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New England Patriots Postgame Transcripts 12/24

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and select players comment on their game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, December 24, 2017.

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
December 24, 2017

BB: Well, always good to get a division win. I thought our team really responded well this week. It was obviously a big win over Pittsburgh and I thought the players came in Wednesday really ready to go to work and attack this game with a good mindset. We obviously didn't get some things done in the first half the way we wanted to. Buffalo did a real good job. They moved the ball on us and got the turnover for a touchdown, but fortunately we were able to make some plays in the second half and had a couple of big negative plays on defense and then some conversions in the red area that we didn't have in the first half offensively. That gave us enough points to win. I'm proud of the way the players responded at halftime and overall in approaching the game. It's good to have 12 wins. Hopefully, we can get another one next week.

Q: Your defense was able to stop them from converting on third down and keep them out of the end zone when the entered the red area. How big was that for the team?

BB: Huge; yeah. We spent a lot of time on the field in the first half because we couldn't make those third-down conversions. They had five third downs on the first drive. We finally made the last one. They were four-for-five, but they moved the ball all the way down the field and got the field goal. The third down stops – some of that was from long yardage, negative plays on early downs, but those were big stops for us. Any time you hold a team to nine points that's pretty good. That's usually good enough for us defensively. We can usually score more than that, so that was good defense. The fourth-down stop was the big stop. We had a lot of fast players on the field to chase [Tyrod] Taylor. I thought they did a pretty good job of containing him. He's a hard guy to handle. So is [LeSean] McCoy, but I thought some of our faster players, our overall team speed at times, was good enough to keep them from getting too far away from us.

Q: How confident were you that Dion Lewis could take on a bigger role in the passing game for this matchup?

BB: Dion's been able to play for us in all situations. He's done that since the start of training camp. James [White] is our best third down guy. He's one of the best guys in the league, but we have other players that can do that and Dion's taken a lot of those snaps. We had some guys step in today and give us some really important snaps that we needed with a couple of guys that were out. He obviously ran the ball well but did a good job on third down, too. Speaking of that though, I thought Nate [Solder] did a real good job. He kind of came down with some stuff last night, but he really showed a lot of toughness and gave us a lot of good snaps against a good player in [Jerry] Hughes. He played well. We had a lot of guys step in there for us this week.

Q: How important was Malcom Brown's sack of Tyrod Taylor and the complementary defense played after it?

BB: That was a huge play for us. Buffalo had had a lot of success throughout the game on the first play of their drive – the drive starter. They had several solid plays and a couple of big plays on that – 15-yarders, the long pass on play-action. That was a big stop for us, but they were doing a good job of getting the drive going and getting the series going. That was another bootleg and we played it better and Malcom made a good play to trip Taylor up. That put them in long yardage. Then we got the punt. Then we were able to convert the score there, so it was a good complementary series with our defense, special teams, offense. We were able to go on a little bit of run there in the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter.

Q: How important was it for you guys to win on defense out on the edge against the speed of some of their runners?

BB: Well, these backs are really good. McCoy is as good as any back in the league and he can go anywhere, inside, outside. If you take away the outside he can kill you inside. If you take away the inside he can kill you outside. He's got great vision and quickness. We saw that on the catch-and-run play he had out there in the flat. It's really down to team defense. You just can't take away one thing. Stop the outside run, or stop the inside run, or stop the trap or stop the stretch. It's too many different runs and he's too good at finding space, so it really comes down to team defense. Everybody across the board doing a good job and not giving him a lot of space to operate.

Q: This is the eighth consecutive season the team has earned at least 12 wins. I know the credit goes to the players, but doesn't some credit have to go to the consistency of the organization to be able to accomplish such a thing?

BB: Well, I give credit to everybody who's a part of it. There's a lot of people who do a good job but, again, in the end, when we win out there it's because the players go out there and make good plays. That's why we win. You can't win without good players and you can't win without players making plays. We're lucky we have a lot of them. We've had a lot of them.

Q: What went into the decision to challenge the spot of the ball on Dion Lewis' fourth-and-1  attempt?

BB: Right, well I didn't really get a good look at it but the coaches upstairs thought it was close. I think because it was right on the line they were able to see whether or not it crossed the line to gain. I guess there's a yellow line on TV, or something like that, that they thought it was worth challenging. We didn't get a lot out of it. We kicked a field goal, but it was really the coaches upstairs did a good job of spotting that and feeling it was worth the challenge and it was. They made a good call on that.

Q: How close was Nate Solder to missing the game? Did the decision go right up until you had to declare the inactives?

BB: Yeah, I don't know.

