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New England Patriots Postgame Transcripts 10/16

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and select players comment on their game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, October 16, 2016.


BB: Alright, I thought we got a solid effort from our team today. It wasn't perfect but they came ready to play and we made enough plays in all three phases of the game to win and that was good. We had a lot of people contribute, a lot of people stepped up. Our special teams gave us some field position in the return game. Overall we had good field position a lot of the day. Had a couple of big stops on defense, fourth down and obviously the safety. Offensively we were able to move the ball and get it into the red area. That was big for us. We played I thought, some decent situational football at times. Obviously there are a lot of things we can improve on. Cincinnati is a good team. They gave us some problems with some of the things they did but I thought overall the coaching staff did a good job. We made some adjustments, changed up some things in the second half coverage wise which definitely helped us. It's good to get by Cincinnati with a win. Now we'll just stay in that division here again next week.

Q: What was it defensively that turned things around for you guys in the second half?

BB: Well, like I said I think we made, you know, we tried to make some coverage adjustments in the secondary. Matt [Patricia], Josh [Boyer], Steve [Belichick], the players, Devin [McCourty] did a good job on that. And then obviously just a little more consistent on third-down. That helped us. Offensively we hurt ourselves in the first half. We were in a lot of long yardage situations, third-and-30 and second-and-20 and stuff like that. We need to eliminate those negative plays and keep the yardage shorter. On the flip side of it defensively when we were able to create some of those longer yardage situations. In the second half our conversions were better. The first half we got hit on a couple of them.

Q: It seems as if Dont'a Hightower is clicking on all cylinders right now. Are there any limitations to what he can do out on the field?

BB: Yeah, I mean High's [Dont'a Hightower] got a lot of skills, a lot of things he can do. He can blitz, he can rush, he can cover, he can play the run, he can run and play in coverage and he's smart. And he's smart, too. He's pretty versatile. He can handle a lot of different assignments and not only just knowing what to do but instinctively he handles those well. He's got good feel, and rush techniques, and leverage and that kind of thing. Same thing - it could be in the passing game. He's a good player and he had some big plays for us today; no question.

Q: How much of the success on defense in the second half was due to the decision to play primarily three cornerbacks?

BB: Yeah, that was part of it. We ended up putting [Eric] Rowe on [A.J.] Green and kind of changing that matchup from our nickel where we were using Pat [Patrick Chung] in there. We still used him, but using Pat in there more as kind of the third corner. But yeah, I thought Pat did a real good job on the tight ends. We got into some of those dime situations where he was really the sixth DB [defensive back] out on the field or however you want to call it, three corners, and then he was on the tight end. Again, I thought overall our coverage in the second half, we just matched it better. We played it better. We got a little more rush. Obviously we had the lead. That helped too, towards the end of the game, so some of those things fell into place for us.

Q: Can you talk about what you saw from Anthony Johnson on the play where you stuffed the Bengals rush attempt on fourth down near the goal line?

BB: I mean it was a big stop for us. We ended up giving them the ball back and then they ended up scoring the next time down, but of course any time you make a goal line stand that's a big lift for your defensive unit. We were able to dig the ball out and get a little field position when they did get it back. It was a lot of bodies down there. I'm not sure exactly how that play went down but it looked like we had a number of players that penetrated, kind of set the edge, and forced the ball back inside and just had too many guys for them.

Q: What were your thoughts on Rob Gronkowski's performance today, and in particular his taunting penalty at the end of the game?

BB: Yeah, I didn't really see that. It was on the other side of the field at the end of the game so I'm not sure exactly what happened there. But the bottom line, we need fewer of those. But you know, Rob [Gronkowski] was again a big factor in the game, a big target. [He] made a nice catch on the touchdown. I thought that was a good throw and a good catch. There wasn't much space to get the ball in. Tom [Brady] put it where they couldn't get it. Rob made a real good catch. We got them on some seam routes. We got them on some overs and we got them against man coverage two or three times. He made some big plays.

Q: In the first half what led to the Bengals being able to get enough pressure on the quarterback to disrupt some drives?

BB: I mean [Pat] Sims beat us on an inside move and then I think [Vontaze] Burfict got us on a blitz pickup. Again, look they're a good defense. They have a good front. They have a lot of good players. They got a lot of good linebackers; Burfict, [Rey] Maualuga, [Vincent] Rey, [Karlos] Dansby and then they got several guys that can rush on the front. They've got good depth at end. They've got good depth at tackle. [Geno] Atkins and [Carlos] Dunlap, I mean they're two of the most disruptive guys in the league and if your helping on them then you're not helping on somebody else. We've got to do a better job of getting open, getting the ball out and blocking them. So I'd say some of the problems we had were just team execution plays. Coaching, playing - just a little bit of everything.


