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New England Patriots Postgame Transcripts 12/31

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and select players comment on their game against the New York Jets on Sunday, December 31, 2017.


Press Conference
December 31, 2017

BB: Well, first of all, I congratulated the team after the game on today and, really, on the 13-3 season. I thought those guys have worked really hard all year. They met a lot of different challenges throughout the course of the season. I thought they really did a good job of stepping up every day, every week and giving us their best. I thought today was a solid effort. There were a lot of good contributions from a lot of different people throughout the game – offense, defense, special teams and in all different areas. It wasn't perfect by any means, but we had a lot of people contribute. A lot of people came through for us in situations that we needed them to come through on. It's good to have 13 wins. It's not easy, but these guys accomplished it. We'll look forward to starting the second season. We'll see how that goes but, overall, a lot of contributions from a lot of people on the team. [It was] a good team win and played some good situational football at times, which was important. That helped us. We'll need to do that going forward.

Q: How impressed are you with Dion Lewis given where his career was when you signed him and how he has worked hard to come back from the injury he suffered in 2015?

BB: Yeah, Dion works really hard. He always has. We signed him. He was coming off of not a lot of production and really earned his way. He's earned everything he's gotten, like everybody has, but he's earned it. He's gotten opportunities. He's faced some setbacks along the way, but he's always been pretty resilient. He's had a great attitude. I think I'm certainly happy for it, but everybody is happy for the success that he's had because of the way that he's worked and the way that he competes. He's given us that for basically every day that he's been here.

Q: What does it say about James Harrison's work during the week that allowed him to put forth the effort today on the field despite being here for such a short time?

BB: Yeah, James worked really hard. He worked really hard to get things down and to handle the roles that he was in today. Very professional, has a lot of experience but not in this system so he had to do a lot of things to try to acclimate himself to what we do, and terminology, and adjustments and so forth. He really worked hard on that. He got better every day. You could see that through the course of the week. Sometimes it piles up and the load just becomes – there's a diminishing return effect. In his case, I would say that wasn't the case. Each day that it went it got better. I thought he made a couple of plays out there today. We'll see how it goes going forward, but yeah, he worked very hard.

Q: Can you talk about the job Ryan Allen did in pinning the Jets deep in their own territory on several punts?

BB: Well, he had a lot of good punts; period. Punting into the wind – this is a tough wind today. It's tough to drop the ball, tough to get it on your foot the way you want it regardless of which way you're punting. He did a very good job into the wind of keeping the ball, putting the ball in a tough spot to handle. He gave us a big field positon punt there in the end of the first quarter where he changed field positon into the wind. It was a big punt and then he had some plus-50 punts and good execution between Ryan and the punt team and [Matthew] Slater on the downing. Those were big field positon plays for us. He had a good day and it's a tough day out there. Tough to handle the ball, tough to, as I said, drop it and get it to where you can punt it but he did a good job of that as well as the extra points and field goals. That ball handling too – it was a challenging day for that.

Q: Is this potentially the best stable of running backs you've had in your coaching career?

BB: Well, we've had good depth this year. At times we haven't been able to get them all into the game. At times we've taken the guys that are healthy and they've played, but they've all given us good production. Some guys on other downs besides the three offensive downs. Dion returning kicks, Brandon [Bolden]'s role, Rex [Burkhead]'s role in the kicking game. Those guys – they've all been productive. Hopefully, we'll have them all going forward, but whatever ones we have, they've all been productive for us.

Q: What did you see from your defense on third down that prevented them from converting a single third-down attempt?

BB: I think this is something that we really worked hard on, talked a lot about defensively, especially last week, how we gave up four in a row to start the game. They kept the ball for 15 plays on that first drive. We talked a lot about how much just playing well on that down could change things for us defensively. I forget how many plays we had in the first half but it wasn't very many. We weren't out there a lot and our offense had some good drives. Again, it's just team defense. It's the rush, it's the coverage, it's jamming receivers, it's disguise. I thought Matt [Patricia] and the defensive staff did a good job of mixing it up and trying to keep the offense off-balance with a variety of calls and looks. But in the end, it came down to the players and their execution.

Q: Was it especially important today to get out in front early given the conditions with the weather?

BB: Yeah, it's always good to get out in front, but we all know that these games aren't over in the first quarter, so a lot of football left after that. We try to make the decisions that we can that we feel like are best for the team and that was one. We just felt like that was the right thing to do in this game if we won the toss, so that's what we did.

Q: Before the game we spotted you out on the field in short sleeves and shorts. Was that your attempt at analyzing the conditions or did you just forget a sweatshirt?

