Jan 16, 2014 8:00 AM by Jordan Mason
HEAD COACH JOHN FOX
On how the Patriots have reinvented themselves with a balanced run/pass offense
"I think, first of all, it's a great franchise. This is their third appearance in a row in the [AFC] Championship game. [Head Coach] Bill Belichick and his staff have done a tremendous job - have for some time now - [and it is] no different this year. They've had a lot of things happen to their football team, just like we have had a lot of things happen to our football team, and I think that they've done a tremendous job kind of reinventing as far as the run game. They've lost pass-catching tight ends and have incorporated some guys that are doing a really, really good job in the run game. They roll the whole stable of backs throughout the season. They've kind of settled in on [RB] LeGarrette Blount who's a really physical downhill runner we're familiar with from his days in Tampa Bay. Bill has adjusted - that's why he's going to be in the Hall of Fame."
On if he saw issues with the roster when he arrived in Denver
"I can't really speak, other than obviously, there's some things you always have to improve on every year. Things don't stay the same in this league. There's different guys, changes, coaches, players. There were things that needed to be done. I remember we lost in the playoffs in New England that year, and it was a pretty good indicator of how far we had to get moving. I think our personnel people, this whole building - starting with the Owner Pat Bowlen - have had tremendous success here over the years. We were able to adjust and better fill our roster, and it's a lot of hard work by a lot of different people."
On what stands out about New England's pass defense
"I think they've improved. They're young, they're athletic. Again, they've adjusted on that side of the ball as well even from the last time we played them. [LB Brandon] Spikes went on [Injured Reserve] and [they] brought in [LB Jamie] Collins, who's a guy we liked in the draft. He's very, very athletic - good size. I think in the secondary they've done a tremendous job, and because they were youthful and all those snaps make you better, they've definitely improved."
On what allows teams to keep playing well despite losing key players
"I think it's the guys at the bottom half of the roster now that are all of a sudden the front part of the roster. I think, obviously, coaching comes into play. I think you have to have a strong staff [and] some continuity in your system. You're not making wholesale changes every week. Really, it's a tribute to the players, one, and I think the coaching staffs."
On how WR Wes Welker has filled the role that they envisioned for him
"He's been exactly what we thought we were getting. Even people in the New England organization said that we would enjoy coaching him, and we have. He came in, made a pretty big impact. The fact that he was voted captain and just got here is a pretty good indicator of what his peers and teammates think of him. He's fit in in exactly what we thought he would be, and that's important."
On what he likes in CB Marquice Cole
"Well, at this point in the season it's the guys you've got on the practice squad position open. You're limited in [that] a lot of people have signed futures [contracts]. You have the 10-day dead period that you can't sign people when they're released. In the case of Marquice, he was a guy that's been playing. He's in shape, he's fit. He's the best available guy for the position we needed."
On how the team has bonded through all the adversity faced this season with his health and player injuries
"I think it started with the kind of people you have in the football department - players, coaches, everybody involved. I think both these teams have been through quite a bit from the onset of this season until now. In our case, it is ‘next man up.' I know people are getting tired of hearing about it, but that mindset [is important]. And you keep 53 guys that you don't necessarily want to get to seeing the depth situations, you do but you keep them with the idea they are one play away from being a starter, and I think on both teams you see guys step in and do a very great job. In my case, I was away for a month, and [Defensive Coordinator] Jack Del Rio, the rest of the staff our players ... There's not too many times when your head coach goes away, and they worked through it and didn't miss a beat. That's what you hope with a team that they can stay pretty even keeled - not experience all the ups and downs - and keep their focus and keep grinding."
On S Rahim Moore and his possible playoff return
"He's really day-to-day. He's designated to have the opportunity to return. When he clears our medical people, he'll begin practicing, and we're in a day-to-day mode with that."
On if DE Derek Wolfe was placed on Injured Reserve due to uncertainty or lack of time to get him game ready
"I think kind of all of the above. It was a decision we made that we felt was best for the football team. None of those decisions will ever be easy, but it takes a while to get oiled up in this thing, even when you've been away, even if you're healthy. We just felt we were past that point for this season."
On if Cole will have enough preparation time to play on Sunday
"I better be able to answer an hour-and-a-half before the game."
On the dynamic that RB Knowshon Moreno brings to the offense in the running game
"Every one of these games takes on a completely different personality. The game a few weeks back will be nothing like the game this Sunday, I'm sure. As far as Knowshon, he's been a tremendous positive this season. I think he's got a great combination of how he fits our offense in both being able to run the ball, understand the protections and even as a pass receiver. He was pretty balanced in that department and part of the things of having what we call skill in being able to do all the parts of your job. Running back, there's as much involved in pass protection and pass game, whereas just running the football. He's been real productive, real consistent, and I've been very pleased with his performance."
On what he makes of the QB Peyton Manning vs. QB Tom Brady element of the game
"I think it speaks to both players. They both accomplished a lot of great things in this league. They haven't carried or spoiled the league, so that doesn't surprise me. As far as matchup and all those things, it's a little bit like this game, and in games when they get in bigger magnitude, it's really noise, and both those guys understand. I can't speak for [them]. They have to speak to that. This is going to be New England Patriots versus Denver Broncos, and I think they understand that, and I know that everybody that sits in this room before press understands that."
On what he tells his players to do in the pile to recover a fumble on defense
"Make sure you come out with the ball." (laughter)
QUARTERBACK PEYTON MANNING
On New England's pass defense
"Well, their entire defense is solid. Like [Head] Coach [John] Fox said, they've had a number of injuries, so some great players have gone on Injured Reserve. Like they've done many, many times in the past, it's just been ‘next man up' and [they've] just replaced some of the other guys that are healthy and raised their level of play and played even better. They really were just able to keep chugging along, so it's always been impressive. They're solid. They're very rarely penalized and do a good job of keeping teams out of the end zone. They create a lot of sacks and are good at creating turnovers as well."
