HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
January 21, 2018
BB: This was a great football game. Really, as I said out there, really proud of our players, did a great job. We didn't really do things as well as we'd like to have done them at times in the game, but they battled. They kept competing. In the end, we made enough plays in all three phases of the game. A lot of guys stepped up and that's a good football team. Coach [Doug] Marrone, his staff, Jacksonville – that's a really good team. But I couldn't be prouder of the way our guys played, competed, fought and in the end executed, made the plays that we had to make to win. We're happy to be moving on.
Q: How do you ride the emotional wave of a close game like that?
BB: Yeah, look, it's the AFC Championship. You've got two good teams. That's about what you expect it to be, to come down to the last possession, come down to the final play – play or two – whatever it is. It's what we saw last week in a lot of playoff games. We've been in plenty of those before. You get two good teams and it comes down to a handful of plays.
Q: How big was Danny Amendola today?
BB: Danny's a tremendous competitor, made some big plays for us. I thought, as usual, he handled the punts great and he had the last punt return that really set us up for the final touchdown. Danny's such a good football player. When you look up 'good football player' in the dictionary his picture is right there beside it. It doesn't matter what it is. Fielding punts, third down, big play, red area, onside kick recovery – whatever we need him to do. He's just a tremendous player, very instinctive, tough, great concentration. He had some big plays for us today.
Q: What are your thoughts on Tom Brady after what went on in and outside the locker room and how he performed today?
BB: Yeah, well, what went on outside the locker room is all you guys, so I don't know about that. You can tell me all about that. Inside the locker room everybody prepared for the game. Tom did a great job preparing. I thought we all competed today and made enough plays to win.
Q: Did anything change with the game plan due to the injury to Tom Brady's hand?
BB: Not that I'm aware of, Bob [Glauber].
Q: Can you speak to the toughness of Tom to deal with something like that injury and then perform the way he did in the game?
BB: I mean, look, Tom did a great job and he's a tough guy. We all know that, alright? But, we're not talking about open-heart surgery here.
Q: You got a little bit more aggressive offensively on the final two drives of the fourth quarter. Can you talk about the decision to become more aggressive there?
BB: I don't know if it was aggressiveness. Maybe it was a little bit better execution. We made some plays that we needed to make. Yeah, the third-and-18 was a huge play to get us out of a hole, to get us started on that drive. Again, it's that kind of game. We didn't do a lot of things well in the first half. We didn't play very well defensively. We didn't play very well in the red area, couldn't convert any third downs. I know it just wasn't the way we wanted to play the game. We fell behind and made more plays at the end, played better defensively, played well in the kicking game, played well offensively when we needed to. I think that's really the mark of this team and these players, is when we need it the most that's when we played our best. Fortunately, we were able to do that today.
Q: In the second half you guys punted three times inside Jacksonville's territory. What went into those decisions and did it come down to you feeling that field position was going to be important at that time of the game?
BB: Yeah, well, in each of those situations we do what we felt was best in that situation at that time.
Q: Do you think field position was key in this game?
BB: Yeah, of course. It always is; sure.
Q: What did you make of Stephon Gilmore's play on fourth down of Jacksonville's final offensive drive?
BB: I didn't get a great look at it. It looked like he got there and he made a good play on the ball from where I stood. I was between him and the receiver. He has good length. He reached with his arm, his right arm, and was able to bat the ball away. He had good overage all day. They made a couple of good catches. Again, they have a very talented receiver group, a good quarterback. They're going to hit some plays and they did.
Q: What were some of the things that they were forcing you to make adjustments to defensively, in particular with the play of Corey Grant?
BB: Yeah, they got Grant in space several times and he hurt us on that. He hurt us on the swing pass, hurt us out in the flat. They got [Tommy] Bohanon out in the flat a couple of times, too. So, they did, I'd say, a couple of things differently in their play-action game. They did a good job on that. We could've, obviously, played them better but they had a good plan of attack there and got the ball into space on us and had some chunk plays – 15, 20-yard gains. It was good game planning and he's a fast, explosive player. We gave him too much room and he made us pay for it.
Q: How did you think the defense performed against Leonard Fournette today?
BB: It was a battle. He had some good runs. He had some downhill plays. I know we had some plays. It was a battle. He's a good back. He's a tough back, gets a lot of tough yards. But again, in the end, close game, we made a couple of more plays than they did. They made theirs. We made ours and we just made a couple more.
Q: What is it about these players on this team that allows them to make big plays at the opportune moments? How do you go about finding that out about these guys?
BB: I don't know. I mean, every game is different. Every situation is different. What we had to do this week, what we had to do some other weeks are probably not quite the same thing. It's everybody being prepared, everybody knowing what to do and when the time comes to be able to need to come through, have to come through. That's what makes a good football team. That's what a team is – everybody pulling their weight, everybody doing their job. When your number comes up, stepping out there and doing what's right for the team, making the plays that the team needs you to make.
Q: What can you say about the contributions of Brandin Cooks this season and in particular, today?
BB: Brandin's been good for us all year. [He's] a really good football player, good route runner, tough, good hands, smart guy, does a lot of different things. We put him in a lot of different positions and he's able to execute a lot of different things. Yeah, he had some big plays for us today; no question. He hit a couple of comebacks and then he ran the deep route. [Jalen] Ramsey grabbed him. It was a big field positon swing there, too. Throwing in front, throwing behind – Tom and Brandin did a good job on that. It was really well executed, a number of those plays. Those are tough throws against [A.J.] Bouye and Ramsey. Those are two good corners.
