What does going back to the AFC Championship for the fifth straight time say about your team?
DM: It’s why we play. It’s not guaranteed. We come in every year, same goals. We work our butts off to try to get into the playoffs to give ourselves a chance, and you guys saw tonight. It wasn’t pretty. It’s not easy, so to me, it means everything. You put all this work in to get to the playoffs and try to get to the AFC Championship, and we’re there now. Now it’s about executing and trying to move forward.
Q: What are your thoughts when you listen to Bill Belichick talk about the day-in, day-out commitment of the players and then kind of the lesson he learned about day-in, day-out professionalism from his old coach?
DM: Yeah, we hear it every day. The same message that he just told you guys, he tells us all the time. One of his favorite phrases is, “There’s no magical pill that you can take,” and I think that says it all for us about coming in each day, putting in the work. And I think the exciting thing about the playoffs is when you’re on a team that’s a hard-working team with a coach like Bill who puts in a lot of work and demands a lot of us, it’s cool to see the playoffs where everybody amps it up a little bit more. Guys are in here extra early, staying late, and I think you go all throughout the whole regular season thinking it’s not possible, and then you watch guys put in more and more work because we know how tough it is to win in the playoffs. It’s not easy. You’ve got two very good football teams fighting our butts off just to come to work next weekend. I think when you see tough games like this, you see that hard work paying off.
Q: What can you say about the toughness Patrick Chung brings to the field after holding Travis Kelce in check tonight?
DM: I don’t know many strong safeties, if any, better than him and playing better football than him right now. I think he doesn’t get the respect and the praise he deserves. You go throughout the season going against some of the best tight ends in the NFL and then battling Gronk every day. Chung goes out there and battles his butt off and usually doesn’t give up many catches and yards to opposing tight ends. And I think you sum all that up and then talk about how much it helps us in the run game. He’s a big part of this defense and the reasons why we win. He loves it though. He loves when we come in and Bill stands up here and tells us how good an opposing tight end is and what he did to us last year, Houston the week before and throughout the season. He takes that challenge and plays with a chip on his shoulder, and you saw that tonight. But for him, it’s been week-in and week-out just going out there and trying to dominate a matchup. And he played well tonight all over the field like usual making plays.