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New England Patriots Postgame Quotes 12/17

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and select players comment on their game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, December 17, 2023.

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, December 17, 2023

Q: Was J.C. Jackson available today?

BB: No.

Q: What happened that he was active for the game but wasn't available?

BB: He wasn't available.

Q: Why was he active for the game?

BB: He wasn't available. Just leave it at that.

Q: Just thoughts on what you saw from your team? Obviously continued to fight once you got down. How important was that turnover with Bailey Zappe there in the third quarter?

BB: Yeah, well, there were a lot of big plays in the game. Yeah, we got a couple turnovers, had one called back, another touchdown called back. There's a number of key plays in the game that could have helped us a little more than the way they turned out. But it's competitive. They're a good football team. They're well-coached. Obviously got a lot of good players. Can't give them any extra opportunities.

Q: Fourth and two, you elect to go for it. Bailey Zappe throws the touchdown pass to Hunter Henry. What went into the decision to go for it on fourth down? What was the feeling on the sidelines after the payoff of the touchdown?

BB: We felt that was the right thing to do at that point in time. Felt like we had a good play. Bailey made a good throw. Hunter made a good catch. Just felt like we had a good play.

Q: You went for it early in the game, fourth and two, got the touchdown. Later in the game, early fourth quarter, fourth and three, near midfield, you decided to punt. What went into that decision? Any thought to go for it there?

BB: Yeah, before we got the interception.

Q: I think you're down by 17, it was fourth and three.

BB: Then we got the interception, right. At that point we had lost three starters. Worried about the pass protection. Worried about being able to execute in that situation. Felt like we were playing good defense. Get the ball back on a turnover, three-and-out, get the ball in better field position.

Q: Last three minutes you had called a timeout to get the ball back. You're working from your own end zone. Seemed to huddle, substitute a lot. One of the offensive players in the locker room lamented about the tempo that ran the clock down to two minutes. Were you okay with the tempo there down 10?

BB: We ended up in a check play there. I mean, we could have gone quicker.

Q: We saw you come out and check on Cole Strange when he went down. How tough was it to lose him? Do you have an update on him?

BB: Yeah, it was tough to lose him. It's tough to lose Conor [McDermott]. Tough to lose Hunter [Henry]. Kind of at the end there we were not – I would say we didn't feel like we were able to do probably what we should have done in that situation. At the end of the game I'm talking about.

Q: How would you assess Bailey Zappe's performance today?

BB: Yeah, I'll take a look at it on film. Can't watch everybody out there.

Q: Do you have any update on Hunter Henry and are you expecting to possibly lose him for a long time?

BB: Don't have any update. Game was just over.

Q: The fourth down decision, you thought it was fourth down from your own 33. There was another series previous to that. It was the first set of plays you had in the fourth quarter. Same decision making for you in terms of the injuries and not wanting to go for it there on fourth-and-three on your own 42?

BB: It's not a question of not wanting to go for it, it's a question of doing what you feel like is best at that point in time.

Q: Was that related to the injuries like you mentioned for the previous situation?

BB: There's a lot of things that go into a decision. It's not one thing.

Q: In response to a previous question, the first couple things you mentioned were related to the officiating and calls that obviously didn't go your way. Did you feel that the officiating in this game was perhaps worse than in previous games? You appeared to be more frustrated throughout the course of the game than usual.

BB: Yeah, I didn't say that. We talked about some big – Dan asked the key plays in the game, I rattled off a few of them. I'd say those were big plays in the game. Touchdown called back. Turnover called back. Interception. I mean, there was a number of things. Both teams missed field goals. Big plays in the game. Scoring plays.

Q: Alex Austin said in the locker room that he wasn't expecting to start until pregame. How did he handle that situation? How tough is that on a player to be thrust into a starting role like that?

BB: Well, I mean, we all know that when a game starts, anything can happen. Happened a little bit before that. He was ready to play, expected to play. Played a lot, so. Talked about that before, it's everybody's job to be ready to go. That's what we do.

QUARTERBACK BAILEY ZAPPE

Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, December 17, 2023

Q: Bailey, could you take us through what you thought on your overall performance today?

BZ: Just simply not good enough. Started out hot in the first half again, like we did the previous week. Came in here, made adjustments, understood what we wanted to attack. Went out in the second half, threw an interception on the first play of the second half, which is terrible on my part. You take away that, you take away seven points, it's a whole different game. I mean, they got the ball on whatever yard line it was, and two plays later they scored so I mean, that's on me. You take away that play, it's a different game. Not good enough, there's things that I'm going to clean up going into next week and get ready for the Broncos.

