Q. What were you doing chasing wide receivers 30 yards down the field last week?
LOFA TATUPU: It was cover two, which calls for me to go deep in the middle. And as luck would have it, they sent a receiver. They saw me dropping deep and sent one up the seam and I went over top of the player as best I could.
Q. You've been through some good games at USC. Talk about the atmosphere and how your preparation might be the same or maybe it's different for college and pro games like this.
LOFA TATUPU: Yeah, USC, they prepared me for games of this magnitude. Without a doubt, it's one of the biggest games, but you have to treat it just like another game, otherwise you get outside yourself and mistakes get made. We're looking to come out with the same intensity and being at home in front of the 12th Man, just loving it.
Q. Talk about what it's been like to make the transition from college to the NFL so quickly with all responsibilities that go along with being a middle linebacker.
LOFA TATUPU: I just try to take it in stride. My teammates have been instrumental in the success of all the rookies, not just myself and I kind of lean on them as to how to approach the game, how to study the game, and just how to go about work, essentially. This is work for us. You can't tell because we're having fun, but it's still work.
Q. How are the calls different for you and how much more responsibility do you have than you had at USC?
LOFA TATUPU: At USC, we pretty much lined up and played ball. The coach didn't put too much on me as far as making the calls, and now here the terminology is so much more different, as opposed to having things coded so everybody knows what to do. You have to almost instruct people what to do. It calls for a lot, but you just have to do the best you can and make it work.
Q. What are the differences? Last week you guys played a team that likes to control the ball. What are the different challenges that Carolina presents?
LOFA TATUPU: They have a passing game and they can run the ball. They're not going
to go away from the run. The head coach loves to run the ball and that opens up the pass. And in some situations you have Steve Smith opening up the run game for them just by causing so much attention. Then just taking the ball on the reverse and running, as well. We've got our hands full and we know that. But we're working hard and hope to come out on top.
Q. A lot of times this year we've seen with the Panthers, when teams move a safety back and do an over/under coverage thing on him, a lot of times he's open for those slants and stuff which would end up being in your area of the field. Do you see that on tape much and how do you defend against it?
LOFA TATUPU: He hurts you with the deep ball, but when it goes down to those immediate routes, he has no problem. Like I said, we have our work cut out for us. And we have to just play the coverage as best we can. They've got a lot of guys out there that are going to hurt you too. You have to play the best you can.
Q. What you've seen on films of Nick Goings so far, what's your impressions of him? Are they a different team running the ball than with Goings rather than DeShaun Foster?
LOFA TATUPU: No, they stick with the same runs. They have a complex running game and they tend to get a lot of people out of position with their tight ends and H Back and just a complex scheme.
Goings is a terrific back. He does it all. He can catch the ball in the backfield, but he's very patient with his reads. But once he sees the hole, he hits it 100 miles per hour. I don't see too much difference between them. DeShaun Foster is an excellent back, but they're not missing anything with Goings.
Q. First of all, we're disappointed we don't get to see the practice shorts here.
GRANT WISTROM: A tribute to Trent when he first came to the league, real high shorts.
Q. Mike has talked about trying to keep the same practice schedule. Do you feel he's accomplished that? Does this have the same feel to it, game feel?
GRANT WISTROM: With the exception of you guys, it's regular game. The only difference is all the media attention around it, pretty much.
Q. Was there a defining moment this season where you knew this team was different
than last year's team and had the opportunity to go far?
GRANT WISTROM: I think a couple of them, the first one being the Washington game, for most of the game we were getting it handed to us early in. We came back and had a chance to win. We didn't. It showed the resolve of the team.
The second being the Dallas team where Jordan Babineaux picked off the interception at
the beginning of the game. We didn't win, and not that we weren't capable of doing it last year, it was different mentality and different resolve to this team than last year. This year no matter what the score is or how much time is on the clock we're going to find a way to win the football game. We've shown that on a number of occasions this year.
Q. Talk about the chemistry that you
have with the team this year.
GRANT WISTROM: We have a number of guys on this team that have been cut by other teams that really we picked up off the street, guys that weren't given a chance in other organizations to play, for whatever reason. The powers-that-be decided they didn't have the talent to play at this level, and these guys have come in and been starters for us and contributed and done well right from the start.
We lost a number of players this year just on defense. Our secondary at one point was very depleted. They've come in and believed that they belonged here from the first day, they practice like it and then go out there on Sunday and show it. It's what put us in the position that we're in right now going into the NFC Championship game. Without those guys we are an average football team, a little above 500. I think we owe them a lot.
We talk about Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck, and Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram, our Pro Bowlers that put us at 13-3. The guys at the beginning of the season that didn't figure in the equation all that much that kept us in the hunt, put us where we are.
Q. The Panthers have some injuries on offense. I'm sure you are aware of that. What do you think about that and is there concern or wonder if they're going to do things differently to compensate for their losses?
GRANT WISTROM: I don't think so. Nick Goings is a great running back, and that's pretty much the same boat we were in. When we lost guys on offense and defense, we didn't change what we did, we just moved those guys out, put these new guys in, we'll expect them to go out and execute at the same level of the guys we lost, what they were playing at. And it's going to be the same way for them.
They're not going to change anything, running back or the type of offense they run, they're going to get the ball a number of times in the game, rely heavily on Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme. It will be the same great offense.
Q. Jake Delhomme, talk about him a little bit and your concerns about stopping him.
GRANT WISTROM: Right now, and since he's been in the playoffs, he's got one of the hottest hands in the playoffs. The guy picks it up in big games. And big time situations is when he tends to have his best games. We have to do everything we can to harass him as much as possible, keep him in the pocket, and not allow time for his receivers to get open. That's when teams have had the most success against them, when they keep them in the pocket, when they hit around him. That's easier said than done. They have a very good offensive line and it's one of the better, if not the best offensive lines we've faced all year. We have our work cut out for us on Sunday.
Q. We haven't heard a number 89 brought up. I'm curious what is it like as a defensive player getting ready to take on -- try to contain Steve Smith.
GRANT WISTROM: Great choice of words, contain him. You don't stop a guy like that. I respect his game probably more so than any receiver in the NFL. The guy is good just because he wants to be good. I think the perfect example of why Steve Smith is good, when Delhomme throws a ball and the DB came down with it, at the bottom of the pile Steve ends up with it.
That exemplifies his game right there. The guy made himself into a great receiver. He has a competitive desire. I respect the heck out it. It's going to be tough for us. Our DBs know that. They are fully aware of it. So it's as much their responsibility to cover Steve Smith as it is our responsibility to put as much pressure on Jake Delhomme to keep him from getting the ball right on target. Make Steve Smith use his desire to go up and get maybe the pass that isn't hitting him on stride and getting our DBs in a better position to make a play. When the guys hits him on stride you can't do anything about that, but if he's off, it gives the DBs a better shot.
Q. You've been in this position before. What can your teammates expect on Sunday to get ready for this?
GRANT WISTROM: We had a taste last week in the divisional game. This week in the playoffs the intensity steps up for a little bit more. One, there is more on the line. But No. 2, you're obviously facing a better opponent. You have two teams remaining out of 32. This is almost the best that's left. So you just really have to focus. You
have to block out things like this.
Doing things like this is a necessary evil. It's part of our jobs. We can't worry about all the media attention surrounding it. You have to focus on the game. On Sunday once that opening kickoff occurs, you have to focus on the task at hand. You have to get back to playing football and block everything else out and focus on beating the man across from you.