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New England Patriots Postgame Transcripts 10/22

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
October 22, 2017

BB: Well, I'm really proud of our football team tonight. That includes everybody; guys on the practice squad, some of the guys that were inactive and of course all of the players that played and our coaching staff. I just thought they really worked hard this week. We had a very, very productive week. I thought the players were well prepared, ready to go and played hard for 60 minutes in all three phases of the game. We had a lot of contributions from everybody. We played good complementary football. It wasn't always perfect but we played hard and we competed for 60 minutes and that was off of a real good week of work. Hats off to them. The players did a great job. They went out and played as competitively as they could and tried to play a smart game, made the adjustments, some of the adjustments that they needed to make to some things that Atlanta was doing, some looks that they gave us. [It was] a really good job by our football team tonight. I'm proud of what they did.

Q: Your 162 yards rushing tonight were the most all season. Was that by design through the game plan or was it just a result of better execution?

BB: Yeah, probably better execution. The more runs you have, the more yards you're going to gain. We played this game from ahead, which that was a switch. We hadn't done a ton of that this year, so that gives you an opportunity to run the ball more. We ran it in the fourth quarter which is another time where you can pile up some runs if you can make first downs. We weren't able to do that against Tampa. We weren't able to do it last week against the Jets. We did it tonight, so it was good to get those yards when they knew we were going to run and when we needed to run we got the yards.

Q: Kyle Van Noy had a key stop in the red area that turned the ball over on downs. What did you see from your defense tonight in regards to making big plays?

BB: Yeah, we made a lot of stops on third down and fourth down, but we gave up like three scrambles. I think those are the third and fourth down conversions. I don't know if it was all of them but it seemed like it was most of them. I thought, again, we made a lot of plays when we needed to make them, so red area, third down, some critical situations, goal line. We didn't make all of the plays, but when big plays came up we were able to make those plays. Those are big stops for us. Again, give the players credit. They're covering good receivers. They're playing against a good offensive team, a good quarterback, good system, good offensive line. They just really competed with them all the way through. When those plays needed to be made we stepped up and we were able to make most of them. I mean, the catch Julio [Jones] made in the end zone - that's a great play. We were right there and he just went up there and made a Julio Jones play that he makes. I don't know how many other guys in the league make that. So, even when we didn't make [plays] we were close.

Q: Can you talk about what you saw on the blocked field goal attempt by Cassius Marsh?

BB: Yeah, that's another thing that we've worked really hard on is our field goal rush. Guys work hard on that every week. Cassius has gotten some opportunities in practice. It's hard to block Steve [Gostkowski]. Steve gets good height on the ball, gets the ball off quickly. I think this one with not quite as much height maybe as Steve's ball, or at least what Steve's balls were in practice, Cassius got a hand on it. It was a big play for us because, again, we worked so hard on that and that's everybody across the board. That's all 11 guys, not just the guy that blocks it. The other guys have to do their job and if they block Cassius and take him away then that gives somebody else an opportunity so we neve know how that's going to go. We just want everybody to come hard and do their job right and wherever the opening is it is. That was a big play for us. Again, you can see the whole team - we were all excited; sideline, players, guys on the field. That was a big moment for us. Our special teams units work very hard. They take a lot of pride in their job; the return teams, the coverage teams, the field goal and the field goal block team. It's good to see that hard work pay off in a big play like that.

Q: How much confidence does it build in the running game when you get the ball back with four minutes to play and are able to run the clock out?

BB: Well, I think we have confidence. I don't think confidence is a problem. I think it's execution. We were able to do it tonight but we weren't able to do it two weeks before that. We have another team this week - the Chargers - I don't know how we'll run the ball against them. We'll have to go out there and do it again against another good defense, another good team. Whenever we get the opportunity to run it whether it's the first quarter, fourth quarter, whatever it is, we've just got to [do it]. We're getting good play from our backs and our line. We've just got to be a little more consistent. It's good to get that explosive run in there. When you can get a 20-yard run or a 15-yard run that helps the running game a lot more than seven three-yarders when you can rip off a 20-yard run. It's good to have a couple of those.

Q: You ran the ball more tonight than you passed it. Was that by design that you tried to limit your exposure to Matt Ryan and that offense or was it just coincidental towards how the game played out?

BB: Yeah, I mean offensively our job is really to go out there and move the ball and score points. So if we do that then that's good. If that means we throw it 60 times then we throw it 60 times. If we run it 45 then we run it 45. The most important thing is to move the ball and score points, so that's our objective.