Q: On that interception, what did you see? Did you not see Willie Gay in front of the receiver?

BZ: No, I saw him. That's just miscommunication on our part. I thought he was going to keep going. He felt Gay was on the back of his hip, so he was going to keep it vertical. That's on me. I was able to make a guy miss. I just need to throw it out of bounds. It's first down. You throw the ball out of bounds, second down and ten, who knows what happens on that drive. We were able to move the ball all day up to that point. I've just got to be smarter. I've got to be better. That's on me.

Q: Bailey, what was the feeling like after the pick? You kept pushing, especially in the fourth quarter. Did you feel like you'd go for it more on fourth down, maybe open it up a bit more? What was the mentality going forward as you were behind?

BZ: Yeah, we've just got to score points. All the situation stuff, going for it, things like that, that's a coach's decision. Whatever play gets sent in, I try to execute it to the best of my ability. We're playing a really good team. Defense played their butts off. We've got to help out a little bit. That interception, first play of the second half, I didn't do that. I've got to fix those.

Q: You guys have been dealing with a lot of injuries. What was the mood like seeing Cole Strange go down? David Andrews said he was sort of mad that they brought the cart out, he wanted to walk off the field. What was the mood dealing with that and the injuries today?

BZ: Yeah, I mean, injuries suck, no matter who it is. Especially when it's your brother, a guy that I came in here with, I spent every day with, I've gotten to know him. Me and him are great friends. We've been together for the last two years. Injuries suck. I mean, stuff happens, though. But I pray for him and I hope everything's well for him and he can have a speedy recovery and get back and start playing ball.

Q: You mentioned adjustments at halftime. Did you see any from them that marked a stark change from what they had shown in the first half?

BZ: Yeah, I mean, they brought – there was one time I got sacked on a corner pressure. They didn't do that in the first half. They did it in the second half. They got me on that one. It's something that we watched on film all week to be ready for. It's was just something I missed. Sent the mike the wrong way. I've got to mike it backside, just things like that. They adjusted. We adjusted. I just didn't execute our adjustments. That was the difference. So I've just got to get better.

Q: Along those lines, was that the main difference? The first half performance you had conviction, you were performing the way you wanted to, and the second half it seemed like that wasn't there. Was it the inability to react to their adjustments?

BZ: No, I wouldn't say that. I mean, I think you're going to look back at film tomorrow, there's going to be a lot of things that maybe if I just do this a little bit different, it's a bigger play. Instead of throwing it one way, maybe I hit Zeke [Ezekiel Elliott] in the flat. Maybe he gets 10, 15 yards. Maybe the first play of the second half, I throw it out of bounds, or I just scramble and get five yards. It's not an interception, they don't get the ball on the five-yard line, they don't score a touchdown. Just things like that. It directly reflects on me because it's my fault, I've just got to get better at it.

Q: You mentioned the corner blitz. Some of those blitz pressures, did you feel like it was protections, routes? What did you feel like led to some of those issues?

BZ: Personally, the issues aren't anybody else's problem but mine. I control that stuff. I do it. If I mike it right, that's where people are going. If I mike it left, that's where people are going. I've got to see it. I've got to use my cadence. I've got to use what the coaches gave us throughout the week as far as tendencies and everything. I've got to use it to my ability. I didn't do it on that one play that got us. There's other plays that we were able to get on the same page communication-wise and pick everything up. They got us on that one, and it was a pretty big play.

Q: What has it been like with Hunter Henry, another big day today, and your rapport with him? How tough was it to see him go down?

BZ: Yeah, I mean, Hunter is a great tight end, receiver. He can do practically anything you want him to. We have a lot of guys like that in the tight end room and the receiver room. Personally for me it makes my job easier because I feel like no matter what they do versus Hunter, I feel like it's a mismatch. I just let him have his time, let him get open, I can make a play, throw a good enough ball where he can make a play. I think we're filled with guys like that in our room. It just comes down to me getting the ball to them, good ball placement, where they can get YAC after the catch. Just up to me to get them the ball.

Q: After that interception, when you go over to the sidelines, what's your mindset? What are the conversations you're having to get yourself ready to get back in there?

BZ: Yeah, the hardest thing about it all is to forget it and wash it. Personally you want to be perfect. You want to not have any turnovers. When you have a turnover, you're mad at yourself because it's so easy just to step up and throw it out of bounds. Like, "Why didn't you do that?" That's the kind of things you ask yourself. Once the next series comes, you just forget about it, try to move on, tell yourself when that opportunity comes again, when I'm in that situation, I'm going to do something different, I'm not going to do that. It's just learning from those things and just getting better. That's what it's all about. We're lucky this week, we've got another week to get better and go after the Broncos. They're a great team. I'm excited to get after it.

