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New England Patriots Postgame Transcripts 9/9

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and select players comment on their 27-20 win over the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, September 9, 2018.

HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK

Postgame Press Conference
September 9, 2018

BB: It's always good to get off to a good start here in the opener. I thought our guys played really competitively. We did a lot of good things. Obviously, some things we need to improve on, clean up on. But that's the way it always is in a game like this. Houston's tough. We expected it to go all 60 minutes, like it did, and come down to the final play. That's pretty much what we've got. It's good to get the first one. We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot of work to do and we'll just keep grinding it out here and see if we can get better each day, get better each week.

Q: How much do you think the full season that Phillip Dorsett has now had has helped him progress in the system?

BB: I'm sure it's helped him; yeah. I'm sure it's helped him.

Q: Can you talk about his performance today?

BB: Yeah, as I said, there were a lot of good things in every area and then there are things we need to do a better job on. We'll just keep working at it. He's worked hard all spring, all training camp. He's been out there every day and just keeps getting better.

Q: Are you ever surprised at how Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are seemingly able to connect during high pressure situations?

BB: We see it quite a bit every day. That's two great players. Both have a lot of skill, both very good at what they do. They don't need a lot to complete passes. We see that every day in training camp and in practice. They're both really good. Rob's hard to cover and Tom can put the ball where only Rob can get it and Rob can get a lot of those. I'm glad we have them. They're both great players.

Q: Are you pleased with the way your team made adjustments today?

BB: What adjustments are you talking about?

Q: You guys seemed to adjust to containing Deshaun Watson throughout the game. Were you pleased with that effort today?

BB: Yeah, I thought we did some good things. We certainly played him better than we did last year, not that that would take much. Yeah, I mean, again, no one guy can stop Watson so it's got to be team defense, it's got to be coverage, it's got to be pass rush, it's got to be discipline, man, zone, whatever it is, however many guys you're rushing, whatever the play is. It could be drop-back pass, play actions. They had some move-the-pocket plays with the quarterback. [It was] good team defense. He's a hard guy to stop. [DeAndre] Hopkins is a hard guy to stop. They do a good job in the running game. We had our hands full with all of those things. Fortunately, we were able to make enough plays to come out on top.

Q: What impressed you about your execution in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half, and how important was the focus that the offense showed to get up to the ball and run another play following Rob Gronkowski's catch late in that drive?

BB: Well, we got off to a good start in the drive with a couple of runs from Jeremy [Hill] and he got out of bounds on the second one, so that got us up close to midfield or so. We only had one timeout left. We used two timeouts on defense. I think it was two. Yeah, we used two timeouts on defense to get the ball back. We had no choice but to go to the ball quickly and certainly in a situation like that we'd want to go anyway. We wouldn’t want a play stoppage if we didn't have to have one. It was a good heads-up play, but that's what we practice and we executed it pretty well. It was a great drive after we had had several series offensively that weren’t all that productive. To get the ball in that situation and be able to take it down there in, whatever it was – a minute and 40 – or something like that. Josh [McDaniels], the offensive staff, the players did a great job.

Q: How much do you learn about your offense and what the various players are capable of doing in a regular-season game today versus what you may see in the preseason and throughout training camp?

BB: Yeah, well we'll learn some things today. We'll learn a lot over the next few games here. We play different types of defenses and different types of players. We'll see how it all comes together. As I said, we did some good things today and there were some things we did that weren’t so good that we need to improve on or figure out something else to do, and that's true in all three phases of the game. We need to do a good job of coaching, do a better job of coaching, try to put the players in good position and get higher execution levels.

Q: Did you feel that after challenging DeAndre Hopkins' catch you got a better sense for how that type of play will be officiated going forward regarding what will or won't be overturned on replay?

BB: Yeah, but I don't think that had – I'm not really sure what you're talking about here. The two plays in Carolina, both challenges that I made and Ron [Rivera] made, were about did the receiver have possession and then a fumble. On this one, Hopkins went to the ground for the ball. It was either he caught it or he didn't catch it. I don’t know if you were referencing the new rule. I don’t think this play had anything to do with the change in the rule whatsoever. Again, I don’t think it had anything to do with it. I think they ruled it was a catch. I'm not so sure, but it doesn't really matter what I think. They made the call so that's what it was.

