CONFERENCE CALL WITH NEW ENGLAND MEDIA
January 9, 2019
Q: Was there much thought given to staying on the East Coast this week?
AL: There was some thought about doing that but we didn’t know what was going on with the other place. We would have had to plan to stay even if the game was in Kansas City. Yeah, we did. I just think it was a lot going on in a week to get that done and we just weren’t able to get it done. But we did give it some thought.
Q: You guys have gone into some tough venues and played some very physical teams. What are your thoughts on how your team has matched up physically against those teams and embrace that challenge?
AL: We have a tough football team, no doubt. I believe that. I think going on the road, it really doesn’t faze this team. We love ball, we like playing football, we like competing and we know going into Foxborough, they’re undefeated there and they’re tough to beat, period. It doesn’t matter where you play the Patriots; they’re tough to beat. They have a wealth of experience on their team and they’re well-coached by Coach [Bill] Belichick and his staff. We’re looking forward to coming out there but we know our hands are full.
Q: The Chargers and Patriots haven’t played each other very often the past few years but you have a lot of experience in the AFC East. Does that translate at all this week to helping you lay the groundwork?
AL: I am familiar with the Patriots but they sure got so many different ways to win. So sometimes you can overthink things. Being familiar with the personnel helps but the rosters in the NFL, they change a lot every year, so I’m not sure how much of an advantage that would be but yeah, I know the guys.
Q: There’s been a lot you guys have had to deal with going to London, moving the team and long road trips. How much have you relied on Philip Rivers as a leader and a steady force in the locker room?
AL: Well, we have a good group of captains and it’s not just one guy. We have Melvin Ingram, Russell Okung, Mike Pouncey’s the first alternate in his first year that he got here in the voting, Brandon Mebane’s been outstanding, Antonio Gates. We have some veteran leadership. It’s not just Philip. But Philip’s done an outstanding job. I like the way he leads and I like the way he helps players around him.
Q: How much has Michael Badgley meant to your team? I think he’s the seventh place-kicker for the Chargers since 2016.
AL: Yeah. He’s definitely brought some stability as far as field goals are concerned. I’ve been very happy with Mike in that regard. He has a lot of confidence in himself and that’s probably why I have so much confidence in him. He’s definitely helped.
Q: You were with Stephon Gilmore with the Bills. Are you seeing the same guy that you saw in Buffalo or has he improved over the last couple of years?
AL: He’s improved if you ask me. I know Stephon, know him very well. I thought last year, his first year there, he was kind of making his way through from maybe being in a different organization and this year, watching the tape, he looks like a completely different man. He looks lighter to me, he’s quicker on his feet, his coverage is tight, he’s physical. He’s a top corner in this league.
Q: Just curious if you were even aware that Philip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady and what’s your reaction to that?
AL: No, I was not aware of that. But that’s in the past. That’s what I think about. It’s in the past. We have an opportunity to do it on Sunday so let’s make the most out of it.
Q: What have your impressions been of the Patriots offense? Their stats haven’t been quite as good this year as they’ve been in the past.
AL: Stats don’t win games. They figure out ways to win games and that’s all that really matters. They won the division, I think for the ninth straight time, and back in this same situation I don’t know how many times. But they figure out a way to win games and like I said, sometimes they go through the backs, sometimes they go through the receivers, tight ends and the defense will step up and make timely stops and they’re stingy in the red zone. So they just figure out a way to win games with what they have and that’s what’s most important.
Q: Does Tom Brady threaten your defense in the same ways he did last year?
AL: Yeah, definitely he does. I think Tom Brady threatens anybody’s defense, you know? He’s one of the best to ever play the game so any time you have him, it’s just signal-calling. That’s huge.
Q: You’ve been using a lot of safeties at the linebacker position. How have they been able to learn that role so quickly on the fly here?
AL: It’s been gameplan-specific. We don’t use that a lot but when we do use it, it has been effective for us. Those guys, I take my hat off to them. They get in there and they learn linebacker responsibilities, linebacker roles and they go out and they play at a high level. Just a very disciplined group of DBs and they’ll do whatever we ask them to do. Like I said, that’s more of a gameplan-specific deal. We don’t do that all the time.
Q: You guys seem to feel comfortable stopping the run even in nickel or dime defense. Can you talk a little bit about how you’ve developed that comfort level?
AL: Well, going into the offseason, that was a major emphasis on defense, was playing the run better and we have definitely done that. A lot of this was planning way back in April and I think you’re seeing some of the results now. Stopping the run has been something that we’ve taken some pride in and our pass-rushers, they’ve been very unselfish. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, they’re playing run techniques a lot of the times instead of pass techniques. I’m sure that’s costing them some sacks and us some pressure but we have to be able to stop the run. If you can’t stop the run, it’s going to be a long day.
