Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, who was mentioned frequently as a good fit for the Patriots during his much-hyped and rumor-filled free agency after last season, now gets to face the Patriots in another showdown of NFL heavyweights.
He’s expecting the Patriots to bring their A game, just as they have to each matchup since losing to the Browns at the beginning of November.
Here are his responses to reporters’ questions during a conference call this afternoon:
Q: Bill Belichick was extremely complimentary of you and your team a little while ago as he had his press conference. What do you see going into this matchup from the Patriots?
JP: I see a very physical football team, very good football team – the best we’ve played so far this year – so it’s going to be a huge challenge for us to see where we’re at as a football team playing a team that’s playing as [well] as the Patriots are right now.
Q: Is there a little bit of the unknown since it’s been so long since the Bears played the Patriots?
JP: I’m not sure the history between these two teams. This is my first year here. I’m pretty familiar with New England. We played them last year when I was in Carolina, so I pretty much know the personnel and what to expect going against you guys.
Q: How has the Chicago experience gone for you so far?
JP: Everything is going good, great, actually. So far everything’s going as planned. I really don’t think anything could be any better right now.
Q: Even New England? I know Bill Belichick really has an appreciation for your versatility. I know they expressed a measure of interest during free agency. Did you contemplate at all New England.
JP: I thought about a number of teams including New England. At the point of the year during free agency, you’ve got to look at all your options and you want to play for one of the better franchises. I definitely had interest a little bit in playing for those guys.
Q: What swayed you against it? Was it money, scheme?
JP: It was more scheme, coaches, players. I’ve got a lot of respect for this team – the coaches and the players – so I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to play with these guys.
Q: Can you talk about Tom Brady? Obviously he’s playing at a very high level right now. I think he’s completing almost 75 percent of his passes over the last four games.
JP: [There’s] not really anything that I can say that hasn’t been said about Tom Brady. He’s the best quarterback in the game right now. He’s playing at a high level, so we definitely have to do something to disrupt his rhythm and try to force him to make a couple of mistakes.
Q: It seems like you’ve been able to draw quite a few holding penalties this year. Are you going obviously try to force a few this weekend?
JP: Well, these guys, from what I’ve seen so far, these guys do a lot of that chipping and double team. Maybe I’ll see a little bit in the film study later this week, but from what I’ve seen thus far, these guys do a pretty good job of manning up and blocking their guy one-on-one. We pretty much expect that it will be a lot of singles out there and a lot of one-on-one matchups.
Q: You didn’t have too much success against the Patriots the last time you personally played against them.
Q: Was that more them or more you?
JP: If you look at the numbers, I don’t think I recorded a sack if that’s what you’re thinking about. We got a little bit of pressure. I think that last game that we played against them it was more of a running attack. They attacked the edges with runs, so we didn’t do a good job of defending. I think pass rushing wise, I think I played a fairly decent game. I didn’t record a sack, so I guess that’s a bad game for an end when he doesn’t record a sack. But I think everywhere else was pretty decent.
Q: What did they do against you that game? Do you recall? Did they have two guys on you?
JP: All of these games kind of run together after a while. That was a year ago. I can’t remember exactly what they did and how they attacked me, but the good thing about this league is you get a number of opportunities. It’s another opportunity this week to get better and do better than I did last time.
Q: You guys have won five games in a row. Is there a similarity in those five games? Is there something you can point to that as a team you guys did on those five games that led to success?
JP: Probably just all three phases playing well together – offense, defense and special teams – everybody playing well and finding a way to win, making adjustments. Really that’s what it’s about, finding a way to win. You have points in the game where you don’t play so well, but it’s about finding an adjustment and keep fighting and about finding a way to pull it out.
Q: Are you comfortable in Chicago now and do you like the decision to be there?
JP: I’m very happy where I’m at right now. I couldn’t have chosen a better place to come to. Personally and professionally everything is going great on the field and off the field. It was a big decision for me at that time and luckily, I picked the perfect place, and I couldn’t be in a better place than I am right now.
Q: Do you like working with Lovie Smith?
JP: Yeah, he’s a defensive-minded coach, and all of these guys on this team have a tremendous amount of respect for him as well as I do. That makes you want to play hard for a guy when you respect him and you understand what he’s trying to do. And we all have the same goal in mind, that’s to be world champions. We all want the same things. He’s the leader of it. And I enjoy coming to work every day and the enthusiasm with all the players.