HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, Decemeber 15, 2019
"That was a good win for our football team. I thought we did some things well here tonight. As we talked about all week, we came in here expecting to play a good football team. Cincinnati is a good team. They have some good players that gave us some problems, but in the end we were able to make some big plays and win the game. I was proud of our team in all three phases of the game. We created some turnovers, and then was able to get the ball into the end zone. Regardless of what their record is, I was proud of the way our team competed. Cincinnati has some good football players. They are tough and will be in the future, too."
Speak about the importance of the punt game on special teams today ...
"After the first drive of the game, we were obviously on the run a little bit defensively. They also made a big stop on third-and-one, and they also got a nice surge on us once on fourth down, too. Those were big plays for us.
"You know, Matt (Slater) works very hard on those plays for us. It doesn't matter if it's coverage or downing the ball on punts, he does it. Also, the timing of his tackling and precision compressing the coverage, he does that well for us. I couldn't tell, but I thought it was (Justin) Bethel that actually came up with the ball. They both played with great effort and made a nice play there. Those two guys did a great job for us this afternoon.
"Jake (Bailey) also had a great day punting the ball, and Nick (Folk) also had a good day kicking the ball. Those guys helped get some points for us."
Thoughts on the play of Stephon Gilmore this afternoon?
"He made a great play on the ball and a great catch. He went up there and high-pointed another one. He is playing well.
"J.C. (Jackson) played well, too. I thought we covered the pass game well today. I mean, they have great players like Tyler Eifert. He went up there and caught a great one this afternoon, and also made a couple of other great catches.
"(Joe) Mixon is a good one, too. He probably is the best back in the league. He runs so hard and is so hard to tackle.
"A.J. Green is probably one of the best receivers in the league, but obviously he hasn't been able to play this season.
"We're talking about a great back. A great receiver and a tight end that's almost uncoverable. These players are tough to handle and I thought a number of our guys stepped up today. We didn't play perfect, and those guys are hard to cover but I thought we competed today."
Speak to the fourth down situations you had them in this afternoon ...
"We applied some pressure, but we didn't always get to them. (Andy) Dalton made a couple good throws under pressure. On the (Tyler) Eifert catch, I thought we were in good position, but he just made a good play. We were close on a number of plays. Sometimes it's just a split second and position can change the dynamic of a play. I thought we had good pressure on the quarterback today. I think we affected them a little bit."
Thoughts on the run game today and how DL Adam Butler has helped it improved?
"We're working at it. I think we've ran the ball fairly solid all year. We ran the ball well. They ran the ball well, too. We have to give them credit where it's due. We seemingly had them stopped a couple of times, and then they were able to keep the chains moving. That first toss play Mixon hit on us, we had like five guys miss tackles on him. We knew he was going to be a hard guy to tackle and he was today. We were ready for him, he just did a good job."
Eleven straight years qualifying for the playoffs ... does today's win feel extra special since you now know you're in?
"You play to keep playing. You win four, five, six games ... you don't really get anything for doing that. When you can win enough to play in the postseason, that is one of our goals. It's a good thing. I mean, we can continue our season. You take things one game at time and continue to get better. We'll continue to improve. We try to play good football in all three phases of the game."
You've been doing this for a long time, do you have any words of encouragement for a young coach starting out like Coach Taylor?
"They have a good football team. They have a lot of good players, and we had a hard time defending a number of them. They have a nice defensive line; they have a good kicker and punter; they also have a lot of depth in the skill positions.
"They've got some great receivers, but they lost them to injuries. Their tough and competitive in all three phases of the game.
"As always, we had some trouble with their special teams. Coach (special teams coordinator Darrin) Simmons does a good job preparing that unit. They're a good unit and that's why they're always ranked near the top of the league. That was a big challenge for our guys."
A lot of your points today came off of turnovers or were due to field position, can you speak about this?
"That is the key. You have to capitalize on those two areas. You don't always control the ball on offense or defense. Many times field position is a result of specials teams and you get it, where you get it. You can't always control where they get the ball. However, what you can control is getting the ball into the end zone, and that is a good thing."
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, Decemeber 15, 2019
Talk to us about the touchdown pass to N'Keal Harry and how you saw that play develop, from your perspective ...
"It was a good play by him. He adjusted his route and then came back, and I found him in space. It was a good play. We needed it."
Is that something that maybe you can build off of?
