BILL BELICHICK, HEAD COACH
BB: Well, it was good to win this game and be able to move on. You've got to give these guys a lot of credit that we didn't play particularly well, but we hung in there. We ended up making enough plays to win. You've got to give Billy [O'Brien] and the Texans a lot of credit. They played well. They did a great job defensively. They knocked the ball off of us. We fumbled, they intercepted us, we had too many balls out and we're lucky we didn't lose more than we did. But in the end we were able to take the ball away and play good in the red-area defensively. That was helpful, and able to come away with more points. A big day for Rutgers, a big day for Rutgers. They all had interceptions. We love to see that, love to see them for anybody but especially when we get three of them. That was big. The kickoff return, obviously we hadn't had a return for a score all year and it couldn't have come at a better time. It was really well-executed. We had a lot of good blocks, a double-team block, Nate [Ebner] on a trap block, [Shea] McClellin on [Brian] Peters. We got the key guys we needed to get there. Dion [Lewis] made a good run. We're going to have to play better, coach better. I don't think the coaching was all that good tonight, either. We have to play better, we have to coach better than we did tonight, or there won't be much left in our season. Hopefully we can do that and up our level of performance next week. Again, give the Texans credit. They did a good job. Defensively they gave us a lot of problems. We had six first-downs in the first half. We threw up a couple of prayers and came down with them, made a couple of good catches with Chris [Hogan] and Julian [Edelman]. We just didn't have any consistency at all offensively, couldn't run it or throw it very well.
Q: Are you going to be able to go back and see how much of their success was a result of what they were doing and how much of it was self-inflicted wounds by your own team?
BB: They're one of the best defenses in the league. I mean, I don't think there's any question about that. Whatever stat you want to look at – they turn the ball over, they're good on third down, they're good in the red-area, they're good against the run, good against the pass, they're good against everything. But a lot of mistakes we had; we had penalties, we had dropped balls, we threw the ball right to them, we fumbled it. Give them credit, but we've got to do better than that. We're going to play against another good defense this week.
Q: What was the difference with the defense and the way they played in the second half tonight?
BB: The first half they got the ball on the 15-20 yard-line or whatever and scored. We gave up a lot of field position against our defense. I thought defensively we hung in there. It would've been good to stop them one more time, but a couple of those drives were short drives. They had one long drive in the – what was it, third quarter, fourth quarter? Third quarter I guess it was, where they drove it down and kicked a field goal. We had some opportunities to get off the field defensively. [We had] penalties and could've stopped a couple of more plays and gotten off the field when we had opportunities to do that. I thought we hung in there. We had a couple of sudden-change plays with bad field positon and kept them out of the end zone. But yeah, we can do a better job defensively. We've got to tackle better, rush better, cover better. We'll need to play better this week and coach better, too. Like I said, I didn't think the coaching was all that great either.
Q: What did you like about Dion Lewis when you acquired him and what does he do in general for your team?
BB: Well, Dion [Lewis] is good with the ball in his hands. We've seen that multiple times through the last couple of years. He's quick, he's hard to tackle, he's got good balance.
Q: What does it say about how hard Dion Lewis has battled back from injury that he's now able to contribute at the most important time of the season?
BB: Yeah, he's worked extremely hard. There's no question about that. He's worked extremely hard. He was working really hard last year at this time when the team was at the end of the season and in the playoffs last year. This year he has an opportunity to play. I'm happy for him. He's worked hard. He earned it.
Q: How important was Ryan Allen's ability to change field position with his punts tonight?
BB: Yeah, field position and handling the cold balls on the kicks and Joe [Cardona] doing a good job snapping. I thought those operations were good. Joe snapped well. Ryan [Allen] kicked well, got the ball up in the air for us, gave us a chance to cover. They did a good job on our gunners but Ryan had some good plus-50 punts out of bounds there. Matt [Slater] downed one. Putting them on a long field; that was huge. Not that the snaps were bad, but just handling them on a night like this is not the easiest thing in the world, but he did it well and Steve [Gostkowski] put them through, so that was big for us.