Q: How much confidence do you have in your remaining linebackers Kyle Emanuel and Hayes Pullard if they do have to play in this game?
AL: A lot of confidence. Every time they’ve played, they’ve stepped up and answered the bell. So no problem at all with those men on the field. Even Kyle Wilson, he’s come a long ways. Young linebacker just doing a lot on special teams right now.
Q: The Patriots didn’t have Julian Edelman the last time you guys played them. How does he look to you at age 32 coming off the ACL tear?
AL: Well, I never would have known he’s 32 until you said it. He looks quick, man. He’s quick, he’s making plays and he looks like himself to me.
Q: What have you seen from Melvin Gordon since he’s come back and how has he responded to the return and the workload?
AL: He’s responding well. We’re definitely going to rest him today. He has sore knees but he’s a gamer. He lives to play in games like this and I’m highly confident that he’s going to play on Sunday. There’s not a lot of backs in the league right now that are 100 percent to be honest with you. He’s one of those guys that he’s not 100 percent but sometimes you don’t feel like it because of the way he competes.
Q: Does that mean he’s not practicing today?
Q: If there are slick conditions on Sunday, will that affect the way you use Melvin Gordon in the game?
AL: Well, I think any conditions are going to affect the way both sides play the game. We’ll make those adjustments and decisions when that time comes.
Q: How have you felt about your running backs in pass protection lately?
AL: I think those guys do a really good job. They take a lot of pride in that. They’ve had their moments for sure but over the course of the season, they’ve done a pretty good job in pass protection. And they’re going to have to do a good job on Sunday because New England linebackers – [Dont’a] Hightower, I mean, he’s a good rusher. There are some people that see that as a mismatch with him on a back and sometimes it is but you’ve got to rely on your technique and fundamentals and we’ve got to do a good job against him.
Q: What are your thoughts on the quarterback matchup as a fan of the game?
AL: I’m going to be focused on my 11 [players] against their 11 [players]. I think that’s good for the fans to look at the quarterback matchup, fans like that. But I kind of see it as our team against their team, to be honest with you.
QUARTERBACK PHILIP RIVERS
CONFERENCE CALL WITH NEW ENGLAND MEDIA
January 9, 2019
Q: How do you guys feel with all of the cross-country flying the past couple of days?
PR: Yeah, we’re doing just fine. I’ll tell you what, it’s a long way. Even further this week. But yeah, we had a couple of days to kind of recover and back into a regular week mode today.
Q: Did you guys talk at all about staying on the East Coast?
PR: No, I don’t think so. I don’t know if they discussed it upstairs or not among the coaches, but it wasn’t ever brought to our attention. The weather is too nice to practice right here.
Q: It’s been six years since you’ve made it this far in the playoffs. What’s your excitement level like now to face Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?
PR: Yeah, I think first, just fired up. Yeah, fired up to be in the final eight and to have a chance. I think we talk about that every year that you’re not in. You’re always disappointed you didn’t even give yourself a chance, give our team a chance. Certainly fired up to have a shot. The fact that it is against this franchise and this team and obviously it’s unbelievable what they’ve done and what they’ve sustained over many, many, many years. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge but certainly excited to have the opportunity to come there and have another shot at them.
Q: How has the combination of relocation added with the extra road games this year between London and the playoff win in Baltimore last week helped this team build a resolve and cultivate a level of toughness on the road?
PR: Yeah, I do think – I mean, I don’t want to make more of it than it is, but I certainly do think its weathered us and contributed to our toughness and resilience and all of those adjectives I could give you. From the move to new training camp sites to last year – Im going back to last year now – we spent the offseason in San Diego and then we come here for training camp and the facility is not quite done, and we’re about to move back in to the new facility when the season started, and then we start off 0-4 and then we get on a run and finish just short last year and were disappointed because we felt like we were playing really good towards the end of last year. We won nine of our last 12. This year, kind of a little more settled back in. But you mentioned we’ve had some tough road trips. We’ve gone across the country and had a home game in London and been all over. It’s a tough group. It’s a tough team. We’re well aware that the Patriots haven’t lost at home and we haven’t lost out of L.A. County, so one of those streaks is going to be broken on Sunday.
Q: Regarding that toughness, how much of that do you guys take from your head coach, Anthony Lynn?