Q: What were your thoughts on the electricity in the crowd for your first game back at Gillette Stadium?

TB: Yeah, it was a great crowd. We always get great crowds, and they were into it today. I was glad we could do a lot better there in the second half and finish the game strong. We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but finished with 35 points so it was pretty good; against a good team. 

Q: Rob Gronkowski finished with a career-high 162 receiving yards - what were your thoughts on his performance?

TB: Yeah, I mean he's only gotten better as he's gotten older and understood more about the game and what he needs to do to prepare himself. He just makes so many great plays. He's a big target and he makes any quarterback look good. If he's uncovered, you know he's going to get it, and there were plenty of times where he was uncovered today, but all the other guys were making plays, too. That's what makes a good offense. I said that on Wednesday. It's finding guys that are running free in the defense and we do a lot of different things to try to create that. Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] is in a lot of different places, but when his number is called, he makes the plays. 

Q: You said there was some rust after last week's game - is it fair to say that the rust is gone at this point?

TB: Well I can do some things better out there and I think offensively, we can too, but it's good to be 5-1. I think we're at a decent place, so we've just got to keep stringing these games together. There's a ton of football left. It's a good defense we played today. They made it challenging on us, but we're trying to figure out what we're made of, and it was good to get going there in the second half. 

Q: This seemed like a tale of two halves. You really got things going in the second half.

TB: Yeah, we played a lot better during the second half. I thought our execution was a lot better. It took us a little bit of time to figure out how to kind of get our guys open, and once we did that it was good. We got the ball to a bunch of different guys in space and made a bunch of guys miss. The running game was effective when we did it, so it was a good team win. 

Q: Is this one of the best offensive units that you've had over the years?

TB: Well they're pretty - they're an exceptional group, there's no doubt about it. It's been fun to work with them. We're still building. We're only six games into the year, so there's still a lot more work to do, there's a long way to go. We'll be challenged different weeks with different things, but it was good to kind of spread the ball around a bit today. A lot of guys ended up making plays, and that's a good way to play. 

Q: How much did you have to keep your own emotions in check knowing the dynamics of how many people wanted to be at the game to support you and how tough a ticket this was?

TB: I think I know how to get to that place where I need to be. You only have so much energy, and at some point you've got to cut it loose when the moment is right. It's certainly an emotional environment for football. There were a lot of people there when we ran out and they were there all game, so it was great. And it was great to win. That's what we want to do. Our job is to come out here and to be focused on what we need to do and then make a bunch of good plays and then try to beat the opponent, and we figured out a way to do that. 

Q: Can you talk about James White's play, catching two touchdown passes?

TB: Yeah, he was great again. He's been such a dependable, consistent player for our team and the role that he's been has been spectacular. I can't say enough great things about James [White] as a player, as a person, as a teammate, his work ethic, his attitude. He went to Wisconsin, that's about the only thing bad about him. 

Q: Given all the electricity in the stadium today, at what point does it become just another game?

TB: That's a good question - it always gets to that point. I think it's different games, it's different times. Finally, I think it's nice when your body just kind of settles in to saying, 'Wow, I've done this before.' It's different for when I was a rookie. It was different. I've been in some big games over the years, you get to the Super Bowl, things like that. Today it was, once I got out there running around, it felt like football. Again, you've just got to lock in and figure out what your job is, try to figure out what you're going to do versus the different looks, and that's what it becomes. You're not going to win because you're emotional, but I think having your attitude right mentally and physically right, ready to play, that allows you to be at your best for your teammates. It's a process to get to that point, and we were definitely there today.

Q: Can you talk about what the support from the New England fans has meant to you personally?

TB: Yeah, it has certainly - I've felt it. They've had the back of our team for just the same amount of time. Since I got here in 2000, you feel that with all the teams. You feel that with the Red Sox. It's heartbreaking when they lose like they did on Monday night. Then with the Celtics and the Bruins, and then certainly for us, we feel it every time we take the field. This is my home now; this is where my family lives. It's a great place. I love being here and I love being quarterback of this team. Hopefully I can do it for a long time.

Q: What were your thoughts on Dont'a Hightower's performance today?