CENTER DAVID ANDREWS

Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, December 17, 2023

(On the mindset of the team right now)

"You know we had some opportunities there. Some opportunities to put some more points on the board and we really didn't. You know, there was some early, some later in the game and look when you are playing a good team like this, a good defense, a good offense, you've got to score points and score as many as you can. Just didn't do a good enough job of that today, finishing some drives, taking advantage of opportunities. Proud of the way the team competed, proud of the way the team fought until the last minute. Things are not always going to go your way, you're not always going to succeed but the way we are competing and stuff, I appreciate from those guys in the locker room."

(On turning points in the game)

"Yeah, I mean there were things offensively too, not converting some points when we had some opportunities. And like I said against a good team, especially with an explosive offense, with that quarterback on the other side. You've got to take advantage of all those opportunities that you can. I thought we fought, even after the interception. We had some lulls and some three and outs. Can't really comment on that, I'm not really sure what happened so I'll have to look back at it and try to figure it out. But you know, figure it out and move onto Denver."

(On what the defense has brought to the games this year)

"You can ask a defensive player that. But I mean, look the defense does do a great job, like they do a great job, made some big plays and we have to do a better job of converting touchdowns or points in those situations. Look, we've got a really good defense, and we've got a good football team, and we just aren't playing up to that as a whole team, so that's what we have to do."

RUNNING BACK KEVIN HARRIS

Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, December 17, 2023

(On getting the chance for more carries in regular-season action)

"I mean, you know it's hard to get carries when you've got Zeke [Ezekiel Elliott] and 'Mondre [Rhamondre Stevenson] in front of you. I was given the opportunity to get in there today and I made the most of it."

(On what it's been like to play with Ezekiel Elliott and what Elliott said to him before he took the field)

"He's played the position a lot so he helped me stay on my keys and stuff. He gave me encouragement, told me to keep going and keep running. They obviously have very good guys, so it's good learning from him."

(On his touchdown)

"It felt good. The o-line did great on that play, so I give praise to them. It was a good call, followed my blockers and I scored."

LINEBACKER JAHLANI TAVAI

Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, December 17, 2023

(On the team's mentality throughout the game)

"The mentality throughout the game was just don't quit. There was a lot of explosive plays that we gave up, but throughout the whole game we were just making sure we found new opportunities to create turnovers and find ways to get their offense off the field."

(On Kansas City's short passing game)

"It was just a lack of communication on our part. Today, we didn't meet our standards and tomorrow, we've got to come back in these meetings rooms and correct those. We've still got three games to go, and we aren't giving up on anything. Being out there on the field with those guys, it shows a lot of character from each and every one of them. I didn't see anybody quit, I didn't see anybody complain or whining. I have nothing but respect for the guys in this building and we just got to move on."

(On Marte Mapu's progress this year)

"I'm enjoying the way he's started talking to me. But today, he took full advantage of his opportunities, and he capitalized on a great play, and I just hope that he continues to grow and develop in this defense."

(On his turnover)

"I don't even know, I just saw the ball being thrown and I was just trying to find a way to get to the ball. When he bobbled it, I had to find a way to just snatch it out of his hands, after that I was a little careless, but I was just trying to make a play on defense. It's just the competitive nature in myself to score on defense. We have been waiting on the opportunity, Marte [Mapu] almost had it. I was trying to find a way to do it too."

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN DEATRICH WISE JR.

Postgame Press Conference
Sunday, December 17, 2023

(On the challenge of playing against Patrick Mahomes)

"I think we have some great players to meet that challenge. Yes, he is a great player, but I think we did a good job today of staying in his face, getting in the way. Like I said earlier, he did make some good plays, but we held him to a good yardage."

(On the emergence of Mack Wilson Sr.)

"Mack's been getting better every time he steps on the field. He's been getting after quarterbacks, setting the edge, making plays, getting big hits, knocking the ball out. He's put two great games together, and it's great to see him blossom. He's doing a great job out there, and he made some great plays today and great plays last game. I think he's doing an impressive job, along with some of the other guys as well."

(On the motivation of the team)

"As a defense – that's the side of the ball that I talk about the most – we are very internally motivated. We have a lot of things that we want to accomplish individually and collectively as a defense. We have our goals that we set at the beginning of the year, and we're still striving to meet that. I want to say we had 2.4 rushing yards [per carry], that's something that we aim for, to stop the run, eliminate runs when going into a game."

