The boss of the defending NFC champs is on track for a return to the Super Bowl after Sunday's 51--45 OT win over the Packers (page 46)
Dan Patrick:Hi, Coach.
Ken Whisenhunt: How are you?
DP:I'm O.K., but I'm not the one who went into overtime. How draining is a game like that on a coach?
KW: It's pretty exhausting. It felt a little bit like I played the game.
DP:Do you ever get concerned that you're playing too well, like when you were up 17--0 against the Packers?
KW: You never get comfortable when you're playing a team like that, especially with what they've done against us in two previous games offensively.
DP:What happened on the 34-yard field goal that Neil Rackers missed at the end of regulation? Did you say anything to him prior to the kick?
KW: No. It was a weird situation because one of our players called timeout with 14 seconds left. We were trying to let it run down to seven seconds. Neil wasn't prepared for that, so he was a little out of sorts and had to come running on the field. But no, nothing was said. I know he was prepared, he knew the potential kick was coming. But you've gotta make that kick.
DP:Do you treat him differently than you do another player who makes a mistake at that point in the game?
KW: You have to. He's isolated. He's not with 10 other guys on a particular play. It's all about his execution. It is different.
DP:Finish this sentence: When we lost the overtime coin toss....
KW: It was disconcerting. But I had a feeling our defense was going to make a play. Don't ask me why.
DP:Green Bay almost won it in OT, but Aaron Rodgers missed a wide open Greg Jennings. How long did that ball seem to hang in the air?
KW: Way too long. It was very, very scary.
DP:Were you praying?
KW: Your knee-jerk reaction is, Drop it! Drop it! or Get over him! Fortunately, that prayer was answered.
DP:Finish this: We will beat the Saints if....
KW: We can stop them, a little bit [laughs]. We'll beat the Saints if we can maintain the intensity we had in the game last week and clean up some of our mistakes.
DP:Are you more concerned about the Saints' offense or defense?
KW: I'm certainly concerned about the Saints' offense because of what they did this season. The one area that concerns me [with the Saints' defense] is their ability to score touchdowns. So I think it's going to come down to us not turning the ball over. That was the big key in last week's game against Green Bay. Green Bay was a team that didn't turn the ball over [during the season], and they turned the ball over more than we did [three times to once]. And that's why we won the game.
DP:How do you deal with the Kurt Warner retirement rumors that have started to spring up?
KW: I'm fully aware that Kurt will take time once the season is over. He did it last year, he'll do it this year. But also Kurt is playing well. He's excited about our team.
DP:Do you think he's done no matter what happens in the playoffs?
KW: I couldn't even tell you. That's not something we've even talked about or discussed.
DP:What if he says, "Help me make this decision"?
KW: I say, "It's easy. You're staying."
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl suspended three players and dismissed another after Knoxville police found guns and drugs in their car on Jan. 1. On Sunday the remaining nine Vols upset No. 1 Kansas. Pearl told me that he should take some heat for his players' actions: "[Coaches] are not accountable enough for our own actions let alone the actions of our players, and we need to be. I know I wasn't in that car. I know I didn't commit that misdemeanor offense. But I'm responsible for it."
Boise State coach Chris Petersen didn't complain about being left out of the BCS title game after his team beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 14--0. "We're not in the big dance, and that's just kind of how it is now," he told me. But he's optimistic that bigger things lie ahead. "The fact that we're having this conversation about Boise State or TCU being in the national championship [game]—slowly but surely, we're making progress."
Line of the week
Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy blames the Patriots' playoff exit on Bill Belichick's purge of veteran defensive talent: "There's a little bit of arrogance [to thinking] that you can put anyone into the system and it's gonna be all good."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Ray Rice discusses the Ravens' win over the Patriots.
2. Archie Manning talks about his quarterbacking sons.
THE FINE PRINT: See Charles Barkley on Saturday Night Live? NBC was so impressed, they're giving him his own show at 10 p.m.: Law and Order a Salad.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY (PEARL)
YOON S. BYUN/BOSTON GLOBE/LANDOV (SHAUGHNESSY)
PETER READ MILLER (WHISENHUNT)