Q: How did you feel Ryan Allen performed tonight?
BB: Yeah, Ryan's done a good job for us all year. Again, in a game like this – I don't know how many times we punted – more than we wanted to, but he had a lot of big plays for us. I think there was a two-deep look early in the game, which is something they've done, but not as much and trying to take us out of some of the directional kicking that we've done in the past. Ryan made a good adjustment to that. He had some good punts when we were backed up and we needed the field position and then we had some plus-50 punts in the second half that he executed really well, much like we did in the Jets game a couple of weeks ago, which we were able to maintain the field positon that we had, so it was key for us.
Q: How long would you say you keep trick plays in the holster throughout the year before deciding to use them and what goes into the decision process of when to deploy those in a game?
BB: Yeah, I don't know about the first question. We run the plays when we feel like it's the right play to call at the right time. That's what play calling is.
Q: How important was it to get points on the board during the last drive of the first half given that Jacksonville got the ball to start the second half?
BB: Yeah, getting the ball was part of it, but I would say a bigger part of it was just we hadn't moved the ball very well the whole half. To be able to make it a 14-10 game without really doing a lot of things well in the first half, you know, we think we came in at halftime with a good level of confidence that it was a four-point game and we hadn't played well. If we could get it going then we could win the game. It took us a little while to do that, but that was a big drive for us. We had some big stops defensively once we were able to comeback or finally get ahead and so, again, good complementary football from all three units.
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
January 21, 2018
Q: After a slow start offensively, what turned things around in the second half?
TB: Yeah, we played a lot better in the second half. We just couldn't get the drives going, and obviously it wasn't very good on third down and just got into a little tempo stuff in the second half and played a little bit better. So, it was a great win. Happy for our team and just a great, great game. So proud of all the guys, coaches, everyone. Amazing.
Q: Have you had a chance to see Danny Amendola's go-ahead touchdown catch? What did it take for him to make that play?
TB: Yeah, it was great. He's made so many big catches, and I saw he got the one foot in and I just saw it up on the big screen one time. He's got great hands and just a great sense about where he's at on the field. So, I mean, he's made so many big plays for us, and this was huge, and without that, we don't win. It was an incredible play.
Q: Did you have any conversation with Amendola throughout the game about his role today or looking for him?
TB: I'm always looking for him at some point. I mean, he's a big part of what we do, so he's never not part of what we're doing. He's a huge part of what we're doing always.
Q: How important was that first pass to Brandin Cooks early in the game for your confidence? Also, how important was your scoring drive at the end of the first half?
TB: That was good. Yeah, Brandin made a bunch of big plays today and he was huge for us. We've talked a lot and I have a lot of confidence and trust in him. He's an incredible player. And, that was big to get that one before the half. We needed that because we needed a spark and we needed to come into halftime with something to kind of get us going for the second half. That was a huge drive.
Q: When you knew Rob Gronkowski was ruled out for the game, what kind of adjustments did you and Josh McDaniels have to make to the game plan? Did you have to throw out a lot of what you worked on throughout the week?
TB: Yeah, Josh did such a great job of figuring out what we needed to do and how we needed to get it done, and he made it happen. So, it's hard when you lose such a critical part of your team and offense, and hopefully he's OK. It was a tough shot he took, and he's as tough as they come, so hopefully he feels better soon.
Q: What is the process this team goes through when you struggle to put things together early in the game, make adjustments as things progress and find a way to figure it out?
TB: Yeah, points are a product of playing really good football down after down. We finally could get the field on our side and get some field position, some short fields and turn the one score into two scores. That's why you play all four quarters, too. The game is never over after the halftime, and you've got to go to the end. There's some things that we're good at and other things we haven't been very good at. I think going a little faster in our tempo has been really good for us over the course of the season and we needed to make some plays there, we did, and the guys certainly at the receiver position and all the skill guys made a lot of great plays out there tonight.
Q: How would you describe the emotions of the week, starting with Wednesday when your practiced ended with the injury to the way this game ended today?
TB: Yeah, never had anything like it. Well, I've had a couple crazy injuries, but this was pretty crazy. They come up and you just deal with them, and I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do on Wednesday, Wednesday night, and then Thursday wasn't sure. And then Friday gained a little confidence and then Saturday was trying to figure out what we could do, and Sunday, try to come out here and make it happen. You know, we all put a lot out there. I mean, this was a little injury at the end of the day. It's certainly a big part of what a quarterback does. I mean, I've had a lot worse injuries than this, but if this was on my left hand, I could [not] care less, but just based on where it was, we had to deal with it.
Q: How much did the hand injury impact anything that you did out there today? Can you describe the wrap that you had on it? Also, did last year's Super Bowl comeback give the team confidence that you would be able to come back in this game?
TB: I think we always have confidence. We really do. I mean, whether it's the beginning of the game or toward the end, I mean, it's never really over till it's over with this team. You know, I was proud of the way we fought. It's a mentally tough team and we needed a lot of mental toughness today and we found a way to dig deep and get it done, even on offense without one of our very best players. It was a great win.
Q: How much did your hand impact you and can you describe the wrap?
TB: Yeah, I'd rather not do anything with my hand, but I couldn't get – that's kind of what I had to deal with. So, I just wrapped it up and tried to cover it up and see if [I could] go out there and play and be effective.
Q: Did it impact you at all?
B: I'd rather not wear it. But, I think it sounds kind of arrogant to say, 'Oh yeah, it bothered me,' when we had a pretty good game. So, I wouldn't say that. Doesn't that sound arrogant if I said that? It's like when Tiger Woods said, 'That was my C game,' and he won the tournament.