On his impressions of WR Wes Welker prior to becoming a Bronco and if they have changed during the season
"Like Coach Fox said, a lot of things that I think a lot of people thought about Wes as an opponent all proved to be true once he joined us as a teammate. I always assumed that he was an extremely competitive guy that loved football and a guy that loved to work, he loved to practice. The way he played - I saw him many a time play Colts versus the Patriots - so to have him become a Bronco, all those things checked out. He's a gym rat. He loves the game, loves to work after practice [and] loves to talk in meetings about routes that he thinks might have a chance to get open. He's very knowledgeable of defenses and how teams have played him in the past, whether they've double-covered him or whatever it may be. So he's been a fun guy to play with, I'll say that."
On people saying that he prepares so meticulously for every game that there isn't a higher level of playoff preparation
"Certainly, preparation is important in games like this, and you want to have laser focus. I guess what I would say [is] if you have to prepare harder for this game, that means you probably haven't been preparing hard enough all season long. I really feel you have to treat every game - every regular season game - as it's the most important game. Cover yourself from a preparation standpoint, spend the time talking to your teammates about this adjustment or this audible. That's how you're supposed to play the game. I think [you must] be prepared. But when you do that all season long, when you get to games like this, it should flow right along. Obviously, we know that we're one of two games being played, but it has to start with the preparation. Our preparation has been good all season; it will be important that it's solid again this week."
On how he can describe playing against New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick
"I don't know if I have a word that really jumps out. Coach Belichick is the best coach that I've ever competed against. I think it's safe to say he'll go down as the greatest NFL coach of all time. So, the teams that he has coached that I've competed against have always been well-coached, always been prepared, always played hard for 60 minutes. If I had to think of a couple of things that have stood out about the teams that he has coached - and you know I've played against him when he was a defensive coordinator with the [New York] Jets and then as the head coach at New England - those things jump out every single week. To me, that speaks to his coaching."
On what conversations he's had with recently-signed and former New England Patriots CB Marquice Cole
"I just said, ‘How are you doing? My name is Peyton. Good to have you here,' about five minutes ago. (laughter) So, that's the extent of it so far. No telling where it would go, but that was the starting point." (laughter)
On if he expects to have more in-depth conversations with Cole this week
"I don't know. There is familiarity. There are players that have been on both teams. I know there are some coaches that have been there as well. I'm pretty focused on studying the Patriots' defensive players that are there now and what they're doing and what they did last week and what they've done all season. And then I'm very concerned and focused on how we're preparing for them and how our execution is in practice. That's kind of where the focus is."
On the development and growth of TE Julius Thomas throughout the season
"Julius, I think ... Sometimes I have to remind myself that he hasn't played a ton of football. So for Julius to have the kind of season that he's had without having a lot of experience is really impressive. I think a lot of credit has to go to his [Tight Ends] Coach Clancy Barone for getting him prepared. But he has bought in. He has been all-in every single week and asking what he can do. I think he knows the things that he needs to work on each week. But I think you can tell the confidence that we have in him. When you take the San Diego game just on Sunday ... [Two] critical situations - probably the two biggest third downs of the game - we went his way. So you can tell that [Offensive Coordinator] Adam [Gase] believes in him. You certainly know that I believe in him. He has answered the bell each week. I'm really proud of the way he's competed and worked. He's going to be an outstanding player in this league for a long, long time."
On how big of a deal it is that Patriots QB Tom Brady missed practice today with an illness
"I really don't know the answer to that. I would say probably not that big of one."
On what he appreciates the most about Brady's career
"I think the one thing that jumps out about Tom is just his consistency. I feel like he's been a better player each year than he was the year before, and that, to me, speaks to his work ethic in the offseason, his refusal to be complacent or satisfied. He always feels like he can step his game up one level higher, which [in] some of the seasons he's had you say, ‘How can you get better than that?' But I think he has done that. The conversations that I've had with him, I can tell that's something that's always a goal and a focus of his every offseason - targeting something that he wants to work on and improve. And he's done that, and that's a real credit to him. That's just one thing. There are many, many well-deserved accolades and adjectives to describe the way he's played quarterback and the way he's competed, but [consistency is] one that's really impressive to me."
On welcoming matchups with Coach Belichick
"Like I said, it's certainly a great challenge when you play against teams coached by Bill Belichick. That goes back to my first couple of years when he was the defensive coordinator with the Jets, and then he gets the head job with the Patriots. His teams, his defenses when he was coordinator, like I said, [are] always well-coached, always well-disciplined, and you know it's going to be a 60-minute fight."
On how he feels about the city of Omaha and the meaning behind why he says it on gameday
"Was that like a fan-written-in question? (laughter) I'm not sure I know how to answer that, but I've had a lot people ask what ‘Omaha' means. ‘Omaha' is a run play, but it could be a pass play or a play-action pass depending on a couple things - the wind, which way we're going, the quarter and the jerseys that we're wearing. It varies really play to play. There's your answer to that one."
On why he chose the word "Omaha" as part of his play calls
"It wasn't my pick, I guess."