Q: How big of an impact did that punt from Ryan Allen and Jonathan Jones downing the ball at the 1-yard line have on Houston's ability to execute late in the game?

BB: Well, it made a big difference in this game because they were out of timeouts and that added what would've been touchback yardage, so another 19 yards to the drive. It was a huge play. It ran about eight or nine seconds off of the clock. In the end, I think what they were hoping for, what I would be hoping for offensively is that you can get close enough offensively to throw the ball into the end zone and hope to make a play. The ball was far enough away from the end zone that Watson couldn't really get it there. Had that ball gone into the end zone and they had another 19 yards, I don't know, maybe it could've gotten to the end zone. It was a big play. It was a great kick. It was a great job by Jonathan. Ryan's done a real good job for us putting the ball down tight for us.

Q: How great was it to have Jonathan Jones back for not only his contributions on special teams but to be able to contribute on defense for you once again?

BB: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it's great to have Jon back. Jon's a really good football player. He has a big role for us in our substituted defenses against multiple receivers. He does a great job in the kicking game as well, as he always has. That's where he kind of made his mark, got started, and that's led to a lot more opportunities for defensive playtime. He's taken advantage of those. He's done a really good job for us. It's good to have him back. I thought our secondary competed pretty well against a good group of receivers. [Bruce] Ellington, obviously Hopkins, the tight ends, the backs. They split [Tyler] Ervin out, had a decent amount of empty there. They challenged us pretty good with the passing game, and obviously the quarterback with extended plays. I thought our secondary competed well and that's what it took in this game.

Q: Will you continue to look at the punt return spot as one that needs addressing?

BB: Yeah, like I said Tom [Curran], I think we need to improve in a lot of areas and that's what we'll try to do on offense, defense, special teams. We need to do some things on the coaching end better, and on the execution end better. That's what we'll do this week.

QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY

Postgame Press Conference
September 9, 2018

Q: What are your thoughts on your receivers today? I think you hit eight different guys.

TB: Yeah, we try to spread it around quite a bit, and I think we did that at different times. Didn’t get into the rhythm that we probably would have liked to get into, but made enough plays and [we have] got to eliminate turnovers. [We have] Got to do basically everything better, but it’s still great to get a win and be 1-0.

Q: Can you talk about the progress Phillip Dorsett has made, your relationship with him and the growing trust that the two of you have?

TB: Yeah, Phillip did a great job, got some opportunity and then came up with the plays, came up with the catches. It’s kind of what he’s been doing all camp, all spring and it was good to see it show up today. So, we needed it. We need everybody who’s out there to make plays. We’re not out there to punt, but we’ve got to string more good plays together in order to score more points.

Q: Do you feel that your trust with Phillip has grown?

TB: Absolutely. I think if you’re out there, I trust you, the coaches trust you, the team trusts you. That’s why we’re putting you out there. So, guys that usually we don’t trust don’t get much opportunity out there. So, Phillip did a great job with his opportunity today.

Q: What do you think Phillip did best today?

TB: He did a lot of things. I mean, he caught the ball well, a variety of different routes, had some option routes in there which he did a good job of, catch and run. So, I thought he played great.

Q: You don’t seem totally thrilled about the offense’s performance today. Why?

TB: I don’t think we played anywhere near what our capabilities are. I think it’s good to win, obviously, but we’ve got to do a lot better than that I think. Just turning the ball over and not taking advantage of some opportunities that we had out there, all of us probably look at the game and realize we could have done a lot of things differently.

Q: You and Rob Gronkowski weren’t out there for most of the spring and then you come out and Rob has over 100 receiving yards. Is your timing pretty much down at this point with him?

TB: Yeah, Rob and I – we’ve been playing together for a long time. I remember a couple years ago, we threw like in April one year, and I mean we threw like 40 passes. We hit them all. So, I know his body language. I know his ability to run and what routes. He can do it. He can do really all the routes. It’s just a matter of giving him a chance, and it came with a big touchdown today. But, all the guys – the backs played well, receivers, guys who were in there did a good job. So, it’s one win. We’ve got to do a lot better. We’re going to try to this week.