Q: Can you take us through the third-and-18 play to Amendola?
TB: Third-and-18? It was a good play. Danny got behind him. It was two safeties and Danny was kind of running through them, and I tried to throw it where he could get it and he made a hell of a catch. So, it was an unbelievable catch and big play in the game. I mean, that ended up being a huge drive for us, and without that, we don't go down and score that touchdown.
Q: How many stitches did you have in your hand from this injury?
TB: I think we should keep that a secret a little bit longer. No, it's not that bad. Enough to be bothersome.
Q: As you head to your eighth Super Bowl at the age of 40, are you able to appreciate this a little differently? Do you think about your kids being old enough to enjoy it or that different members of this team might not be here after this season?
TB: I think for all of us it does because you cherish these moments and opportunities, and I know we've had quite a few of them, which we've been very blessed to do. It's just been an unbelievable run, and I think everyone should be really proud of what we accomplished. This is a different team than last year's team. It didn't look good at 2-2 and you just keep showing up to work every day, and we sit in these chairs and Coach [Bill] Belichick gets up here and he demands a lot out of us and he tries to get the most out of us every day. It's not always great. Sometimes it's pretty average and then you're just trying to get better and better and get to the point where you can make the fourth quarter of a game and try to play well enough to get yourself into the next one. So, just proud of our team, proud of what we accomplished. It's pretty amazing and proud of this team, great leadership and it's just been a great year. It'd be really great if we take care of business in a couple weeks, so we'll see.
Q: If somebody had told you when you arrived here in 2000 that you would win three out of four Super Bowls early in your career and then have a chance to do it again 13 years later, what would you have thought?
TB: I'd have thought you were crazy to think that or I was crazy to think that. This has just all been – I guess it's my life, so I'm living it and it feels very natural and normal just because I wake up every day and I feel very much the same as I did when I walked in here 18 years ago, I really do. It's a great privilege to play here and it's a great privilege to play in the NFL, and I try to represent the team well, I try to represent my family, I try to do things the right way and I'm very blessed. I could never imagine getting the kind of team achievements we've done and had. I mean, I don't think anyone can ever take those for granted. These are pretty amazing times for all of us – fans included, players, coaches, everyone. It's very special.
Q: Was there ever a point this week when you doubted you could even play in this game?
TB: Yeah, I wasn't sure on Wednesday. I certainly didn't think – I thought out of all the plays, my season can't end on a handoff in practice. We didn't come this far to end on a handoff. It's just one of those things. Yeah, so I came in the training room and just was looking at my hand and wasn't quite sure what happened, and everyone did a great job kind of getting me ready and the training staff and the doctors and Alex [Guerrero]. It was a great team effort. Without that, I definitely wouldn't be playing.
Q: Is this injury something that you'll still have to keep on top of for the Super Bowl, or will it be a distant memory by the time that game arrives?
TB: Yeah, I think as soon as I get the stitches out, then I think it will be good to go. So, based on everything...
Q: How soon might that happen?
TB: Pretty soon. Pretty soon. I think hopefully this week, mid-week, and then I can just get out there and get normal treatment like I always do and be ready to go.
DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN McCOURTY
POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
January 21, 2018
Q: Congratulations. Discuss the adjustments you had to make, particularly after Jacksonville had success early in the game.
DM: They had maybe one or two plays that we talk about this time of year, 16 games a play or two we know may have success but [Patriots defensive coordinator] Matt [Patricia], he said it best: it wasn't a big adjustment game that you needed to do; it was needing to play aggressively. We needed to come off of blocks and we needed to tackle better, and we did that. That was to me the biggest change. It wasn't really, 'Let's play this defense or that defense.' We kind of stuck to our calls. To me, we just played better as a group.
Q: Late in the game, you had a tackle to stop Jacksonville short of a first down. Take us through that sequence.
DM: In the nickel, they switch released. Just trying to get to him before the sticks and make a good tackle. The game switched kind of when we got in the fourth quarter. I told the defense we had to play perfectly. We couldn't give up third downs. We couldn't give up the long six-, seven-minute drive. That would have ended us. I thought as a group – rushing the passer, coverage, E Rowe [DB Eric Rowe] with a big PBU – obviously, stepping up at the end of the game and getting a sack, we understood defensively when it was time. If we gave up anything, we couldn't give our offense a chance. To me, you talk about complementary football and playing off of each other, the end of the game was definitely that.
Q: What is the key to being a good scoring defense and limiting your opponent in the red zone?
DM: Just making it tough. [Patriots linebackers] Coach [Brian] Flores goes over the red area report each week, and he always tells us to make them drive it through the red area. Not too good in the first half with them driving it through the red area and scoring, but we talked about not giving it up on a chunk play. They get to the 20 or the 15 [yard line] and giving up a one-play touchdown but making them convert on third down or make another play. When you do that, the odds are in your favor. It is just everybody tightening up, forgetting whatever happened to get us there because it is usually something bad that happened. Just trying to play good football for three downs and make them kick a field goal.
Q: You mentioned complementary football. As you start to make that turn and you felt the Patriots offense start to get momentum, how important was it to get the ball back to them as fast as possible?