BB: Yeah, we walked out just to see what it was like out there.

Q: Will you have a wild night of dancing and partying on New Year's Eve?

BB: Hopefully, not.

Q: Devin McCourty said earlier that the first-round bye gives the team the ability to do some internal scouting and that it has helped you guys in the past. Can you elaborate on what specifically that extra week off does for you?

BB: Well, again, that's rare to have time during the season to be able to work on things that you just need to work on. You have to either carve out time in your preparation for the next team to do that, or skip over it to a degree and prepare for the team that you've got to play. We don't know who we're going to play. We're not going to know that until the weekend, but in the meantime there are things that we can do that will help us no matter who we play and those are some of the things that we'll take a look at. We'll identify those in the next – we've already identified some of them – but we'll identify how we want to do it, how we can best make the most out of the time that we have available, make it the most productive and, hopefully, serve us well in the next game that we play. It's an opportunity to do that. You usually don't get that. Everybody gets it during the bye week in the season, but this is a bonus week to be able to do that. That being said, we've got to keep our timing and execution at a high level without playing this week, which we'll see how we can do that.


Press Conference
December 31, 2017

Q: You seemed to make a concerted effort today to throw to the wide receivers and did not target Rob Gronkowski once. Was that because of something that the Jets defense was doing or more of an intentional effort to get the wide receivers more involved?

TB: Really? I didn't know that. So, I didn't notice. 

Q: You have played in a few very cold games, like the playoff games against Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Where does this one rank?

TB: This was pretty cold today. The Tennessee game was cold. Pittsburgh was really cold. This was right up there. It's just a challenge, I think, for everyone - mentally, physically - but it was great to get a win. So, we started fast and kind of sputtered there a little bit but had the lead and defense played great.

Q: Did it help to practice outside on Thursday in the low temperatures?

TB: Yeah, it was similar to Thursday. We were outside in the stadium, and I thought everyone got a good handle on what to expect in the pass game, in the kicking game. I think it's a real advantage for us, just being here practicing it, understanding how it's going to affect things. But just glad we pulled it out today.

Q: Do you have special respect for the fans who stayed until the end of the game?

TB: That was pretty hardcore today. To be out there and to brave that weather, sit in the stands, that was pretty sweet. It was a great way to end the year. We started 2-2 and 13-3 is pretty good and to get the No. 1 seed. So, our biggest games are ahead of us, and hopefully the fans enjoy that and they come out ready to go whenever we play.

Q: Is it concerning to you as you enter the playoffs that the offense sputtered today after the opening drive?

TB: We'll see. I mean, it's going to be a different defense, different plan and we've just got to get going and execute better, and I think we can do that.

Q: Would you describe your block of Darron Lee on the run by Brandin Cooks as the best block of your career?

TB: Probably. He was pretty off-balance, though, so it wasn't much of a block. But it was good. It was a big play for us to get Brandin around the edge there, and he ran really well. Once he got free there, he had David [Andrews] out in front of him, and we ended up scoring on that drive, so that was a good play.

Q: Did it help having a Michigan guy blocking an Ohio State guy?

TB: I know, that's right. Yeah, that's pretty rare for me. So, it doesn't happen much, but I was just trying to get in the way. I don't know how to block very well, so [I] just throw my body in there and glad he could help him bubble around and make some plays, make some yards.

Q: What does it say about the mental toughness of this team to overcome several injuries and the late season travel schedule to secure the No. 1 seed?

TB: Yeah, it was just everyone fought hard, and I think everyone - it's good to be in this position. It's a good week to really reevaluate where we're at and try to put our best out there. It's the playoffs now, and there's no looking past the next game. So, whoever it is, we're going to have to play really well. Hopefully we can, being off this week, get us back to as healthy as we can be, and I think that would help everybody.

Q: With Chris Hogan, James White and Rex Burkhead potentially coming back after missing several weeks, is it going to be a challenge to reincorporate them into the offense?

TB: Yeah, it's going to take - I mean, if those guys are able to get out there and play, I think anytime you get good players healthy, it helps a lot. So, there's a lot of guys, like Brandin Cooks, Danny [Amendola] - they played a lot of football this year and have been out there for a lot of snaps - Dion Lewis has. So, if guys can kind of take some snaps off, I think throughout the week of practice and the games, I think that really pays off. So, you'd like to be able to use everybody, and we have a good roster, especially on offense, and a lot of good skill players. I think it's got to be more than just two or three guys doing it. If we can get five or six guys healthy and everyone plays a role, then that's going to be great for offense.

Q: How do you evaluate where you are personally at this point in the season heading into the playoffs?