Q: I think a lot of us look at the personnel and when people switch in and out, we kind of grade on a curve. But it seems as if you’re saying the level has to be the level, and it doesn’t matter who is in there or who isn’t. Is that accurate?

TB: Absolutely. Absolutely, I think that’s the point of playing football. It’s not, ‘Oh, this guy, this is what his level of expectation is. That’s what we should put the team’s expectation at.’ It’s if you’re playing in the slot, you’ve got to play as well as any slot receiver we’ve ever had. If you play on the perimeter, you’ve got to play as well as any receiver we’ve ever had – tight end, quarterback, running back – and guys can play up to that. I think you can’t sit there and coach or communicate and go, ‘Oh, well, that’s OK because you’re not quite there yet.’ I mean, I think you’ve got to coach hard and you’ve got to correct guys and you’ve got to correct yourself and have high expectation for yourself, and that’s how you have high expectation for the team.

Q: On the James Develin conversion late in the game, it seemed like you were looking for Gronkowski and then hit Develin?

TB: Yeah, that was a big play. We needed that one. James made a great play. I mean, he was not the intended receiver by any means, but we scrambled, great job in protection, gave me a chance to roll a little bit and find an open guy. That was a big play – we needed it. And then Ryan [Allen] made a great punt and defensively made some good plays there at the end.

Q: It took a while for J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney to get to you. What can you say about the protection up front and buying some time on some of those plays for yourself?

TB: Yeah, they did a great job. I think we protected well all day and guys really slugged it out. I think we knew going up against this defense, this front, they’re very interchangeable. They have good players, they rush, they play the run well, they play runs away, they got their hand on the ball, caused the interception – they do a lot of things well, but our guys were up for the challenge. You know, it wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to get a win.

TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI

Postgame Press Conference
September 9, 2018

Q: Rob, you had a big game today. The one blip was probably the strip fumble you had after a big play. Can you talk us through that one?

RG: Yeah, I just made the catch and then, I don't know, I just caught it looking up the field and you've just got to be aware, I mean, these players in the NFL are fantastic. Everyone is fast, everyone is quick and everyone knows how to get at the ball and try to strip the offensive players with the ball. I've got to do a better job with that for sure and it's going to start with practice to get better with that.  

Q: Rob, the catch at the end of the second quarter was a big play at that point of the game. Take us through it. What was going through your mind as soon as you hit the ground you see Tom [Brady] race up to the line of scrimmage and you guys got that snap off and the play stood?

RG: Yeah, when I was running up the seam I had two guys on me and when I saw the ball in the air I literally thought first thing, “What is Tom [Brady] thinking?” When that ball was in the air I had a guy grabbing me and I was just like, “I've just got to go for it.” I can't let them make a play on it, so just went up for it, made the catch. I did make the catch. I don't know how. When I went to the ground I had it stable in my hand, so it was definitely a catch, but Tom went up to the line really quick just to make sure. We got the play off, which was nice.

Q: How is it that you and Tom Brady have this cohesiveness between each other and especially with the first touchdown when you had two guys on you at that time as well?

RG: It's a lot of practice, no doubt. A lot of practice. It's never letting up, it's a lot of consistency out there on the practice field. Doing it every week, doing it in the offseason, doing it in it camp, doing it whenever. You can't just get on a page like that just from the get-go. You've got to put work in, you've got to put time in and that's what we do. 

Q: Rob, there were reports before the game today that you made it clear to the Patriots in the offseason that you wanted to play for the Patriots. Can you comment on that and also is that sort of the same as your thoughts after the Super Bowl [LII] when you said you weren't certain about your future?

RG: I was wondering why they asked me that on the field right after the game. I was like, ‘Where is this coming from again?' No, I'm just glad to be here, glad to be part of this team, glad to be part of this organization and all that talk, all that stuff, I mean I would love to put it in the past. Whatever it is, whatever reports keep coming out because I'm here and I'm here to stay and I'm here to keep playing ball with the Patriots and just enjoying my time here. 