Q: How have some of the new players who were acquired right before the start of the season acclimated themselves here, in particular Johnson Bademosi and Cassius Marsh?

BB: Yeah, well those guys have worked very hard to come in and you can include [Marquis] Flowers in there, too. Those guys have worked hard. They have tried to - and [Phillip] Dorsett - they've tried to learn our offensive and defensive and special teams systems as it applies to their position, have taken a lot of extra work on the practice field with what we call the basic groups - the guys on the practice squad and so forth - to build their reps and experience up in our system. It starts with that and, look, everybody wants to play. You never know when that opportunity is going to come but there's a good example of a couple of guys that have gotten it and have been able to take advantage of that play time with good performances and earn more play time, not unlike other guys that we've had in here in other years, similar type examples to that. All four of those guys have worked extremely hard. We have some rookies on our team who are also, they were here, but again, they don't have a lot of experience so they're kind of in that same category, too. [Adam] Butler had a couple of big plays for us and Deatrich [Wise], so those guys have been able to step in there and contribute, too. [Jacob] Hollister is starting to have some production in the kicking game. Hopefully, as the year goes on those guys will continue to - if they work hard and continue to be productive their role will expand.

Q: Why has the front seven improved over the last few weeks and been more consistent at getting off the field on third down? Who is to credit for the improvement as of late?

BB: Well, I think it has gotten better. I think it's gotten better over the course of the year from Week 1 to wherever we are now. Hopefully, that'll continue to improve as we go forward. Playing together, playing the techniques better, better communication and better timing with each other and then how we're playing blockers who we've been pretty relatively healthy with that group, so we've had a lot of carryover with the guys who are in there. David Harris gave us some plays tonight, so it's good to have him there but Elandon [Roberts] - however that group goes - [Kyle] Van Noy, Elandon, David, High [Dont'a Hightower]. Marquis played a little bit the last couple of weeks. Not too much tonight I don't think defensively, but it's all improving. We've just got to keep working harder and continue to, again, play well fundamentally, play well in terms of our responsibilities, be able to count on each other in our respective gaps so that we can play aggressively. 

Q: How much did the fog on the field affect the coaches upstairs and that part of the operation? How unusual was that from your experience in the league?

BB: Well, I think the coaches upstairs did a real good job on that. It was challenging at times. I would say I don't know what happened with Atlanta, but for us we took a couple of timeouts. It wasn't really because of the fog. It was just we wanted to get our goal line in there on the goal line. I wouldn't attribute it to that, but it was not easy for our spotters upstairs to get it. That being said, I didn't think it really affected the game too much. Not the most normal situation, but my first year in the league with Baltimore in '75 when we beat Miami and then that didn't clinch the playoffs but it put us pretty close in Baltimore. The final kick game down to, you know, Toni Linhart. It was about a 40-yard field goal and you could see the line of scrimmage, you could see the two teams line up for the field goal but once the ball left his foot you had no idea whether it was good or not good, so we had to wait for the official signal. So, that's the first year. I haven't had anything that bad since I'd say this was - it was tough to see from up on top. I wouldn't say it was that bad on the field. I mean, it wasn't clear but I don't think it changed anything.

QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
October 22, 2017

Q: Your offense held the ball for 34 minutes, and 54 percent of those plays were rushing attempts. Can you talk about how those two figures add up to controlling the game?

TB: Yeah, that was important. Last time we had played this team, it was a little different. But, you know, every game takes a little different turn and I thought we did a great job staying balanced tonight and we ran the ball really well, really efficiently. Guys ran hard and we really needed it. So, it was great to hand it off and see those guys rush the way they did, the way the lineman were blocking. It was a great way for our team to win.

Q: Was the fog a factor for you as a quarterback? And, on the touchdown toss play to Brandin Cooks, how much of that is a timing thing?

TB: Yeah, it was a play we've been working on, and he's so good at it because he's so fast. He can get around that edge. Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] had a good block, kind of ran him into the end zone with him and Cookie kind of tail piped him, so it was a great play. And, yeah, the fog - that was crazy. I have never seen that. It was just so still out there. The fog had no place to go. I don't think it affected much, really, at the end of the day. I'm sure it looked cool on TV, though.

Q: How gratifying was it to see the defense perform like they did tonight?

