|01.26.12 at 10:07 pm ET|
Asked what he thought of Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Wilfork said the Patriots will see a more mature quarterback than they saw in Super Bowl XLII and – for that matter – on Nov. 4 at Gillette Stadium.
“You’ve seen him grow,” Wilfork said. “You’ve seen a guy not making the bonehead mistakes. He’s protecting the football and that’s first and foremost. When you can protect the football offensively, you have a good shot. And I think with the guys surrounding him that can make plays ‘ that’s all they have to do is protect the ball and they’ll find themselves in pretty good shape. So it’s just a team that’s going to grind it out for 60 minutes. They going to play for 60 minutes and you know what, if we make a mistake or anyone that faced them made a mistake, it’s going to cost them so it’s going to be a tough, tough game for us but at the same time it’s going to be very, very exciting.”
Forget “elite,” Wilfork put Manning used the word “great” to describe his play leading the Giants to playoff road wins in Green Bay and San Francisco.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Wilfork said. “He’s been a first pick in the draft. I’ve always watched him. He does everything you’re looking for as a quarterback. I’ve seen it firsthand what he can do in the fourth quarter of these games. He’s done a great job bringing his team back. He’s a great leader. You always hear that coming out of New York, the guys really have a lot of respect for him and so do I.”
“It’s part of the position and you watch the San Francisco game and I watched that and he was getting drilled and just stood in there and kept making the throws, trusting his protection and came through when they needed him,” Brady said. “He’s certainly a great leader for that team and plays at an extremely high level. You don’t get to this game without playing at a high level. He seems to always do it down the stretch. I have a ton of respect for him. He’s a great competitor. He’s a great quarterback for that team.”
Manning is the biggest reason why Wilfork understands why some can’t buy the Giants as underdog. The Patriots are favored from anywhere between three and four points in Super Bowl XLVI.
“I would see why people would say they need to be favored ‘they’re a heck of a ball club,” Wilfork said. “It seems like the later in the season it gets, the better they get. They peak at the right time. I understand and trust me, I see the same thing that they see. I watch film a little bit more in depth than those guys and the Giants are a real good football team. They’re coached very well and they have playmakers everywhere.
What impresses Manning’s counterpart so much is his toughness. Tom Brady has watched Manning stand in the pocket and pay the price to get the ball where it needs to go.”
|01.26.12 at 7:02 pm ET|
FOXBORO — You could tell it in the simple tone of his voice.
Tom Brady was ticked off Thursday when asked about his now-famous “apology” to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in which he said he was sorry for his performance in the AFC championship win over the Ravens and his promise to “play better” in two weeks in Indianapolis.
“I’m always trying to play better,” Brady said. “I think every player on this team is trying to play better every week. I’m glad we won that game. I’m glad we’re sitting in this position now. I think a lot of guys played really well and that’s what it’s going to take again this week.
“I always have private conversations with Mr. Kraft that are supposed to be private but I guess they’re not.”
NFL Films cameras routinely pick up candid conversations on the field following a game, with some showing up like they did on the “Inside the NFL” program on Showtime on Wednesday night.
Brady acknowledged the pressure of the Super Bowl but also embraced the chance to live up to the expectations of the Krafts and all Patriots fans.
“I think there’s pressure for every player,” Brady said. “It’s not necessarily me, and there’s certainly pressure on me, there’s pressure on the coaches, the players and we’re expected to do our job at a very high level. You go into this game where you’re playing your toughest opponent. There’s only two teams that are still going. There’s certainly a finality to this game, you’re putting absolutely everything into it, preparation-wise and you’re expected to go out there and play at your very best, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t because we’ve had 110 practices and this is our 23rd game of the year. It’s pretty incredible when you think of a real long football season.
“We have experience, we’ve seen a lot, this is the third time we’ll be playing this team, preseason, regular season and postseason so there’s some familiarity with them. Everyone should be excited and ready to go out and play our best game.”
Of course, everyone in the stadium recalls Brady telling the crowd on the AFC championship podium that he “sucked pretty bad” and thanked the defense for picking him up and helping the Patriots to a 23-20 win over the Ravens.
