Niners already talking about the Patriots

The 49ers had barely gotten off the field after another smothering defensive effort in a victory over Miami before some of their top defenders already were being asked about this week's colossal inter-conference showdown with the New England Patriots. Here's what some of them had to say in an early look toward Sunday's game at New England.

With their eyes now focused on winning their second consecutive NFC West title and capturing the No. 2 seed in the conference for the second year in a row, the Niners (9-3-1) must first get past one of their toughest challenges of the season when they travel to face the defending AFC champions, who already had clinched the AFC East title entering Monday night's game against Houston.

That game is a showdown of the two teams with the best record in the AFC. That Patriots (9-3) then will have a short week to prepare for the 49ers when they host their second prime-time nationally-televised night game in six days.

Here's what All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis, strong safety Donte Whitner, cornerback Chris Culliver and offensive guard Alex Boone had to say – while still glowing in the bask of victory over the Dolphins – in anticipation of the big game coming up against the Patriots.

Q: How excited are you about the challenge that's coming next with the Patriots? You've faced Patriots QB Tom Brady obviously a lot during your time playing with the Buffalo Bills. What does that do for you?
Donte Whitner:
Well, we're going to be able to see where we are as a defense. We understand who's going to have to win that football game and we think it's going to be the defense. And they understand that their offense is going to try to control the football and get some big plays and put points on the board. And we can't allow that. So, we'll be ready.

Q: What are your thoughts on the next game with the quarterback you're going to face, New England's Tom Brady?
Patrick Willis:
Oh man. A legend. A Hall of Fame guy. Their offense is very potent. A guy that can throw the ball, but at the same time, I love our defense and I love what we have on our defensive side of the ball, from DBs to linebackers to D-Line. So, I want to go to fight with our guys any day against any team. So, we'll see. We have a great week of practice and we'll see on Sunday night.

Q: Patriots next week, is it a big game for just the media or is it a big game for the guys in this room?
Alex Boone:
I think it's a big game for everybody. We have to continue to win if we want to go where we want to go and this is a big stepping stone for us. We have to be serious about this game. We have to focus in, dial in and be read to be physical again.

Q: Next week, national TV, Patriots QB Tom Brady, give us your quick thought on the matchup with the Patriots next week.
Chris Culliver:
Good quarterback, good offense, we've just got to come play.

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