TB: I get to go against him in practice every day and he's just, he's a great player. I've seen him grow from where he was at as a rookie, and then to take on a leadership role. That linebacker position is so important. Every good defense has a good middle linebacker. I've played against a lot of great ones, and Dont'a [Hightower] has been just a privilege to play with. He gets those other guys going, between he and Jamie [Collins] and the secondary; the middle of the defense with Patrick [Chung] and Devin [McCourty], Duron [Harmon] and the corners. Up front, we're figuring out a way to get to the quarterback, so we're doing a great job. It's fun to watch those guys play because I get sick of practicing against them and seeing them make plays on me, so it's nice to see them make plays on the other team. 


Q: You had a career-high 162 receiving yards today. It seems like you're healthy and were able to go full-steam there.

RG: Yes. Good to go. It feels good to go out there and just be with the team. What's special about that is that we got the win, and that're more important for sure. It's cool that I got the career-high and everything, but most important to me is getting that win, and that was a great team win overall.

Q: Can you detail exactly what was irritating to you on the tackle by Adam Jones towards the end of the game?

RG: First off, I've got to take full responsibility on that personal foul on me. I can't be letting that happen. It's a good thing that it didn't hurt the team in this situation. I mean, we got the win, but down the road it can always hurt the team getting a personal foul. I've definitely got to be more aware of that and take responsibility on behalf for that penalty. But I mean things get a little heated and there was really nothing really even said. I was just bobbing my head I think and they gave me a personal foul. 

Q: Did you feel that they were trying to bait you to get a second penalty so they could get you out of the game, particularly after you got that first taunting penalty?

RG: No, I don't - they do that every game. If you watch film, they're always baiting everyone to do that. They're a tough, physical team. They're physical football players. They're big, and they hit hard. I feel like that's the style that they play, so I kind of gave into it when I got my penalty, and I've got to watch out for that, but after that, I just had to stay away. I didn't need a second one and to get thrown out of the game, so I was good. I was just clearing myself out. After we scored that one touchdown, I let everyone else celebrate. I was just clapping so I didn't get a penalty, so it is what it is. 

Q: The last two weeks have been sort of breakout games for you - what do you attribute that to?

RG: Just being able to practice and being healthy and having two wheels under me and going out there and seeing all the guys work throughout the practices when I wasn't there. It makes me want to get out there, it makes me want to work hard in my rehab, which I was. I was doing everything possible to get back to where I needed to get back to. When you see the guys, when you're down and out and you're not playing and you see the guys working hard non-stop, it makes you want to work hard in rehab and get back out on the field, and then when you get back on to the field, to get back into the shape I was in at the beginning of camp. Just seeing my teammates go hard, it makes me want to go, and it makes me want to go just for myself, too. Just for the love of the game. 

Q: Can you talk about the impact of the safety and the drive with you and Martellus Bennett that followed it to get the team down the field as quickly as you did?

RG: Yes, the defense played outstanding today. Dont'a Hightower played a great game and that safety he had was a huge turnaround for our team, a huge boost. Right after that safety, we went down and we scored. That's playing complementary football - defense making a huge play, getting a safety, [us] getting set up with the field yardage, field advantage, so we can go down and score, and that's what we did. That's great football right there, and that safety was definitely a spark for the whole team. 

Q: What was your dance on the goal line all about after the touchdown at the end of the game?

RG: Yeah, that was a little disco dance. But just a little celebration that we scored right at the end, LeGarrette [Blount] did a great job. He just barely missed getting in on that first play and then the second one he launched himself over and got that touchdown, so it was a little celebration, staying clear from any penalties. It was just a great team win overall. 

Q: How competitive are you guys on offense and how much do you push each other to be the best you can be?

RG: We're super competitive. All of the players I feel like that Coach Bill Belichick goes and gets are like super competitive players which is great because it brings the best out of everyone then. You see guys like Julian [Edelman], Danny [Amendola], Chris Hogan throughout practice, the linemen, the defense, the safeties, all of the players there - everyone goes hard every single time. It's not like someone's slacking. It's not like someone's just going through the motions. Everyone's trying to get better every single time and I don't want to be that guy they're looking at saying 'Man, everyone else is going hard. Look at Rob. He's just slacking, going through the motions.' No, I like to be a part of it. Work hard, play hard. The way you practice definitely shows in the games, too, for sure.

Q: Despite being off to a nice 5-1 start, how do you stay focused on the tasks ahead especially considering you have two tough road games coming up?

RG: Yes, every single week, week in and week out is a tough schedule in the NFL. It doesn't matter who you play, but we definitely have a big game coming up next week going away at the Steelers. I've got to say just enjoy this one for a couple of hours. I mean the game just ended so enjoy it but when the page turns tomorrow it's always focused right on to the next game. It's a one-week schedule. Every team is good and you've got to prepare fully every single week.

Q: Did you see Vontaze Burfict's low hit on Martellus Bennett, and if so, how much did that impact what happened after that?

