Obviously, we are still on a high coming back from Baltimore. It was a big game for us, a big win. I thought a tremendous team win. We talked on Friday night at the hotel in our last meeting that a lot would be made about their No. 1 AFC defense against our No. 1 AFC offense, but we talked that if we on defense outplayed their offense and our special teams outplayed their special teams, that could be the difference. And I thought that's what happened. I thought our defense really stepped up again, did a great job with the takeaways, with the third-down defense. And our special teams, we punted well and covered well and in a field-position type of game, that was really important. Obviously Adam kicked well and made the big field goals. About the only thing we didn't do well was when Terrence (Wilkins) mishandled a couple of kickoffs and we didn't get that drive-start lead on them. Other than that, we really played well in those two areas. Our offense did a good job of really moving the ball against them. They're a hard defense to drive the ball on and even though we didn't score touchdowns, we had three long drives, 11-plays plus where we made first downs. We used the clock. We got the ball from our one-yard line and scored with it. We had a seven-minute drive at the end of the game to really ice the game, and we were very close. We just missed a couple of deep throws that you have to get against those guys to score. It's tough to really move it and be methodical against them. So all in all, I thought we played about as well as we could play and other than maybe the two
interceptions, we did what we wanted to do and won the game.
(on the final offensive possession to score a field goal)
It was really something. You're sitting there, you're up six, we've been involved with Steve McNair many times, and you don't want to give him the ball back with a six-point lead and any time on the clock. So we knew that we wanted to at least make two or three first downs there. If you could get into field goal range, that was the ultimate, but we did, we made some third downs, converted a big pass to Dallas (Clark). Dominic Rhodes I thought was outstanding in the second half running, keeping things going. He made a couple of big third-down runs, and just using up that time and kicking a field goal with 23 seconds left, that was really a big drive against a great defense.
(on RB-Dominic Rhodes closing the game and the run defense in the second half)
Dom(inic) was outstanding and made some good power runs, ran in our short-yardage offense and did a great job. In the second half, our defense, they didn't run it at us as much as we thought. I think they only ran six times in the second half, but we really just played better once we saw their runs and what they were running, we were able to shut that down.
(on how RB-Dominic Rhodes has handled his situation coming in as a reserve)
Really like a professional. The big thing, I thought (RBs Coach) Gene Huey did a great job of explaining to him what we were doing. It wasn't a demotion, and he understood that. We were just going to start the game with Joseph, and Dom has ended up finishing the last two games and making some big fourth-quarter runs. But he knew he was going to still be involved, he knew he was going to get a lot of carries and be in in critical times. So it really hasn't been that much different. They both still split the carries relatively evenly.
|Dominic Rhodes takes a handoff from Peyton Manning vs Baltimore (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)|
You really do. That's been the criticism if you will of us all year, so to be able to go on the road and win in a hostile environment, to really outperform a team that's built for that, that's really built for a running game and defending the run, and when we had to stop the run, we did. When we had to run it against the No. 1 defense, we were able to do that. Just whatever it takes, and that was a great drive. And I was, I was proud of the way we won the game, not necessarily that we won, but how we went in there and you had to win a dogfight. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't the type of game that we normally play, but we were able to get it done even pretty much playing their game.
(on why they have been able to put together consecutive solid defensive performances, something they didn't do all year)
Were a little bit healthier, the young guys that have played know our defense a little bit better and to be honest, we've just played a little bit better. We've played a little bit faster, we've played more instinctively and we've also known these two offenses pretty well. The big thing that we've done in this post-season is play well on third down. When you have those third-down stops and you don't give the other team extra plays, that really helps you.
(on if they are doing anything different on third down defense)
Were playing better, were tackling a little bit better in our zones. They had three or four situations where they threw balls underneath and we tackle them before they can make first downs. We have always had pretty good rush in the long-yardage situations, but those 3rd-and-5s, 3rd-and-6s, we've tackled the underneath throws a little bit better. And obviously having Bob Sanders back and having Marlin Jackson in his normal position in there has
(on the offensive line's play)
It's not the 3-4, it's not the scheme, it's not the people. It's doing your job on every play, and we did. I thought our look squad in practice gave our guys an outstanding look of different guys coming from different places. I think we were prepared for what they did, but you still have to block them. You still have to block Adalius Thomas, you have to block (Terrell) Suggs, and we did a good job of that for the most part.