"Yeah, he's fighting. He's been working hard for weeks to learn. He's a very hard-working guy. It's fun to see him make those plays."
How important is that fight for your offense? You see Julian Edelman doing everything he can to play, and other guys working hard to get on the same page ...
"Jules (Edelman) fought hard all week, and I'm happy to have him out there. I think mentally it's good for him to be out there, and he shows his mental toughness and physical toughness. It was a great effort by everybody. Everybody really toughed it out. Happy to go on the road and get a win."
With you being in the game at the end and even throwing a pass, is that a sign that you guys are still trying to work on some timing and other things?
"Uh, I don't know. I just go in there when they tell me to go in there, and if they tell me to come out, I come out."
Was it a frustrating game for the passing game still?
"In what sense?"
The completion percentage wasn't probably where you want it to be ...
"Uh, yeah. But we won, so. I'm happy we won. I wish we'd always do better. There's a whole season to improve on when you get to the end. But, yeah."
When you have a road blowout and get the chants of "Brady" at the end — are you accustomed to that?
"That was pretty sweet. When we pulled into the hotel last night, and we saw all the fans, we figured there would be a lot of people here today, so it was really cool. It was just amazing."
Your objective is obviously much higher than just making the playoffs, but 11 straight postseasons now. How much pride do you take in that after a day like today?
"Yeah, it was good. This team has been working hard, and trying to put ourselves into good positions. Good to win — we're 6-2 on the road this year. Last year we were 3-5. It was good. The defense played great — got five turnovers."
Have you petitioned Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick to put Stephon Gilmore on offense with the hands that he's been showing?
"Yeah, that was pretty sweet. Yeah we could put him over there. Have a great day."
SAFETY DEVIN MCCOURTY
Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, Decemeber 15, 2019
On Stephon Gilmore's pick-six, what did you see out there?
"I think that was one of our better plays because, as a defense, we had a call and came out in 'empty,' and everybody knew exactly where we were going, so everyone kind of knew where the ball was going to come out. (Andy) Dalton runs the tight end back in, we kind of realized the check, and everyone was on the same page. When we play like that, everybody's going to benefit from it. I think it was going to (Tyler) Boyd, and Stephon (Gilmore) made a great play on the ball — the one-handed catch. It was great coverage on the outside, turned back, and catch it with one hand. The guy's been on point every week, the way he's playing the game out there. I thought today, (he showed) leadership with his play. Each time they came his way, just being ready to make the play. And we needed it today."
Talk about the importance of the early stop on fourth-and-inches ...
"I thought that was just a great attitude play. Until that play, they were kind of having their way on us running the ball. We didn't make any kind of plays defensively throughout the early part of the game, and I thought that was the first play where our attitude came in. We stopped them on third-and-short, and then getting that (fourth-down) stop. I thought that was the attitude we needed to bring to the game. That got us going. Obviously every play wasn't great after that, but overall just being able to make plays, making some one-, zero-yard gains on first down, or getting them in third-and-long, where we're really able to get into our defensive packages. I thought that was big for us."
They were able to run the ball on you early. From a defensive perspective, what changed?
"Just adjustments. We kind of figured out our changes. They had four tight ends up and four receivers, and we had talked about this being a two-tight end type of game, and it turned out to be two tight ends, three tight ends — a heavy diet there. I think just realizing that, and adjusting to it, and doing a better job tackling. (Mixon) is a really good back — runs hard. We missed a lot of arm tackles, and then I thought we just did a better job of wrapping him up, getting him down, and getting a second and third guy to drive him back."
You guys have now qualified for the playoffs 11 straight years. What does it mean to get into the playoffs and finally start to think about the postseason?
"I think it starts with the mentality of one game at a time. Just stringing them together, and trying to play good games and being in position. That's one thing we do a good job of, is giving ourselves a chance. There's ups and downs in a season, but I think, at the end of the day, we always give ourselves a chance. Because of that, next week we'll have a chance to play for a championship. That's what you want. You want to have a chance to do that, and making the playoffs is always a part of the season. But for us, it's about playing for championships. It starts tomorrow, and we get a chance to try and win our division. We're going to play on a short week, and we're going against a team that's going to come in here, and be ready to go. We played in Buffalo early in the season, and it came down to the last couple of plays. They're a really good football team — they know us well, we know them well. It will be hard-nosed, blue-collar fighting — throwing heavyweight punches at one another. We've got to be ready next week at home, but that's why we play the game — for those type of games."