Q: Rob, James Develin is a guy who works really in two position groups, fullback, but also spends a lot of time in your room or with you guys on the field as a tight end. Today four catches for him and a key first down obviously late in the game. Is that the guy you see every day? He's so respected in the locker room, what does he bring to your group in particular and what we saw today with only six catches all of last season, to have four receptions in a key spot as well? 

RG: It's huge. I mean really don't have that many guys right now in the tight end room, wide receiver room. We're low on running backs, so we need to use everyone and he's been always preparing and been always ready. Every time since I [can] remember since he's been here, he's always been ready to catch the ball. To get the first down, how many yards we need. He works hard, he plays hard, he blocks hard. It's great to have him in the room. Part of us tight ends, tight ends and fullbacks we call each other. 

Q: Rob, two things. Just talk about how you cleared some space for James White on that touchdown in the second quarter and also how often do you work on those end-of-game Hail Mary situations?  

RG: I got to rewatch the film to see the James White touchdown. I mean, the game and everything, I'm really not sure exactly what the coverage was or anything, but I mean you've just always got to do your job. Run good routes even when you know the ball might not be coming to you because you've got to get another player open on the offensive side so taking guys is part of the game. It's part of the team and that's how you do it. The jump ball, you don't work on it, it's not an everyday thing. Something you install, you work on it once or twice a year and you just remember the jump ball. It's easy.

SAFETY DEVIN MCCOURTY

Postgame Press Conference
September 9, 2018

Q: Talk about your guys’ fast style on defense, especially putting a lot of pressure on [Deshaun] Watson.

DM: Yeah, we just talked about all week just playing from ahead. We knew it wasn’t [going to] finish the game right away. We all talked all through the week this game was going to come down to the last play and it did, but we thought it was very important to get out there and play from ahead. By doing that our offense went out there [and] I thought they played really well and I thought we just had to keep giving them chances to score against another really good defense. We just have to continue to do those things.

Q: What’s the defensive mindset with a mobile quarterback like Deshaun Watson? He’s especially dangerous extending plays in a Hail Mary situation where he gets to the sideline and heave it deep.

DM: We practice that a lot throughout training camp and getting ready for this game. I thought everyone executed well. We knew he was going to buy some time back there, but it was all about just trying to get to him and not let him be able to launch it because not only is he mobile but he has a hell of an arm. You see even though it didn’t get to the end zone, but it was only a couple of yards short so that was something we practice a lot.

RUNNING BACK JAMES WHITE

Postgame Press Conference
September 9, 2018

Q: Does four catches for James Develin today mean he's now the new threat as the third-down passing back?

JW: It's possible. He's out there on the field more and more each week. He's a very versatile guy and he made some key, big plays for us today. I think a lot of guys just tried to step in there and make plays when the ball came their way.

Q: What does it say about the offense when you're able to get eight or nine different guys to contribute with catches today?

JW: We have a lot of versatile guys, a lot of guys that can catch the football. Tom [Brady] does a great job of spreading it out, finding the open guy. Like I said, guys are trying to make a play when they have the opportunity and I think guys tried to do that today.

Q: Do you think Phillip Dorsett showed today what he can bring to the offense?

JW: Oh, definitely. I've known that guy since high school. He works extremely hard. He got here last year after training camp so a lot was kind of thrown at him fast. I think he got better as the year went on. I think he took the challenge this offseason to learn the offense as best he can and just be in the right spots and win in man [coverage]. I think he went out there and showed it today that he can be a good player for us.

Q: The offense seemed to have a good performance today, but Tom Brady didn't seem pleased with it. Why do you think that is?

JW: We definitely didn’t play our best game. We had a couple of stagnant drives, had some turnovers. We definitely want to eliminate those. We'll get back to the drawing board and watch the film and definitely have to improve because we play another good defense next week.

Q: Can you talk about the execution on your touchdown?

JW: It was a good play-call by Coach [Josh] McDaniels. I just kind of saw the flat open and Tom ended up finding me. It was just a one-on-one situation. Coaches always talk about just trying to win those and get the ball in the end zone. That's just what I've tried to do.

