
GUARD AARON STINNIE
(On his preparation for making his first NFL start)
"To do this, when you're in that backup role, you're pretty much preparing the whole year for a moment like this. You always want to prepare yourself as though you are going to be the starter that week so that there is no surprise or shock to yourself when that moment [comes] that you have to go in. So, I've definitely been preparing for a while. As far as this week, I'm definitely trying to dive [deeper] into things, but it's kind of just sticking with the same routine and program that I've been doing. I feel like what I've been doing all year long has been preparing me mentally and physically for the game, so I'm just trying to keep with those roots on it."
(On his reaction to G Alex Cappa going down and getting the news that he would be starting this week)
"It's like mixed emotions when that happens because 'Cap' – that's my homeboy. I hate to see him go down, but I want to be able to go out there and do him proud. I'm definitely excited for the first start – to be able to go out there and do what I can. I want to help put my hand in the pile and fill in."
(On what he has learned from guards Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet over his two seasons in Tampa)
"I've learned a ton from both of them. They're great guys to learn under. Each of them has a ton of knowledge, a ton of experience and they're both really great players. I like to pick both of their brains as much as I can, learning different techniques [and] different styles. It's insane the amount of knowledge and technique that I've been able to learn from them – just different things that can arise here and there in the game and just in practice. It's been awesome to be able to learn from them."