On where Tom Brady ranks as a quarterback
"Tom Brady is an incredibly competitive quarterback that has played his best football in so many big games. I am not one that ever has the ranking of quarterbacks. I've been fortunate to play against some great quarterbacks - [former Miami Dolphins QB] Dan Marino, [former Dallas Cowboys QB] Troy Aikman, [former Green Bay Packers QB] Brett Favre, [former San Francisco 49ers QB] Steve Young, Tom Brady, [Green Bay Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers, [New York Giants QB] Eli Manning - the list goes on and on and on. I never had a chance to play against [former Broncos QB] John Elway. I know rankings and lists are important to a lot of people. I have such great respect for all of them, and if you want to name anybody in any order on any list, that's fine. It's just flattery to be in the conversation. But I think my thoughts and respect for Tom are pretty well documented if you look back in any previous interview. I know our defense is in for a tough challenge facing Tom and their offense. We have to do our part offensively. Our offense is in for a tough challenge facing their defense. Our defense has to help us out. The only way you beat good football teams is [if] all three phases of the team contribute - offense, defense and special teams. That's probably never more true than when you are playing against the Patriots, in my opinion."
On how important it is for him to have a chance to get back to the Super Bowl after the injury he overcame
"We're excited about the opportunity. There is no question that we have come a long way in the two years that I have been here. I have certainly come a long way. A lot of people have helped me and have certainly put a lot of hard work into it, and it is very rewarding when you put [in] a lot of hard work and it pays off with the opportunity to play in a game like this. You don't take [it] for granted, especially when you've been through an injury, been through a major change and you're in the home stretch of your career. We're excited about the opportunity; we've worked hard to get to this point. Coach Fox mentioned how many obstacles the Patriots have overcome to be in this game. We've overcome a number of obstacles, as well, to get here. Starting way back to the offseason, starting back to maybe last season's playoff loss. It's commendable to the team that we fought through those obstacles and we put ourselves in this position and [are] playing a great football team - AFC Championship. It's certainly very exciting."
WIDE RECEIVER WES WELKER
On the differences between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on and off the field
"I'll try and answer this and be as indifferent as possible. There aren't too many differences. They are great quarterbacks. They do a great job of keeping guys accountable, and their leadership skills and everything else. They are two guys you want quarterbacking your team. It's a toss-up between those two."
On if there was any kind of culture shock going from Coach Belichick to Coach Fox
"Obviously everyone is going to be different. Players are different, coaches are different. Everything else. They are obviously great coaches and have different styles and things like that, but they are both very effective in the way they go about their business and the way they do things. I'm just excited about the opportunity that I have in front of me."
On the differences in the Patriots secondary from the last game
"Their secondary I feel like is the real strength of their defense and of their football team. They have a lot of good players back there and lot of good cover guys. Their safeties are very knowledgeable of the game and they do a great job. I don't see too many differences from what they did in the first game going forward, but we'll just see how it plays out."
On if it is strange that it is Patriots vs. Broncos playing for the AFC Championship
"It's tough to get here and tough to get to this position and tough to get this opportunity. You just try to take advantage of it and try not to worry about how you got here or what was expected or anything else. I'm just happy I have the opportunity and try to make the most of it."
On if he still maintains relationship with people at the Patriots and the charity raffle with Matt Light
"Yeah I do. I played with Matt Light for a long time. We have pretty cool raffle deal going on to get to come to the AFC Championship game. You get flown out here and get four tickets. You can go to weswelker.com or netraffle.org and get raffle tickets for a chance to win."
On how Manning and Brady make their teammates better
"I think with just the way they go about their business and the way they study, the way they keep guys accountable, the way show it by what they do on the field and off the field and preparing and they just keep guys accountable and make sure everyone is doing their jobs and when they're not, letting them know when they're not and staying on top of everybody."
On how well he knows CB Marquice Cole and what can he bring to the team
"I played with him for a couple of years there in New England and he's a smart guy, a tough guy, does a great job on special teams and different things like that. He has good strength and I think he'll be a good asset for us."
On if the result of the last game played against the Pats will be a motivating factor on Sunday
"I think you look back at the game, but at the same game it's a new game, the style is different, the way we go about things, the weather will be different-a lot of those different things. You take a lot from it, but at the same time you don't dive in to it too much or over-analyze it or anything else. You just try to get ready the best you can and understand the game is not going to be totally the same, but still do your homework from the last one."
On if he's had the chance to appreciate the great season Manning is having
"I'll do that when the season is over. I'll definitely look back and think what a great season he's had, but right now we are just focused on this game and getting ready for it."
On if he feels better now than when he came of the first concussion
"I feel a lot better. Taking five weeks off is a little bit different, but it still good to get that game under your belt, and moving on to the next one is good and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity."
On if he should have played in the New England game
"Yeah. I was cleared and ready to go. I don't see any problems with it."
On if it was good to get the last game out of the way so there is less nostalgia this time
"I think so. I think our media guys had me do like four sit-downs, different media stuff. I'm not throwing anybody under the bus or anything (laughing). There was just a lot of stuff going on during that week. I'm glad to have all that stuff over with and really just focus on the game and get ready for it."
On if he talks to the team as a veteran guy about how hard it is to get to a Super Bowl
"I think me being a young player, I remember. I try to tell them about when I went in 2007, we were undefeated and we lost in the end and I was thinking we'll be back next year, and we'll be back the next year and the next year and we are going to win one. You don't realize how hard it is to get there. You've got to appreciate it and seize that moment and you have to take advantage of it. Injuries happen, free agency happens, all different things happen. The opportunities of getting to this situation are so rare that you've got to seize that moment and take advantage of it."
On how his larger helmet felt during the last game
"It was the helmet they recommended to me and it felt the same to me. Supposedly it protects me more. I'm still playing so that's all I care about."
On if he's more consciously aware of where defensive players are on the field because of his concussions
"At this point, AFC Championship Game, all that stuff, I'm not worried about it at all. I'm just going out there trying to get first downs, move the sticks, try to make plays for my team."
On how it feels to face the Patriots again with so much at stake
"It's still another game. You understand it is the AFC Championship and everything like that. You want to go out there and prepare as much as possible. At the same time, it is still an opponent and it's a team and you're going out there and playing to the best of your ability and go out there and try to win the game."