With Brady throwing an interception immediately after Brandon Spikes‘ pick to stop a drive, the star quarterback failed to convert a first down that would’ve sealed the game. Instead, the defense stopped the Ravens with less than 20 seconds remaining and then Brady was bailed out when Billy Cundiff hooked a 32-yard field goal attempt wide left with 11 seconds remaining.
Will he be ready to put his best foot forward and make good on that private promise to Kraft?
“I hope I do,” Brady said. “I go out there and you try to be at your very best in the biggest game. My teammates really count on that, certainly I count on that. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into that. Playing with confidence and anticipation and understanding the game plan and going out and executing it when it matters the most. That’s what it’s going to take. It’s a great team that we’re playing; everyone is going to need to be at their best.”
|01.26.12 at 4:51 pm ET|
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Probably you already knew that Bill Belichick (secondary) and Tom Coughlin (receivers) coached together with the Giants under Bill Parcells. Three Super Bowls (soon to be four) and seven conference titles later, the two rank slightly ahead of Ray Handley on the Tuna Coaching Tree.
“I didn’t have any doubt that he would,” Coughlin said when asked if he thought Belichick would be a successful NFL head coach one day when the two worked together in New York. “He stared very young and advanced with lots of responsibility at a young age and was constantly preparing himself for what was coming later for him. I didn’t have any question about the detailed, meticulous work Bill did when he was here and the process that he went through when preparing his defensive team.”
Coughlin used the word “exceptional” three times to describe Belichick’s work as Patriots head coach on Thursday, and noted his ability to coach both sides of the ball despite having earned his reputation as a defensive mind. He was asked about his relationship with Belichick in New York.
“We worked very well together, and I think that’s the thing that is most important when you evaluate that time in our lives,” Coughlin said. “We cooperated well, we did an awful lot together, never stopped. I can remember Parcells saying, “Again?” We did work well together, we discussed things back and forth. It was a good time, it was a good time.”
|01.26.12 at 12:47 pm ET|
At his weekly press conference Thursday, Bill Belichick talked about the familiarity between the Patriots and Giants, the availability of Sebastian Vollmer, Eli Manning‘s strong year, and the intangibles Brandon Spikes brings to New England’s defense.
Following are some highlights.
On the familiarity with the Giants: “There is no team we’re more familiar in the NFC than the Giants. We play them every year. Twice in ’07 and this will be three times this season. A lot of those were in the preseason, but still there is a familiarity keeping up with a team every year as opposed to a lot of other teams who we see once every three years. At least there is sort of an annual review of the Giants. I don’t think it is like a division game but we know them a lot better than most NFC teams.”
On Sebastian Vollmer’s status: “We’ll see how it goes. [Vollmer] practiced some last week and wasn’t able to go. He’ll practice this week. The crystal ball is clouding up…If he’s ready, he’s ready. If Sebastian is ready he could really help our football team. There’s no question.”
On the Giants offense and Eli Manning: “When they have to throw it , they throw it. When they have to run it, they run it. And that’s the mark of a good offense. … Eli has done a good job not turning the ball over, hitting big plays, and converting on third downs. Their third down conversion numbers are significantly up from the regular season, playing against better teams. He can hurt you with his legs. Not that he’s looking to run for a 100 yards or anything but converting on third downs, scrambling out of the pocket, and keeping plays alive. We’ve seen that before. He’s done a good job. He has a lot of skill and spreads the ball around. And he wins and that’s a quarterback’s job: to manage a game and win.”
On Brandon Spikes: “Brandon is a very instinctive player. He catches on quickly. He just knows where the ball is. Sometimes it is not exactly the way you would coach it in terms of what keys and footwork would be, but he has a good ability to find the ball and know where the play is. … He is tall like Pepper [Johnson] was. You don’t see a lot of inside linebackers with that kind of height. Most guys are a little more compact than that. That’s a problem for a quarterback because of their length, their height, and range. They get their hands on a lot of balls. Like Pepper, Brandon plays with power. He gives us a different presence in there.”
|01.26.12 at 12:30 pm ET|
“That was a different time, the game was different then what it is now,” Belichick said Thursday.
The defensive coordinator, of course, was Belichick. He has since won three Super Bowl titles as head coach of the Patriots, winning five AFC championships in the process. Tom Coughlin was wide receivers coach on that team before leaving immediately after Scott Norwood‘s kick sailed wide right to take the reigns of the Boston College football program.