(On stopping big plays)

"I think we did a great job today, definitely stopped the run, met our goals there. In the passing game, we held him to a pretty substantial yardage. He rolled out a few times, but we were there to either take the ball away or get in his face. He had some free yards. He did make some good plays, but for the most part we played together, collectively, as a unit."

PLAYERS IN THE LOCKER ROOM

Demario Douglas, WR

(On how it felt to be back)

"It feels great. I love being on the field. Any chance I get to be on the field, it feels great. It felt good. First of all, being out there just for warm-ups, I feel like I got energetic. I was happy to be back out there."

(On what his recovery was like)

"Long, long. Just not being on the field, those days are long. When you are on the field, I feel like the days go by fast. When you aren't, the days are long for sure."

(On what was different in the second half)

"Honestly I am going to go watch film. I know that we had that energy that kind of just died down a bit. I feel like us getting stopped kind of deadened the offense a bit. We got the juice back a little too late, but we are going to get it right."

Ezekiel Elliott, RB

(On how the game changed in the second half despite a strong start to the game)

"Can't really tell you, you know. We've got to just take care of the penalties. I mean, penalties definitely hurt us today. Just take care of the football."

(On his overall thoughts on today's game)

"I think we battled, I think we competed. We've just got to make more plays."

(On the performance of the offense today)

"Yeah for sure, I think the Chiefs' game plan was definitely to make it tough for us to run the football. A lot of stacked boxes, a lot of pressures That gave us the opportunity to throw the football."

(On Kevin Harris behind the scenes and on the field)

"Kevin, I mean he's been working his tail off all year. He's a guy who for a lot of years had to take a lot of scout team reps by himself. Never complained, always came to work, always showed up. We saw him reap the benefits of that."

(On what he thinks the team needs to do to stay strong in the second half)

"Just got to execute better in the second half, I think that's the main thing, get out there and execute. Take the adjustments that the coaches give us in the second half or before the second half and go out there and execute."

Marte Mapu, LB

(On if there was anything that could have been done differently on the touchdown)

"Like I said, they [Kansas City Chiefs] are a great offense but we hold ourselves to a high standard so whether it is a good play or not, we have to stop it."

(On how encouraged he feels after making the interception today)

"I mean it's good but we want to get into the end zone and we want to win for the team."

(On if it's been tough being in and out of the lineup this season)

"I mean from the beginning it's always been a game plan team from our perspective and I just trust the coaches to put me in when I am needed. We also have great safetys, great linebackers, that have also been playing at a really high level and defense that has been playing at a high level, so I don't really feel any way in terms of whether I am playing or not. I just want us to win."

(On why there's been such an emphasis on the defense getting into the end zone)

"I mean that's just the side of the ball that I play on, so I know the offense has been doing the same thing too. They are working and we are working but we are focusing on the part that we can contribute to. From my perspective, when you get that opportunity, you capitalize on it."

Mack Wilson Sr., LB

(On what it was like trying to keep the Chiefs offense in front of them)

"That's tough. Obviously, they've got a great quarterback, MVP quarterback. He makes his share of plays, I feel like we did a good job limiting those plays. When he needed to make them, he found a way to make them."

(On if the Chiefs competing for a playoff spot showed in how they played today)

"I mean, honestly it was just football being played. I didn't see that they were extra motivated or anything like that. They made more plays than we did."

Jalen Mills, DB

(On playing against the Chiefs' offense)

"87 [Travis Kelce] was a big target. I don't think he did too much. They kind of got to their outlet passes with the screens and things like that, so that's good for them. But I think for the most part, we did pretty good."

(On Patrick Mahomes)

"It's definitely a challenge. It's something that we work on every day in practice when we know we're facing a type of guy like [Patrick Mahomes]. Mahomes is definitely special. So, it's definitely a challenge."

Alex Austin, DB

(On his assessment of his performance)

"Personally, I feel like I had a great game, but there's always things to clean up. You're never as good as you think and never as bad, so looking forward to coming in tomorrow and breaking down the film with the coaches and getting my coaching points."

(On being in the starting lineup)

"I felt ready for the opportunity. Like you said, I've been grinding for a long time to get this opportunity. I just was blessed enough to be able to get out there and get that start against a great opponent, a great quarterback, a great offense. So, I felt good, and I felt confident to go out there with a group of guys that I'm battling with every day. The veteran guys made things easier for me out there with communication, and it was just fun to build that camaraderie today with the guys."

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