AFC Pregame – Champisonship Minutes
CP: “Alright, good to see everybody. Glad everybody made it home safe. Really no injuries to speak of. We’ve got some guys with some bumps and bruises, things like that, but we came out pretty clean. Again, it was a great win for our organization, our fans, players and coaches. Obviously very excited to be able to move on and advance. Proud of the guys, played well in all three phases. Everybody did a lot of good things. Offensive line was outstanding. protection was great, opened up holes. There was a tough yards to get. They’re obviously a really good football team, great football team. They ranked high in all three phases in final stats at the end of the season. O-line played outstanding. Defense, phenomenal job. Greg Manusky and the staff put together a great plan, and the guys went out and executed. I thought we tackled really well. They were running the ball well coming in, and they threw a lot of wide receiver screens and the perimeter plays. I thought for us to be successful, we had to eliminate yards after contact, and I think our guys did a great job of getting those guys on the ground. Pat (McAfee) kicked the ball extremely well. It was good. Now we’re ready to move on.”
Q: Why are they Patriots so effective at being a running team?
CP: “Good players, got a good offensive line, great offensive line coach. They had the guy there for a long, long time. They’ve got a new guy in there now. They execute, they block well, they open up holes, got good runners. We’ve got to do a better job. We have not done a good job the last two outings. We’re playing better run defense now than we ever have, so that’s a positive. We’ve got to prepare the same way we prepared last week. We’ve got to do a better job because if we’re not able to stop the run, we’re not going to have a chance.”
Q: You had an eight-minute drive in the fourth quarter to kind of close things out yesterday. Is that emblematic of what needs to happen in the postseason?
CP: “Yeah, I mean, we took over, they had the ball with like 13:21 left in the fourth quarter and we got a three-and-out. We got it at 12:21, went 13 plays, I believe, 52 yards and ended up kicking a field goal to make it a two-score game. It took 8:14 off the clock. You’re going to advance, you’re going to move on if you’re able to do that in January playing on the road in hostile environments. That was a gritty, gritty drive, if you will. That was huge. That was huge. You go off what we learned Week 2. We’re in a same, similar situation. We’re already in field goal range and you have an unfortunate turnover and a no call, so to speak, and you end up losing a game. Now, this many weeks later, you’re in the same scenario. You’re up one score. You’re trying to make it a two-score game. You take time off the clock. You take care of the football. You kick the field goal. You go up two scores, big difference.”
Q: When you do that, you keep big-time quarterbacks off the field. Is that a component?
CP: “Absolutely. I think we had the ball a little over 34 minutes, you know, time of possession. No bigger drive than that drive there. If he’s (Peyton) Manning or (Tom) Brady, company, whoever, you look at the four quarterbacks left in the ‘Final Four’, if you will. If they’re over there chewing ice, you have a much greater chance of winning ball games.”
Q: You say this run defense is playing better than it ever has been, why?
CP: “Getting Art (Jones) back and healthy, he’s playing at a high level right now. Everybody’s doing their job. The execution is really good. Guys are getting off blocks. We’re tackling, we’re tackling better. We’re not giving up the long, we had a couple get out on us yesterday,
but not giving up big plays. Scheme, Greg (Manusky) called a magnificent game yesterday. Really hard to go do what we did against that team and that offense. We know how explosive they are, and to do it on the road, just a tremendous job. Communication is good. The technique and the fundamentals that they’re playing with is really good, so a combination of all that stuff.”
Q: Can you touch on how front to back, including secondary, they all work well together in stopping the run?
CP: “Yeah, yeah, a lot of corners make business decisions for a lot of reasons. They think they only get paid to cover. Not here, you have to tackle here, so that’s just part of the deal. Those guys came up and got the guys on the ground. Whether it’s in the pass game or the run game, if they’re asked to be a part of the run structure of the defense, than they’re more than willing to stick their nose in there to get guys on the ground. Did a good job yesterday.”
Q: Where do you get to the point with Josh Cribbs that it’s okay to get out there and take a fair catch?
CP: “Know when to say when. He’s such a competitive guy, and he’s been doing it for so long. He wants to help this team. He wants to make plays, but then you’ve got to have a sense when the gunners are on top of you, so to speak, and know when to say when and get the hand up, make a fair catch and just possess the ball and not take a huge hit and risk a turnover. Everybody’s got to be working together. We’ve got to do a better job of blocking those guys too. Credit Denver, their gunners did a nice job and covered the punts well. We’re better outside at the vice than what we played like yesterday and what we showed yesterday, so we’ve got to do better.”
Q: How nervous were you on that one play when Josh Cribbs apparently fumbled initially?
CP: “You never know anymore how the calls are going to go.”
Q: Your career changed after an AFC Championship loss in New England three years ago.
CP: “Yeah, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now had things would have transpired in a different way.”
Q: What’s it like now to return to the scene of the crime to put your stamp on it as a head coach?
