Bob Socci, the voice of the New England Patriots, joins Chris Gasper (@CGasper) as the Patriots get set to host the Tennessee Titans in an AFC divisional-round playoff game. Socci shares his insights on the game, the recent ESPN article about possible internal discord among the Patriots' hierarchy, and what it's like working with Scott Zolak.
- Bob Socci (@BobSocci), Voice of the New England Patriots
On what kind of problems Tennessee could pose for the Patriots
Bob Socci: You have to respect the fact that Tennessee did have to play, in essence, two playoff games. They had the play-in in the regular season finale versus Jacksonville, and then they had to come back from 18 down on the road to (beat) Kansas City ... There are certainly a lot of qualities in terms of leadership by quarterback Marcus Mariota, plus there’s the physical skill set that can pose problems for the Patriots - the mobile quarterback - often proving to be problematic for New England’s defense. A running back like Derrick Henry, if you are indeed to execute the gameplan that so many profess going up against the Pats: run the ball, control the clock, keep Tom Brady on the sideline. Who better than a back like Henry, who really doesn’t have too much mileage this season?
Chris Gasper: If they get down 21-3 against the Patriots, which is what they did against the Kansas City Chiefs on the road, I can’t see them coming back … I’ll be honest, no disrespect to the Tennessee Titans, but I look at this and say this is a game the Patriots lose if they beat themselves, because I don’t think the Titans are capable of beating them on their own. I think the Patriots would have to be complicit in their own demise to drop this game.
"You have to respect the fact that Tennessee did have to play, in essence, two playoff games. They had the play-in in the regular season finale versus Jacksonville, and then they had to come back from 18 down on the road to (beat) Kansas City."Bob Socci
On the Patriots getting healthy at the right time
Bob Socci: Going into this game, (the Patriots) seem to have the full complement of players available to them - 100% practice attendance on Thursday. Players like Alan Branch and Kyle Van Noy back defensively … Chris Hogan off the injury report, that bodes well. Plus, the running back stable is close to full now with James White and Rex Burkhead progressing.
Chris Gasper: I think Chris Hogan being back is a big one for them … And James White as well, with the ankle injury he missed the last three games. Those two guys can diversify that offense a little bit. It was a little bit of a struggle down the stretch. Normally, the Patriots play their best football after Thanksgiving, and I didn’t think that was the case this year … You have Rob Gronkowski this postseason. You didn’t have him last postseason and you still won the Super Bowl. But you don’t have Julian Edelman (and) you don’t have Dont’a Hightower. Those are two of your five best players yet, as we sit here, everybody basically says, well the Patriots are the favorites to come out of the AFC. And you’re thinking - is there another team that could be missing two of their top five players and just assume they are going to - not only get to the AFC title game - but in a lot of regards get to the Super Bowl?
On Patriots dealing with outside distractions this time of the year
Bob Socci: From day one, for me, and I took over as the play-by-play announcer for the Pats after the summer of 2013, this team has shown a remarkable capacity to compartmentalize what would be team-dividing potential distractions any other place. The Jamie Collins trade, Aaron Hernandez to start with in my experience, “Deflategate” and the saga that unfolded over the course of two seasons. And yet, this team has soldiered on and this team has continued to win. This team seems to cling on to perceived slights or questions about their future - near, longterm - and they tend to thrive on it and I would be surprised if they don’t do that again.
Chris Gasper: It’s sort of that bunker mentality ... And it seems to sharpen their focus. They’re able to tune out anything outside. They have that mantra - "Ignore the noise" - and they really do live by it.
"This team has shown a remarkable capacity to compartmentalize what would be team-dividing potential distractions any other place."Bob Socci
On working with former Patriot quarterback Scott Zolak in the booth
Bob Socci: It’s been a blast with Zo since day one, on and off the air. Other people have remarked about this: There was - if not an instant chemistry - a very quickly-developing chemistry and probably because we’re polar opposites. Zo helped me feel like I belonged in the booth in the first place. Day one, Philadelphia, before the preseason opener, we’re about to go on the air and Zo turns to me - and I’m nervous of course, I’m going to follow the great Gil Santos, who’s a legend and still the voice of the Patriots and football in New England for me - and Zo turns to me and says, “Hey, Bob don’t ‘F’ this up.” “Hello, everybody welcome to Lincoln Financial Field!” So that set the tone, made me chuckle, helped me feel at ease a bit and from day one made me feel like I belonged in the booth.