Q: What kind of a wrinkle does it give the defense to have you and Rex Burkhead out there at the same time?

JW: Yeah, Coach McDaniels, he does a great job of dialing up plays whether it's one of us on the field or two of us on the field. We just want to go out there and execute it, show it in practice that we're capable of doing a lot of different things. I think it can keep the defense off-balance and we've just got to continue to improve and get better at it.

Q: When a young guy like Riley McCarron makes a costly mistake late in the game, do you go over and say anything to him or do other guys? How do you handle that situation?

JW: Yeah, I went up and tapped him on the head. I told him, ‘The play is over. We'll move on from it. The defense is going to try and get a stop and we might need you that next drive so you can't be down in the dumps.’ But Riley's a good football player. We've all made mistakes in some key moments so you've definitely got to try and lift him up and keep his spirits because we still had a football game to play.

PATRIOTS PLAYERS

Ryan Allen, P

(On the last punt of the fourth Quarter) 

"Going out there and working efficiently and executing at a higher rate, I think that feels better than having it hit and bounce on the [1-yard line] just with just enough time to have John Jones run down there and down it. That’s great and it’s nice, but just being able to feel like we were in control of that was a good thing at the end of the day."

Rex Burkhead, RB

(On playing) 

"It was good; it was a tough team with good defense all around. It was fine till the very end and that is our ultimate goal. I just kept trying to make plays and control the ball towards the end of the game, trying to knock some time off of the clock." 

(On Rob Gronkowski’s receptions) 

"He is a machine. He is a big target and can make big plays like that for us."

(On mistakes during game) 

"It is the first game of the year. There are a lot of mistakes here and there and different aspects for us to clean up and on my end. We are always looking to improve and hopefully we can make it big." 

James Develin, FB

(On his receptions today) 

"I’m just trying to go out there, do what the coaches ask me to do, get as open as I could and catch every ball that came to me. Thankfully I was able to do that today, but we have a ton more that we can work on offensively and I’m excited to get back to work."

(On the Texans defense) 

"The Texans have always been very strong defensively, so we just have to try to execute and let Tom [Brady] have the time that he needs to make his plays. I’m thankful that we made enough [plays] to win the game today and we’ll just go back to work and try to get better."

(On his mentality entering training camp this year) 

"I always come in here and have to earn my keep every single day. I try to stay as hungry as I was when I was 21 years old in this league and just trying to get my foot in the door. I think that [mentality] will take me as far as I will ever go. I just have to always work and try to earn my stay and that’s what I’m going to do every day."

Phillip Dorsett, WR

(On having more confidence on the field) 

"I would say the confidence comes with the hard work. Just getting into a groove and knowing what you have to do and knowing what to do versus man and versus zone. Also not having to worry about what you have to do when you get out of the huddle. My confidence is a big boost."

(On his first touchdown as a Patriot) 

"It was big. We needed something; we needed to get into the end zone because that defense was stout. They were stopping us on some things where we just needed to get a few plays going, just get in a groove, and get in the end zone."

(On having a better connection with Tom Brady) 

"We definitely had a better connection today. We were working on it all throughout camp, and it showed today."

Trey Flowers, DL

(On defending Deshaun Watson) 

"It’s definitely a challenge. Anytime you have a guy that can make plays with his legs and is able to break the pocket to extend plays, you always have to stay conscious. You don’t want to be too timid and not have any rush at all, so we wanted to be aggressive, but also aware of the rushing on us."

(On setting the tone early) 

"We understood what time of game that it was going to be. As far as being able to get back there, we just had to continue to keep pressuring him. All of our guys all around the board did a great job just getting after him and having him pressured in the pocket."

(On the defensive performance) 

"Whatever the offense gives us, as far as if it was coming out of their end zone or going into their end zone, however they got down there, we didn’t worry about it. It was just a next-play mentality and we just banded together. A lot of guys went out there and I think we responded well to the sudden changes."

Stephon Gilmore, CB

(On defending Deshaun Watson) 

"He’s a great quarterback. He’s elusive in the pocket and we knew that coming in, so it wasn’t pretty the whole time but we were able to contain him."