PR: Yeah, I think quite a bit. The word I use to describe him – it may not do him justice with the job he’s done these first two years – but is steady. He’s just very steady. He’s a steady voice from the front and he’s steady in his demeanor and steady in his message, all of those things, to us. From 0-4, from the move, to anything we’ve dealt with, he’s just very steady week to week. It’s very much the same, very intentional. There’s not a lot of hoopla from him. When he’s talking to us it’s because it’s something we need to hear, and if there’s nothing we need to hear then he doesn’t say a whole lot. I think he’s just steady and it has a trickle-down effect on the whole group. And then I do think we have a good group of veteran leaders in every position group. We have a young team probably as a whole, but we have a lot of veteran leadership in each position group. It’s a nice mix. There’s a lot of guys that love to play, a lot of guys that love football and I’ve always thought the more guys you have that really love ball certainly helps you.
Q: Do you have much of a relationship with Tom Brady?
PR: No, other than just a great deal of respect. I really have not ever had really any at length or at depth conversations with Tom other than the “good game” afterwards and they’ve all been good games from his side. No, just respect from afar. Obviously, with the career has had and what has done over 20 years has been remarkable.
Q: Does it worry you at all that you haven’t beaten him before in your career?
PR: No, I mean I don’t think so. It’s not something you think about a whole lot. It exists and it’s there but again, and I mean this, I don’t feel that I’m playing Tom. Certainly it’s a Tom Brady led team and we know how things work with the quarterback and the head coach that have the record attached to it. We’ve got a heck of a challenge, our offense, going against that defense and how disciplined they play and how well they play especially this time of year. We’ve got our work cut out on that side of the ball. Yeah, I think you’re aware of that stat that is out there but it’s not something that I spend much time thinking about.
Q: When you look at this Patriots defense, what similarities and differences do you see from past versions of it that you have faced?
PR: Well, I just think they’re just so – speaking of guys who love to play – I think they certainly have that and then they’ve always just had guys that understand what teams are trying to do to them and understand where maybe the soft spot in zones may be or where the so-called weakness may be in a certain coverage and they do a heck of a job trying to take away what you do best. Certainly they’ve had some change and turnover over the many years we’ve played them as far as who’s over there on that side of the ball. The ability for them to be very multiple and do things very well and really you see how, again, what a great job they do of trying to take away what you do best. To me, there’s many similarities in all of the years I’ve played them of all of those teams. Many similarities from this team to those teams – just a sustained 10-plus wins and however many conference championships in a row and Super Bowls. It’s a similar formula when you have the same head coach. They’ve had some turnover with the staff and things just like they have with players, but it’s impressive what they’ve done year-in and year-out.
Q: How badly do you want this Super Bowl run to break for you at this stage of your career?
PR: Just as bad as we’ve wanted it every year to be honest with you. Yeah, I think there’s no denying that you know that you don’t have a ton of years left. I want it for our team. I want our team to experience and us to accomplish our ultimate goal. We haven’t done it. It’s really not about me, it’s about us. Like I said in the first couple of minutes we were talking, it’s exciting to have a chance. Once you’re in it, somebody’s going to win it. One of these eight teams is going to win it. So to have that opportunity and again, to get a step closer this weekend will be a heck of a challenge but we’re going to prepare like crazy and be there ready to go.
Q: How important is it to not overthink things on Sunday and still just try and play your style of game?
PR: Yeah, I think it’s huge. I think especially really last week, going back to last week in that first game – for some guys, maybe their first playoff game. As ya’ll mentioned, it’s the first time we’ve been in since ’13, so I think especially when it’s the first one you’ve been in in a while for some of us and then some of us, ever. I think it’s important to not try to play that mistake-free game that doesn’t exist. Just go out there and play a football game. There’s going to be some good and some bad. Miss a throw or two or miss a tackle or two. We’re going to have all of those things that happen in every game and just go play and believe that throughout four quarters and in all three phases that we’re going to find a way. I thought we did a good job of that. Obviously they got back into the game late last week but we found a way to win and that’s what this is all about. I’m not telling you guys anything you don’t know or haven’t witnessed over the last decade-plus. That’s what this Patriots team has always done. They just find a way. It’ll be key for us though to play smart, attention to detail, all of those things that if you’re not on it, this is the team – if there is one in this league – this is the team that certainly makes you pay if you’re not doing the little things correctly.
Q: We heard that you’re a trash talker on the field but that you keep it very clean? What’s the story behind that?
PR: Yeah, I mean I think, yeah, the best way I can describe it is it’s typical banter and back and forth like you’d have with your brothers in a pickup game at Thanksgiving. It doesn’t get much worse than that. I’m like that when we’re on the practice field amongst our guys during training camp. I really just enjoy to play, play with the same passion that I did when I was 10 years old in the backyard in Alabama. I just kind of kept at it. That’s when I’m at my best. Certainly there’s a fine line between making sure you take care of your business and do your job and then also enjoying a little bit of the game within a game. Yeah, I’m sure as many would tell you, it’s probably laughable; most of it.
Q: Any notable trash talkers on the Patriots?