CORNERBACK CHAMP BAILEY
On whether he is ready for an increased workload
"Absolutely. I'm ready for whatever they want me to do. That is the way I prepare. I've never not prepared like that. It wouldn't be a surprise if that was the case."
On the difficulty of covering WR Wes Welker
"He's tough, because he's talented, he's quick, he's fast, he's impressive, talks well. There's not a part of his game that he's weak at. I'm very, very aware of that playing him over the years."
On what has impressed him most of the way QB Peyton Manning has played this year
"One thing about Peyton he's always been detailed about is working and things like that. But I was very impressed with how he attacked people consistently. It's not like you see the up-and-downs from Peyton. Peyton is always up, because he's always ready, always prepared. And it's good to see that firsthand."
On how frustrating the season has been for him
"It's been very frustrating - my most frustrating, probably because I'm living it right now. The only thing I care about now is I'm back on the field. I'm ready to go. I feel good, and that's all that matters right now."
On whether he feels like he needs to win a Super Bowl to complete his career
"I don't prepare thinking things like that. All I care about is winning the game in front of me. [I do] not worry about my legacy - all those things will take care of themselves. I'm just worried about what is in front of me. If I don't take care of what is in front of me, then nothing else will matter, because I would probably go out there and have a bad game or something like that. So I don't get caught up in that. I just ... When I'm done, I'll look back then."
On the challenge of facing Patriots QB Tom Brady
"It's going to be tough. Brady has always been tough against us. I don't know how many times we've beaten him, but not a lot. He is one of the better quarterbacks to play the last 15 years. It's going to be one of those challenges [where] we've definitely got to bring our ‘A' game. We know they're going to be ready, so it's going to be a war out there."
On whether he has a strong memory of his interception of Brady in the 2005 Divisional Playoff
"Yeah, the almost touchdown, yeah." (laughter)
On whether he remembers the "almost" part of the 99 yards he ran before being tackled
"It was a big play at the time. But looking back, I wish I would have scored. But hey, it is what it is. We won the game."
On whether he has ever talked to Brady about the play
"No, I haven't. I haven't had a chance to. Maybe one day."
On whether the younger players on the team gather around him for advice and understand his jokes
"Not all the time. (laughter) They listen - that's the one thing I like about our young guys. They don't think they know it all. We've got a great group of young guys, and to be honest with you, we're only going to go as far as they take [us]. They're very important to us in what we do, so they definitely take all they can take in."
On how he feels to be this close to finally playing in a Super Bowl
"[I] feel good. I feel good about our chances. We've just got to go play a game."
On whether he is nervous at all
"I get nervous in the preseason. Nerves are always there - it's just are you ready? I'm always confident in what I can do, but the nerves are always there."
On whether he thinks about the 2005 AFC Championship Game - the last time the Broncos were in this position
"Not a lot. I can't look back; I can't change it. It was disappointing at the time and frustrating. It is what it is. That was eight years ago. It's not like it was two years ago. It's definitely behind me. I'm just looking forward to this challenge."
On whether he feels ready to go back to the left cornerback position
"I'm ready to do whatever they ask me to do. We're still putting together what we're going to do this week. If that is what it comes down to, then I'll be ready for it."
On whether he feels like he should be out there
"I feel like I'm going to do whatever they ask me to do. That is the way I've played it since I came back from the injury. I don't want to force anything. But I feel like I'm ready for whatever is thrown at me."
On whether he ever doubted that he would get back to an AFC Championship Game
"We had some up-and-down years, but that is the reason why, when my contract was up - the time before this one - there was no doubt I wanted to be back here. Because this organization is about winning, so it wasn't going to take long until we got back to it. I feel good about what I did and am definitely glad I'm still here."
On what has allowed the Broncos to overcome so much adversity this season
"We've had a lot to deal with, but so have the Patriots. Every team has something to deal with - some adversity - and guys need to step up. Fortunately enough, we've got a good group of young guys that have stepped up, and it looks like we haven't missed a beat. That is what it's all about. Next man up - be ready whenever your number is called."
On whether the Patriots' offense is different from what it has been in recent years because of the change in receiving targets for QB Tom Brady to throw to
"Well, yeah, they do change it a lot. Their No. 1 guy last year [Wes Welker] is on our team. There is a lot of turnover always in that organization. One thing about Brady, he overcomes that. Their defense always plays well. So, it's not about one or two here and there. It's about the team. That is one thing they've been consistent with. They've always been a good team [with] great leaders, and that is what I expect them to be the rest of the way."
On whether he will pick cornerback Marquice Cole's brain about the Patriots' personnel
"We've only been with him a little bit. I'm sure there are some things that he could tell us, but right now, we're just kind of watching the tape and seeing what we can get from that."
On whether it is strange to get a player the week of the AFC Championship Game who has been with an upcoming opponent the entire season
"Not in this league. It's not strange. It's probably strange for him more than anybody, but that's how this league is."
On Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels
"Fantastic. I mean, the guy is a great coach. He knows what to do on the offense. He knows how to get that ball in the end zone. And, he's tough. He's always been like that before he got here - and after. We know we've got our hands full with him."
On the talent McDaniels left on the Broncos' roster even though fans were upset with McDaniels
"We do have some good players that he brought in here. What else can I say about him? We definitely have some good guys here. But the fans - all they care about is winning. We didn't win a lot, so that's all they cared about."
On whether playing under McDaniels seems like a long time ago, or whether it seems like yesterday
"It seems like a long time ago, but it was just a couple of years ago. These years go by so fast."