Matthew Slater has been doing this a long time, but has he had a better stretch than how he's playing right now? He had the big play on the fumble by Alex Erickson ...
"He's in Year 14, but when your dad plays 20, you have to play 20 as well. It's been cool just to watch him out there. He looks like he's 25 — first guy down — and you add (Justin) Bethel in there. Having those two guys at the gunner spot, it's tough. Slate gets in there, and gets a hand, and Bethel is right behind. Just having those two guys are such a big help for us, special teams-wise."
There was off-the-field stuff this week with the videotaping. Did that play a role in motivation and preparation this week?
"We didn't even know about any of that. I don't even know what you're talking about."
With four interceptions in the second half, what was the biggest shift in the defense over the final 30 minutes?
"Stopping the run. I think doing a good job of stopping the run on early downs, and forcing them into passing situations, and then guys making critical plays. Try a double move on J.C. (Jackson), then a nine route on J.C. We say it all the time - if there's a nine route going his way, we feel like it's higher than 50-50 that he'll come down with it. And then Steph (Gilmore) making his two plays. We got control of the situation, got ahead on early downs, and got the looks we wanted on third down to be able to do certain things. We did a good job of just taking advantage, and making plays when they came our way."
From the arrival at the team hotel, to the stadium today, how does this compare to other road games with the support you guys are getting?
"Yeah, Pats Nation has been traveling this year. We pull up to hotels, and there's a line of people outside cheering us on. And then coming into the stadium today, fans were cheering us on and getting us going. It's a good feeling. It's because of our hard work, and giving ourselves a chance that our fans are following us and cheering us on. We've got to keep doing our part — keep practicing hard, and keep preparing. Looking forward to this chance next week. It's a great opportunity for us as a team to go out there and play in our first championship game of the year."
PLAYERS IN THE LOCKER ROOM
STEPHON GILMORE, CB
Walk us through both interceptions ...
"The first one I knew the middle route. I undercut it and made a good play. On the second one, I jumped it in mixed coverage, so I knew the pressure was going to get there."
You have two pick sixes this year ...
"I have great guys around me. I'm just trying to get better each and every weekend."
How much is this defense clicking right now?
"We're making plays we did in practice. It's not just one person. We're having fun."
What changed in the second half?
"We weren't trying to be perfect. They have a good running back. Joe Mixon is a good player, hard to tackle. It's not perfect, they have good players over there."
Is there a contagious feeling when the defense makes a play?
"We're just trying to be in a good position. You never know when those plays are going to come. It could be anybody. We feed off each other."
On the first pick, were you boxing?
"I knew the route, but I undercut it. He threw it outside, and I had to use my body to make a play."
Does the pick six feel good considering you almost had one last week?
"It was a big play. We had the coverage called and knew the route. He shook off the line and I was able to break on it."
You made life difficult for Andy Dalton today ...
"We knew they would give us opportunities, we wanted to make them pay. It wasn't perfect, but we were able to turn it up in the second half."
Does this win get you some momentum?
"It's a step in the right direction. There's a lot more football left. We have a good team coming up in Buffalo. They're one of the best teams in the league. It's going to be a big challenge."
The secondary has had some injuries, how does that build depth?
"It's the NFL, it's a tough game. Guys have to take care of their bodies. If someone goes down, someone has to step up. It's part of the game."
Is LB Ja'Whaun Bentley someone who can do that?
"Yes. He works hard every day. He competes every day and I have a lot of confidence in him."
REX BURKHEAD, RB
How did it feel to score?
"It was nice. There was great blocking up front. The line did a tremendous job all day. They set the tone from the beginning. I'm trying to follow those guys up front."
What was working with the run game today?
"Up front, it starts with the offensive line. It starts with those guys. They were physical until the end. We're doing the drill at the end and they're still finishing the game off."
No turnovers was crucial today ...
"It was huge. It's our goal every week to win the turnover margin. We know if we hold onto the ball we'll get the win. That was key for us. The defense got some turnovers too, Stephon was playing lights out, doing his thing."
How good of a lead blocker is OL Shaq Mason?
"He's unbelievable. He's one of the most talented athletic linemen I've ever played with. His ability to move is uncanny. Any time we can get him moving, we stay behind him and good things happen."
How satisfying is a victory like this?
"It's big, we needed this game. We needed to get back on track. I felt like we played a really good game in all phases. Special teams played well. They have a very good unit over there. (Bengals special teams coordinator) Darrin Simmons, who I know a lot about, taught me a lot when I first came in the league. Defense played great as usual as they have all year. They really got the ball rolling."