Coughlin turned BC into a perennial bowl-caliber team while producing NFL-ready talent, a trait that continues today. Coughlin moved on to take the Jaguars to a pair of AFC championships before taking on the Giants head job, replacing Jim Fassel after the 2004 season.
“That staff worked pretty well together,” Belichick said. “My relationship with Tom in those those years with me coaching the secondary and him coaching the receivers, we really worked together. We helped each other out.”
In all there were four assistants on that Giants staff under Parcells that would become an NFL head coach. In addition to Belichick and Coughlin, there was defensive line coach Romeo Crennel and linebackers coach Al Groh. Giants offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt was the head coach of the Patriots from late 1979 through 1981.
“Being able to have that give and take with conversations like, ‘Tom this is a tough pattern, or we’re really having tough time defending this route. Or we can tell your corner is lined up like this it’s going to be zone. We can tell when he jams, it can be tough on a route.'”
What was interesting Thursday was how appreciative Belichick sounded of Coughlin for speaking up and how grateful Belichick was to Parcells for creating an environment that fostered that kind of communication among coaches.
“That reinforces some things. On your side of the ball you think you’re coaching the best you can, and that’s what you’re doing. But when the guy working against you is telling you that this is really hard or that this is harder than that is. Then it gives you another perspective from an offensive standpoint and not just a defensive perspective.
“There was a lot of that. It wasn’t just about what you were doing. It was a team effort. It was a special team, not just with the coaches but with the players. “
|01.26.12 at 10:25 am ET|
The rally itself will begin at noon with gates to the stadium opening at 10:15 Sunday morning. And like four years ago, there will be a replay of the AFC championship game for fans to relive the thrill and their incredible good fortune that Lee Evans dropped a pass and Billy Cundiff hooked a kick left with 11 seconds remaining.
The Patriots and sponsors Dunkin’ Donuts and Covidien are inviting fans to the free event, where they can see the team off to Indianapolis to take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Just prior to the players boarding busses for the airport, Patriots President Jonathan Kraft, Bill Belichick and the entire team will greet fans from the Gillette Stadium field.
The Patriots Cheerleaders, Pat Patriot and the End Zone Militia will take part in the festivities, and complimentary coffee and hot chocolate will be provided.
The event is free and open to the public. Gillette Stadium’s Patriot Place Gate (located near the ticket office and the The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon) will open at 10:15 a.m. Parking is free. No tailgating will be allowed.
|01.26.12 at 10:11 am ET|
Former Boston College Eagle and current Giants returner/cornerback Will Blackmon joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to discuss the Super Bowl and the big BC connection to this year’s game.
Blackmon is one of six former Eagles on the Giants or Patriots roster. He is joined on the Giants by Mark Herzlich (’10), Mathias Kiwanuka (’05) and Chris Snee (’04). The New England roster boats Ron Brace (’08) and Dan Koppen (’02).
In addition to players, there are 10 coaches, scouts or team personnel with ties to BC. Most notable among them are Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who was the Eagles coach from 1991-93, New York assistant coach Jack Bicknell Jr., who played center at BC in the early 1980s for his father, Giants president and chief executive officer John Mara, a 1976 BC graduate, and Giants senior vice president of player evaluation Chris Mara, a 1979 BC grad.
“It’s unbelievable,” Blackmon said of the BC presence among both Super Bowl teams. “The one thing is that we know for sure that you are going to get a quality guy when you play for BC.”
Blackmon, a Providence native, is in his sixth NFL season. After four seasons with the Packers, he played five games for the Giants last season. He was waived last January but re-signed on Nov. 23, playing six regular-season games and all three playoff games. Although his time on the roster has been limited, Blackmon was present for the final two games of a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season that threatened to end the Giants’ playoff hopes. He said that the team’s ability to self-evaluate and band together fueled the playoff run.
“I think the way we were losing games, it came down to there’s no way we should have lost that game,” Blackmon said. “You look at the [San Francisco] game, you look at the Philly game, where we let Vince Young throw for 400 yards. Just certain ways that we lost games, like there’s no way we should have lost it. So when it became crunch time, we just honed in and rallied around each other and just said, ‘Hey listen, we have a special team and we can’t be losing games like this anymore. Let’s do something special. Here we go.’ We just turned into lockdown mode and here we are.”