LINEBACKER WESLEY WOODYARD
On DE Shaun Phillips
"He's brought a tremendous amount of leadership. Having a guy come in that's been dominant from an opposing team with the Chargers back in the day, he's just brought that true leadership. He's really smart on the field. He's out there calling our plays before they start. So, it's pretty good to have the younger guys grow up and look up to him. So that's good for the future."
On when he knew DT Terrance Knighton would help the defense
"When I stood behind him and I saw his hips in the ‘A' gap. (laughter-) T-Knight game in, and from Day One, he jumped in and was like, ‘Whatever it is I've got to do to get this thing continuing rolling, I'm ready for it.' That's something he's been doing. He's been a good leader, too, to have in that D-line room, especially with the exit of ‘Vick' [DT Kevin Vickerson]. He's been a great teammate to be around."
On New England's tight ends now being more blockers than pass-catchers
"Like you said, the two guys that they used to have in there, they were a huge success in their passing game. Now they've got those guys up there and they're trying to run the football. I think they're averaging around 200-some yards within the past two games. So when they get in there, you know what kind of mentality it is. It's a smash-mouth game, and you've got to be ready to come downhill."
On whether this will be the biggest test for the Denver run defense
"It most definitely is. [Head] Coach [John] Fox always talks about [how] the next game is the biggest game, and this is going to be a huge game with [Patriots RB LeGarrette] Blount coming in with I think three great games the past games. It's always going to be a challenge to stop the run, especially in the playoffs. With the way they've been running the ball and the way they know how to scheme around it and get players out of their gaps and taking advantage of it, it's going to be a huge challenge this week."
On knowing the defense can adapt to losing players
"It's sad to lose a guy like [CB] Chris Harris or [LB] Von [Miller] or Kevin Vickerson, but I think it gives us another chip to put on our shoulder. We want to bring this game home for ourselves, but anytime you've got a chance to put a teammate in front of yourself, I think it makes everybody play harder and realize how important it is for us to go out there and execute."
On what type of chip is on his shoulder
"Being a leader, I would definitely say having that captain on my chest, that's my chip. Regardless of anything that goes on, my job is to continue to lead my defense and to continue to lead my teammates - give guys good advice out there. A guy who I'm living through and I love to see play every game is [LB] Danny Trevathan. He came in like a little brother to us, and now he's just growing up and taking over things. It's exciting to see that. To me, that's what I look forward to, seeing guys step up."
On whether he ever said: "That's my spot" to Trevathan
"No, no. Not at all. Not at all. Danny deserves everything he's gotten."
On having CB Champ Bailey back
"He knows what's going on. You can do a lot of different things when you've got a Champ on the field, as far as coverage-wise. It makes it easier for our secondary to communicate. He's a huge part of what goes on in that secondary. Whether he's off the field or on the field, he's always the kind of guy that's giving that leadership and that advice of what kind of plays to look for in certain situations."
On what the team can draw from Week 12's game at New England
"Finish. That's the topic of that game, and it'll be the topic of this game. These guys aren't going to go away. If they're down 30 points, they're going to play the same way as if they're up 30 points. They're not going to go away. You've got to go out there and play four quarters, 60 minutes, a full game versus these guys."
On understanding the importance of closing out games
"I definitely think we're understanding that. It's always going to be tough in those last quarters to continue to play dominant, but that's a challenge that you've got to live up to. This being in the playoffs, any moment can cost you a game. Definitely finishing is going to be something that we've been hitting on since Monday, and it's going to be the same throughout Sunday."
On what it's like to try to recover a football at the bottom of a pile
"That's a life that nobody knows about but the guys out there on the field. (laughter) Anything goes out there, man. Anything goes. I'll leave it at that."
On whether he has been surprised by TE Julius Thomas' success this season
"Not at all. Julius, to most of the linebackers, Julius gave us hard days at work last season. Luckily for us, we got a chance to practice against him, give us some good looks. But I'm definitely not surprised at the season Julius has had. He's a true competitor. He's a guy that loves going out there and competing against other people and scoring touchdowns and making big plays. I'm extremely happy for Julius and the success that he's had this year."
On the benefit of having savvy veterans
"To me, it goes more for the younger players. If the younger players don't have anything to look forward to, then they're going to be lost. They're going to be lost souls, probably out of the league in a few years. But if you've got guys like a Wes Welker or a Shaun Phillips or Champ Bailey around the locker room, those guys can see the way that you're supposed to do it."
SAFETY OMAR BOLDEN
On Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount
"I think he's a dog - in a good way. The dude is a really good player. He's downhill; he's a load. You've got to have your mind right."
On Blunt being twice Bolden's size
"No doubt. No doubt. At the same time, he puts his pants on the same way I do. So, you've just got to have your mind right going into that situation."
On the challenge for the Denver safeties because Blount hits the second level so well
"They're definitely putting a challenge on the DBs to make those tackles one-on-one in the open field. So far, it's a formula of success for them, so I don't see why they wouldn't come in here and do the same thing."
On how he tackles a bigger running back
"It all depends. Sometimes, in order to assure the tackle, you want to go low, but some guys, you've got to make a statement with some guys and let them know that you're not scared to be out there on the same field with them. It just all depends on the situation and the timing of the game and your angle, because at the end of the day, you've got to get him down, regardless."
On playing against Patriots QB Tom Brady and what he's learned from facing QB Peyton Manning
"As far as going against Peyton ... They're both great, and obviously, they do a lot of different things great and really well. But, I could be biased, but Peyton Manning is my guy. He's the best I've ever seen. To me, he's the best ever. It's just a blessing, and I'm fortunate to be able to go to practice with him every day to prepare us for guys like Tom Brady."
On the defense's preparation changing due to an emphasis being on the run instead of pass
"At the end of the day, though, you've got to be just prepared for football. Guys are going to make adjustments, whether it be week to week or quarter to quarter. But at the end of the day, you've just got to be ready."