Q: On the attempted field goal where the officials didn't reset the play clock, did Ryan Allen bring that to their attention or did they notice that themselves?
BB: Yeah, well he was looking for it because the ball wasn't spotted. But I guess, you know, they switched, bringing the K-ball and switched it. It wasn't spotted, so Ryan [Allen] was looking for the reset. He didn't get it and so I didn't want to take a chance on it, so I just took the timeout there. Then they reset it and gave us back the timeout. I think it was just, I mean they got it right. They had to work through it a little bit, but they got it right. But it was a heads up play by Ryan looking for it. Like I said, at that point the points were more important than the timeout. If we had had to use the timeout, then we would've used it rather than lose five yards on that field goal attempt.
Q: How important was it to get those final points on the board before halftime?
BB: Yeah, well it was good to be able to get the last opportunity there. We drove it down. We got the ball to the one-inch line but couldn't get it in. I might've thought about going for it on fourth-down, but when we lost yards there on third-down, the ball was on about the – I don't know, one, one and a half, whatever it was – instead of on the one-inch line, then I didn't really think very much about going for it at that point. It's good to get the three points. We had the ball to start the second half because we deferred to start the game. But it would've been nice to get seven. We had a couple of good chances. We just didn't get it done. Again, like a lot of things tonight, if we don't improve in those situations the next time we play then it'll probably be the last time we play. We've got to take advantage of our opportunities. We've got to coach and execute better. Hopefully we'll be able to get that done this week.
Q: How extraordinary is it to be in the position to go to six straight AFC Championship games?
BB: Yeah, well I mean it's great to be playing at this time of year. You're one of four teams that's left after the weekend, but again, I mean I don't really care about the other five years right now, or however many years it's been. The only thing that matters is this year, this team, and what we have an opportunity to do, what we need to do to move on to play again. We can talk about all of that other stuff some other time. For right now, it's just this team and getting to the AFC Championship Game and playing our best game next weekend. That's what we're going to need to do. We're going to need to play our best game, better than we played tonight.
TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK
Q: What were your thoughts on Dion Lewis's performance tonight?
TB: He made some big plays for us. The kickoff return was incredible. The touchdown catch, he had a good touchdown run, so he did a great job.
Q: What did the Texans defense do that gave you some problems?
TB: Yeah, it was a lot of things I think between what they were doing and what we were doing that were causing us problems. It was just very inconsistent for us all the way around. We just didn't do enough in any area, but they've got a good defense. They're ranked the first-ranked defense and I thought they did a good job. They had a good scheme and they were prepared. They played well.
Q: Were there some things, particularly the pressure up the middle from Whitney Mercilus, that maybe you didn't anticipate?
TB: Yeah, they tried that against us last year and had a little success, so I think we were prepared for it. We just didn't do a great job executing. The turnovers obviously hurt us quite a bit, so we've got to try to tighten those things up this week. Whoever we play next week is going to be a great football team and we're going to have to play better than we played tonight on offense.
Q: What are your thoughts on the way Julian Edelman came through for you in the second half?
TB: Yeah, Jules [Julian] Edelman did a great job. He always does. He's a huge playmaker for us and his ability to create separation and make plays down the field; he did a bunch of that tonight, so he did a great job.
Q: What are you taking away from the mistakes made tonight?
TB: I think we've just got to learn from it. I think this team did a great job playing against us. They had some good scheme stuff that worked. They have good rushers and they had some good guys in coverage, so they had a pretty good scheme. It was a lot of things, and then when you add our poor execution on top of that, then you add our turnovers on top of that, it doesn't feel great because we worked pretty hard to play a lot better than we played. I give them a lot of credit, but we're going to have to play better on offense. We expect to go out and have a good week and try to fix the things that we saw tonight, and then try to play better next weekend.
Q: In terms of the success you had throwing the ball down the field versus some of the shorter stuff you guys do a lot, was that due to something they presented scheme-wise?
TB: Yeah, we were able to hold the ball a little bit and get the ball down the field, let our guys kind of get into the defense. They were kind of covering some of those shorter zones and we did have some chances. We had more chances to take advantage of some of the ones down the field that we didn't come up with, too. So it was just one of those nights where we really never got into a rhythm on offense, but we'll learn from it and try to be better next week.