PR: Not really that I know of. I’ve gone against these guys a handful of times. Again, I’ve got a lot of respect for this defense. A lot of these guys have been there some time and then some that haven’t. But no, nobody stands out. Again, I think it’s more of a little bit of something I earned way back early in my career. Like last week, I don’t know if there was anything said in that Ravens game. It’s not like I go in with a game plan of that stuff. If some natural interactions, then so be it. If not, then just kind of play the game.
Q: What’s the story behind the hat that you wear at your post-game press conference?
PR: Nunc Coepi – it’s a Latin phrase. It just means “Now I begin,” I think in its most literal terms. I’ve kind of made it “We,” like now “We” begin. We used it as a phrase for our team years ago. It’s a different way of saying one play at a time. You begin new no matter what. I use it in my personal life as well, family life, prayer life, whatever it is. You begin again. Good or bad day, or good play or bad play, or whatever it is. You have a chance to get back up and begin again. That’s kind of something that – it’s certainly personal for me but it was kind of something that we adopted as a team years ago. It’s something that’s really stuck with me.
Q: I just noticed that you wear the phrase on your hat every week.
PR: Yeah, I mean I have it on right now. We just got through the walkthrough. I don’t know. I guess in some ways it’s my personal motto. Again, like I said, the team kind of adopted it there at one point a few years ago. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s like wearing a watch for me I guess. It’s the last thing I grab walking out of the house and usually what I throw on when I’m around the building.
Q: How much has your depth offensively benefited your team?
PR: It’s been great offensively and really our whole team. I think that’s one unique thing about our team is there’s so many guys. Obviously it’s always the ultimate team game in every sense, but this team is so unique in how many ways we’ve won games and how many guys contribute each week and how many different guys make a big play and how many guys make the game-changing plays. Just so many guys contribute and then guys have bigger roles and smaller roles. Everybody knows that role and really embraces it. Yeah, that’s kind of in general terms just how many different ways we’ve won. But speaking offensively, I think that is one of our big positives of our offense is so many different guys touch the ball every week, week to week. Some maybe not much one week and then they lead the team in receiving the next week or whatever it may be. I do think it makes us a little tougher to defend because we’re multiple – multiple in personnel groups and multiple in who gets the ball. We spread it around. Going back to what I said, this defense here does a heck of a job of taking away what you do best so we’ve got to be ready to adjust on the fly. Every guy on this offense has got to be ready to be the guy to make the play.
Q: Bill Belichick coached you once in the Pro Bowl. What is your relationship like with him?
PR: Yeah, again, it was one week at the Pro Bowl, other than just your pre or post-game interactions, besides that. I mean, again, my one interaction with Coach [Bill] Belichick was actually at halftime, the one that stands out. It was a great week. I’ll just tell you a funny story, but it was a great week just being around him. It’s a little bit, obviously it’s all scaled back in the Pro Bowl, but just really with his offensive staff and all his coaches just talking football and stuff, just being around a staff and a coach that had the success he’s had. It was cool for me to be around those guys and just talk ball. I do remember at halftime of the Pro Bowl game we were getting killed. I think it was me and Peyton [Manning] and I can’t remember who the other quarterback was – I’m trying to think of the other quarterback that year. I don’t know if it was [Matt] Cassel. It was Cassel. So, me, Peyton and Cassel and we’re getting blown out at halftime and he kind of called us all up and said, “Hey, we can tackle. I know it’s the Pro Bowl and all of that but can we tackle somebody today? Let’s just go out and make this a little bit respectable in the second half.” And then he looked over at us quarterbacks and we had all thrown an interception. Thank goodness I wasn’t the only one and he said, “It would help if you guys would stop throwing it to the other team.” I got a kick out of that because I’m sitting there with Peyton Manning and Cassel and if Peyton’s not my all-time favorite, one of. I was glad I wasn’t the only one that had thrown it to the other team. I thought that was pretty good. I got fussed out at halftime of the Pro Bowl.
Q: I saw a segment that said you try to be home in time at night to help your kids with their homework. Do you tell them that this week Dad has a little extra studying to do himself?
PR: Yeah, I’m going to try and keep it as normal a week as I can and just keep that routine. The way I look at it is if you’re going to try harder this week or prepare harder, then we’ve been cheating each other. We’ve been cheating our teammates the last 17 games. Obviously, I say that seriously and understanding obviously the magnitude of the game so certainly you don’t leave any stone unturned from a preparation standpoint. But yeah, I’ll try to keep it as normal as possible. Obviously, we come out there on Friday. Yeah, a little homework help. I’m not great at it as they’ve gotten older. Some of this stuff gets a little tougher. I can usually handle the math part of it. Math is kind of my go-to so I can usually help a little bit if it comes to some math problems.