DM: Exactly. It was not just me; it was Trey Flowers, it was Malcom Brown, KV [Kyle Van Noy], Du [Duron Harmon] and everybody out there. 'We have to get a stop. We have to do it up front on first and second down.' Obviously, when you play against a good running team like the Jags and you get behind 10 points, you have to get stops on first and second down to get them on third down. To me, we did that. Obviously, it didn't go perfectly, but you don't play in championship games that usually go perfectly. You have two teams that are giving everything they have to go play in the one game that every team in the NFL wants to play in. We played against a good football team tonight. When it came down to executing and playing 60 minutes, as a team across the board in that locker room, we feel like we are built for that. That is why each guy is here for those games, and I thought we leaned on each other to get it done.
Q: Over the course of the season, what have you seen from Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore in terms of his resiliency?
DM: He is a corner. He is an NFL corner. When the difference is when you play in Buffalo sometimes you have a bad game and it didn't get talked about. You come here and I learned early in my career, you have one bad game, one bad play or one play that everyone has no idea what happened but they think you did badly, you get 10,000 stories about how you are not good. Steph was good. You don't play corner and bat 100 percent. Plays happen. A very talented guy. We knew that from training camp as soon as we got together. I am happy because you decide to come here and play in games like this. The guy played awesome. He stepped up. I thought as a team defensively – we always talk about situational football – we got into that two-minute drive, everyone was zoned in on what we couldn't give. You could even see on that last play Steph broke up, he looked at me and I looked at him. We knew we were getting that over route. I tried to hold it off and then get back to the quarterback and give him some time. He got time and broke up the play, a great play. Then D-Lew [Dion Lewis] and the offensive line ending it, that is championship football.
Q: The last time we saw a playoff comeback like this, you told us after the game that when the offense got the ball, you knew it was over. How did it feel for the defense make the decisive drive at the end of the game?
DM: It is great. Like Dola [Danny Amendola] said, we go against each other all the time in practice. Since the playoff bye week, we have had two or three periods of practice where it is no gameplan stuff; it is just offense versus defense and compete. Those drills paid off when you get in the game and it is at the end and it comes down to a guy making a play in a one-on-one situation. We all believe in each other. We got the stop and they are driving to go ahead, we talked about it on the sideline, 'This is the drive. Once they get it in, this is what we need to do.' To me as a defense, we just kept playing and as an offense, we kept playing. We came out victorious at the end.
Q: How do the Patriots keep coming back to complete come-from-behind victories?
DM: It starts off with not playing the way we want to play early and getting down. I told a bunch of you earlier in the week, we talk about playing from ahead all game, and we played from behind all game. I remember early in the season talking to Bill [Belichick], we just have to understand when the game plan is to play from ahead and we get behind, that doesn't mean the game is over. We just have to keep playing. To me, we kind of learned that throughout the season. No matter what we talked about, whether it was we have to play great on third down and we don't do well on third down, then we have to play great in the red area. We have to understand the game flows, and if we don't do something well that we talked about all week, then it happens and whatever. Move on, finish the game and just keep playing. This team is battle tested. You go through ups and downs. You go through adversity. Slate [Matthew Slater] said it after the game, when you have a foundation that you lean on, you cannot panic, not worry, understand and believe in each other and to me, we just keep giving ourselves a chance to win, and the hard work pays off when the opportunity comes to grab it and take the lead.
Q: How difficult was it for the team to have to answer as many questions about Tom Brady's hand as you did?
DM: I think I did an awesome job, actually. [Laughs]
Q: Were there any seeds of doubt with Tom not practicing or did you back to your team's foundation?
DM: We just lean on each other. I tell guys all the time, if there is one guy you do not have to worry about in that locker room it is Tom. I walked in and Bill was like, 'It is gonna take a lot to get you out of this game, huh?' It is true. It is just not him, it is everybody in that locker room. We hate being here in April and we have three minute runs that everyone on the team hates, we got squats that we all hate. We do all that stuff and you put in that work here in April running in the morning, 90% of the NFL, and [Moses Cabrera] is killing us. Early in the season Bill said we have to get in better shape, we have to do this, so we are running hills, we are battling in practice. We hate that stuff. No one likes it, but we understand it is all to get to this game. All to be in this game and understand that we have already put in the work. Just keep playing, executing and believing in each other. That is what lasts moving forward. You talk about anything that comes up during the week, we do not worry about that because we put in so much work to get into this game that nothing is going to derail us. Nothing is going to get us off task. These games are too hard to win to have any brief lapse of we are focused on this. We do not have time for that. I think we understand every second, every minute of every chance we get to prepare and get ahead, we did that this week. Obviously it does not show up in every play of the game, but our hope is it will show up overall when it counts and lead us to victory.
Q: When you get down, do you ever reflect on the other games you guys have come back in?
DM: Not individual games but you play in games and Bill said it during the week, it is all about one play at a time whether it is good or bad. Today we had a lot of bad. It was just moving on to the next play. I think each side of the ball takes the field the same. Let's get a drive, let's get a stop. To me when you do that, you start to feel the game flip a little bit. You start to feel, you get towards the end of these games and pressure is off. To me, like I said earlier when you go through all that hard work, it prepares you for these moments and that type of pressure. You have to lean on that. You have to know that you are prepared and ready to go. We talked a lot on the sidelines to just cut it loose. We were a little too tentative early and we just cut it loose and we got some big plays out of people across the board and we need them tonight.
Q: What do you appreciate about Danny Amendola?