(On the defense as a whole) 

"It’s still the first game. We come out and tried to play good as a defense, trust each other and rely on the coaches to put us in the position to make plays."

(On defending Deandre Hopkins) 

"It’s difficult. He pushes off a lot, but they’re not going to call it. He’s got a great catch radius. Coaches put me in the position to make plays and sometimes that helps and sometimes it didn’t. I was able to make some plays on him and I’m just happy with the win."

Duron Harmon, DB

(On playing as a team) 

"I think we are playing better as a football team. We had good drops in our zone, it was a good mix of the [defensive alignment], the front seven and the secondary all playing off each other and when we do that we are a pretty good football team. I think over all we played solid but we did not play great. Tomorrow we will dissect the plays and see what we need to do better."

(On first game feeling) 

"You always want to start on a positive note. That is important to play good football because you always you are going to grow and get better. The better you start, the more you can improve and the better you can be at the end of the season."

(On his internal clock during plays) 

"Yes definitely, personally as the deep field safety; reading the quarterback I can start to see him looking at the rush and not even looking down field anymore."

Shaq Mason, OL

(On how he felt during specific plays made during the game) 

"That is something I have to look at. I would have to come in and watch the tape. We clicked with some plays and we came out with the win. It was definitely really fun."

(On what worked so well today) 

"Nothing in particular I can pick out but I think we controlled the front well for the most part. We have room to improve and grow."

Riley McCarron, WR

(On the muffed punt play) 

"I made a stupid play. I should have handled the ball; it is as simple as that. I did not make the decision on a fair catch obviously but I know the one I should have made now."

(On how he felt after the play) 

"It obviously is not a good feeling but credit to the defense they did a great job. I have great support from the teammates, they told me to just keep my head up."

(On feeling towards his play) 

"I just dropped the ball. It is not a good feeling. I would like that not to happen anymore this season."

Eric Rowe, DB

(On what the defense did well today) 

"We did well on keeping [Deshaun] Watson contained. Last year he had a lot of scramble yards, and this year we put a huge emphasis on the defensive line keeping him contained in the pocket and for us defensive backs to plaster the receivers because we know he likes to scramble and the receivers will run everywhere. We put a huge emphasis on that this week and I feel like we did a good job on it."

(On working together with the defensive line) 

"Everything goes hand in hand. The defensive line gets the pressure and makes the quarterback throw it quicker, or maybe make a bad decision. At the same time we have to cover, so he holds the ball and the defensive line can get there. It all just works hand in hand and when things like that are clicking, it’s pretty hard to get past us."

Matthew Slater, WR

(On starting the season with a win) 

"It’s a good feeling. We knew this was going to be a tough football game. This is a great team we played that’s very well coached. We’re thankful to come out with a victory. Obviously it wasn’t perfect. We got to take better care of the football. We got to do a better job of coverage in the kicking game. There’s a lot of things you can improve upon but a win is a win and we’re excited about starting that way."

(On how the team can improve on special teams) 

"We’ve got to make sure as blockers that we’re taking care of our returners and giving them space to breathe and catch the ball clean. We’ve got to look at the tape, but obviously kickoff coverage wasn’t very good today. Too much yardage, too many holes; we’ve got to do a lot better."

(On if there’s a better birthday present than a win) 

"I can’t [think of a better present]. Very thankful to still be playing football in my advanced age and I’m having a lot of fun and it’s obviously great to come out and get a win."

Deatrich Wise Jr., DL

(On getting to the quarterback and making it look easy) 

"Like coach always told us, just keep the pressure on the quarterback and plays will happen. And that’s what we did. We may make it look easy, but it’s not easy. It takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and patience."

(On having help with good coverage) 

"It’s a combination between rush and coverage. Coach always says we have to have the rush and coverage marry so that big plays happen. If the receivers are covered and we create pressure on the quarterback, something’s going to happen."

(On how things are going with Coach Brian Flores) 

"It’s been going great. He’s commanding the defense well and picked up exactly where the other coach [Matt Patricia] left off, and he’s been doing a great job. He has our respect."

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