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Thursday, December 22, 2011
Updated: December 23, 3:59 PM ET
Expect Patriots to keep foot on pedal

By Tedy Bruschi
ESPNBoston.com

In a change from past weeks, this week's "Bruschi's Breakdown" is a recap of Tedy Bruschi's interview with Adam Jones of ESPN Boston Radio.

Adam: You've been to the postseason as the No. 1 seed and also as an underdog. Which role did you like better?

Tedy: First of all, you enjoy having the bye. That's the most critical thing. The No. 1 seed and the No. 2 seed, it really doesn't matter ... once you get to that AFC Championship Game. You don't care if you're on the road or at home. It's just about winning that game and getting to the Super Bowl. You don't let those visiting venues disrupt your focus. It depends on who you are. I liked having the bye, but in terms of the [2011] Patriots, it would give them a chance to get another week of development. I think that would benefit them. There are different mentalities. If you're a wild card and you have to play the first week, there are teams that have had to go on the road three consecutive times and win, and they've done that. So you can be successful either way.

Adam: Players handle it differently. As somebody who has experienced it, what did you do during the bye?

Tedy: It depended on how I felt physically. I remember one bye week we had going into the Carolina Super Bowl and I had a calf strain. I lived in the training room trying to get back. But if you're 100 percent healthy, mostly it's just film study. You still want to take a couple days to get away and relax, but when you're away, you're still thinking about that opponent and who it might be. You definitely watch the games. I was a big proponent of that because I felt like you study these guys on film in the facility the next week, but watching the live game and seeing what wins and loses playoff games, I thought was a learning experience.

Adam: As someone who has played for Bill Belichick and has been in this position before -- the Patriots with two games left, at home, and favored in both -- what do you think his message is to players?

Tedy: I think there is no conversation at all about resting or taking your foot off the pedal at all. It's all about going forward and winning both games. I still think he is pushing on these guys to focus and finish strong, because there is still a lot of learning they can do on both sides of the ball -- offensively and defensively.

Adam: We've been focusing on playoff seeding, and since 2000 in the AFC, the No. 1 seed has been more likely to lose their first playoff game than they have been to advance to the Super Bowl. Why do you think that is the case?

Tedy: You get to that AFC Championship Game, and you're the No. 1 seed and you fought for that home-field advantage, but I think you almost feel more empowered as the visiting team. You're the team that has to go into that venue and take it away from them. I've been on teams that have done that before. Both teams are incredibly determined, but I don't think it matters what seed you are. I think that statistics prove that point, that when it comes to football it doesn't matter where you play or who's the No. 1 seed, it's about making those big plays come championship time.

Adam: Given the transition in the NFL to more of a passing league, do you think this is the type of year the Patriots might be able to get away with their defensive shortcomings?

Tedy: That's a great point. I think it is. Not just because of who they are defensively, but it seems like the yardage statistic just isn't big any more. It doesn't matter. It's about scoring, and for me, scoring and taking the ball away. That's really a handful of plays during the game. You're waiting as a defense to take advantage of an offense's mistake -- if a throw is not accurate, if the running back doesn't have ball security. If you're able to take the ball away two or three times in a game, that's really all you need your defense to do. That's what this Patriots defense has been doing. Especially with the offense the Patriots have, you give Tom Brady a couple of extra possessions and find yourself up 10 or 14 points, that's sometimes what you need to win because [in] this league now, there is scoring at will.

Adam: We hear "bend but don't break" tossed around with this defense. Did you consider your defenses that style?

Tedy: At times, sure. That's what defenses do. You're playing against offenses sometimes where you know you're not going to shut them out. But you get to a point on the field and look at each other in the huddle and say, "Fellas, that's it, OK?" And you know, when you get to the red area and that field shrinks down and they can't stretch you out the way they have from the 20 to the 20, it's your opportunity now to do some of the creative things you can do defensively. To show sort of a four-man rush or a three-man rush, or coming with five or six in a blitz, and you disrupt their timing. That's when we looked at it as a time to shine, in that red area. I think the Patriots' defense [of 2011] has that mantra also. When they look back and see that yellow goalpost, they've been stepping it up.

Adam: Why have the Patriots been so successful in the red zone?

Matt Patricia, Jerod Mayo, Bill Belichick
The fact that the Patriots defense stiffens in the red zone is a credit to Matt Patricia (center) and Bill Belichick.

Tedy: That's when I think [the defensive] play calling has done a great job. I think when you mix it up down there, the quarterback doesn't have the same type of field to survey, because that back line becomes an advantage [for the defense]. There is less room to operate. Mixing up those schemes the way Coach Belichick and Matt Patricia and the defensive staff have been doing -- showing three-, four-man rushes, drop zones -- I think that's been big for them. The players know those schemes are coming and they actually feel like once the red area comes around, they have the advantage.

Adam: We saw the Patriots come to a contract extension with Jerod Mayo. That's great. The other side of the coin is what it means for Wes Welker. What is your view of that situation?

Tedy: With Jerod, you applaud it and you're happy you have that kind of player leading that defense. He's perfect for that Bill Belichick-coached scheme -- 3-4, 4-3 -- the flexibility he has and the intelligence he has that I've noticed since Day 1. That's a great thing. To the other side, you could possibly have ... maybe not as bad as a Logan Mankins-type situation -- but you've got to know that an attempt has been made to sign Wes Welker. It hasn't been successful. You have to know that because they obviously [would go to] Wes before Jerod because of their contractual situations [Welker's deal expires after the 2011 season, Mayo's didn't expire until after 2012]. This is going to play on into the offseason, and [I'm] almost sure that the franchise tag comes into play. Unfortunately for the player, in all these situations, the organization usually has the upper hand. They have those franchise tags .They have a lot of things they can use to keep a player in that Patriots uniform for a while before a contract can get worked out.

Adam: Do you think Welker is worth a big money contract?

Tedy: I do think he's worth it. I'll give you a scenario why he's worth it. Take him out of the offense right now, and what you have is a team that would probably fail without him in the playoffs. I think defenses focus on Wes, they know he's a focal point, they know he can do so many things, and he's added that extra dimension this year. Without Wes Welker, that's an offense no one wants to see here in New England.

Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th anniversary team.