TB: I mean, football's a team sport. I mean, we're 13-3. That's the best in the AFC. That's what we're playing for, and that's all that really matters.

Q: On a day like today, how does the cold weather affect you as the quarterback and the passing game in general?

TB: I think, in general, it just makes everything harder. I mean, it's harder to throw, it's harder to catch, it's harder to tackle. I mean, it's just, I think for you guys standing out there in 10 degrees, it's pretty tough. So, it's a very technical sport. And, really, you're not really playing the weather. You're playing the other team. So, whoever handles it the best wins, and today winning 26-6, I think we handled it pretty well.


December 31, 2017

Q: What was better about what the defense was able to do today on third down against the Jets?

DM: Mainly execution. We had talked about it during the week. A lot of our third down comes down to individual matchup - just someone winning it whether it's in the pass rush, whether it's in coverage. [We're] just trying to execute that and play better. Most of our breakdowns were a guy makes a good catch or we should be a little tighter or we just missed a sack and the quarterback gets out of the pocket. I thought we just did a better job of executing and finishing those plays. 

Q: Can you talk about that interception you almost had?

DM: Yeah, I don't even want to talk about it. That wasn't the best play I've made but I think it was just all of us playing tighter in coverage, trying to make sure we didn't give up easy throw, pitch and catches. Overall, I thought we did a good job of recognizing what they were trying to do when we were in man and then in zone playing alert and finishing plays.

Q: Football players train to play in any kind of conditions. Does this one go in your scrapbook? Is this something you'll talk about years from now?

DM: Yeah it was cold. It was definitely cold and as much as I'd hate to admit it, practicing outside during the week definitely helped. We hated every part of being out there and practicing but I think everybody came out there today and was all, 'This isn't as bad as Thursday practice.' Mentally I think that already gives you a nod when you go into the game like, 'It is what it is.' It was worse Thursday. We got through that. I think everyone, the weather, we understood the different things that it causes whether it was with the wind blowing and things like that but it didn't affect us in a negative way.

Q: What does it cause?

DM: Just with ball direction. Deep balls when you're with the wind, the offense is trying to take advantage of that with the quarter and when it shifts. You want to throw the ball downfield because you have the wind. Field goal position, things like that is what we talk about situationally but I think guys understood that and didn't let it affect them mentally.

Q: Your thoughts on clinching the No. 1 seed and what that means to this team?

DM: It was all a part of the process for us. I think obviously we knew that was at stake but it was more important to come out here and play well and finish doing what we started doing. Now we get into that second part of the season, that new season where really everything else we've done doesn't really matter. It's all about how you play your next game and what better way than do that at home in front of our fans and playing here and the comfort of everything. That's how we want it to be and that's what we've earned this year. 

Q: Can you talk about James Harrison and what he brings to this football team?

DM: Yeah, the guy has been focused all week, picking everything up, great work ethic. I think younger guys, a lot of younger guys on the team compared to him, can learn from him. I think we all saw that from day one when he came in here bright and early getting whatever he needs done. It was good just to see him out there playing then to end the game the way he did was how we want to end defensively.

Q: This is the seventh season that the Patriots have finished with 13 or more wins. What does that say about excellence of this football team?

DM: Can I say what Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] said? You know, I've been here eight years so I guess if it came down to me and Gronk that made the big difference. Probably a little bit more him but I'll throw my name in there too.

Q: What's the toughest part about playing in these kind of conditions?
DM: Just staying warm. I think all the players know [if] you keep your feet and hands warm you'll usually be alright. I'm a sleeves guy but we've got a lot of guys out there [with] no sleeves. To me it's just doing whatever you need to go out there and play well.

Q: The No. 1 seed means you're going to be playing at home and the potential for more cold weather games. Is there anything you're going to take away from this game or week of practice for the rest of the playoffs?

DM: We won't have to take much because we'll be right back in the cold next week. So I think for us since April, or not April, May, whenever we start OTAs and we're outside, Bill [Belichick] stands up here every morning and he says, 'Whatever it is we're in it so get your stuff on and be ready.' We had days in June where it was 40 degrees, raining and we were outside and no difference this week. Today I think it was four degrees, negative six or seven [wind chill]. Like we were outside, hour-and-a-half practice, so to me that day to day of being out there at practice, that continues to build us up and make us mentally stronger.

Q: Is this team ready for a playoff run?

DM: I hope so because that's the only thing that's left on this season, but I don't think there's a - you can't look at the end of this season and say we're ready. To me it's a day by day, week by week. We've got to come in here for the bye week, the days we're in here get stuff done. Since I've been here that's always been a huge week for us to fix some things, whether it's put something new in or fix a problem that happened. Whatever we need to do usually it finds a way to help us in one of these games in the playoffs and that's huge. I think we've got to understand the urgency of preparing and not kind of going into this week like, 'Hey we made it. We're in the playoffs. Everything will be alright,' but understanding that we've still got work to do.

