*December 31, 2008 – DWIGHT FREENY, KELVIN HAYDEN, DALLAS CLARK AND REGGIE WAYNE *
"They have a great quarterback back there that has been having a great year. They always have their weapons—(Antonio) Gates and you definitely have (LaDainian) Tomlinson—so they have their weapons and they're hot and they're playing well. So we have to not worry about the record and really hone down. They played pretty well against us (November 23). I don't know how many yards Tomlinson had, but I know Gates had a good game and they had (288) yards passing. We have to hone down on that."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on QB-Philip Rivers)
"I think he's a good quarterback. I think he's competitive. I think his competitive nature really is the biggest thing that he does well. He's going to keep fighting. We're going to have to really knock him out to get to him out there."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on the importance of pressure)
"Most games are, pretty much all of them are, but this one definitely. We have to get back there, rattle him. We can't give him time to throw the ball, especially for what they do. They like to leave a lot of guys in to protect the quarterback, so it's important that we come up with some stuff and just go out there and try our best to rattle him."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on not playing in last year's playoff game vs. San Diego and wanting to play well because of that)
"There's a little bit of that. Last year at this time I was sitting on the sideline watching the game. That was probably one of my lowest points, lowest moments, and this one's a high one. Now I'm going back to the field that I got hurt at, again. I'll always remember that, so I'm going to be fired up and ready to play this game."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on if he remembers the game-being on the sidelines during last year's game)
"Oh yeah, I remember it, definitely. That was the first game I actually came back (to watch) after I got hurt, standing on the sidelines with the guys. It was tough watching all my teammates out there just playing without me. Hopefully we won't have to go through that again."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on if he was telling Defensive Line Coach John Teerlinck to put him in)
"No, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't do anything back then."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on how frustrating it is when teams throw quick passes stay away from the pass rush)
"That's a very frustrating thing as a defensive lineman whenever you can't get there, but we're taught, 'Keep rushing.' You don't know what's going to happen. The quarterback could pump or a coverage guy can get in the way and then he holds onto the ball. A lot of people like to dink and dunk on us a lot of times, leave a lot of guys in protection and you don't usually get there, but when you do, you have to make a big play."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on continuing to rush)
"That's the mentality we have to have. You have to keep rushing, keep coming, because you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know if the quarterback's going to trip or fall or what. You just have to go out there and make the play."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on if playing so many close games will help them get ready for the playoffs)
"There are a lot of things that happen in a game. I think it's a combination of everything. It's a little bit of, 'OK, maybe we didn't play the best game, but yet we still have some positives because we won the game.' Certain games are that. Other games, 'They had a great game plan, they stuck with us.' You like to win the game however, whatever it comes down to. So if it's a close match or what have you, it really helps in the playoffs because during the regular season you have those games and you experience that. You go out there and play those type of games and so when you get in the playoffs, you did that already, so you kind of feel a little bit more confident when you get into those situations knowing that you can go out there and make that play happen in the fourth quarter."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on the speed of San Diego, particularly throwing screens to the RBs)
"Things like that, to be honest, get us running even more. Even though you're running screen passes and all of that, that still makes us turn and run and really gets our motor going as a defense. It's not hitting the quarterback, but yet it's still hustling, running and using our speed. A lot of teams do like to do that, but we play the screens pretty well. I think they hurt us a little bit last year in the playoff game doing that, but historically we've played the screens pretty well."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on San Diego running screens and short throws)
"Misdirection, get us running up the field and all of a sudden they throw a little dump pass, but that's why we have 11 guys on defense. Everybody has responsibilities and you have to be accountable. I think everybody goes out there and does their job, so if we're hitting the quarterback on a screen pass and the ball happens to be over there, the linebacker's going to make the play, the safety's going to make the play."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on getting double-teamed quite a bit by San Diego and not knowing when you will be one-on-one)
"They double a little bit, a little bit of fullback, definitely the tight end. They definitely like to mix it up, kind of keep me off-balanced. They do a pretty good job. We're going to have to come up with something in this game which, who knows what we're going to be doing, but we're going to have to go out there and really just ignore it sometimes, and you're just going to have to run through two guys if that's what it is. It's the playoffs, so you have to make a play happen."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (on the injuries and inconsistencies on defense and bouncing back from 3-4)
"It's been kind of tough just because as a defense we've had a lot of holes this year. We never had a consistent nose, a D-tackle, until like the eighth or ninth game, and then Bob (Sanders) comes back and in and out, and you have other guys go down. You have Marlin (Jackson) go down, you have corners going down, so it's hard to get the team playing together. The last string of games we've been playing decent. Gary's (Brackett) been down so there's another hole, but the backup guys have been playing pretty well. We've been stepping it up. We're just trying to really rely on our techniques and fundamentals and having 53 guys—or the guys on defense, whether it's the backup guys—to really be accountable and know what they need to do and be ready to play at any moment."
DE-DWIGHT FREENEY (the defensive unit having the time to jell)
"Get some opportunities to jell, get together, and really focus on that and really pay attention to detail, 'You have to make this tackle, you have to make this play.'