Is that touchdown one of your more memorable plays?
"Definitely. It gave us a chance to put the game away. To do that here, I had a bunch of fans here from Kentucky, it was special."
What's the key now for this team?
"Just take this, and move forward. Don't go back. We didn't play a perfect game today. We have some small things to fix. Our ability to hone in on those things will be big. We have a lot more football to be played."
N'KEAL HARRY, WR
Did it feel good to score again?
"I'm just trying to get better every day."
Was it a scramble drill play?
"On those type of plays, you have to find a way to get open. Whatever it takes. I think I do that well."
Do you think they're trying to get you the ball more?
"I'm just trying to do my job."
How much do you like jet sweeps?
"Whatever opportunity I get, I'll take it."
How big was this for your confidence?
"It's good. I'm starting to get my groove back."
What kind of feedback did you get from Tom Brady?
"I haven't talked to him."
Do you feel confident in the passing game?
"We did a decent job. We can definitely do better."
How much work did you put in to get these snaps?
"I take the same approach every day."
JULIAN EDELMAN, WR
How did it feel to bounce back?
"Awesome. Any time you go on the road and get a win is great. It's good to get back on track. Now we have to turn the page and get ready for next week."
It seems you are leading by example by playing through injury ...
"I think everyone is banged up. It's Week 15. It's a tough sport, it's a grind. I'm sure everyone has some sort of injury."
The defense and special teams made some big plays ...
"That's awesome. Stephon Gilmore is showing who he is. He's All-Pro, an unbelievable football player. (Patriots DB) J.C. Jackson made some plays. Then special teams did what they do. The defense has been rolling. It was a great complementary game. It was awesome not to turn the ball over. That's how you have to play around this time of the year."
How nice was it to see N'Keal step up?
"That's what we need. He's a big body. He made some big plays. He's playing faster. It's great to see, because he's been working his tail off. You have a lot of people saying things, so it's a tough situation. But it's unbelievable to see him go out and make a play for the team."
How do you go about building momentum?
"You have to turn it off and move on as soon as possible. This Bills team is very good and playing very well. It's the perfect storm. They have a good coaching staff, a really good quarterback and defense. It's something we'll have to have a good week of practice for."
How does it feel to bounce back?
"That's why you love playing football. That's why we sign up. Getting a win regardless of the situation sparks you. It gains confidence. Now we go out and have a great week of practice and keep improving."
How does it feel to clinch a playoff spot?
"It's a step in the right direction. It's on to the next one. We have to be ready for the Buffalo Bills."
What does a day like today do for the offense?
"When anyone makes plays, that's what we need at this time of the year. The more players that make plays, the better position you put yourself in."
How do you feel about the passing game?
"I have to watch the film. It's not where we want it to be, but I don't think we ever are."
Is playing fast part of being a receiver?
"It's about knowing what to do and being confident going into a test, knowing all the little things. Then you let your athleticism come in and play. That's playing fast."
MATTHEW SLATER, WR
You could get a nickname with the way you are playing ...
"It's not about me. I've been blessed with this opportunity to still get down there in my old age. I'm thankful for that and to be a part of this football team."
How does it feel to clinch a playoff spot?
"It means a lot. You play this game to have a chance to play in the postseason. For our football team, to be able to accomplish that means a lot. You can never take it for granted. We're excited about that but there's a lot of hard work ahead of us."
What is Stephon Gilmore's nickname and how does it validate him?
"I always call him elite. His play on the field is unmatched. As a teammate, I love watching him play. He plays at an elite level and showed it today when we needed it. He stepped up as he's done all year long. I love watching him play."
Is the sky the limit for him?
"All of the defensive backs are like that. They're all hungry, they don't say a lot, they just come in and get it done. They've done that since they got here. They embrace their roles and try to get better every day. We love to see them have success."
How much better does DB Justin Bethel make special teams?
"It's a lot of fun. To have players like that, there aren't a lot like that in the league. To have that physical ability to go out and dominate matchups, but then at the same time to mentally be in tune, is amazing. It's like he's been here for five years. We're fortunate to have him. He's a great guy, has a great attitude. I can't say enough about him."
Is this Buffalo game going to feel like a playoff game?
"It is. It's going to be a battle. They're a great football team and will give us everything we can handle. It's going to be a great challenge."