Q: Between the ups and down that occurred during the year, can you talk about the resiliency of this team and how you got through the year to arrive to where you're at right now?

DM: Yeah, I think Slate [Matthew Slater] just talked about that in the locker room and said it best. Those things we went through, when you wrap up the 2017 season, molded us, shaped us, made us a team, put pressure on us individually and as a team. You look back at that now and reflect, we needed all of that. We needed to go through certain things. Obviously we would like all the guys that are hurt to be healthy. I think every team that has injuries would like that, but I think going through those things, going through that adversity, losing High [Dont'a Hightower], losing Jules [Julian Edelman], that builds your character and I think this team needed all of those steps. You look back at it now, it was a great thing to go through and stick together. Obviously after Week 1 there was a lot of 'sky was falling' here and I think this building just stayed up. We just kept pushing forward and that's what this team is now - a team that stood strong through some wins and all of that and we're here now with a chance to go out there and play in the playoffs.

Q: Most of offense and part of the defense had no sleeves on today. Is that a point of pride for a lot of you guys with being a cold weather team? Is having sleeves a mark of shame for some guys?

DM: I don't know. I think it's stupidity but I mean to each his own. I'm putting my sleeves on. I used to be a guy that tried to go no sleeves but when you've got to go out there and play you've got to do what makes you comfortable. But I mean a lot of those guys [with] no sleeves you should see them come to the sideline screaming for the jackets. So I'm a little more comfy on the sideline.

Patriots Locker Room

Ryan Allen, Punter

(On the team's preparation)
"You got to keep working each day. We got a couple of days this week that we have an opportunity to go out there. We're going to be outside and each day is an opportunity to work on your craft and get better. It's one day at a time."

(On the punting unit's performance today)
"We were all on the same page and we got good coverage. We were all firing and when we do that, we get the outcome that we want as a unit. Everyone was doing their job today and it was fun."

(On Matthew Slater as a gunner)
"Something that Slater brings to this team is his leadership and his overall approach to practice, life and personal things. He's a special person to be around and he's a leader at the end of the day. To have him out there and to have him healthy; he's someone we look up to and someone we follow. It's great to have him."

Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver

*(On the cold weather) *
"You just find a way to stay warm and when you're out there you're not thinking about it; you're just playing football."

*(On if the weather impacted the flow of the offense) *
"No, I wouldn't say the weather. That has to do with us; just executing the fine details and in some cases we weren't doing that and I think that's what hurt us. Not necessarily the weather."

*(On if practicing outside in the cold last week helped prepare the team for Sunday's weather conditions) *
"Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a reason for everything. I think Thursday was a good day to help us and get us ready for [Sunday]."

*(On finding a rhythm in the second half) *
"I'm just doing my job."

*(On locking up the AFC's number one seed in the playoffs) *
"It feels great."

*(On having a bye next week) *
"I think it's huge. Be able to come here and get in some good work, get some rest and get some guys back. I think it will be huge."

*(On the state of the offense heading into the playoffs) *
"I think we've got some work to do. We are not where we want to be and that's what practice is for. The great thing about it is we've got one more chance to be able to go out there and play our best."

*(On making it to the playoffs for the first time in his career) *
"It's a blessing; first time being in the postseason is great. It's a blessing and I'm just thankful."

*(On if I felt as cold as it looked today) *
"No. As you get going, you're fine. After you get locked in and get your adrenaline going you're not really necessarily thinking about the weather."

Trey Flowers, Defensive End

*(On if getting off the field on third down was an emphasis this week) *
"Yeah, definitely. We know that to get to where we want to be, we have to play tough on third down. We focused on that this week and tried to improve."

*(On playoff excitement) *
"That's when the season starts for us, so we've got come in and work on ourselves and continue to focus and keep pushing forward."

*(On playing even though the team had already secured a first-round bye)  *
"We came to work – that's what we're paid to do. As far as playing goes, you've always got to be ready to play in the game. It wasn't up to us as far as how many snaps we were going to get. We just had to be prepared and that's what we did."

(On James Harrison's two sacks)
"James Harrison is who he is – that's not a surprise. He's been doing it for so many years. It felt good for him to be doing it for us instead of against us."

Rob Gronkowski, Tight End

(On the win)
"Everything is good. We just won the [Number one seed in the AFC]. We got the number one seed. That was a big win right there. It was good all around team win."