DM: For one, he's really tough to cover. I hate when they come out in some funky personnel and I've got to get on him in the slot, because it's tough to know where he's going to go. Amendola – everyone says it all the time – he's clutch. That's another guy, you don't worry about being prepared, you don't worry about having to show up. He's going to go out there and do whatever it takes, whether that is punt returning [or] that is making a tough catch over the middle. Obviously, one of the smaller guys on the field, if he's coming down to crack block somebody, or block the linebacker, block a [defensive] end, I don't think any of our coaches have a doubt that if you put Amendola in that situation he'll go over there and give it everything he has. So, he exemplifies being a great teammate, he's a brother in that locker room, a veteran guy, and [has] great leadership. To me, that's what leadership is, and he shows up when we need it the most. Obviously, tonight we needed a big game out of him. I'm sure we'll need more big catches in a couple weeks, and I'm sure he'll be there ready to produce.
Q: You mentioned not playing early in the game the way you wanted to. Corey Grant had three quick receptions for 59 yards, but nothing after that. Is that just symptomatic of something you had to stop and obviously making the adjustments to stop it in the second half?
DM: Yes, those were a couple of plays, like I said, when Bill says this time of year you put in a little new formation, or we came out 21 out versus two-back sets, kind of playing the slot and then one from the backfield. To me, that was not a huge adjustment, but awareness. When '30' is in the game, we've got to know what Grant's doing. He's a fast guy, he's trying to out-leverage us, and I thought we understood it. They probably knew, if it came back to that, I think we knew they probably had one, two or three plays kind of off the same formation. We talked about it on the sideline, we talked about it at halftime about being better prepared for that formation and that personnel group. We did a good job of just being aware and handling that.
WIDE RECEIVER DANNY AMENDOLA
POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
January 21, 2018
Q: The third-and-18 situation - can you take us through that particular play? Also, can you walk us through your two touchdowns?
DA: The third-and-18 play, basically I think I had a little bit of an option route in the middle of the field and I saw that there was room. I had pointed out the line [to gain] before the play snap so I knew where to get to and Tom [Brady] had a laser and it was perfect. The two touchdowns: the first one, the go-ahead touchdown. It' s a play we've worked on - I scored on it a couple of times this year, I think, actually. I have a crosser in the back of the end zone and Tom reads the first whip route on the left to 'Cookie' [Brandon Cooks] and then if he doesn't have it then his eyes come to me in the back. We had it and it was a zone coverage. I obviously didn't see what happened to Cookie on the first read and then Tommy had a great ball. I knew it was coming right by that 'backer or safety in the back. It was a great throw.
Q: Your Patriots career was off to a relatively slow start. How does it feel to get to the point where you're the No. 1 guy in the AFC Championship Game?
DA: I'm thankful for my opportunity here and what it's been the last five years. I have a lot of great memories here. Any negative thing or anything that's tried to hinder me, I try to ignore and focus on the positive things that have been going on in this building for the last five years for me. I've tried to build off that and be a good teammate and that's the only thing I really focus on.
Q: It seemed like on your 20-yard punt return they kind of rushed the snap to get off a quick punt. Did that happen?
DA: I'm not sure. It was a quick snap. A lot of teams do that but I'm not sure what they were thinking. I believe we had a block on. We knew we were going to get pretty good field position. I think I was standing on the 40 or so and it was just about getting some yards.
Q: You had a lot of fair catches to that point…
DA: The punter was doing a great job all night of not out-kicking his coverage so to speak—kicking the ball high. I had my feet on the 10 a lot so I knew that he wasn't going to kick it over my head and it was going to give him time to get down there. On that particular punt, I saw the rush. When you rush on a punt return, usually it holds the guys up even more. When they get out, they get scattered [and] they are not blocked. It just comes down to making a play when you get the ball in your hands, following a block or two or seeing any open space to get to. That was it.
Q: What did you notice from Tom Brady over the last week and everything that happened?
DA: Tommy's the best. He's the toughest guy I've ever met physically [and] mentally. If there is anything that happens to Tom, I know he can handle it. It was unfortunate to see him get injured mid-week. I know mentally it probably stressed him out a bit and physically I know it's hard to throw a football with stitches in your thumb. Everybody knows how tough he is. Everybody knows that he's our leader. It's a testament to his career, his personality, the man he is. Not only is he the best player in our locker room but he gets everybody else to play well and step their game up and that's why he's the best.
Q: Do you feel any more internal pressure to step up when somebody like Rob Gronkowski comes out of the game?
DA: I don't feel any added pressure, no. Every play I'm competing my tail off to try to win the route, win the block or whatever my job is on that play. Whoever is in the game, whoever is beside me, I have a lot of trust and faith in them whether it's Gronk or Cookie or Hoagie [Chris Hogan]. Whoever it is, I know we have a lot of trust in this room.
Q: Can you talk about the Jaguars defense? They were playing so well, especially in the first half.
DA: Hats off to them. They played hard. We came out and we didn't get many points on the board early. We made some adjustments at half. We wanted to come out and play faster, play more physical. We knew it was going to come down to the wire. They are a great team and they had a great season.
Q: When you heard that the double pass was called for you, did you get the sense it was 'break open in case of emergency' or 'all hands on deck'?
DA: We are trying to score. Whatever we've got to do. I don't remember what happened on the flea-flicker. Who got the flea-flicker one? I don't remember. [Phillip] Dorsett, that's right. That's a big play by Phil. Big play in the game, too. It worked out.
*Q: A hallmark of your career here has been your ability to produce in the postseason. What is it about your ability that allows you to shine in this situation? *
DA: It's a lot about preparation, circumstance, opportunity, being ready and no fear. Just get out there and get it done. That's what we're all about in this building.