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on defending San Diego's tall, athletic receivers)
"You just have to be disciplined in what you do. You can't take the risk of trying to make the play over the guy and then he actually catches the ball and then makes progress after the catch. It's just a point of putting yourself in the right position and making the play."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on missing time this season due to injury)
"It was tough. It's always tough to be on the sidelines, even watching the team on TV on the road and not being able to help your team go to war week in and week out. It was just something that I would not let get me down. I thought that if I put in the time and the work to get back on the field then I really wouldn't have much to worry about. At the same time, it was tough, it was tough."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on it being difficult this season with so many injuries in the secondary)
"It was tough because coming into the year, the guys as a unit, we set goals. We wanted to be the top secondary in the league and have everyone just go out there and make plays and have the great stats that everybody wanted to have. Unfortunately it didn't go that way. I went down, then Bob (Sanders) went down, then Marlin (Jackson) went down, Antoine (Bethea) has been having little, nagging injuries, so things didn't go as planned but as a team, things are going as planned. We're in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we're not how we wanted to be. We wanted to be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, but hey, we're in and that's the only thing that matters."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on being a leader at corner with Jackson out and Tim Jennings replacing him)
"I think I need to be more of a vocal leader. Tim (Jennings) is not as fiery as Marlin is, so I try to keep him level-headed, keep him on his game. Besides that, Tim is a great player. He's going to go out there and do what he does, but just keep him level-headed and keep him informed of the situations that occur. That's the only thing that I really have to do."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on DB-Keiwan Ratliff)
"Keiwan's stepped in a played great. A guy who has unfortunately been on and off the team, to come in and played the way he played is just great. But at the same time, we knew what Keiwan could do, so it's not really a surprise to us."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on playing with a bye vs. playing as a wild card)
"The timing is there, but at the same time, your body is not as well-rested as it would be if you had the bye week. The thing is that I prefer timing over anything. I feel like we've been clicking on all cylinders, special teams, defense, offense, and we just want to keep it rolling."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on the feeling of being 3-4 early this season)
"It was a different feeling. Like I said, coming into it, I hadn't lost a game in September or October. It was just adversity that we had to fight through. Guys did not lose focus, didn't lose sight of our goals, we just felt like we put ourselves in a hole and we had to do anything and everything to get pulled out of it."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on leadership helping at 3-4)
"We have great leaders. Peyton Manning, Gary Brackett, those guys just did a great job of telling us, 'Hey, it's not the end of the world.' The easy thing to do is just to go in the tank, and that's one thing that we did not want to do. We just continued to fight and continued to work and never lost sight."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on going from a WR at Illinois to one of the top CBs in the NFL)
"It's crazy how things work. You never know what the future holds. My thing is, everybody dreams about playing in the NFL, and I had dreams of being a wide receiver. I never really thought of being a cornerback. I just looked at it as a challenge and continued to work and having fun while I'm doing it."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on WR-Vincent Jackson's size and speed and if he is like an Andre Johnson)
"He's one of those Andre Johnson guys. I don't think he's as fast as Andre Johnson, but he's a physical guy and when the ball is in the air, he's one of those ball hawks. As a corner you know that you have to be physical with that guy. That's the one thing we plan on doing, we plan on being physical with the guy and making him work for everything that he gets."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on how you defend a bigger receiver giving up so much weight)
"As a corner you try to use your quickness and things like that to your advantage. All the time, you just want to disrupt the guy, throw the timing off. And that's almost good enough, but at the same time you have to be as physical as that guy when the ball is in the air."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on only allowing six TD passes this year and if he knew that was a modern record)
"You guys kept us informed so when we were going into the game (December 28 vs. Tennessee), we talked about, 'Hey, if we do our job then we can make history ourselves.' There are guys like Dallas Clark and Marvin Harrison making history, the secondary said, 'We can make as little bit of history ourselves,' only giving up six touchdowns in a 16-game season. It's a great thing but I think as the playoffs go, we want to keep it rolling."
DB-KELVIN HAYDEN (on winning 12 games despite so many injuries, etc., especially in the secondary)
"It just shows the character of these guys on the team. I went down, Marlin went down, but when the guy came in and his number was called, he stepped in and stepped in well. It just shows that guys watch and follow and do a good job of it."
TE-DALLAS CLARK (on what last year's playoff game vs. San Diego means for this one)
"Nothing, really. That definitely made for a hard offseason, that's for sure, but a lot of football has been played and we've moved on, obviously. We've had a whole season under our belts. It's not really a big deal. Both teams have changed a lot. It's not going to play a lot of significance in the outcome, but that was a tough one, that's for sure."
TE-DALLAS CLARK (on if this year's win at San Diego exorcised any demons from past losses)
"No. I think it just shows that there are two good teams that play well against each other and give each other fits. It just goes back and forth. I think that's really all that says during the regular season. We know that we need to play our best game to beat them, and they probably feel the same way. It's just one of those things that we know we have to play our best if we want a chance."