(On limited playing time in the second half)
"That was coach's decision. Coach's decision is coach's decision."

(On what the team's 13-3 record says about the team)
"We've got to just keep on working hard. It shows all the work we've put in all year to get to where we are now. It just shows we've got to keep putting the work in because nothing stops. The playoffs are coming around so we've got to keep going, we've got to keep working." 

Lawrence Guy, Defensive End

*(On whether the cold affected the Patriots play) *
"No because it wasn't cold. It was windy, but that's about it. You go out there and play your hardest for every single play, and you hope for the best. That's all you can do, you have to try to beat the competition in front of you."

*(On James Harrison's performance today) *
"He's a veteran of the game and we're all excited to have him here. It's great playing with him. I plead the fifth on having not liked him in the past, but he's a great guy and an awesome teammate."

Duron Harmon, Safety

(On the difference between last week and this week's third-down defense)
"Execution, just execution. We executed a lot better. I think our pass rush and our coverage worked real good together, and when you put those two together and you execute the right game plan and calls, it comes together and we performed really well today."

(On what finishing 13-3 after an 0-1 start says about the team)
"We've got fires. At no point are we going to quit or throw in the towel. We're always going to fight, no matter what. It shows the true character of this team. We've got grinders, people who come to work each and every day regardless of whether it's good, bad or indifferent and continue to always try to improve. I think that really starts with our head coach, coach [Bill] Belichick."

James Harrison, Linebacker

(On how things went for his first game with the Patriots today)
"I feel like we got a few big plays here and there. We could have done a better job, but all in all we accomplished the goal and came out with the win."

(On his back-to-back sacks at the end of the game)
"I was just rushing outside and they were passing a lot, so I had good opportunities to get around the corner. For the other one, I was able to cut back underneath the guard, and the quarterback was scrambling. It felt good." 

(On how it felt to get a decent amount of snaps after not playing much football all season)
"It felt good. It felt really good."

(On whether or not he felt like he made a statement today)
"This is God's plan and God's doing. I'm just a receiver of what he has planned, and I'm 39 years old and still playing so I'm extremely blessed."

(On how he felt when he wasn't playing during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers)
"I always wonder why I'm not playing. Like they say, it's never easy and it's never late, it's just timing. It may not happen when you want it to happen, but it'll happen when it's meant to."

Dion Lewis, Running Back

*(On the heavy workload and his involvement in the offense) *
"I'm embracing it. I like having the ball, I like helping my team win. They counted on me today and I just got to try and make plays for the team and have fun out there. I had a lot of fun out there. We won; it was a great way to close the year out. Now we just got to move forward and work hard for the playoffs."

*(On the running game being productive despite the lack of depth) *
"Just have to relish the moment. A lot of guys are out. Normally my role wouldn't be that big, but you just have to embrace it. You don't get too many chances to get the ball that many times so I just try to make the most of it and try to make plays."

*(On him having fun with his increased role) *
"I'm having a lot of fun. Just happy to be out there with the guys and giving it my all. My body feels good, so hopefully we just keep it going."

*(On being able to play a full 16-game season) *
"It means a lot to me. Just being out there and having the opportunity to be out there playing. Things haven't always worked out that way in my career, so this year to be out there and be getting the ball as much as I have for the past two games; I've got to relish the moment and just embrace it."

*(On the weather and practicing outside last week) *
"Thursday was ridiculous. I've never been that cold in my life. It was pretty cold today, too, but I mean once you're on the field and in the game you don't really think about it too much. We were definitely ready for it."

*(On the importance of clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs) *
"It's important, but it's not the only thing that's important. We definitely are happy to have home-field [advantage] throughout the playoffs, but you're not guaranteed to have it throughout the playoffs. You're guaranteed to have it just one game. So we have it for one game in two weeks that we know we are going to be home for, so we just have to put our all into that game and see what we can do."

Matthew Slater, Wide Receiver

(On the team's performance)
"You want to be executing on all cylinders heading into the playoffs and try to be playing your best football of the year. Ryan [Allen] was certainly confident today. He was hitting the ball great, especially considering the conditions. We were able to execute and have a lot of confidence in executing in our situations. Really today was about him and his punting. That's the way we want to execute down the stretch in all phases of the game. Having a lot of confidence heading into what will be the most important game of the season coming up."

(On punting in the cold)
"Ryan was just killing the ball and doing a great job. Usually the ball dies and I think that we saw that especially kicking towards the light house. There were some tough kicks and some tough ball handling situations. They had a tough field goal that they weren't able to hit. That's part of it. When you play here during this time of the year, that's what you have to deal with."

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