Q: What did you see on Rob Gronkowski's touchdown catch?

BB: A good catch. It was right down the sideline. There were people in front of me. I didn't really get a good look at it. I thought it was a great throw where only Rob could get it. Rob reeled it in and got his feet down. I'm sure you saw a lot better look at it than I did. It was right down the sideline, so I didn't really get a great look at it.

Q: Is the fact that Tom Brady has thrown an interception in five straight games a concern or is that due more to the caliber of defenses you've played?

BB: I mean, nobody wants to throw interceptions. Tom doesn't want to throw them. Nobody wants to throw them. Look, there's things in the game that come up every game that we need to improve on and correct offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. I don't think that will ever change. We always want to take care of the ball. We always want to score points when we send the offense on the field. We always want to stop the offense when we send the defense on the field. We always want to create field positon or score points when we send the special teams out on the field. So, there's no other reason to send them out there. We'll just keep working and do a better job.

QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
December 24, 2017

Q: Before we get to the details, that's eight straight 12-win seasons in a row by your team. How proud are you to lead this team offensively?

TB: That's pretty cool. We have a lot of goals and we're trying to win every time [we're] out and sometimes it looks great and sometimes it doesn't. The goal is to win. We've played some good teams and we played a good second half, so I was really happy with that. [We're] 12-3 with one game to go. 13-3 would be a pretty great year. We've just got to finish strong.

Q: On the Rob Gronkowski touchdown catch can you take us back through that. What did you see on his effort in that play?

TB: It was a great catch. He made just a spectacular – I was trying to give him a chance – it was man coverage. I was trying to give him a back shoulder and it was probably a foot further back than I wanted to. He's just an incredible player. He made the catch and got his feet in; it was a huge play in the game.

Q: Mike Gillislee today was active for the first time Since October and scored a touchdown and was in the game plan early of course complementing Dion Lewis' work. Dwayne Allen also had a couple catches today. Those are two guys that teammates have talked about having a very positive attitude even if there has been a lack of involvement per se when it comes to playing time. What do their contributions mean to you?

TB: It's pretty great. For those guys to get their opportunities and take advantage – we're all happy for them. A guy like Mike has just been itching to get out there and really with the great groups of [running backs] we have and the way they've been playing, it's just challenging to get on the field. There are only so many touches in the game, but he hasn't said a word. He shows up every day, works his tail off and then got a chance today and really did well and it was great to see it. Dwayne and all the guys who don't play as much – I thought everyone contributed and it makes for a good Christmas. 

Q: It always seems like there is one play that's a turning point and today it seemed like that 15-yard sack by Malcom Brown was a momentum shifter. How instrumental was that in shifting the momentum of the game?

TB: Yeah. That's a great example of playing at home and what that does. One play turns into a lot of other plays and points. That was certainly a big play in the game and defensively everyone played so great in the second half and that's what we need going forward. Everyone has to play great every quarter for the rest of the year, that's the way it's got to go.   

Q: Late win last week, close game this week and then you pull away late. What does this stretch say about how you guys build together as a team?

TB: You just have to find ways to win whatever it is and you keep competing as hard as you can for 60 minutes and you don't take anything for granted – you don't take a play off, anything can happen. That's what playing 16 games is all about. It's not easy; it's a marathon for everybody. You have different matchups and sometimes they work in your favor and sometimes they don't on a week-to-week basis and you deal with injuries. We deal with things that you guys deal with, coaches deal with, everyone deals with over the course of a season. With one game to go and a chance to go 13-3 would be pretty special and obviously with Christmas tomorrow we've got to put together a great week and try to beat the Jets here next week at home.

Q: How important is it to go back to Kenny Britt after the interception and give him confidence being a new guy?

TB: It's just building on the things that happen in practice and when things come up we try to correct them. Everyone is trying to do the right thing out there. Certain players you've had more time to connect with and that's part of playing football.

Q: Can you talk about Dion Lewis and what he means to this football team?

TB: He's been incredible. He got here and no one really knew much about him a few years about and he got an opportunity and took advantage of it and played unbelievable for 10-11 weeks and then got injured and fought really hard last year to get back to full strength and came in this year and you just can't say enough good things about him and what he's done. We've had a great backfield. Those guys are so talented and put a lot of stress on defenses, run game, pass game, matchups, routes from the backfield, routes from the outside, inside runs, outside runs, it's been great. The [offensive line] has really done a great job. Those guys have played their ass off all year, so we're going to need to keep doing it. It's been 15 games, but the biggest ones are still ahead. 

Q: Can you just take us through the one-handed touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski?