TE-DALLAS CLARK (on playing Wild Card weekend as opposed to having the bye)
"It's nice to have that week off, but I think athletes and the way our season is set up, I think we're just such creatures of habit that it's kind of nice to keep that schedule going and that routine and having that the same. But then, some seasons, you might be banged up and you might be hoping to get an extra week to get some guys back, so then obviously that week is important and you can take advantage of that. I think either one has its advantages and its disadvantages, too."
TE-DALLAS CLARK (on having big games late in the season throughout his career)
"I think it's just one of those things that happens. I really can't explain why or pinpoint the reasoning behind it, but it's like Coach (Tony Dungy) always says that every guy has to get ready and everyone has to be prepared. It's just one of those things. You may not have much playing time, but sometime there will be a time in the game in the playoffs or during the season that your number is called and you have to be ready. It's just kind of one of those things that for whatever reason towards the end of the year and the playoffs, tight ends get a lot of looks and a lot of balls thrown to them. But, you never know what's going to happen so you just have to prepare to the way the game is going and what things are opening up. (QB) Peyton (Manning), he's just trying to find the open receiver and just keep the chains moving. There's really no pinpoint reason why that's the case."
TE-DALLAS CLARK (on if his confidence is increasing with the way he ended the season)
"I think so. I feel good with where everything is going, but it's just one of those things where I'll never get to the point where we have to start drawing up more plays for me. I'd be foolish to do that with (WR) Marv(in Harrison) and (WR) Reg(gie Wayne) on the outsides of me. It's a privilege to be on this offense with such great players. I've said that from the day I got here and that hasn't changed. I love playing with those guys, and what they have done to help me get better. They don't even probably realize what they've done, along with Peyton. What I've been able to learn and grow as a player has a direct relation to being on the field with them every day."
WR-REGGIE WAYNE (on a reason for the team's success when playing in the Wild Card round)
"I think it's mainly because you don't have that bye week and you just get out of the regular season and just flow right into the playoffs. It's kind of still like a regular-season feel. Personally, I like it. I don't think we respond great after bye weeks for whatever reason. I think you just stay fluid. You stay into it. There's no chance to go home and kick it with your homies or with your family members. You just stay into it and concentrate on football."
WR-REGGIE WAYNE (on how much last year's playoff loss vs. San Diego comes into play this week)
"Not at all. None. Zilch. Nada. Zero. Last year is last year, can't do anything about it, can't bring it back. There is no revenge factor. This is a whole new season, a whole new theory, a whole new identity and that's how we treat it as a team. We just go into it. It's an opportunity to make history again, and I just want to be part of it."
WR-REGGIE WAYNE (on if he thought about growing his beard like RB-Dominic Rhodes for the winning streak)
"Not really, no. I can't go for the Wolfman look too long, but if it works, it works. Maybe he's like Sampson, his strength is in his hair. So, if it works for him, I'm all for it. If you feel like that's what's been keeping us afloat, then he can be ZZ Top for all I care."
WR-REGGIE WAYNE (on eating chicken noodle soup before each game)
"That's not a superstition, it's just something that I've been rolling with. Before every game, chicken noodle soup. I've been doing it for eight years and I haven't had a batch that's too bad. It's like they say, 'If it's not broke, why fix it?' So I just keep going with it."
WR-REGGIE WAYNE (on how he feels physically)
"This is the best I've felt since the Pittsburgh game (on Nov. 9), so I feel pretty good. Obviously, there are going to be some nicks and bruises here and there, but that comes with the job. It's week 17 so if there's nothing bothering you then you're not playing hard or you're not playing. So there is going to be something, but nothing to the point where it's going to slow me down or hinder me from doing what I have to do."
WR-REGGIE WAYNE (on if making the playoffs means more after the 3-4 start)
"I wouldn't say it means more. I would rather start off 13-0, but one thing about the 3-4 start, throughout that process to now we've had a lot of close games so that's kind of given us an idea on what to expect in the playoffs. It gives the young guys an idea of what to expect. I feel like, out of all the games this year, if you look at the Jacksonville game in Jacksonville (on Dec. 18), that's about as close as you can get to a playoff feel. Each game has its own identity, but throughout this whole year it just seems like we had no room for error so every game felt like a playoff feel. That kind of got us into it and got the young guys to understand what the NFL is really about. If you look at the last few years, guys come in and we go 9-0 and they really don't understand what the NFL is all about, but this year from the jump we had to figure out what's going on, had to get it fixed quick and then learn from there."
WR-REGGIE WAYNE (on what Head Coach Tony Dungy's message was when the team was 3-4)
"Just keep working at it. He's not a big rah-rah guy, but he comes in with a point and you understand it. He comes in and says, 'We're not going to change anything, we're going to continue to do what we do and we're just going to fix the things that need to be fixed.' It was no secret. We knew what we had to fix, it was just a point of getting it done and getting it done in a timely fashion. Like I said, we had no room for error so we had to figure it out quick and adjust and that's what we did as a team. There was no point in time where I thought we didn't have a chance or the team thought we didn't have a chance. We felt like we still were in it. We knew what we had to do and that was to win, and we got it done."