Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and linebacker Matthew Judon have been making the rounds on radio row in Los Angeles during Super Bowl week and the two provided some insight into the defense's 2021 performance and what they'll need to do in 2022 to have a better finish.
"We played some good teams and we weren't playing our best ball and you can't do that at the end of the season, there's no excuse," Judon told 98.5's Felger and Mazz in an appearance to help promote the Black Women's Health Initiative. "I wish I could be like, 'this person got hurt,' but it wasn't that. It was just we weren't playing good football. After two games everybody started trying to make plays like, 'I'm going to be the player to do this, I'm going to be the player to do that,' instead of just playing within the defensive scheme. I think that's kind of what happened."
Mayo, speaking to Tom E. Curran on his Patriots Talk podcast, responded to criticism from former Patriot Rodney Harrison who said it hurt him to see the defense get bullied by the Bills in the Wild Card round.
"They outcoached us, outplayed us, it was a tough game," Mayo said. "I'm not going to sit here and offer excuses. What I will say to Rodney, because this is like the third time this has come up as far as what Rodney has said in this regard, if you zoom out and look at the season as a whole, we ended up third in points per game, which is really the most important thing, and I think sixth or seventh as far as yards per game. If you go into a season saying you're gonna have these numbers, obviously the expectation is always to be number one, but number three and number seven ain't bad.
"And so, when he says things like the Patriots defense is soft and isn't good, it's like, alright, buddy. I know that's what you're supposed to do, but at the same time, let's look at it from a season-wide perspective and not just a playoff perspective."
Mayo, who interviewed with both the Broncos and Raiders for their open head coaching positions this offseason, also relayed that he would be back with the Patriots after getting another round of experience meeting with other organizations. While he continues to get interest from around the league, Mayo specified it would need to be a special opportunity for him to pick up his New England roots.
"I have (received interest)," Mayo said, via Zack Cox at NESN.com. "And this was even after I didn't get the Philly job, I was also approached about being a defensive coordinator. But if you look at it from my perspective, as well — look, I am a New England guy, right? My family's here. Everything's here. For me to pick up my family — and remember, I was a 2008 first-round draft pick — for me to pick up my family and to go to some team where I really don't know the people over there, we're moving all these people, to me, it's hard.
"It has to be a great, great opportunity, not just any team."
Judon provided some clarity on how Mayo fits into the Patriots' defensive coaching operation, not seeing any issue with how responsibilities were delegated.
"We understand what's going on, Coach Mayo leads the meetings but also Steve leads the meetings. It doesn't matter who is the defensive coordinator," Judon told Felger and Mazz. "I think a lot of people try to put that on that, but we're with our position coaches so much more than with our defensive coordinator. But when we're in a meeting it's not like only the defensive coordinator talks. Say you're the leader of the podcast or the radio show, (other members) still get to put their input in."
As the team approaches another important offseason, Mayo's priorities for the defense were clear.
"We're going to look to get faster, more explosive and put more playmakers on the field," said Mayo.
For his part, Judon aims to prepare for more attention from opposing blockers.
"I have to get back in the lab," said Judon. "I got to be more in shape, knowing I'm going to get chipped, I'm going to have an extra guy to get around."
Both the coach and player figure to play key roles once again for the Patriots this fall.