TB: It’s a very disruptive front – one of the best groups of linebackers in the league, with [Kevin] Burnett and [Karlos] Dansby and [Koa] Misi. The defensive line is very disruptive; they’re big powerful guys. Cameron Wake is as good a pass rusher in the league as there is. It’s a great front seven. In the back end, the two safeties have been in there all year playing well. The cornerback group is a good group too. It’s a good defense – they’re disruptive, they stop the run, they get to the quarterback. We have to be able to understand their strengths and try to go down and execute against a very good defense, one that is always a challenge for us, especially in Florida in December.
Q: Is there anything you can put a finger on as to why you’ve had so much success lately against the Dolphins?
TB: I think we’ve executed well against them [in] those games. But those games really have no impact on this particular week. I think we have a good group of veteran players that have played together, played well at times this season. We’re going to be challenged this weekend. It’s not so much about last year’s Miami team or last year’s Patriots team. We’ve got a whole season ahead of us and we’re going to go out and try to play a good game against a very good defense.
Q: When did the game slow down for you? When did it become clear to you that you had things under control?
TB: I don’t think you ever feel like you have everything figured out at this position. Every year things change and defenses change, your players change, your scheme changes, the strength of your team changes, the opponents change. Obviously, my second year, Ryan’s [Tannehill] first year, there’s a lot to learn about the position. I still feel like there’s a lot to learn in my 13th year. Every game you feel a little bit more comfortable and every practice you feel a little bit more comfortable and you learn from your mistakes but that’s part of the growing process.
Q: What do you think of Mike Pouncey comparing Ryan Tannehill to you earlier this year? Do you see any comparison to a young
TB: I haven’t had a chance to see Ryan play too much. I’ll certainly get a chance to see him play in person. I always hear great things about him. Obviously his teammates think a lot of him. That’s most important because if you don’t have the respect of your teammates then you’re never going to be a good leader for the team or a good example of what the team is all about or a good example for what the organization is really preaching. Obviously his teammates have a lot of respect for him, as they should. They lost some close games this year and I’m sure they’re going to give us their best.
Q: Can you talk about the 99-yard touchdown to
TB: Wes has been an incredible player since the day he got here. He was a great player down there when the Dolphins had him. He was responsible for beating us one of those games on a punt return for a touchdown. Wes is one of my best friends. He’s just a great person and teammate and player. He’s everything you look for in a teammate – his work ethic, his attitude, his ability. He’s very selfless; he does everything that he can to help the team win. There’s no better teammate than Wes Welker. I’m glad he’s on our team. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to play with him for as long as I have.
Q: How has the tight end position evolved into more of an offensive weapon since you’ve been in the league?
TB: There have been some good ones with Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. You can get some matchups at the tight end position that maybe you can’t get at other positions. The tight ends are involved in the run game. That’s a very challenging position to play. We’ve been fortunate to have some good tight ends over the course of my career. Certainly with Rob [Gronkowski] and Aaron [Hernandez] and
Q: You have put up some pretty big numbers in New England. Where does the plus-24 turnover ratio the team has this season rank? What does it say about this team?
TB: It’s something we talk about a lot. There’s nothing more important than possession of the football. Our defense has done an incredible job taking it away. The offense has done a great job of keeping the ball away from the defense. It’s a point of emphasis every day in practice. It’s a point of emphasis going into every game, like most teams. It’s probably the one stat that correlates to winning and losing more than any other. It’s good that we’re in the plus-20s, but what we’re trying to do is get the edge in this game. Nothing that we’ve done this year means anything going into this game. We have to go out and try to put together a good performance this game. Hopefully we’re ahead in the turnover margin in this game as well.
Q: You’ve talked about wanting to play until you’re 40. Now that you’re 35, is that still a realistic goal and how are you feeling? Are you still at the top of your game?
TB: I feel great. I hope I can play as long as I can. I’m sure there comes a time for everybody, but that’s not necessarily in my short term future. I’m going to keep playing as long as the Patriots will have me.
Q: In the offseason, do you allow yourself to look at your place in history among the all-time quarterbacks?
TB: No, I don’t think about that much. There’s so much work to do to prepare for the season between the workouts and the new things that we’re doing offensively and keeping yourself in shape mentally and physically – those are important things. I don’t think about that much and honestly that doesn’t give me a whole lot of satisfaction. What gives me a lot of satisfaction is going out there and winning football games and trying to do the best that I can do and be the best teammate and player for our team that I can possibly be.
Q: Where have you seen the biggest change at the quarterback position from the time that you came into the league until now?
TB: I’m not sure. I feel like it’s pretty much the same. Good quarterback play involves good decision making and being a good leader. Ultimately the position to me is about making good decisions as a player. It’s not so much one particular aspect of the game – that will always change because there are a lot of ways to get it done at quarterback. Ultimately decision making – running the ball, throwing the ball, on the field decisions, off the field decisions – those are the most important things.
Q: What has Bill Belichick meant to you and your career?
TB: There’s no coach I’d ever want to play for than him. He’s always so committed to our team and to winning. Nobody works harder than him. I have so much respect for him and his evaluations of me as a player. That’s who I listen to. I’ve been very fortunate to play for him. He’s so consistent with his message to the team about winning and being selfless and mental toughness. He’s a great coach. He’s the best of all-time as far as I’m concerned.