TB: Yeah, they made so many big plays. That was really a night of big plays for them, and so many guys, they were rushing the quarterback and covering those receivers. Those guys are very talented and Matt [Ryan] had to squeeze a bunch of throws in there. You know, they had some big stops in the red area, and then, obviously, the fourth down plays were huge. That was great complementary football and everyone did a good job contributing. 

Q: Do you feel like the team put together a full 60 minutes of good football tonight?

TB: Yeah, I thought everyone was really focused and everyone did a great job of really honing in on what we needed to do. [We were] playing a team that's very talented on all sides of the ball - explosive playmakers - and we did a good job of taking care of it and getting it off them. The fourth down stops were basically turnovers. The D kept making plays and we kept going out there and chipping away. You know, we didn't score as many touchdowns as we'd like, but we scored enough. It was a great team win. 

Q: Your mom and dad were a part of the pregame ceremony. Given the journey your family has been on, what did it mean to you to have them here today?

TB: A lot. It was great for them to be here and be in attendance and for us to win while they're here in attendance, too. It's been a while since that happened. But, that was very special for me. I heard they got on the field pregame. [I am] just happy for my mom. I mean, what's she's been through is pretty challenging and challenging for my dad, challenging for all the people out there that are battling with cancer and other diseases. You can't take anything for granted, so I love the time I get with her. We were carving pumpkins today with my kids and beating the Falcons tonight, so it made for a pretty perfect day for me.  

Q: When you see the defense play as well as they did tonight, does it change your outlook on the potential of this team?

TB: Well, I think we're just going to keep showing up to work and trying to do the right thing. I don't think we think too long term around here. We've got a really important game against a team that's won three straight and a team that plays well on the road. Every week is different. Every plan is different. The keys we're trying to hit are different. This week will be challenging for us, but it was great to win tonight. We knew how important this game was. We were facing a good team. It was a big game on Sunday night. Happy we won. 

Q: Both you and Matt Ryan converted on third or fourth down scramble plays tonight. Who do you think wins in a footrace between the two of you?

TB: I don't know. He wasn't that fast coming out, but I was a lot slower. Maybe we'll try in the offseason. That would be fun.

Q: Do you think this team has found its identify. If so, what is it?

TB: I was saying it's different week-to-week. I think we've got to find different ways to win. I mean, playing great defense, that's always great for us. Running the ball efficiently, throwing it efficiently is really important. It will be a new set of challenges this week, and we have to meet it. There's really no carryover from week-to-week in the NFL. It's different plans, different teams, different matchups and so forth. This is good, you learn from it and then you move on. You know, our identity changed a lot. We're very much a game-plan team, and we'll keep being that. Hopefully we can keep going out and executing at a high level. 

TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
October 22, 2017

Q: What are your thoughts on the full team performance tonight?

RG: Yeah, it was a great game. It was a great full team performance. The defense played super well and it was just a great overall team win. Big win tonight, for sure. 

Q: What happened on Brandin Cooks' touchdown play when you were blocking for him into the end zone?

RG: Just make a little move on the D-end, like I'm going inside, I run around and just go get the outside guy, go block him. What's funny is Cooks is a lot faster than me. He caught right up to me and was like hiding behind me. I heard him at like the 2-yard line and he was like, 'Go Rob, go!' I had the little block and he made it into the end zone, so it was a great play by him.

Q: The energy in the crowd seemed to feed off of the energy on the field and the physical play of the offense. How important was it to establish a physical presence on offense against the Falcons? What did Rex Burkhead do for you tonight?

RG: For sure. The energy in the crowd tonight was up there. It's always great when we've got our home crowd just going ham up in the stands. Just overall, we were playing physical as a team. It was a great job, and Rex did a great job. All the running backs did a great job running the ball tonight, which was huge and crucial to have a great running game out there on the field. 

Q: Was it hard to see the ball in the fog?

RG: Yeah, that fog was pretty crazy. I mean, I've never seen anything like that or played in anything like that, but, I mean, a deep ball up in the air was definitely more difficult [to see than if there were no fog]. But, it didn't change anything in the game.

Q: Can you explain what 'going ham in the stands' means in case Mike Reiss doesn't know?

RG: He's got to figure it out. 

Q: As the fog moved in, did the coaches talk to you guys about how to handle it on different types of routes?

RG: No, we didn't talk anything about the fog - nothing. Just played.

Q: What were the discussions like going into this game in regards to last year's Super Bowl win?