Q: Were you disappointed that Dion Lewis's kickoff return touchdown wasn't able to serve as a spark or momentum play for the offense?
TB: Yeah, we only played like, I don't know, seven or eight plays there in the first – forever. It felt like we were sitting there for a long time. We've got to be prepared when we get out there to go make the plays. We've just got to do a better job on offense.
Q: What was your reaction to Dion Lewis's kickoff return touchdown?
TB: It was a great play, it was a huge play. We haven't had many of those this year, but the defense got a lot of turnovers in the second half of the year. Those big kickoff returns help a lot, so it was good, complementary football outside of our turnovers, which really hurt us. We're going to have to – we're never going to turn the ball over as many times as we did and think that we had a good game.
Q: This is the sixth straight year the Patriots will be going to the AFC Championship game which breaks the Oakland Raiders' record from 1973-78. What is your reaction to that?
TB: Pretty cool, pretty cool. Let's go win the AFC Championship Game. That would be very cool. That's what we've got to do.
Q: Are you appreciative of the way the defense played tonight?
TB: Yeah, they played great. I mean, they've been doing such a great job for us all season. I thought they played great tonight. I think those turnovers obviously were a huge part of us scoring points on offense. If they play like that, it's tough to put points on the board. They're getting after the quarterback and picking balls off and getting in good coverage. It was a great game.
DEVIN MCCOURTY, DEFENSIVE BACK
Q: How was the defense able to turn things around in the second half?
DM: Really, we were angry with ourselves. The first three points they got was a penalty on us that extended a drive on a third-down stop. Then even in the red area we held them to three on a sudden change, and then the touchdown, myself and Duron [Harmon], we could have got ourselves in a better defense. Going into halftime, we just looked at each other like, 'We've just got to play better. Do what we're supposed to do and make them earn it.' We did that, we did a better job of that, but they came and they fought hard. I think they came and tried to play a complete game as a team and we had to battle through some ups and down. But that's what the playoffs are about, finding a way to win.
Q: Prior to your interception play, it seemed the outside receiver wasn't really covered and then you moved someone out and the inside receiver came off – is that something that you kind of baited?
DM: No, we just – E. Rowe [Eric Rowe] thought we were in one coverage and I checked it. Just getting everybody, getting them lined up to the coverage we wanted to be in, that's all that was. It was just me changing the coverage and me and Duron [Harmon] getting it to everybody. He started off thinking it was one thing and then we checked it and we got into that defense.
Q: You got a really good break on that ball – was that related to you seeing the outside receiver uncovered?
DM: No, that was just a little bit of what we do coverage-wise. I knew I had to get on him tight. He's a go-to guy in that situation, third or second, I think it was third down. I just tried to stay tight on him and was able to make a play on the ball.
Q: How pleased were you with the pressure you guys were able to exert from the start of the game?
DM: Yeah, those guys have been getting after the quarterback. I think we've gotten a lot of – a lot of people have said how bad we are rushing the passer, so I guess they'll evaluate this and they'll probably still say we're bad at it, but we know what we can do up front, and I think it's the back end talking to the front end, the front end talking to us, and we just keep everybody going. When they're able to get after the quarterback and we feel that, we're getting after it and trying to make good plays in the back end. Really, my interception was a ball that was behind, Logan [Ryan]'s was a high ball. That comes from the front. That's the front causing pressure, making sure the quarterback's not just back there and feeling comfortable, that's them. That's always – when you're playing good in the secondary and getting interceptions, that's usually because those front four, the front seven are doing a good job. Complementary football – that's the way we've been winning and we've got to continue to do that.
Q: When you see Dion Lewis score on a 98-yard kickoff return, what does that do for your football team?
DM: Oh, it gets us going. I was happy he had enough gas to finish it off. But we know him back there in the open field, he's tough tackle. He made a great play. Any time you can score points and not be on offense, it gives the team a huge boost. That was a big play for us. We've just got to build off that and special teams. We work on these things every week, so it was good just to see it pay off and get a big return like that.