TB: It was an incredible catch. It was man coverage and I was trying to throw it to his back shoulder and threw it probably a foot further back than I wanted to. He's got incredible control, hand-eye coordination and he made a great catch. That was a big play in the game and anytime you can throw it to Rob it's a good play and that was a big one. Merry Christmas to you guys. Have a great holiday. 

TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
December 24, 2017

Q: Can you take us through the touchdown catch and how you were able to make that play?

RG: I mean, I think it was a run. Tom alerted it. I think he saw man coverage, he alerted it, and the alert was me on a go and just made a play. He put the ball up there where I can only go get it, and I would say it started off in practice the last couple weeks. I mean, we've just been hitting the same page, we've been practicing hard and we've been just working on things and it just pays off – hard work throughout the week. 

Q: How much do you feel right now like you're in your zone?

RG: I mean, it's the end of the season. It's after Thanksgiving, where the games really count. That was a huge win. I mean, you think the Steelers win was huge? That was the same magnitude of a victory. We've got to have another good week now. We've got to be focused. We've got to be in the zone, and that's what it's going to take to come out, to have another good week and get another win.

Q: What was it like to see Dion Lewis have the game he had today?

RG: I mean, he's an unbelievable player. He's a beast for his size. I look up to him. The way he plays, the way he doesn't let people take him down inspires me because I'm like, 'If that guy can do that, why can't I be able to break tackles like that?' So that just shows his inspiration of how hard he plays, how hard he works and a great dude to have on the team.

Q: Did you see the Kelvin Benjamin play right before the half, and did you think it was a catch?

RG: It was a good play by him, the way he extended. I saw it, but I mean, what was the ruling? Why wasn't it a catch? I didn't get that. Why did they say it wasn't?

Q: They said he was juggling it.

RG: He was juggling, oh. I guess he was juggling it. I mean, but he made a nice play.

Q: This is the eighth straight year that this organization has won 12 or more games. What does that say about the consistency of this organization to be able to accomplish something like that?

RG: It's unbelievable. If you think about it, I got here eight years ago, so maybe that's the reason. But, no, just being a part of it, being around it, it's just the consistency of always coming in, always working hard, and it's a lot of players always come in, too. You can see other guys go train in the offseason and people are just [lackadaisical]. There's players not training that hard. They're just there to be there. The players come in every single week, they work hard, they want to get better, we want to win, so it's just great – the consistency, just everyone working hard every single week and not letting down.

Q: Even though Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead and James White were out today, the team was still able to have production and get it done. What does that say about the depth in this offense?

RG: It says a lot. I mean, our running backs, the way that they work, the way that they work together and just step in, fill the hole, is just unbelievable. I mean, they've been doing that since camp this year, just stepping right in. Whoever is in at running back is doing a great job, and it's just awesome to see that. It's good to know that whoever's in there at running back can just keep on stepping it up. They're all great players.

Q: This year has included many grind-it-out games. How does this victory exhibit what this team is about?

RG: Oh yeah, it was a huge victory. We've got to keep it rolling and just the grind. Our offensive line actually doesn't get the credit that they deserve. I mean, the grinding, the pounding that they're always taking, the run game that we've established today, the last couple weeks, has been huge. It helps out the passing game. It helps out just overall the distribution of the ball to the receivers, to the running backs. Everyone is touching it, everyone's making plays. So, we're just in for the grind. Everyone wants to work hard. Everyone wants to get better every week. 

Q: You have more touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards against the Bills than any other Patriots opponent. What is it about Buffalo that brings out the best in you?

RG: Sorry to them for that. But, I mean, I don't know. It's cool when you're hometown team passes on you twice in that draft, and you kind of remember it still. So, no lie. I remember it every single time I play them. 

Q: You drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone, but when you look at that play, do you feel you should have caught the ball?

RG: I mean, I've got to really see the play again, but I mean, I did have my hands on the ball. It would have been a really tough catch. But I mean, I was mad at myself for not coming down with it, too, because as a competitor, you want to come down with that ball every single time. But, I got the PI call, which was huge. I mean, it's just as big as a catch. We ran the ball in, so I've just got to keep on playing hard. When balls come that way, you've got to come down with them. But, if not, you got the PI call, so it was cool.

Q: Even though the defense was missing several players in the front seven, it held Buffalo to three field goals today. How much has the effort they've given, in particular the young guys who have had to step into those roles, meant to the team and how much is it appreciated by the offense?

