Q: Justin [Tuck] admitted to watching the scoreboard. Were you watching the scoreboard too?
A: Maybe at the very end. I was watching and obviously saw that Detroit got within two with six minutes left. We got the word in the locker room that it wasn’t going to work out the way we wanted it to.
Q: When you play like you did today, does that make the disappointment of the last two weeks even greater?
A: We wanted to come out and play well today and we’ve been able to do that at times, and that’s football. Not every game is going to work out the way it did today and we lost some tough games, and mostly to good teams – to playoff teams or in contention – we just didn’t win some of those close ones, we didn’t win some of the tight ones. At the end versus Philly and in Washington it would have been helpful, but even with that, we knew what the circumstances were a few weeks ago. We knew what we had to do to get into the playoffs and we didn’t play well enough under those circumstances – at Baltimore, in Atlanta – to get a win in both of those spots that ultimately knocked us out of the playoffs.
Q: Five touchdown passes – is that any consolation?
A: No, you always want to play well. There’s no enjoyment in not going to the playoffs, but we knew we had a chance; we knew we had a shot, and in this game of football, a lot of times that’s all you want. You want an opportunity, you want a shot. We had better opportunities earlier on in the season that we didn’t take advantage of, so we knew we had to win this game to give ourselves any opportunity of going to the playoffs. We obviously played really well today so it’s good to know we can still play at a high level.
Q: The fact that you’re obviously coming off a championship run, a run that people around here aren’t going to forget for a very long time – does that ease the sting of this?
A: No, it hurts. Each year, you want to make the playoffs to give yourself an opportunity to win a championship. 9-7 last year was good enough and it wasn’t good enough this year. We knew it wasn’t going to be. Last year at the end of the season, we knew what the circumstances were, what we needed to do to get into the playoffs and be able to accomplish that by winning our last two games. This year, a similar scenario, we knew what the circumstances were and we didn’t accomplish that. That’s what it really comes down to, and each year, especially as I get older and teammates, guys, get older in their careers, you don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to have to be on a team that has the talent to possibly win a championship, the talent to make the playoffs and give yourself a chance to make it a special season. We feel that we have that talent here on this team and there’s obviously not a whole lot of change from last year. We had the ability to make the playoffs and we’re disappointed that we didn’t play up to our ability each week.
Q: Tom has said he’s going to ask each player what happened in the last two weeks. Would you have an answer?
A: We just didn’t play well. I don’t think it’s a lack of hunger or focus, it’s just that we got outperformed. We got beaten and we got outplayed, and sometimes that happens. You hate for it to happen but sometimes you don’t want to say that because it can mess up your confidence and people seem to think you’re not any good, and you don’t want to accept that at the time, but that’s just what happened. We got outplayed in Atlanta and in Baltimore and didn’t give ourselves a chance to win either game.
Q: Do you think there was any false sense of security this year that you guys just assumed that when you had to play well you would?
A: No, I don’t think so. I think going into this season, the mindset was let’s not make it so close; let’s play better all the time; let’s not leave it to the last two games or last three games to make it into the playoffs. I think that was kind of the lesson learned. Last year we got away with it and it might not happen again. Sure enough, that lesson was taught to us very quickly that you can’t leave it up to those last few games of the season. You hope that you’re playing your best at the very end of the season – that’s what you wish happens, but sometimes it doesn’t, so you want to try to take advantage of every opportunity, every close game, every tight game, every game that you’re in, in the fourth quarter – you’ve got to win those. We had some outstanding games where we easily walked into the fourth quarter and the victories came pretty easily. We had some close ones where we were able to come back in the fourth quarter, but we had too many games that got to the fourth quarter and we weren’t able to hold on, or we gave up the lead, or we weren’t able to have that last drive to go win the game, and that’s something we’ve got to find a way to win those close ones.
Q: Has reality sunk in yet that playoffs start next week and you’ll be at home?
A: No, I mean obviously I know we’re not playing football next week and it’s slowly kicking in. I know tomorrow is always a tough day – when you go in the locker room and kind of say your goodbyes and you start reflecting on the season – things that you wish you could do better, things that you need to improve on, things that you know you didn’t play your best at times, and you always ask why and what you need to work on. We’ll be reflecting these next few weeks and try to see where we need to improve and what went wrong at times and say goodbye to a few players, not knowing if they’re going to be part of your team next year. I think we have a great group of guys here – guys who love football, who appreciate the work that goes into it, like doing the work that goes into it, great character. I appreciate all the teammates and all the coaches this year, for all the hard work that they put in and wish it would have led to a better season.