RG: It's a new season. It's a 2017 team and it's a whole new season. It's a whole new game. Just overall, we played a great game. It was a great team win and it was a big win tonight. 

DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN MCCOURTY

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
October 22, 2017

Q: What stands out to you as the primary reason for the good defensive performance tonight?

DM: I've said it all season. I thought we executed our game plan perfectly tonight. Our coaches have been on us about just make a team make a play to beat us. You know, Julio Jones catch in the end zone, [Mohamed] Sanu's catch on the 1-yard line - like, those are great catches. I thought we competed and made them earn every yard. When you go against good teams, that's what you have to do. We made enough plays. We played really well on third down, which we talked about always helps us when we play well on third down. And then tonight happened to be where we had to play plays on fourth down, and I thought we handled that well. That's always a little different. You're thinking go punt return, the offense stays and I thought guys were calm and were able to execute on fourth down, too. So, [it was] just overall everyone understanding game plan and play-in, play-out, 11 guys on the same page. 

Q: Your offense held the ball for 34 minutes tonight, which meant the defense was not on the field as much. How does that correlate to the ability to make plays when you are on the field?

DM: I thought Bill [Belichick] said it best this week. He said it was about time we played complementary football for four quarters. He said at times, we played really well on offense. At times, we played really well on defense. At times, we played really well on special teams, but we hadn't gotten it all together. I thought tonight we did a good job of that. The longer the offense is on the field, on the sideline, defensively we're talking about getting on the field and getting back off. Once our offense gets in the groove, we want to get them back on the field. That's why I'm saying third down was huge for us - guys just making plays. We weren't able to get a turnover, but, you know, you get fourth-down stops and third-down stops - those are just like takeaways. 

Q: How did the fog and visibility issues either aid or hurt the defense?

DM: It wasn't bad field level. I mean, it was rough for us to see on the big screen when the offense was out there, but once we were on the field, you could see the ball. It wasn't a problem, I don't think, for either side. 

Q: After giving up 300 passing yards in consecutive weeks this season, was it a big motivation for the defense to limit a quarterback like Matt Ryan?

DM: The motivation really was we knew if we didn't come ready to play that Matt Ryan had the ability to really kill us. You put him back there with the receivers they have, we knew it was going to be a huge challenge. So defensively, especially in the secondary, we knew we had to execute the game plan. We felt that we had a really good game plan our defensive coaches came up with, and I think we kind of knew if we executed and played to it, then we were going to have a great chance to go out there and win today. I thought guys played very confident for all four quarters. Like I said, the one touchdown we gave up was a great play by Julio Jones.

Johnson Bademosi, Cornerback

(On what the Patriots did well this week)
"We played good team defense and we all did our jobs. We tackled well, we defended the pass well and we played penalty-free for the most part."

(On his personal contributions to the team thus far)
"Our coaches do a great job of preparing us to play, and I owe a lot to them and to my teammates."

(On stopping Atlanta on third downs)
"If you want to win games you have to be able to stop teams on third down, and everybody knows that. We have to do that on defense."

Rex Burkhead, Running Back

(On getting back after his injury)
"It's definitely great to be back out there with the guys. It's a great team win tonight, in all phases. We came out with really good energy and it felt like we played four quarters, and hopefully we can take this momentum with us going forward." 

(On the full stable of running backs)
"It's great. We've got so many backs that can do multiple things. When you have that versatility, it really helps us out as an offense and as a unit, so we love that. We compete with each other, but we're also the first ones there to root for one another when we make big plays so it was fun tonight to see everyone get their foot in the door."

(On the win)
"I felt like we had a great week of preparation, so that always makes the game easier. Just the way we practice, the looks we get during practice and how fast the tempo rolls, so coming out here it makes that transition a little bit easier. Atlanta has a great defense but I feel like we executed well today."

Malcolm Butler, Cornerback

*(On if he thought the defense turned in a complete game performance) *
"Most definitely. We had a good week of preparation and knew they [the Falcons] were going to come in here and try to take a win so we just had to match their intensity."

*(On what the defense did well tonight) *
"No big plays, tackled well. We just competed all the way through. We played good on offense, defense and special teams."

*(On the team's familiarity with the Falcons and studying them on film) *
"It's good. You can pick up tendencies and you just know what's going to happen."

*(On what he was able to do well against Julio Jones) *
"Just competing. Great player; you just got to compete."