Q: What does it say about Dion Lewis's work ethic to get back to where he is right now after his injury last year?
DM: Yeah, he's one of our guys. He's a key guy on this team. In college he played in the Big East, man. They make us tough. He did a great job I think just working all offseason, giving himself a chance to, when called on, be ready to go, and he's a veteran player now. He understands what it takes to play in these games. I think as a teammate you're just happy to see him out there and looking good and creating big plays for us.
Martellus Bennett, Tight End
(On being in the AFC Championship Game)
"It feels pretty good, just get ready to get back and get focused, enjoy this win for a day or two and have dinner with my family and hopefully some fried catfish or something like that. Get back to see who we're going to play next weekend and try to prepare for that. I think all of us want to play a better game than we played today so we'll just figure out what we can to do get better to have a cleaner slate next week. We're 1-0 this season and we got another one coming up."
(On Dion Lewis's performance)
"Dion did well. He's an explosive back and you see him out there for kickoff returns, catching the ball, there's a lot of stuff he can do. He's very dynamic and he's played well throughout the season. He's worked his way back from injury and you just love to see guys have success."
(On the team's first-half performance)
"I don't really think we had the ball that long in the first half. We were able to score and run a kickoff return back. Other than that, they had the ball most of the time and I think we only ran six or seven plays so we didn't really have that many opportunities."
(On the game)
"Overall, guys did a good job finding a way to make plays when we need them. They [Houston Texans] have a very good defense, one of the top defenses in the NFL. We were able to put up some points, our defense played well and our special teams put up some points. Everybody had each other's back today."
Alan Branch, Defensive Line
(On team's confidence going into second half)
"I don't think anyone was in a panic mode or anything. We know what type of team we are and we know what we're capable of. We just went out there and executed the plan.
(On the team's run defense)
"He [Lamar Miller] was definitely a focus in the game. He had a decent game and definitely broke out for a couple of runs. He's a shifty quick guy so he definitely exposed a couple of gaps. I think we did a pretty good job getting to the sideline looking over our mistakes and trying to make sure we didn't let it happen again."
Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver
(On the game's inconsistency)
"It's tough when you're in the playoffs and you turn the ball over against a good football team. We weren't on the field that long in the first half; I think we ran like 20 plays so it's tough. We made plays when we had to, but if we want to keep winning and move on we can't play like that. We're going to have to have a really good week of preparation this upcoming week and learn from the stuff we didn't do well. We're going to have to build off the things we did decent and focus on trying to take care of the ball."
*(On not having the ball much in the first quarter) *
"Yes, that and the combination of playing against a good football team. We had to make adjustments and keep on playing and find something, and we were able to do that."
*(On offensively making a lot more pass attempts downfield) *
"Well they were dropping everyone, so you know anytime they're rushing three the plays are going to go longer, you're going to have the ability to make a play downfield. We were able to make a couple, but we missed a couple too."
*(On the mistakes made in the game) *
"I have to watch the film but it's probably the combination of everything. We were able to make plays when we had to, our defense played a really good football game, and our special teams had a touchdown. We had three turnovers and they had three turnovers; it was an even battle."
*(On Dion Lewis) *
"He's a phenomenal football player and a great asset to our team. It's great to have him out there."
Duran Harmon, Defensive Back
(On going to another AFC Championship Game)
"It's amazing. It's really a testament to this organization. The work we continue to put in, how hard the coaches continue to push us. It's just a testament, it's very rarely done and I'm just excited to be a part of something like this because there's not too many places that win like this. Just to be a part of this team with so many great coaches and players, it's just an exciting time.
(On his interception)
"It was great, I mean on the whole sideline I told them, 'I'm going to get one, and I'm going to finish it off.' I can't let Logan [Ryan] and Dev [Devin McCourty] get one and not me get one, so I told them I'd get one and it happened."
Dion Lewis, Running Back
*(On his overall play) *
"I did OK. There are some things I could do a lot better on – protect the ball [because] I put my team in jeopardy. I've got to work on that this week."