RG: Nope. I did not see it at all. I've got to watch it now. I don't even know what play it was, so sometimes you miss, your eyes, your backs turned a lot so a lot of times you miss a lot of things that's going on backside or whatever, so I'll definitely see that in film. It didn't affect anything.

Q: When do you give Tom Brady your fashion advice?

RG: Oh man. I'm not sure if he can handle my fashion advice. I'm not ready to give it yet. One day in the future I will. You'll love it, too.

Q: How has Martellus Bennet made you a better player?

RG: Yes, he's a great player to have on the team. A super unselfish guy and this is his ninth year so he's been in the league actually two years longer than me, knows more, knows a little bit more ins-and-outs, tricks, been on a few teams, been seeing it all and it's just great having him out there. We interchange. Sometimes he's out there in the sub packages. Then the next play, next series I'm out there in the sub packages which help each other out big time. Keep our bodies fresh and it's just great working with him overall. His blocking skills, just overall he's such a complete tight end and he can do it all and it's just great going out there and learning from each other and helping each other out because both of our goals are the same. It's to get the team win and do whatever we can for the team so it's awesome having him there.

Danny Amendola, Wide Receiver

*(On the sluggish first half) *
"We felt we played good enough to win the game, but obviously we want to play better and learn from our mistakes this week. We're going to be facing a good team next week, and we want to enjoy this one today and get back to work tomorrow."

(On the turning point for the offense)
"No matter what the score is we just focus on doing our job. Coming out after the half we knew we had to focus on doing our job; we were going to play defense first then get the ball back after that and I felt like we got rolling after that."

(On Rob Gronkowski's performance)
"It was great. He runs so hard once he gets the ball; he's a great football player and he had a good day today. I know he's excited to get rolling."

(On Tom Brady's first game back at Gillette)
"He's the best. He's the best teammate, he's awesome. We were all excited to get out there today for him." 

Martellus Bennett, Tight End

(On the chippy play)
"We were just playing football, man. It gets like that sometimes. We've got guys who don't back down from anyone and play hard throughout the whole game. That's just the way it is. We don't back down. We're not looking for trouble, but we don't walk away from trouble either."

(On whether having Tom Brady back creates a different atmosphere)
"It's just the same thing, it's not different no matter where we are - concrete, grass - we just go out there and play."

(On the sluggish start)
"I don't think it was sluggish. I thought they made some plays and we were trying to figure it out. [Our] coaches did a great job coming in and making some adjustments at halftime and we came back out and executed a little bit better. We had some penalties earlier in the game that could have put us behind the eight ball, but guys just kept chipping away."

*(On Dont'a Hightower's safety) *
"Hightower had a hell of a game today. I'm super excited for him. He's a guy who comes to work every week and just works hard and works his [butt] off every single week. He had a great game today so I'm super excited for him."

Malcolm Butler, Cornerback

*(On the safety) *
"Big momentum swing. Right before that play, Malcom Brown was saying 'We need a safety' and we actually got a safety, so it was definitely a good momentum swing. We just built off of it."

*(On the battle with A.J. Green) *
"A.J. [Green] is a great player, one of the best wide receivers in this league. It was an honor to play against him. I just went out there and competed."

(On his pass break up during the goal line stand, what's the key in making that kind of play)
"You know once the release comes, it's either going to be a fade or a slant. So you just got to know what's going on is all."

(On if he read anything on that play to break up the pass)
"Just got to be patient and know that the receiver can make their move. So he went outside and his eyes got big, so you have to turn around and play the football."

(On Brandon LaFell's touchdown)
"Actually, that was a good route. He released outside so I'm thinking he's going outside and he went back inside. That was a great play by [Brandon] LaFell like I said once before, earlier this week, he looked crispy. So that was a crispy route right there."

Chris Hogan, Wide Receiver

(On the offensive drive at the end of the first half)
"I was just trying to get as many yards as I could. I know that defensive pursuit is always coming so I always try to maintain ball security and hold onto it. I was looking at the end zone, that's the ultimate goal, but after that we were able to get a good drive at the end of the first half."

(On the slow start)
"It's just our tempo and making positive plays. Negative plays hurt your options. Making positive plays and moving the ball forward that's part of starting fast and putting points on the board."

(On difference in energy in this game with having Tom Brady back)
"Yes definitely. The people were really excited. It was loud and the crowd was awesome throughout the entire game and that's a huge factor in these home games."

*(On what it says about the offense to put up 35 points after struggling for most of the first half) *
"There are a lot of guys on this team that can make plays. We just have to keep doing a good job of taking advantage of those opportunities and getting the ball in those playmakers' hands so we can put up points." 

Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver

*(On Tom Brady's return) *
"It was great. It was great, you know. We had him back last week and it was good to get him home. It was an electric environment out there with Tom back. It was good."

(On the safety)
"Any time the defense gets points, it's good for the team. The defense has been playing lights out. Anytime you have complementary football, you win games."

(On the touchdown before the half)
"It was good. It's last-shot mentality so you go out there and try to get some points and then try to keep the ball before the half. We were able to go out and get some points, that's the goal, and it was a good situational play."

(On the team's slow start)
"Anytime you get penalties, it's tough to overcome. It'll kill a drive, so when we were able to not get penalties, that's when we were able to execute at a better level."

Chris Long, Defensive End

(On defensive attitude)
"I think the attitude on defense is that we all got to do our jobs, doing our part and not as planned, our best assignment football, aggressive with energy. Eventually, it just took a while but we finally made a big play and helped turn the tide."

(On if he's having fun out there)
"Absolutely. It's all about winning. We work hard all week to have an opportunity to go out and win on Sunday and doing that is all that matters."

*(On Hightower as a teammate) *
"He's awesome. He's such a smart football player, he's really physical, he's really athletic. He creates matchup problems with people and as a teammate he's always, from day one being a new guy, he's always helped me get lined up. [He's] never too busy to answer a question or help out, so he's a selfless guy and that's why he fits right in… he's a real football player and that's the best compliment I can give someone."

Devin McCourty, Defensive Back

*(On Dont'a Hightower's safety) *
"Oh it was huge, you know. High stepped up a lot and making a big play like that you know he was on the side lines saying one of us had to make a play and you know to go up there and get a safety two weeks in a row to put points on the board defensively is huge."

*(On Elandon Roberts stepping up) *
"E. Rob. He's a small, feisty guy you know he's out there hitting everything moving so you know I think now it's what we expect you know he's not a rookie anymore he's been out there and we expect him to go out there and play fast and play at a high level and its great just to see him put in the work and to getting it done."

*(On getting pushed from the secondary) *
"It's huge I mean that's how were successful you know pass rushing and covering. When all those guys do well up front it makes our job a lot easier and if we can cover and give them some extra time it makes their job easier."

Elandon Roberts, Linebacker

(On believing if he was capable earlier on in his career)
"Each day going to practice I feel like being on this level your number gets called and you have to go preform. When my number got called I went and preformed for my team. I'm not really worried about individual goals right now."

*(On his defensive strategy on the goal line) *
"Well you know, as linebackers we just play downhill. It was a double team on the guard and I was just going downhill to get the guard off our guy. Just playing assignment football, just doing my job, that's coming downhill.  So I'm going to do my job to the best of my ability."

*(On Hightower's safety) *
"That's a real big play. Anytime you can get explosive play like that, especially against a good opponent like that. That's a real good play, big momentum shift and what not. This defense is just all out there trying to make plays for each other. We are out there for each other, our coaches and it's the Patriot way and that's all we're doing."

Logan Ryan, Cornerback

*(On if the thinks people don't understand how hard it is to play cornerback in the NFL) *
"That's why you get a nice salary if you're a good one. I think that just shows it's a really hard position. But I mean, that's what I get paid for, that's what I get paid to do and that's what I put all the work into. Guys like Malcolm [Butler] and [Eric] Rowe and everyone else we have in there, no one said it was easy."

*(On if the team is happy with how the defense is performing right now) *
"Extremely happy. Five-and-one and we just defeated a good team, a hungry team that came in here today and we couldn't be any happier with where we're at."

Jabaal Sheard, Defensive Lineman

*(On what he recalled about the sack that Dont'a Hightower and him had) *
"It was a great job and great energy. Obviously when you're making plays, it's fun."

*(On how much fun it is to watch Rob Gronkowski healthy and making plays like he did today) *
"I enjoy watching the whole offense score. I enjoy watching them put up points and the energy that they have after they score, our defense feeds off of it."

*(On red zone defense and how rewarding it is to see stuff they work on in practice translate to the game) *
"It's something that we work on a lot. Obviously with red zone, coach is big on it and we just got to continue to improve on it. Every week red zone is a big-time play."

James White, Running Back

(On scoring two touchdowns today)
"It feels good, whenever I get the chance to help this team I want to do it. Whether it's scoring touchdowns or just getting yards, pass blocking or running the football, I'm just doing whatever I can to help this team."

(On Dont'a Hightower's safety)
"It was a huge play for us. It put the momentum back on our side and I think we kind of rode the wave the rest of the game."

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