RG: It's hugely appreciated. The way that they grind, the way they work, they're not individuals. They come in every day, they're on the practice field, they're working together and that's what creates a team. Every time we go over something every week during a practice, they're trying to get better as a defense. We're trying to get better as an offense, and it's just making the team better overall with the consistency of going out and practicing, just everyone coming together. But, the young guys are hungry, everyone's hungry on that defense, and they're just trying to work together to make plays and get stops, which they're doing great. It's awesome.

DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN McCOURTY

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
December 24, 2017

Q: Can you speak to the ability of your defensive front today to get to Tyrod Taylor?

DM: Yeah, they did a great job. I think all week, with Tyrod Taylor being in our division and seeing him, we obviously put a big emphasis when we play him on trying to keep him in the pocket. But, I think we always end off Saturday like we've got a good plan, but we know the hardest thing is going to be actually executing and getting him on the ground. I thought that's what we did a great job with today. If one guy missed, we had another guy coming, just surrounding him as much as possible when he did try to escape the pocket. So, that was just great because it was a total team effort. It wasn't like we had one guy to spy on him or something all game to stop him. It was just a group of guys just making sure... It was big for us, I think, to try to keep him in the pocket and keep him contained really helped us once we got that going consistently.

Q: What did you see on the overturned touchdown by Kelvin Benjamin?

DM: It looked like his foot just didn't drag. I think the thing on the turf is always when the foot drags, you usually see the pebbles. So, I'm probably a little biased, but they weren't too happy. We had a good conversation before they made that call. But, it turned out for the best, right?

Q: Who had the conversation you're talking about?

DM: Me and some of the Bills guys. Yeah, I told them it wasn't a catch.

Q: The defense had some big red zone plays to keep the Bills out of the end zone. How important was that, especially in the first half?

DM: We needed it, I mean, because everything else wasn't really that good today for us. You know, third down was bad – it probably got a little better in the second half. We got some stops. But overall, second down was bad, again, so we needed to play good in the red area because we were letting them down there a lot. So, we always talk about that. If we can keep seven points off the board, it will continue to give us a chance in the game, and that's what you saw – tied game at halftime and just consistently playing well in the red area gave us a chance to eventually pick it up and get it going and getting our offense better field position, so they were able to take advantage and go score touchdowns. Usually in the NFL, that's the difference. When you can make a team kick field goals and you can score touchdowns, complement each other, you usually get wins.  

Q: Was the safety rotation any different today from the first game against Buffalo? It seemed like you were back there free more than Duron Harmon was early in the game.

DM: No, it was similar. It always depends on how the game plays out personnel wise. 

Q: In regular personnel?

DM: Yeah, it switches up, so I don't really remember the first one, if it was a lot different, but I think it was similar to how we did it.

Q: Are you ever surprised by Dion Lewis and what he's able to do?

DM: No, I mean, he's a great running back. I always say it, I had to see him in college once before I left Rutgers, and he killed us there. So, I was excited when we first signed him because I knew what he was able to do. It's been great seeing him here and being able to kind of do everything on the field – running between the tackles, run outside, catch the ball. [He is] definitely a tough back to play. I just think about it from the defensive standpoint. If we had to play against him, it's just tough. You've got to be disciplined, you've got to stay honed, you've got to understand your gap control because he has the ability to get anywhere. So, I just think about seeing LeSean McCoy at Pittsburgh and then the final year, Dion Lewis comes in there. It was tough, and he played great today.

Q: Before Kelvin Benjamin's touchdown was reversed, did you have a flashback to last week's game when Jesse James' touchdown catch was reversed?

DM: No, I wasn't even thinking about it. You guys probably think of that and can write like great tweets and stuff during the game. But, I wasn't even thinking about it. I saw the ball come out, so I knew it was incomplete. 

PATRIOTS PLAYERS IN THE LOCKER ROOM

Marquis Flowers, linebacker

*(On his first career sack) *
"Personally, I think they kind of got me on a half with me and Trey Flowers, but I don't think about stuff like that. I was just happy to help the team make a big play."

(On being able to contain Bills QB Tyrod Taylor and flipping the switch in the second half)
"I'm very happy [about it]. It being Christmas is a distraction for everyone, but we came in here and handled our business. The first half, they came out and they stuck with us, but in the second half everybody focused in and big plays were made. I'm really happy for the whole defense. Obviously we've got a lot of stuff to work on, especially me. There's a lot of plays out there that I could have made and good have done better on, but I'm just happy we got the win."

Trey Flowers, Defensive Lineman

*(On the performance of the defense) *
"It was a good defensive game. We started off slow, but once we came out in the second half we made a lot of plays out there, so it was a good Christmas present."

*(On the adjustments made in the second half) *
"We were there in the first half; we just weren't making a lot of plays. Credit to them, they've got great players and they made some plays. We just came together and just realized we have to make those plays. We were in the right position, we just have to execute."