(On the win)
"We have a lot of work to do. We made a lot of mistakes. I'm glad we got a win, but in order to advance next week, we've got to play a lot better than we did today."
(On scoring a touchdown in three different ways and turning the ball over)
"It's nice, but I'm just disappointed because I put my team in jeopardy, so I've got a lot of work to do and that's what most of my focus is going to most be on."
(On the kickoff return for a touchdown)
"It was a great return and great execution. The guys made their blocks. All season since I've been back, I knew we'd get one, but just haven't had too many opportunities to take it out with all those deep kicks, but we knew there was going to be opportunities and I hit it. The guys did a great job for me."
(On going to the AFC Championship)
"It's a great feeling. Nothing is guaranteed in this game, everybody knows that so to go to the playoffs and get a win is exciting. We'll enjoy this the next couple of days and once we figure out who we're going to play, we know we've got a lot of work to do."
Rob Ninkovich, Linebacker
*(On the win) *
"We're excited to come through with a victory. It was a hard-fought game and you have to give the Texans credit. They came in with a really good game plan and there are some things that we need to do better. You know, that's the way playoffs go. You have to make adjustments and it was a hard-fought, fourth quarter game. I look forward to continuing and figuring out who we have to play."
(On what the team needs to improve on for next week)
"You have to watch the tape and see the mistakes that you made. You know other teams are going to watch the tape and try and go after you on the things that you didn't do great. I think there is definitely room for improvement. I like the challenge of wherever the ball is, our defense has to step in and bend but don't break. You know, give up three points in some situations, but that is just how the game is. We're just playing complementary football."
(On going to the Patriots' sixth-straight conference championship)
"It feels amazing knowing that every year there is an opportunity to get into the playoffs. But, it all starts back in the offseason and all of the work that you put in through training camp and during the regular season to get to this point. You know how much more it means to you to get to this point with the time that you've put into the game. I feel blessed to get the opportunity to be here as long as I have and to win as many playoff games as I have. It's a blessing."
Logan Ryan, Cornerback
*(On the Patriots defense stepping up when the offense was struggling) *
"It's playoff football. It's a team game. It's not always going to be how you picture it. This game felt a little bit like the Baltimore game with all of the turnovers. We were able to respond. I think that we've been there before and we didn't panic. We made them kick a lot of field goals and we knew field goals weren't going to beat us. I think we did a good job responding when we could."
(On his interception)
"It felt good. It was my first, postseason career interception so it was big and I knew once [Devin McCourty] got one, I would get one and Duron [Harmon] always closes it out. It was a big day for Rutgers, just like we planned. It's good to get [interceptions]. They're big this time of the year."
(On what he was thinking during the play leading up to his interception)
"You have to ask Devin [McCourty] that. Devin literally called the play. He said, 'Hey, if he runs the in-cut, get underneath him.' So I was fortunate to get underneath [DeAndre] Hopkins and the ball was a little high and Devin was right there. It was a tip and I was able to be where the ball was. We actually talked about the play before it happened which was crazy. But, that's something that with film study and preparation we're able to talk about and able to do. They ran exactly what we thought they would and we were able to capitalize."
James White, Running Back
*(On the New England running backs) *
"We have guys who can do a lot of different things. From Brandon [Bolden] doing big things on special teams, to Dion [Lewis], LG [LeGarrette Blount], myself, we have guys that can change the game. We just want to go out there and do whatever we can to help our team."
*(On the turnovers) *
"We know we can't play like that moving forward, with all the penalties and turnovers. Because like you said, every team is good, they're going to capitalize on those opportunities, so we really need to cut those out. During the game, [we need to] keep being level-headed and keep moving forward. We can't keep thinking about the turnovers, because then it's only going to go downhill from there. You've just got to keep moving forward and just continue to get better throughout the game."
*(On the defense stepping up) *
"Our defense played an amazing game today. I don't know how many, but like three or four turnovers. They had our back throughout the whole game, even holding [Houston] to field goals, and gave the offense the ball in the red area. They did a great job, and we just need to play better come next week."