CP: “Just the irony of going back home and being able to get a win, great team win, you now, yesterday was great. Now three years later, headed back to Foxboro for a chance to play for it all. Again, it’s about the game, it’s about the team, it’s about us doing our job, sticking to the process and preparing, meeting well and practicing well. Dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s. We know how great a team we’re going to play. You’ve got a Hall of Fame coach, a Hall of Fame quarterback and a bunch of great players on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a tall order, but we’re kind of caught up more in what we need to do on our end in preparation for this to give ourselves the best chance to go up there and win that game.”
Q: What is it about Greg Manusky that enables him to thrive in that role?
CP: “Good football coach, number one, and they all are: Greg, Gary Emanuel, the d-line coach, Jeff FitzGerald, our linebacker coach, Mike Gillhamer, Roy Anderson, Brad White. They all do a phenomenal job, and Greg’s a great leader of men. Those guys will run through a brick wall for Greg, got great respect for him. He’s got great knowledge of the game. He’s a tireless, tireless worker. He spends a tremen- dous amount of time working to break a team down and study them and try to put our guys in the best possible position to be successful. Glad he’s on our side.”
Q: What did you make of the Patriots trick play against Baltimore and what did you say to your team about it?
CP: “We talked a little bit about it today, but once I saw it on Saturday, I did some investigating and just trying to again cover all bases, if you will. I talked to some guys in Baltimore about what went down and then had a conversation with league officials and just asked how things were officiated. They did the right thing when you look up the rule, because I wanted to make sure going into our game. We still had time in the morning and I had time to get ahold of Dean Blandino and ask him what the letter of the law was, what the rule read in the book and how it’s interpreted, and those kind of things. They had a special personnel grouping out on the field and officials are required to, the guys that come in like when we go our heavy package, our jumbo package and we put an extra lineman in, he’s got to go in and he’s got to go to the guy with the white hat on and he’s got to report. He’s got to present him to the white hat, the referee, and then the referee points at the player and tells the defense and he makes an announcement. Then once they make the announcement, they back away and play ball, and they let you snap the thing. So what happened to Baltimore, I mean you’ve got 47 is eligible, 34 is ineligible. They did nothing, as far as what was explained to me, nothing wrong in what they did. So again, we’ve just got to make sure that we cover all our bases and understand they do a great job. They use a ton of different personnel groups and they only had four linemen in on those plays They had three wide outs, and two tight ends, and a running back and a quarterback, and it made it difficult for the defense to get lined up especially if you’re in a man-to-man situation and you’re trying to figure out who’s eligible, who’s not, who’s on the ball, who’s off the ball, all those kind of things. You don’t have a lot of time to, the officials aren’t going to slow the thing down to let you get lined up, so to speak, so we have to be prepared for everything obviously.”
Q: Do they have to allow the defense time to identify matchups?
CP: “When you make a substitution, any time you make a substitution on offense, if we sub somebody new in, officials hold their arms out like this and they look to the defense, and they look to see if you’re going to react and make a substitution. If you do, they hold their arms out and the umpire goes over the ball, and he’ll stand over the ball and he’ll give you time to get a player on and get a player off. But it’s not going to be an extended period of time to get you lined up, so to speak, but they’re going to let you get your players on the field, get your players off the field and they also have to get in position before they let the ball be snapped from an officiating standpoint.”
Q: Isn’t it about running when you need to or want to as opposed to balancing it out?
CP: “Yeah, I mean when you can run it when everybody knows you’re going to run it, that’s pretty good. So again credit the o-line and the tight ends, and the way that the backs ran in that situation because you want to take time off the clock. You want to matriculate the ball down the field. You want to get in a position to put more points on the board. You want to take care of the ball. So once we got to that point in the fourth quarter and we had an eight-point lead, we didn’t feel like we needed to start just chucking the ball over the thing. We felt like, hey, if we can move this thing down the field, run the ball and make them use timeouts, all that stuff, then it’s going to be, obviously give us a good chance to win the game.”
Q: What went into Trent Richardson being inactive?
CP: “Just what we talked about as far as special teams go. Michael Hill was a special teams player, and Trent’s, not to knock on Trent, Trent’s never been asked to be a special teams player. You guys wrote about it, saw it out at practice, he was doing everything in a short
period of time to try to get himself ready, but Michael was more ready to go out and be the third back and contribute on special teams.”
Q: Do you remember the vision that Ryan Grigson first talked about when he hired you?
CP: “Yeah, we wanted to build a football team for sustained success. Jim (Irsay) and Ryan and myself sat down and that was our vision; to be balanced, be able to play great special teams, offense and defense, and again build a team for sustained success. We didn’t want to just build a team and be a one-year wonder. Jim’s been able to do that over the years and we’re fortunate enough to have been able to have the success that we’ve had to this point, but until we reach that mountaintop and hoist that Lombardi, we’re never satisfied.”