*Q: When they call a trick play, do they give you a lot of advance notice so you can mentally prepare? *
DA: It's a play we had been practicing for a while. We had it in the game plan and if he calls it you've got to be ready to get it done. It was a big play.
Q: All afternoon, the wide receivers seemed to be able to get outside the numbers. Was that by design? Was there something you saw with the Jacksonville defense?
DA: Nothing in particular, but Tommy saw it out there on the edge. I know Cookie got by him a couple times. He tried to hit Hoagie deep on a post. It's just the plays that are called and whatever Tom's thinking, really.
*Q: How have you guys been so successful in the fourth quarter in big games when you really need it? *
DA: That's a good question. We love to come out and we practice starting fast and getting points early in games. That's always our goal. For whatever reason, if it's a detail here or a detail there, it doesn't work sometimes. To answer that question, a big reason why this team wins a lot in the fourth quarter is because of the preparation all year and the mentality that our head coach brings to our team in team meeting and in practice. It's going to be a 60-minute fight and we know we're going to have a chance at the end of the game no matter how far we are down or whatever the circumstance is. It starts form the top and it's an attitude that we like to bring—to play 60 minutes, the whole game.
Q: Your defense has taken a lot of shots this year. Why do you have confidence in them that they can close out games?
DA: I go against them every day and they give me headaches and fits all week. There are a lot of great football players on our defense. I love to see them make big plays in big games and win games. Hats off to therm. They made a bunch of great stops tonight.
Q: What is your message to New England fans?
DA: I'm going to enjoy it tonight, I know that. We know what to expect. A lot of guys in this room have been in a situation like that before. We know what's it's going to take to get the work done the week of. We know what the expectations are, we know what the media are going to be like and we're going to be ready.
PATRIOTS LOCKER ROOM QUOTES
Rex Burkhead, Running Back
(On going to the Super Bowl)
"It's an unbelievable feeling. It was a great game, and it showed the fight this team has and what this team is made of. The character, the build-up, the family, we really came together and fought through some adversity today. To come out with the win is really unbelievable."
(On being down 10 points going into the fourth quarter)
"We started getting momentum and really got some drives going. I think after that we kept it going and started getting it in the end zone. We didn't really have that happening in the first half. Once we started scoring it was a relief."
(On Danny Amendola's performance)
"He's a baller. Last game he had a great game and this game he had a great game, and he's always making plays."
(On Tom Brady's performance)
"It's unbelievable what he does. The injuries he fights through and playing football at 40 years old is unreal. For him to do that and to go out there and continue to make plays is unbelievable, and it's why he's the greatest."
Malcolm Butler, Cornerback
(On the three defensive stops late in the game and the keys to getting Jacksonville off the field)
"It's a team game, and Steph [Gilmore] made a great play. Everyone out there is giving their all, so [we're] just blessed to have the win, man. It's great to have the win. It's not done until the last one, so we're going to celebrate this one, but we're going to get back to work."
(On if this ever gets old)
"No, not really. No, we love it."
(On if he ever had any doubt in the game)
"I did, but I didn't. You know, because we've been in this situation before and it turned out this way. So, we've just got to stay focused and keep believing."
(On this team knowing how to come back in the fourth quarter after being down)
"Most definitely. We go over the situations each and every day, you know at the end of a practice situation, down by two, down by one, two minute. It all comes back from practice and then transfers to the game day. So, just glad to get the [win]."
Brandon Cooks, Wide Receiver
(On going to the Super Bowl)
"It's a blessing. It's a blessing."
(On Tom Brady targeting him so much in this game)
"We work for this. We grind. We practice and try to earn his trust, so it's great to be able to be in that position."
(On Tom Brady's performance today)
"I think he did great. He came and showed up like he always does. Having a leader like that – you can't ask for more."
(On Tom Brady's injury last week)
"For me I just had positive thoughts. I didn't go to the most negative thing. I just had positive thoughts thinking he would be alright and that's what happened."
(On adjustments made in game against the secondary)
"It wasn't adjustments. We were just playing our ball focusing on little details that we didn't do at the beginning of the game. Sometimes we're biting our self in the foot, so we have to come back, sit down and just play our game."
Phillip Dorsett, Wide Receiver
(On his first down reception on third-and-long late in the game)
"I was just trying to make a play on the ball, and thank God I came down with it. We scored on the drive and we were rolling after that, so I just wanted to be able to spark the team. We just got the 'W' and I'm just happy. I can't even explain what's going on – it's crazy."
(On if the flea flicker play he converted has been in the playbook for a while and if they have practiced it)
"I mean, we have plays that we run when it's a good look, and it felt like that was a good look. We were in tempo, and we just threw it out there. You've just got to be on your toes, because anything can come out of this offense. So, we just threw it out there and we were trying to spark something."
(On how far the Jacksonville secondary pushed them as a receiver group)
"They were pushing to the limit. That corps is one of the best in the league. They have two All-Pros, the safeties are physical, and they have a great defense as a whole. They've got a lot of dogs out there, and so we just had to go out there and try to out-physical them, just outplay them. We practiced every day just going out there with a physicality, and just mental toughness, staying in the game, and I think that's what we did today."
(On if it felt inevitable that they were going to come back in the second half and win the game)
"Yeah, we're a confident team, and obviously we've got Tom [Brady]. He keeps us going, and with him, anything is possible, we feel. Like I said, we've just got to keep rolling, keep rolling and we've got to believe. Believing is the biggest thing I would say. Believing."