*(On the team's ability to turn a close game in the fourth quarter into a comfortable win) *
"We just kept fighting. We knew we were going to get everything they've got and they've got some great players and they made good plays, but we just continued to fight and just made the plays when it came down to it."

*(On his reaction to the Travaris Cadet injury) *
"You never want to see anybody ever get seriously injured. Thoughts and prayers to him for a healthy recovery. It's football, but you never want to see anybody ever get seriously injured."

*(On the performance of Marquis Flowers) *
"He's coming along and he's making a lot of great plays. We knew that dealing with Tyrod [Taylor] that he'd [Flowers] would be the one to come down and has the speed to catch up to him and wrap him up. He did a great job of just containing Tyrod and mirroring him and just being there as a presence. He made some great plays when he had to."

*(On containing Tyrod Taylor) *
"There was definitely an emphasis [on containing Taylor]. We understood that they wanted to attack the outside with perimeter runs. Containing the quarterback was also a big issue and an emphasis for us this week."

Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback

(On the touchdown that was overturned)
"He had to make a great catch and get his feet down. I figured he didn't get his feet down because he was so close to the sideline. I should've played the ball because I think I could've picked it. He's so big so I tried to knock it out when he came down, but he didn't get two feet in."

(On the biggest difference in the second half compared to the first)
"We just tightened up a little bit more. What they ran in the first half, they ran in the second half. We had an idea of what they were going to do. We just played techniques in the second half and were able to make more plays."

(On the team's performance)
"We're just trying to get better and better every week. They didn't score that many, so we didn't let up many points. We started a little slow, played a little bit better in the second half and that's how we came out with the win."

Dion Lewis, Running Back

*(On how much fun he was having today) *
"A lot of fun. It's Christmas Eve, I'm out there doing what I love to do with a great group of guys, that I wouldn't rather do it with. It was definitely a lot of fun and I'm just happy we won."

(On his performance today)
"Whenever I'm playing football, I'm having fun. I'm just grateful for the opportunity I was given today. My role was a little bit different than it usually is and I just got to take advantage of it. I just got to keep trying to get better every weekend. I'm going to enjoy the next couple of days with my family and the holidays and then get right back to work for next weekend."

(On his role today)
"We just got to do what we got to do for the team. I just had to take on a little bit bigger of a role than I usually have all year and I embrace it. I love to play and love to get the ball. When you get opportunities like that you just got to make the most of them. I know we had James [White] and Rex [Burkhead] out today, so I was just prepared for anything. I prepare every week the same no matter if I think I'm getting [the ball] a lot or if I'm going to get [the ball] a lot. I just prepare the same way and it helps me be ready for moments like this."

Shaq Mason, Offensive Lineman

(On the win)
"We went out there and played the way we wanted to play. It's a fun game when you can move the ball and do the things we did today."

*(On how much fun it is to run the football) *
"It was a lot of fun. As an offensive lineman, you love to move the ball and we were making blocks, receivers were making blocks and the running backs were hitting the hole, so it came all into play today."

(On sticking to the running game)
"We definitely kept at it and tried to execute the game plan as well as we could. We came out on top."

(On if Dion Lewis is easy to block for)
"All of our backs are – they're all good backs, but the way Dion runs the ball, he's a special runner. We're blessed to have him."

Elandon Roberts, Linebacker

(On the overturned touchdown against the Buffalo Bills before the half)
"It depends on the call. He (Stephon Gilmore) had the outside contained, it's his job to contain the outside, and that's just what he did. He really just did a good job containing the receiver."

(On Marquis and Trey Flowers' performances)
"They did great. The whole defense did a great job. Marquis had the type of job that Trey had, and that was to make Tyrod Taylor uncomfortable, because if Tyrod scrambles we knew he would be looking down field. Marquis and Trey did a great job of containing him in the backfield."

*(On the team's second half performance) *
"We just had to settle down, that was really it. We needed to get things under control because Buffalo is a good team, and they came out hot. They have good plays and we needed to really understand the plays, and our coaches did a great job of making us more aware, and because of that we were able to play better and faster."

Nate Solder, Offensive Tackle

*(On the strong run game for New England) *
"They have a great defense with good pass rushers; so the more runs we can get, the more clock we can run out, and the more we can wear them out is great for us."

*(On the team's second half performance) *
"I'm not sure. The defense started rolling and we started rolling, and everything started working."

*(On Dion Lewis' performance) *
"Dion's awesome. We're so lucky to be playing with that guy. He's quick and strong, and he plays the way that everyone would want him to play."

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