On the excitement of this matchup in the AFC Championship Game
"For me, I was just sitting down at this locker, and I was thinking, 'This is crazy. We're in the AFC Championship Game,' And what better matchup than us against the Patriots? It's kind of what the outsiders wanted to see from the beginning of the season, so I'm glad that we could give the fans and the rest of the world exactly what they wanted to see."
On what needs to happen for Denver to get a win
"Us coming to play and finishing the game - playing all four quarters. That's where we made a mistake that last time. We kind of got ahead of ourselves. We started patting ourselves on the back for what we did in the first half, and they slapped us across the face in the second half. For us, it's just playing all four quarters."
On if that was a lesson learned and if that is the focus
"We've got to play football at the end of the day. But you learn from your mistakes and you try not to make those again."
On if it's nice to be playing at home
"That's a blessing - I'm not going to lie. I was getting tired of going to New England. So, I'm glad we can be here in front of Broncos Country and put [the Patriots] in that tough environment up in Mile High. The stadium was rocking this past weekend; I know it's going to be crazy this weekend."
On how much the running game of New England affects what Denver will do on defense
"I would ask the same question about our offense. We're doing the same things they're doing, just in different ways. At the end of the day, whoever's prepared the most and is ready to play come Sunday is going to win that game."
On how special it will be years from now knowing he played in a Brady-Manning matchup
"It'll be amazing. Hopefully I'll be able to mention my name correlated with that topic in history, as far as doing something great and accomplishing something and bringing the trophy home to Denver."
On the similarities between Manning and Brady
"As far as Peyton and Tom go, they're both smart players. They're both field generals. They manage the game better than anybody else out there. But it's fun watching them battle. It's going to be fun."
CORNERBACK MARQUICE COLE
On joining the Broncos
"It's an opportunity for me. It's better than being at home. It is what it is."
On whether it's strange to join the Broncos after playing with the Patriots for much of the season
"Yeah, a little bit. Going from being on that team and rooting for obviously the team I'm on-just like for this team. But, an opportunity called and my opportunity isn't there anymore and I'm no longer on that team and now I'm on this team, so I move on."
On whether he thought he'd go back to the Patriots
"First inclination was maybe. But not for certain and it ended up not happening and I got an opportunity here."
On how much he can help scout the Patriots
"When you have people like Peyton, I'm pretty sure he knows more about the defense than even I would. Same thing with [Patriots QB] Tom [Brady]. What could I can say to Peyton Manning, you know? What, ‘They're going to be in cover-one, they're going to be in cover-two, they're going to be in cover.' It is what it is. He is going to do his scouting, which I'm pretty sure he's been doing before I even signed here, so there isn't much I can do to help out."
On whether it will be awkward to play against the Patriots
"No, once it is gameday, it is gameday. I'm no longer on that team, haven't been for a couple weeks now. I'm on this team and if my name is called I'm going to go out and contribute as much as I can."
On how much he'd like to play in the AFC Championship Game
"It'd be great. Everybody dreams of playing in the Super Bowl. But you have to go through this game. To be able to get into this game and make some plays or something like that would be awesome."
On his time with the Patriots
"Oh, it was great. Regardless of what happens, and me being released, that organization gave me a way to provide for my family. No ill will at all. I appreciate everything they did for me. Like I said, giving me the opportunity to do what I could for my family. There is no bad blood or anything like that. It is what it is."
On whether he expected to sign with a team or thought he'd be waiting for the offseason
"I was staying ready for any opportunity, even if it was back in New England. I didn't know where it would be. I was just hoping that it would be. I was staying ready and I got the call here and jumped on the opportunity."
On whether the door was still open in New England when they released him
"I feel like it was kind of up in the air. Since it had happened before, it was a possibility, but I didn't know for sure. It wasn't for certain."
On whether it surprised him that the Broncos signed him
"No, not now. Maybe as a rookie or second-year player, something like that. But being in this league since 2007, you see stranger things. Really, nothing could surprise me now. Just stay ready. You have to get ready. And then if you get that call, be ready to take advantage of that."
On where the Broncos might use him
"Still to be determined. I'm just trying to get a grasp on the playbook, learn the system, get to know the guys and everything and be ready for whatever it is."
On how he can help the Broncos this week
"If I'm on the field, then I'm going to go 110 percent and do what I can to the best of my abilities. So, whatever it is-special teams, defense, offense, I can catch passes from Peyton."
On learning a new playbook in a matter of days
"Defense is defense. The biggest part is the terminology difference and everything like that. So talking to the guys, getting to know the guys, being more comfortable with the guys definitely will help out if I get that opportunity to play in the game."
On whether he'll talk to Manning again about New England's personnel
"I'm definitely going to talk to him again; he's the quarterback of the team. But as far as him picking my brain or anything like that, like I said, he's one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league. So there's nothing really I could tell him that he doesn't already know."
On how difficult it is to cover WR Wes Welker
"Extremely difficult to cover. He's just such a quick guy who understands the game, understands leverage. And you've got a quarterback like Peyton and Tom [Brady] when he was in New England that's going to read him and read the same leverages he's reading and give him the ball opposite of wherever the defender is. It's definitely tough."
On whether there's a tougher cover in the league in the slot than Welker
"I don't know. He's up there as one of the toughest guys to cover in the slot."
On WR Julian Edelman
"He did a great job. He went out there and produced like people out there knew he could play. When he got his opportunity he shined in it. He did a great job for them this year."
WIDE RECEIVER ERIC DECKER
On QB Peyton Manning facing Patriots QB Tom Brady
"The quarterback that we have, the quarterback that that they have, are guys that have been very good for a long time. Obviously that is going to be a focus for a lot of people. But for us, it's about ourselves and making sure that we all individually do our jobs, so when we show up Sunday, that we give ourselves the best chance to win."