Cameron Fleming, Offensive Lineman
(On the offensive line's performance)
"It's definitely a good feeling to come out on top. I think we're happy because we won, but we can always do better. We'll check out the film and see what we can do better for two weeks from now."
(On looking forward to the Super Bowl)
"We're going to keep working and we have one more game to win. You can't look too far in the future. Luckily, we can finally look to the final result, but it's a step-by-step process."
(On playing the Jacksonville Jaguars)
"We never gave up. They definitely made their plays and we made ours. We knew it was going to be something like that. They're a very good team, the best team we played all year. We knew it was going to be a challenge."
(On how proud he is of his team)
"Immensely proud. It just shows what kind of team we are. We're a family and we can stick together through good times and bad. Luckily, we came out in good times."
Marquis Flowers, Linebacker
(On how special it is to go to the Super Bowl)
"It's very special, because we earned it. We earned this. It's been a hard and long season, obviously. From Week One when we lost our first game, everyone was saying the sky is falling, and then we lose to Carolina at home. But then we went on a good run [despite] losing players left and right. We all just kept the faith and worked hard. This is what we worked for – for a chance to play in this game right here. It was hard tonight. It was another hard game. But we've been there before. We're a team, we're a family. We struck through it all."
(On how long he'll celebrate the win)
"We're the AFC champions, we've got all the time to celebrate. But obviously we're going to come in and get ready for the next one. We've got one more. We've got a chance to be the best in the world."
Trey Flowers, Defensive End
(On the fourth quarter comeback)
"We put ourselves in a position to come back and just kept fighting. We knew they were going to try to run the ball, but we kept fighting and it was a fourth-quarter football game."
(On what it took to win the game)
"Everybody put themselves in the [right] position and when it came down to it, they made plays. It took all the players, every snap and we made it happen."
(On how the team was able to rally)
"We just knew that we had to keep fighting – one play at a time. We didn't worry about what happened [the play] before. We didn't worry about the score. We just continued to fight and gave our offense the ball and they did the rest."
Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback
(On stopping the Jaguars on fourth down at the end of the game)
"It wasn't the biggest plays I've made, but it was definitely one of the most important. I go out there and try to make plays for my teammates. I have great teammates and my coaches put me in a position to go out there and make plays."
(On what it means personally to him to be going to the Super Bowl)
"To come from where I came from last year, and be a part of a great team with great players and great coaches is amazing. I love it and that's why I decided to come here."
(On how much of the Patriots defense is based on preparation)
"You always have to prepare. You have to prepare well any time you go up against an NFL team. We work hard in practice and have to communicate with each other in order to play great when Sunday comes."
Duron Harmon, Defensive Back
(On having enough time to make a comeback)
"We knew we had enough time. We just had to slow their offense down, stop letting them move the ball. They were just moving the ball. We wasn't allowing them to get three and outs or stopping them on third down so we knew if we just got the ball back to our offense and eventually they were going to make something shake."
(On what it means to go back to another Super Bowl)
"It means everything. I mean this is what we work for. This is the extra work that we put in all throughout the year – OTAs, conditioning, just everything. This is what we work for. We want to be champions and we're just excited to be able to go back."
(On Tom Brady's ability to play through injury)
"He's the GOAT, man. He did goat-like stuff. Like you said, it was an injury. Some people didn't think he was going to play but all he did was go out here and show people why he's the best quarterback of all time."
(On the look in Tom Brady's eyes late in the game)
"The look, man. He got that GOAT look, man. I'm trying to tell you. He just lets us know. If we get the stop, he's going to do what he needs to do on offense to make sure we're in good shape and that's what he did. He kept telling us, 'Let's get stops. Get us the ball back. We're going to be able to move this ball,' and that's what they were able to do."
(On Stephon Gilmore)
"He's a silent assassin. That's the best way I can find – I can describe Steph [Stephon Gilmore] is silent assassin. He doesn't say much but he always has that look in his eye like, 'I'm good. I'm going to do my job. I'm going to make sure that the guy I'm covering this play is not going to catch the ball.' I'm trying to tell you it's great to have somebody like that on your team."
(On how the defense has developed from earlier in the season)
"We just put the work in. Obviously, at the beginning of the year we thought we was putting in enough work but obviously the results didn't say that so we put in more work. We stayed after, we watched more film together, we stayed after practice together, went through more plays together. Like we did all the little things to make sure that everything we did was in the way that we could have the best chance to win on game day. We did that and that's the reason why we're here right now."
James Harrison, Linebacker
(On going to the Super Bowl)
"It feels good, but like I've said before, this is all God's plan. This is all his doing. I'm just reaping the benefits of it right now."
(On how Jacksonville attacked)
"We thought we were going to get a lot more runs than we did. They did a good job of mixing it up in the first half and we weren't doing too well to stop them. But the second half, we came out and played a better half. We really didn't make adjustments. They're a good team. We just had to come out there and play better."
(On the sack)
"I just got the opportunity to get in there and rush the passer and I was just blessed to get through."
Robert K. Kraft, Patriots Chairman and CEO
(On the game)
"This team, having Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] go out and having [Danny] Amendola step up like that – Dion Lewis made that run at the end of the game after he had the only turnover in the game, just mental toughness is great. I'll tell you, this is our 16th season in Gillette. This is our sixth championship game for the fans. The players and coaches were unbelievable but the noise and the fan support here was off the charts."
