RE: On missing the playoffs
A: Well, I’m obviously disappointed that the season is over. Each year, you want to compete for a championship. The only way to do that is to make the playoffs. We didn’t handle our business this year. We didn’t when we needed to. We knew the circumstances at the end of the year. We needed to play our best football. We needed to win some important games, and we weren’t able to come through.
Q: Now that the complete body of work is done, what is the one thing about this season that is most disappointing, besides not making the playoffs?
A: Well, I think just the fact that we had a lead. We had a three-game lead at one point in the division, and down the stretch, we couldn’t hold onto it. It was up to us. We had to win. We had to play our best football, and we couldn’t do it. There’s no one to blame, or no one to look at except ourselves. That’s disappointing.
Q: Tom said he would ask you guys today about what happened over the last two weeks. Did you have any answers?
A: No. I don’t have an answer. We talked about it. I think that’s what’s on everyone’s mind, is “why?” Not that we lost in Baltimore, lost in Atlanta, just how we lost and that we didn’t give ourselves a chance. I don’t think there’s an answer right there. I think it’s just a matter of we didn’t have our A-game. In those crucial situations, you’ve got to have it. You’ve got to be at your best, and you’ve got to want it, and we didn’t have it.
Q: As you look back at your performance, is there anything that you would go back and change if you could?
A: Well, we’ll have to look. I haven’t obviously reflected yet. I don’t think it was as good as it needed to be. Too many games where we just had turnovers, we didn’t play at our highest level, and we’ll have to see if there is a common trend or reason why. We’ll look and analyze the whole season, and find out how we need to get better.
Q: We know there are going to be some changes, as always. After every season, win or lose, how concerned would you be about the tweaking that will be going on?
A: We’ll always have to see. That’s part of football. Each season, there are going to be changes. There’s going to be new players coming in, teammates that you’ve been with for a number of years that aren’t going to be on the team anymore. So, it’s always something that you deal with as it comes up. I think that’s what’s upsetting. I think mostly, it’s that we felt, I felt, that we had great talent on this team. We had a team that was very capable of making the playoffs, making a run, and a chance at winning a championship. When you have talent, and you have the guys that are committed, focused, and want to be good, and it’s important to them, you hate to waste those opportunities because you just don’t know how many times you are ready to win a championship and you have everything in place.
Q: You guys never really had Hakeem at 100 percent, which obviously affected the team.
A: Yeah, it’s tough. Hakeem had great toughness, wanted to be out there. But, since really Week Three, not having him able to practice, and be at full speed and work on things, it’s tough. I think he’ll tell you that he wanted to be out there, and he was hurt, playing hurt, and he just wasn’t quite the same playmaker that we have become used to when he can play. So, I told him that we have to get him healthy. I know it’s frustrating for him, but that’s football. You’re going to have injuries, and you kind of hope that if you get an injury, you take a few weeks, you get healed up, and come back. It just wasn’t that simple this year, and it obviously can affect an offense when one of your number one receivers is not playing to the level that we know he can, because of an injury.
Q: When you wind up not making the playoffs by a very small margin, does it make you appreciate what you did in the two Super Bowl years when you got in?
A: Well, I think you just know that’s the goal, is to get into the playoffs. From there, you want the opportunity or the chance to try and win a championship. I think you just don’t want to have to leave the chance, and winning nine games is a little too close. Most times, that’s probably not going to put you in the playoffs. Sometimes, it does, but we have to find ways to win more games to get to that 11 wins and be better in the division. Losing three division games is always going to make it, those are important games, you’ve got to try and have a winning record in the division, which I think is important. There were some close games, some tight games, that we weren’t able to pull off this year that we were able to sneak away with last year. Win those tight ones, or make that comeback in the fourth quarter, we weren’t as good as we needed to be.
Q: Do you feel that as a 32-year-old veteran, these missed opportunities as a good team are more frustrating than they would have been five years ago?
A: Yeah, definitely. Just because you know as you get older, your seasons are becoming more limited. In my nine years here, I’ve seen talented teams and have been on teams that weren’t as talented. We were able to get by with some things and win games, but we felt that we have talent, we have playmakers, we’ve got guys who get it, who understand what it takes to win, and play at a high level. To waste that opportunity is disappointing.
Q: Is there one game that might gnaw at you a little more than the rest?
A: I think at Washington, end of the year. I thought offensively, we played pretty well. Moved the ball, settled for field goals, and the last minute, we had two opportunities late in the game to get a score, get points and take the lead. We weren’t able to do it. I think just that game, it was a big game at Washington. They were playing well, they were hot, the race in the division was getting tight, and we had an opportunity that we weren’t able to pull off, even though we played pretty well.
Q: Does at Philadelphia also eat at you a little bit? Considering you were one play away from winning that game?
A: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Obviously, earlier in the year, those games, the ones later in the season seem to stick with you, because you know what the circumstances are. You kind of see how it’s playing out. You know, “Hey, this is a big win. This can give us some separation in the division. This can be a big difference as the playoffs are winding down.” To not get that one hurts, obviously. If you look back at the season, there are always those games that you wish you could’ve won. Obviously, in Philadelphia when we were in field goal range, and then had a penalty to knock us out is tough. I think the Washington one just sticks a little more, just because we knew the circumstances of how everything was kind of turning out. And we needed a win right there to put us in great position to win the division.
Q: Do you watch the playoffs now? Do you root for your brother in Denver?
A: I’ll watch the Denver… If I’m around, I’m sure I’ll be watching some games. I’m probably not going to set out to watch every game. I usually try to stay away from it a little bit. I will watch my brother and the Broncos, and be rooting for them to make a run.
Q: In regards to the dwindling opportunities, getting closer to the end of your career. In regards to Peyton, does that make this a little bit more intense for your family? With the dwindling opportunities?
A: I think we’re just going to be excited for him. I don’t think it will make it any more intense. Anytime that you’re in the playoffs, it’s an honor and a great accomplishment. I think obviously, I’ll be rooting hard for him to try and get another championship. He’s had a great season, and obviously finishing it off strong, I’ll be happy for him.
Q: How did you come out of this season physically? Did you come out with any injuries?
A: No major problems, which is nice to have. I think it would have been good to obviously get another reason where you feel good, you wish you could keep going and extend the season.
Q: Will you go to Denver at all?
A: I don’t know. I won’t go in two weeks to that game. From there, we’ll see what happens.
Q: Considering how well you played yesterday, do you look back and say, “What the hell went wrong in Baltimore and Atlanta?” Comparing those two games to yesterday’s?
A: Obviously, yesterday we played a team that was 4-11. Atlanta and Baltimore are teams that are leading the NFC and Baltimore at one point was leading the AFC. They (Baltimore) went on a little streak where they weren’t playing great, they were a little banged up, but they played well. I think the Atlanta and Baltimore games were a little bit different. I think we played a little better in the Atlanta game, and had opportunities. We got down there in scoring position a few times, we just weren’t very good on third-and short, and fourth-and-short. That’s the game right there. You convert on those, you get touchdowns instead of nothing, and it’s a whole new game. It would have been tight, it would have been close, we would have been in contention. In Baltimore, we got the game to 14-7, we had a good drive going. We took a sack, and we just had too many bad plays. We had some chances, they just outplayed us in a number of situations.