On learning from the game at New England in Week 12
"Well, you learn from every game throughout the year. I think that game-specifically for us, because we're matching up against them again. We got off to a good lead in the first half and we didn't put it together in the second half. So making sure that every drive, every possession we have, that we're moving the football-that we're not turning it over. Because when you talk about playoffs and you talk about opportunities, you've got to minimize the mistakes. That is something that we're focused on this week."
On playing for a spot in the Super Bowl
"It's really a dream come true. It's something that, for us, has been a goal since the beginning of our offseason. We came into OTAs, came in talking about what we wanted to do from last year. And we knew we had the capability, we knew we had the guys and the pieces in the locker room to have that. And we set ourselves up for that chance. Now, what are we going to do with it?"
On appreciating Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels for bringing him to Denver
"Of course, appreciation and the respect that he gave me a chance to come to Denver and play some football so obviously his time here was a little shorter than he probably hoped or expected but that's in the past. Now we're focused on this year and doing, again, what our job is from a Denver Broncos standpoint."
On the appreciating to ‘wow factor' of Brady vs. Manning with the AFC Championship on the line
"I guess I will after the fact. For me, if you get wrapped up and caught in those kind of conversations, you're one step behind. For me it's making sure what I do, personally, what my individual job is to make this team better. I think everyone in this locker room has that same mindset because if you talking about that stuff, you get distracted."
On the importance of playing at home
"That's the name of the game-to try to get that home-field advantage throughout the season so that you set yourself up to have the best chance to make it to the end. To be at home against them-they've been obviously very good at home, they had their four losses on the road-to be with our crowd, in our environment, it's an advantage we need to use."
DEFENSIVE TACKLE TERRANCE KNIGHTON
On leaving Jacksonville and signing with Denver
"I think I handled it like a professional. I went through the whole process and chose the best fit for myself and my career. I mean, a fresh start is always good. Most players want to stay with one team, but it worked out better for me being here, and I hope that I'm here for a long time."
On if a part of him wonder if he would ever get this far when he had his eye injury
"Yeah, because initially, I wasn't supposed to be able to see or play again. I went through a lot of prayer and stuff. I got my vision back and was able today. But it hasn't affected me on the field or anything."
On if doesn't take things for granted on the field because of that injury
"Well, yeah, and you've just got to be more careful off the field now. Most young players experience something in their career that forces them to mature quick or something like that. Mine just happened to be something where I almost lost my career. I talked to a lot of the young guys, and guys in my position, and let them know how a lot of guys take playing football for granted, and embrace playing in the NFL."
On if he's seen a change in DE Jeremy Mincey with the second chance he has gotten in Denver
"The fact that we're in the position that we're in makes things a lot better. I don't really see it as a second chance. I just see it as part of the business. I did my four years in Jacksonville, became a free agent and just followed the process. That's just part of the business. I don't really see it as a second chance."
On what changes for him going up against New England and their emphasis on RB LeGarrette Blount
"I mean, they're just like us in a sense. They've lost key players and you've got to find your strength as a team once you do that. They lost [TE Rob] Gronkowski. He was a big part of their offense, so they've got to find other ways to beat teams. They have a great coaching staff there and a great quarterback and offensive line group that's solid. They're going to go to their strength right now is their backfield and offensive line and that's why they're trying to run the ball."
On if facing a bigger back like LeGarrette Blount changes anything for him
"For me, no. As long as the back's not bigger than me; he's not bigger than me but almost. I don't have any worries but we'll have to gang-tackle him and they have three running backs that are capable, four, really, that are capable of going back there and exposing you. We've just got to know who's out there, our personnel and know guys' running styles. He's more of a downhill guy so we'll try to hit him before he gets going."
On stopping the run with LeGarrette Blount or RB Stevan Ridley in the game for New England
"I think you've just got to know your personal. When [Stevan] Ridley is in there, he's more of a threat to bounce it outside with his speed. [LeGarrette] Blount will come in there and hit it downhill. So you've just got to know who's out there and know the formations and know what they like to do and things like that. Then they've got [Shane] Vereen, who comes in, who can line up at receiver and line up in the backfield. It's tricky but ultimately we've just got to do what we do and play gap-sound defense and tackle."
On if it's about beating the guy in front of him
"Absolutely. It's like that all the time, every play. They do a good job of putting a hat on a hat and forcing your safety or your corner to make a tackle. As a d-line, this week we're emphasizing shedding blocks and running to the ball and swarming."
On how he went about getting into shape when he got to Denver and how training camp wasn't the easiest time for him
"This is my fifth year. As a professional, when you sign somewhere and when you're playing in this league, you're expected to do those things. It wasn't hard. I mean, the altitude, things like that were different but knowing where this team wanted to go and knowing where they were last year and how they wanted to approach it this year, I didn't want to behind. I just made sure I handled my business like a professional."
On if it was the first couple weeks of training camp that was tough
"Yeah. Training camp is always tough but it's a lot harder when you're in the mountains and you're not used to it, coming from Florida, where it's humid. That's what it's about in this league, handling adversity and rising up to the occasion."
On if he did a lot to increase his cardio since he doesn't come off the field much
"You've just got to know how to use your energy. If it's a 30-yard pass down the field, 99 percent of the time you're not going to make it down there so I'm not going to take off on a 50-yard sprint just to make it to the line of scrimmage. It's about preserving yourself but also during the play, playing as hard as you can. I play a lot of football, so I know how to balance myself throughout the game."
On LB Wesley Woodyard saying he knew that he would contribute after he stood behind him
"I'm taking on two guys almost every play. We have fast linebackers who get downhill quick and are physical. We work hand-in-hand. The faster he plays, the easier it is for me to make plays and vice versa."