Dion Lewis, Running Back
(On what it's like to be heading to the Super Bowl)
"To get to be playing, I love to play football, obviously. Just to be in this situation early in my career, I've never been in the playoffs before I got here, so I cherish every moment here. Because you don't play in these games often and a lot of teams are home watching right now. So, you just have to embrace it and bring your best every day."
(On if he ever thought of moments like this during his rehab)
"Honestly, I just take one day at a time. It's how I approach everything, one day at the time. Just focus on that and staying in the moment. Not try to look far ahead or behind, just staying in the moment."
(What does it say about your offense being able to rally back without Rob Gronkowski)
"It was great, everybody believes in everyone. This is a family. We work extremely hard together. The blood, sweat and tears you put together, since July. Actually before that, since April. So, just to come together as a team. Gronk is a big part of our team, a big part of our offense, everybody knows that. Other guys stepped up, [Danny] Amendola is a [expletive] animal. A [expletive] animal, I am cussing, I don't care. He's a beast. To see how he played, everyone played so hard. I am just happy to be a part of it."
(On if he had any doubts on whether Tom Brady would play today)
"No, it was the AFC Championship. What do you think, someone is just going to not play? If you can walk, you are going to be out there. I promise, everybody feels that way."
(On how Tom Brady played)
"I mean, that's why we don't tell you everything. But you know, he is a beast. He works hard, he is a competitor, he is our leader. You know, he showed it today. You know, he never gets down. He knows how to get us ready at the right time. He knows how to get in our face or relax and tell everybody to calm down. I can't say enough good things about that guy.
(About the comeback)
"They got a great defense, so to come back, down by that; we knew that if we put ourselves in that position, it would be tough. But that is just the resiliency of this team. We just keeping forward. We will enjoy this tonight and then get back to work."
(On getting the ball on 3rd-and-10 on the final drive and trying to manage the clock)
"I wasn't worried about getting the [first] down, I was worried about protecting the ball. So you know, obviously I had a fumble today, unacceptable; I felt I put my team in a terrible position. I felt extremely bad, so I was just happy that I was able to get a down to end the game and come up with the ball at the end of the play."
Elandon Roberts, Linebacker
(On Jacksonville's game plan early in the game)
"Jacksonville's coaching staff came out with a good offensive scheme. They put [Corey] Grant in and they were running the read option to him, throwing the ball out there. It was something to really keep us off balance. We made the corrections at half and they actually went away from it. We didn't see it anymore after the first half.
(On if they saw elements of Jacksonville's game plan on film prior to the game)
"Usually when we saw it, it was [T.J.] Yeldon. When Grant actually came in, he's a guy that is fast. It was a good scheme man, I got to give my hats off to Jacksonville because they definitely came in with a good scheme today."
(On the team's second half adjustments)
"We had to see what they were doing because in the first half they came at us with a lot of different stuff. They actually had a three-step drop on one of them. It was stuff that we had to adjust to because they were doing this and they were doing that. It was mainly adjustments. We didn't have to change our defense or anything like that, but we had to make adjustments, be aware of certain people in the game and certain personnel."
Eric Rowe, Defensive Back
(On the team's ability to rise to the occasion time and time again)
"It starts in practice. Going against Danny [Amendola] and all of the other receivers; no one slacks off in practice. We all work very hard, we all practice really hard. Just to see players like Danny rise to the occasion, I mean it's what you work for. It's not a surprise."
(On whether they were concerned about Tom Brady's health going into the game)
"No. Kind of like the initial, when we knew he was hurt, but then the next day we knew, and he knew, what was on the line. He's a tough guy. I mean, he's our leader, so we know if he can come through he will because he puts the team first."
Nate Solder, Tackle
(On worrying about keeping up the offensive rhythm when Rob Gronkowski went out)
"I never thought about it, but when I look back I give all the credit to the coordinators, coaches and my teammates who picked up all the slack. He's such a great player and to have him out, I'm sure it made an impact, but I never had to think about it."
(On Danny Amendola coming up again and again)
"You just wait for it. Come the end the season he's going to make some unbelievable catch on a third-down conversion. It's going to be a touchdown, it's going to be something big and there he was. I was not surprised and the guys that know him weren't surprised. That's just the way that he is."
(On winning so many Conference Championships and the feeling of it getting old)
"I guess you just do it for different reason every year. We have a different story this year and we're writing that with a different group of people and it's been an awesome season. There have been ups and downs, but shoot, we're here and we have an opportunity to win another game."
Kyle Van Noy, Linebacker
(On the adjustments were made in the second half, only gave up two field goals )
"Started playing football. There is no excuse for what happened in the first half. I don't know what we were doing, but we figured it out and we played Patriot football. And that's what it is all about, that's what we do."
(On what they figured out)
"To be more humble."
(On having three 3-and-outs in the fourth quarter)
"I mean, that's what we do. We have been in that situation before and you know, we play for each other and it shows out on the field. If you watch that fourth quarter, we played like a family. And that's what it is all about."
(On how big field position was in this game)
"The more and more we were on the field, the more and more as the game goes further, that's when we are at our best. We feel like we are the best conditioned team. We prepare harder than everyone, we practice harder, so when that fourth quarter comes, we know what time it is and we step up. And we strapped up, and offense did there thing and defense did our thing, and special teams did a great job. And so it showed.
(On the defense being in the situation before)
"I mean, we have been in those situations all year, you know, each game is a new animal. We feel like we are a great team that can tackle any situation. You know, we come together and we've been in those situations, so we know what it takes to win. Every play counts and we ended up getting it done.
(On the adjustments made in the second half)
"I already said, we needed to get humble and play Patriots football. And we did that."