*(On the defense's improvement over the last three weeks) *
"Communication. Just playing smarter and better. That's all."

*(On whether the fog was a factor) *
"It didn't do much."

*(On this being an emotional game between the two teams) *
"There's going to be some trash talking out there, but we just wanted to make sure we protected [the home field] in Foxborough and just get the win. Go out there and compete."

Trey Flowers, Defensive Lineman

*(On his reaction to the Falcons going for it on fourth down twice during the game) *
"It kind of surprised us at some point. They had to make a play and they wanted to make a play, so they figured it was the right opportunity to try to make it. We had to play four downs."

*(On keeping a quarterback under 300 passing yards) *
"It was great coverage by the guys in the back end. Unfortunately, we kind of let him run a little bit more than we wanted him to, but we just have to keep on working and come back even harder."

*(On the team's overall performance) *
"I think as a team, we're happy as far as how we managed the game. We're going to look at the film and see that we missed some opportunities here and there. We can always be better, but that was a step in the right direction."

Duron Harmon, Defensive Back

*(On the team's defensive performance) *
"We're excited because we finally see our hard work come into show. It's not perfect; we still left some plays out there. We still did some things that we know we need to learn from. I just feel like the energy that we played with, the excitement, how fast and physical we played kind of covered up a lot of the mistakes that we made. We just got to build on that."

*(On his reaction to the Falcons going for it on fourth down twice during the game) *
"That just showed you how big they thought this game was, too. They wanted to win and keep their offense out there because they felt like the offense gave them a good chance to win. It's a testament to what we did. Even when they got it on the first fourth down, we kept them out of the end zone. We played really good and didn't give up any points. When they got in the red zone, we made it really hard for them to score. That's what we need to continue to do and continue to build on this performance."

*(On the progression of the team's defense) *
"We're just better. We continue to improve each week. From the Panthers game on until now, we just continue to get better each and every week. We continue to come to work, work together, try to find the best combination of players that we can put out there and everybody that goes out there continues to do a great job and just work hard."

Jonathan Jones, Defensive Back

*(On the team's emotions during the game) *
"We all just came out fighting. Like you said, it's a domino effect. We come out with good energy, make one stop and they keep adding up. I think we were able to get on them early."

*(On the defense making big plays) *
"We have to tip our hats to them, they're a good team. We went out and we were able to make those plays and in the end they came out and helped us win."

*(On dealing with injuries) *
"Our mentality every time someone goes down is next man up. You want to come in and compete and not have a drop off. Every time someone is called on, it's your time to do your job."

Dion Lewis, Running Back

(On taking control with the run in the second quarter)
"Everybody's running hard and doing whatever it takes to win."

(On if there's a running rhythm)
"I mean, you've just got to compete. The best thing you can do is compete - just trying to prove that you deserve to be out there."

(On closing out the game on the ground)
"We were just being physical at the end. We talked about being physical in the running game and there's no better way than being physical to close the game out in a four minute situation."

(On your style of running)
"Whatever it takes to make plays. I try not to be a one trick pony. I'm small but I'm not little."

(On the fog)
"No, I've never seen anything like that before. But it really didn't affect anything."

Cassius Marsh, Defensive End

(On blocking the field goal)
"It's a relief to know I was able to get my hands on the ball because the offense won't score any points. I penetrated and stayed low so that I was able to drive into the tight end's shoulder to tip the ball. I had to make sure to keep my lower body strong so that I didn't lose my balance or get tangled up in another player's feet."

(On the offense's performance)
"Our offense did a great job; they went down the field and scored touchdowns and they keep doing that all night. The offense did a great job of keeping us [the defense] off the field, and they burned a lot of time off the clock. It was a big game for everyone."

(On Atlanta's fourth down attempts)
"I was surprised by the fourth-and-6 that they tried. I'm sure they had a reason for it, but it caught me a little off-guard." 

Nate Solder, Tackle

(On whether the Patriots played a well-rounded game tonight)
"It's a game we can definitely build off of. I think we did a lot of good things. I know I played better and I know that's the way I want to play, and I want to keep doing that."

(On it being a Super Bowl LI rematch)
"It was an emotional game. I think we knew they were a good opponent, and we had to come ready to play."

(On balancing playing football while dealing with his son's cancer)
"It's difficult. It weighs on my mind, but I have a great team that supports me so much and I don't think I could make it through it without those guys."

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