Q: Some general managers are hands on and some aren’t. How would you describe Ryan Grigson as a GM? How is your coach GM relationship?
CP: “Lines of communication are always open, and it’s really good. Do we agree to disagree at times? Absolutely, but that’s football. If you go in any offensive room, defensive room, special teams, there are going to be conversations about schemes and about how to do things, but at the end of the day, our vision and our goals are single-minded. We are one-minded, or like-minded, I should say, in everything that we’re doing. I’m very fortunate to be in the position that I’m in.”
Q: When you agree to disagree, who usually wins the battle?
CP: “It’s not about winning the battle. It’s like a good marriage. You learn to fight friendly and then you can have a 25th wedding anniversary and hopefully a 26th next July (laughs).”
Q: Mr. Irsay stood right where you are and he admitted that never in his wildest dreams did he think the Colts would be this far so soon. You talk about being a man in vision; did you ever envision three years later being in an AFC Championship game?
CP: “Yeah, faith is believing in what you don’t see or can’t see, and the reward for believing is you’ll get to see it. We’ve got a bunch of guys in this building that believe in what we’re doing and believe in each other. If you can’t speak it into existence, it’ll never happen.”
Q: We’ve talked a lot about the offensive line this season and shuffling due to injuries. How do you explain not allowing any sacks yesterday? They just played as good as they have all season with so many guys in different spots.
CP: “Again, they played extremely well. The plan was great. Again, like I talk about Greg (Manusky) calling a great game on the defensive side, it was no different on the offensive side. Pep (Hamilton) did an outstanding job with the plan. The o-line, they battled. Talk about a tough test and a tall order, Joe Reitz coming in the last couple weeks, and Von Miller is a pretty good pass rusher; DeMarcus Ware is a pretty good pass rusher. They’re Pro Bowlers for a reason. To come out of there without a sack, a couple pressures and a couple hurries here and there and maybe a hit or two, that was a phenomenal job by that group. You go left to right – A.C. (Anthony Castonzo) and Jack Mewhort, a rookie who’s fought through that rookie wall and plays nasty and tough and gritty and all that stuff. Khaled (Holmes) has come in and played well. Lance (Louis) has come in and played well. We’re healthy, and we’re going to have the same lineup for three weeks in a row, which is great. It’s going to give us a chance to maybe go and do something special.”
Q: You mentioned the rookie wall. Normally, when you talk about the rookie wall, you talk about it in November when they’ve played their college season. These rookies now, most have almost played two seasons. Do you worry about that or do you think the adrenaline and the moment is enough?
CP: “Once you get to this point because of the playoffs and the ramifications and that vision and that goal is sitting right out in front of you, you tend to forget about it, and all of the sudden, you start feeling really good and there’s nobody on the injury report and everybody’s probable and all that stuff. Again, the coaches and trainers and everybody does a great job of talking to these guys, working with them and teaching them how to be pros and how to take care of themselves. They’re tough guys, and they’ve found a way to battle through. We’re getting a lot of production out of a lot of young guys.”
Q: What did you think in 2012 when you got here would be the biggest challenge? I know you had faith and you still talk about that, but you knew you had work to do. What was the single biggest hurdle?
CP: “How to get through like Day 1 (laughs). I was looking for the head coaching manual and there wasn’t one on the desk. I remember sitting in that office for the first time with my wife and just looking at her just saying, ‘What the heck did we just do?’ No, you knew… Shoot, the thing had just been blown up, if you will – rookie GM, rookie head coach, rookie quarterback coming in and a bunch of great, great, great Colts players, Ring of Honor players gone and out the door. We knew it was a challenge in a lot of different areas. You’ve got to put a staff together. You’ve got to put a team together. You’ve got to build a culture. I’m glad we’re where we’re at right now and not starting over.”
Q: You probably had to sell some of those coaches to come, right?
CP: “Not when they’re out of work and they’re on the street (laughs). Bruce (Arians) was driving home with his wife. He had just dropped off his first load of stuff. They were moving full time down to his place in Georgia. You’re on the street, it doesn’t take much. They try to
finagle for every cent, but they’re going to come work.”
Q: Boom Herron obviously wasn’t injured yesterday but was clearly playing hurt with whatever happened with his shoulder. What did you learn about him in the terms of the way that he plowed through it?
CP: “Tough kid, great competitor. He was challenged, as far as the week before, as far as ball security goes, and we challenged him all week long, and we watched every single snap, every carry, every time he touched the ball. We made sure that thing was high and tight and that wrist was never below the elbow. We had guys ripping at it on the look team. To see him go out and play through – that’s a darn good defense that we went against, tough and they tackle well – and he took some shots like a lot of guys took in that game. He’s a tough, tough, tough kid. He stepped up in protection and did a great job playing without the ball in his hand. The guy just wants to do whatever he can for this team and his teammates to help us win, and we’re really proud of him and Tip (Zurlon Tipton). They did a good job.”