(on the Ravens blitz scheme)
We didn't see guys coming free. That was a credit to our offensive coaching staff, Peyton for calling the right protections and guys being able to decipher where they're coming from, which was hard because they (Ravens) had a lot going on.
(on some of the players never having been to an AFC Championship)
It is tough, but that's who is going to get the job done. If you can do the things you normally do, can function well, handle kickoffs, protect your punter, and all the mundane things when the stakes are really high, that's what it takes. Its not elevating your game to a different level because it's a bigger game. Being able to do the things you did in Week 1. That's what we stressed all year and hopefully we'll be able to do that. That is the crux of the matter.
(on saying "money" for Adam Vinatieri's field goals)
That was the first thing that came to my mind. Adam has been money all year and as I saw it leave his foot, it was right down the middle, and I just said he's money.
(on what its like to have Adam Vinatieri on his sideline)
It's the same feeling. We he goes out there, you always feel like he's not going to miss. That was our whole goal when he was at New England, that you couldn't let him get close enough in a situation where a field goal was going to do it. When he went out there, I don't remember him missing against me in four or five years. It's really the same feeling. Now you have it and it's just a situation, Are we close enough? And if we are, you feel like it's going to be good. The one that hit the cross bar, I asked him and said, "You (Adam) know this is going to be about 52 yards. Are we in good shape or should we punt it?" And he said, "No we got it. You just feel like you do."
(on being on the doorstep of the Super Bowl and being excited)
I feel more excited than the players because I do know. I've coached 26 years and really only had three or four times to be in this position. It's not guaranteed. You are not going to get there every year. You feel like you really need to take advantage of it and I do realize how hard it is to get here. A lot of things have to fall right for you. I think our coaches are very fired up. I am personally and looking forward to this week of practice.
(on Peyton Manning's play in the playoffs)
I think he had two bad interceptions in the Kansas City game. That's really about it. Other than that, he was sparkling. He got us in the right run checks, and had 30 completions. The game against Baltimore was about what I thought what it would be. He had one bad interception, the first one to (Ed) Reed. The second one was really a play that he calculated. He throws it on the sideline and maybe gets a pass interference. If they intercept it, it's a 45-yard net gain for us and we don't have to deal with Ed Reed blocking a punt or them (Ravens) returning it. Maybe we get something out of it, so that was a calculated risk. He (Peyton) threw the ball away at the right time, made some good throws and engineered three long drives against these guys, only got sacked once against a team that had 60 some sacks. He played a pretty good game. It doesn't say it statistically. We were in control the whole way and there are very few times that you're playing Baltimore that you are in control of things.
(on Darrell Reid and Robert Mathis)
Darrell has given us a big lift and Robert is just a tremendous, instinctive guy. That's where we first saw him. His highlight tape in college on special teams, you couldn't even describe how good a special teams player he was in college. Last year we had him playing and on the coverage units and he was our best player. And it was really a sacrifice to take off our coverage units this year, but we knew he was going to get more playing time from the line of scrimmage and it was a sacrifice we had to make. He's a difference-maker on special teams. We wore him down a bit last year. It was one thing we were determined not to do this year. Even in these games, if we don't have a timeout after the kickoff, Josh Thomas plays first down and we give him the rest that way. He's a guy that the more he's on the field, the more plays he makes.
(on the defense losing faith during the season)
We didn't lose faith or confidence. What was a little strange to me, people asked me yesterday, did we feel like we were under the radar or did we feel like it was less pressure? For 10 weeks we were still the No. 1 seed. It wasn't until week 15 that we dropped to No. 3. Even though we weren't playing the way we thought we could play, we still knew we were a good team and didn't feel any sense that we weren't going to be here.