Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Friday, January 13, 2023.
(Do we know with certainty barring a setback or something unlikely that QB Skylar Thompson will in fact start on Sunday?) – "Skylar (Thompson) is going to start. Teddy's done a great job really just being a part of the team, getting himself closer and closer to being able to play the way that he knows he needs to play. Really doing whatever it takes so that we can have him available on Sunday. But yeah, Skylar will get the start."
(What can QB Teddy Bridgewater do and how much have you seen QB Skylar Thompson grow within this week in practice, another week getting reps?) – "What can't he do? (laughter) It's a different conversation what he's able to do today with an injury like that on a metacarpal. That's something that really time, he's been doing extensive rehab. Just yesterday I thought he was casting himself for Zoolander movie because he had his hand in wax with like a bubble around it, so he looked like he was the hand model. Anybody know that one? (laughter) But he's been working relentlessly and what he'll be able to do with extra time, even more rehab and then game day adrenaline, we're hoping it's good enough for him to be able to fully execute everything in the offense. If there's certain things that he is unable to do, we'll just adjust. But his objective is No. 1, to be ready to play if needed, and No. 2, he's been doing a fantastic job. You really rely on your veterans in playoff game preparation just to kind of ease minds and direct energy in the appropriate way, so he's been kicking 'A' all week with that with Skylar specifically, but on top of that the other skill position players and offensive players as well."
(How is QB Tua Tagovailoa doing? Is he advancing in protocol at least?) – "The current stage is the same as it was last. He's been around and been good and I'm just worried about his day-to-day health. I'll let you know when it does advance, but besides checking on him and how he's doing, it's a big-time life adjustment when you go from playing to being out. That's for every player that's injured. So you try to make sure that they're still feeling as involved as possible in general, and then besides that, I've just been focused on preparing this team for a Wild Card game on Sunday."
(Is this team playing for QB Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday? I mean, because of everything that's been going on in his life right now. Teammates, I'm sure they're well aware, is this team playing for Tua on Sunday?) – "I know there are people that are really motivated by doing right by his contribution for sure. I think guys have a lot of reasons to play this game. Specifically because it was not easy to earn it. They went through a lot of things. There was some adversity down the stretch of the season, that as much as you look down on a five-game losing streak, I see a lot of mental fortitude and impressive, really an impressive collective locker room to find a way to get in and they want to do right by that as well. So there's a lot of different reasons to play. I would say that's probably one of those reasons for multiple people in their mind is making sure that we take care of the team the way he has. And that's in a multitude of ways for sure."
(The last time this team had zero penalties in a game was back in 2013. How important will discipline for you all in order to shock the world this weekend?) – "Wow, that's a long time. No, it's very important. Those little things become big things in games – it's really just in competitive games where you know both teams are really going to be putting their best foot forward. A third-and-7 on both sides of the ball is very different than a third-and-2 or a third-and-12. And one penalty can dictate those terms which can dictate the course. So absolutely those will be important. I think turnovers like always, but even more so in a road playoff game, winning the turnover battle is incredibly important. And just really trying to play as clean of football as we possibly can. When you're aggressive, which the Buffalo Bills are and I think we are, too; when you're just aggressive in the style of how you play football, penalties will happen. You just hope to minimize them and not have them come in untimely fashion."
(It's pretty rare to face a team three times in one season. You did it last year with the 49ers. What are some unique challenges of facing a team for the third time within a four-month span?) – "Oh, there's plenty of challenges. The first and foremost for me is overthinking. You can play the game of chess – or maybe it should be a game of checkers and sometimes you try to make it chess and it shouldn't be. You can overthink things. You can think this will lead to this or because they did this this time, we're going to do this. A lot of times, it's just more of an overall team mentality at that point because how much people know about each other. You're not tricking anybody really, for the most part and from a game-planning perspective, it's trickier earlier in the week. But then ultimately, I really love the times that we've been fortunate enough to do it – to play a team three times. You really trim the fat and it's about a team's will against each other. It's an equalizer for sure because you know exactly what it's going to feel like the first play of the game and on all phases. All the players can put themselves there, and it's not a matter of what it's going to feel like; it's how are we going to execute whatever we're doing."
(Do you have any insight on T Terron Armstead, T Brandon Shell and OL Liam Eichenberg, their availability?) – "Oh, all three. Those are the three that I have no real insight – waiting game, really, for all three. It's not ideal. But at this stage of the season with your team's season football life on the line, you end having to not worry about any of that. It minimizes that. It's just next man up, who's able and capable, and let's put our best foot forward within our scheme."
(You haven't ruled RB Raheem Mostert out up to this minute. He hasn't practiced yet.) – "I'll probably be able to be definitive with that probably early afternoon today. So I'd like to figure that out concretely, but I give him as much time as possible because of my history with him."
(He'll try to practice?) – "We'll see. I don't think he's going to, but there's a couple things they're going to be communicating with as far as the players and the medical staff in how he can try to approach this game and be able to execute what he needs to execute. But we should be able to know that at least today, just a little more communication and planning needs to go before that's the case."
(There have been a couple games where QB Josh Allen has had either two interceptions or a couple fumbles. Has there been anything that you guys have seen in those instances maybe that are some things defensively you guys can capitalize on?) – "Ironically, it's the simplest thing of all time, but it's opportunistic defenders, which means they catch it. You definitely have – when you have an elite playmaker, such as Josh Allen, they get so many yards and so much productivity out of the things that he does to extend plays. The amount of field that he can cover with the ball in the air is outrageous. And in that is inherent risk. He's a fearless football player, so he'll try to squeeze stuff into windows, and the teams that are able to, with conviction, attack the ball and maybe change their angle to the trajectory early because they're ready for it and they catch it. The opportunistic part of playing against him is huge. You have to have a short memory. He's going to make plays. He'll probably make some pretty cool ones that are highlight-worthy. You have to be ready for that and make sure that those are very hard earned and minimize him to the best of your ability."
(There's not a lot of playoff experience on this roster, but in the past year the team has brought in a lot of veterans with that playoff experience. How much has their voices helped this week?) – "It's been huge, and it's been something that didn't start this week. It was something that was on our mind collectively, in terms of the leaders that we have brought here with experience and some of the guys that were here that have been on teams with success, all of that, we knew the team was young and we wanted to approach that early. We've been talking through that. We feel pretty good about where they're at in their ability to make this game a fun, not stressful game, because of how they prep and understanding what it feels like to have an elimination game. The good news is for certainty, we already had one. We knew that our season was over if we didn't win last week, so that should help. It's a really cool thing that you try to prepare your team for as much as possible, but there's nothing like playoff football. Once you experience it, it's the only way you want to play. So I'm excited for these guys to get the true opportunity, and I think they can build upon the opportunity of an elimination game that they had that week before."
(The point spread for this game is up there historically for a playoff game. What do you think when you see that the outside perception is that you guys are going to get smoked?) – "I'm more concerned about preparing the team. I'm very used – that doesn't make me, personally, blink. This just in – no one expected me personally to do anything that I've ever done, really. I think a journey of an NFL player is very similar with the amount of competition there is and how the parity is what it is. I think most guys on NFL teams have been told they couldn't. It's a really good football team that we're playing, so we probably agree with people in that regard. Arguably the best in the league, it's right up there. If we think we're pretty good as well or have a higher opinion than everybody else, that's not everybody else's fault. So that's – I don't know. I'm not surprised nor does it affect me that much at all. It's more about playing the football game to the best of our ability and being happy with our investment. If you're happy with your investment, you can live with the outcome, regardless of what it is."