On how much the Patriots have changed since the teams met in the regular season
"I don't think they changed. I just think they have more success doing it (running the ball). When they lost ‘Gronk' (TE Rob Gronkowski), maybe teams thought they'll come out and try to spread you out and things like that. A lot of these teams now are doing good with personnel. San Diego is the same way. They'll come out there with two tight ends but they're athletic tight ends so it's almost like two receivers. But you've just got to know what you're getting and you've got to watch a lot of film and prepare for anything."
On if he would be surprised if New England came out throwing the ball
"No, it wouldn't surprise me because San Diego had some success at the end of the game doing that and they had success when they came back on us Week 12. But in the playoffs it's about running the ball and controlling the clock. They'll come out and try to do that and we'll do our best to stop that and force them to throw the ball."
On what makes LeGarrette Blount so tough
"He has a lot of speed for a guy his size and people underestimate that. They think he's a bruiser but [when] he gets in the open field, he can make the DBs miss and run away from them. We'll just have to gang tackle and a lot of time watching film this week, he's getting to the second level untouched because their o-line is doing a good job of getting a hat on a hat and controlling their one guy. We'll just have to shed blocks and swarm him."
On what he can learn from the game against the Patriots in the regular season
"I think we've got a team like that, we're up 24-0, we've just got to find a way to step on their throat and just put them away. We didn't do that. That's a team that had success in the past coming back in the fourth quarter, a quarterback who's very competitive and they're never out of the game. If we're in the same position again, we've just got to finish better. We can improve on last week, too. We played a good three quarters and we didn't finish so well. It will definitely be an emphasis this week."
On the idea of finishing being a theme for the Broncos this season
"It starts in the meeting rooms. It starts in practice. You can't just turn it on on Sunday. We've just got to understand situational football. San Diego was down, so of course they're going to come out and spread the ball and get the ball out quick, try to take our d-line out of the game. We've just got to understand situations better. It will definitely be something we'll have to pay more attention to this week."
On if he means the fourth quarter or the whole season when he says "finish"
"Everything. When we were up on them 24-0, we can't relax. You've got to actually play harder and we just didn't do that. I think we relaxed a little and they crept back in, crept back in, crept back in and before you know it, it's a tie game going into overtime. We've just got to turn it up a little bit more when we're up on a team."
On if the team has learned how to finish yet
"We obviously have to go out there Sunday and prove it. It's definitely something we're emphasizing and with the type of offense that we have that puts up points and we're in the lead a lot, that's something we'll have to be prepared for. We've just got to handle that situation better."
On Patriots QB Tom Brady not going away in games that he's losing
"Exactly. You've almost got to force him to. That's why I talked about stepping on their throats and just putting them away. That's not going to happen after one series, two series throughout the whole fourth quarter because they're never going to give up. That's definitely something that we're focused on."
On if he admires competing against someone like Brady
"You admire it just because he's a competitor so he's not going to give up at all. If you're just after a team, after a team, after a team, eventually they'll give in. We'll just have to get to that point where we just put them away and they know the game is over."
On if the second half of the New England game stuck with the team weeks after
"I think the losses this year and the adversity that we faced kind of helped us as a team. We look back on it and wish we could have done something differently, made play here or there to win the game. But I think it's molded us into the team we are. When you face situations like that, when you go through things like that, when it comes to the playoffs, you know how to handle it. The fact that we were up 24-0 on them and they came back and won, if we were put in the same position again, we know how to handle it instead of it being our first time dealing with that. I think those type of things mold you into a championship team."
TIGHT END JULIUS THOMAS
On the progress he has made in such a short amount of time
"To be honest, sometimes when I think about all of the things that I get asked to do and how far I've come, sometimes I look back like, ‘How'd you do it? How'd you do it all? How did you stay on top of everything?' I think it's just a great job by our coaches. Our coaches do a great job of preparing me and really helping me learn things in a short amount of time. A lot of times stuff goes in on Tuesday and you're expected to have it down by Thursday. They do a great job of making sure that I have it down."
On if he is a basketball player that plays football or a football player that occasionally plays basketball
"I'm definitely a football player that gets to play basketball every blue moon in the offseason. It's funny because I have an old basketball tape at home and I look at it like, ‘I don't even recognize that guy.' I used to be 215 [pounds], jump off the ground and hang in the air for a while. I'm pretty sure I can't float like I used to."
On if he has become a "go-to guy" for this football team
"I think [QB] Peyton [Manning] believes in all of our skill guys. If you watch the way our season's gone, guys who haven't gotten the most touches come in and you're like, ‘Wow, where is this guy coming from?' We all believe in each other and that's one thing that allows us to be so strong as a unit. He believes that if he wants to come to me that I'll make a play. I'm glad that he has that kind of trust in me."
On if having Manning trust the whole offense makes the Broncos a better team
"Absolutely. Everybody knows that when we step out onto that field, it could be your opportunity to make a play. You're trying to win every route. You may be running a route you've never caught; you ran it in practice, you ran it in practice. Like last week, its third-and-six and you finally catch that hook route that you've been running for the last four months and haven't caught a ball on in a game. You never know when it's going to be you and you have to be ready at all times."
On what he thinks about the matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and how excited the fans are about it
First off, [they are] two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game of football. It's rightfully so that the fans are excited about this. You have two guys who have been playing one of the most important positions on the football field at a very high level for a very long time. I can't blame (the fans) for being excited about it at all."
On the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl after one more victory
"For us, I'm sure they're doing the same thing, but preparing for a tough opponent that's in the way of you advancing to a Super Bowl. We're going to have to go out here and prepare and we're going to work and we're going to do our best to