Patriots players (10.27.19)
Devin McCourty, DB
Q: Was it a big part of the game plan to try to take away the big shots downfield from Baker Mayfield to Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry?
DM: Yeah, but I think it was more of an awareness thing – like we didn’t come in and change our game plan, but we knew behind Kansas City, they have the most big plays. But it really comes from the pass game and the run game. So, we talked about that all week – limiting the big plays and not giving it up in one play. But, again, the credit goes to our corners. I think, obviously, the weather has some effect. Early in the game, it was hard to just drop back and just throw the ball deep. And I think being able to create some turnovers early in the game changed it a little bit. But, I think those guys did a great job of making sure when they went vertical, saying on top of our guys, playing good coverage, weather it was man or zone – just everybody doing their job.
Q: Were your surprised at Jon Jones’ speed catching Nick Chubb on that play?
DM: No, J. Jones is one of the fastest guys in the locker room. So, I felt him coming from my right. He did a great job. That’s something as DB’s I think we all think about. When we’re running, we know we can catch guys from behind. And when you did that, he did a great job of ball awareness. That was his second play of the season just being able to attack the ball. So, you give up a big play like that, it was a great play by J. Jones, and then at the pile, everybody protecting me and coming up with the football, so you don’t have to give all that effort and then go back and play defense.
Q: If you were putting a list together explaining how the team has gotten to 8-0, would your 25 forced turnovers be at the very top of that list?
DM: Yeah, that’s something we always talk about – turnover ratio. You know, us turning the ball over, our offense protecting the ball, a lot of times that’s going to lead to wins. It’s rare you come out of the game plus in the turnover ratio and you lose. So, that’s something we’re always thinking about. We want to attack the football. Especially as a team, getting off to good starts – offensively, defensively – being able to go out there early in the game and make our plays I think puts us in the driver’s seat a little bit and puts a lot of pressure on our opponents. So, that’s something we’ve got to continue to work at and try to get that advantage each week.
Q: What does Bill Belichick do to inspire you week-in and week-out? What is it about his coaching style over the years that inspires players like you to play at your best?
DM: I know for me, in my opinion, it’s two things. It’s consistency. You know, he comes to work every day the same way. His expectations don’t change. It doesn’t matter who the player is, it doesn’t matter what situation, he’s going to always remain consistent. And then I think his ability to give ownership to the players. There’s a lot of times for us as defenders, we go out there and he’ll tell us like, “Hey, you’ve got five different options right here. Whatever you see best, by formation, by personnel, make the call.” And he’s told, whether it’s myself, Duron [Harmon], Pat [Chung], who really makes a lot of calls, [Dont’a] Hightower, Jamie [Collins] Bent [Ja’Whaun Bentley], E-Rob [Elandon Roberts] – he tells us all as signal callers, “Nine of out 10 times, I trust you’re going to make the right decision. So I don’t want to tell you what to do and ruin the game.” As he always says, “Coaches mess up games more than anything.” And I think him allowing us to do that, for one, it makes us want to study and understand the game, to take accountability to our coaches, to our teammates. And then I think two, it allows us to just play free – go out there, study the game and do what you think is necessary. I think once you’re able to do that, good or bad, it falls on us and we take that responsibility. I think that’s why you see us playing so fast as a defense right now because if something goes wrong on the field, we don’t have to look to the sideline. We’re sitting there talking to each other like, “I’ve got to do this next time. I’ll do that.” And I think that enables us, no matter if we give up a play or not, to continue to just try to play good football.
Q: Were you impressed with Mohamed Sanu’s ability to pick things up so quickly and contribute like he did?
DM: Yeah, I mean, I think I’ve seen it a lot in my time here, picking guys up. I still remember when [Aqib] Talib got traded here and came in. I’m like, “Man, this guy’s about to go play a game with only a couple days of practice.” He gets a pick-six in his first game. And I think the Patriots, our front office, does a good job of getting guys that want to be good football players and they want to help the team. I think that’s what Mo did this week, whether it was staying late, going home and studying, making sure that guys could count on him to go out there and execute. Being out there, I think for any guy, once you get out there, you’re just playing football. And I think he did a good job of that, playing fast and playing aggressive.
Q: Obviously, you’re 8-0 and your defensive statistics are impressive, but a lot of people are saying that you haven’t played anyone yet. How do you feel about that criticism?
DM: Slate [Matthew Slater] just said it. There’s opinions and there’s truth. And the truth is, however we play, the stats and all of that, that’s what it is. Opinion is we’re probably not as good as people think and all of that, but I think for us as a defense, that hasn’t changed. We’ve never been as good as people think. We’ll try to continue to win games, and people will continue to say we’re not as good, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is each time you step on the field is you can get a win. I think for us, that’s going to stay our focus. As a guy that’s been here for 10 years now and as a captain, that’s what I want to keep guys locked in on, not reading good news clippings or bad news clippings, but just staying focused on the truth of what we need to do each day to get better.
Q: With 25 takeaways, the defense has almost equaled last year’s total. What’s been the difference and enabled you to take it to another level?
DM: I think it’s just when you get in that kind of mentality and you’re in it, I think each time now we step on the field, it’s like, “Alright, we’ve got to get two or three turnovers,” each time. And I think it’s not just interceptions, it’s not just sack-fumbles, it’s just an awareness to hunt the football. I think that’s what we’ve done a good job of hunting the football and understanding when we watch film, like, “Hey, when this guy has the ball, he’s loose with it.” So, I think as a defense, we all know that. Each individual that steps on that field is aware of that, and then we go out and try to play to it.
Dont’a Hightower, LB
Q: In regards to Jon Jones’ strip fumble in the first quarter, how do you balance the need to get a guy to the ground with trying to make a bigger play by punching and getting the ball out?
DH: J. Jones [Jonathan Jones] made a hell of a play. I think a lot of that stuff is instincts. We do a lot of tackling and then turnover type things in practice. Obviously, it’s paying off. We try not to be put in that predicament too many times, but obviously what we do in practice – practice execution becomes game time reality. That’s definitely a big shot at that.
Q: Nick Chubb was able to get some yards on the ground today. You play the Ravens next week. How do you feel about where your defense is at as far as the ground game is concerned?
DH: Obviously, we can do better. Chubb’s a great back. Arguably one of the best in the league, if not the best. They obviously had a good couple of plays whether it was pulling guards or some scheme runs. Obviously, Baltimore’s a good rushing team like you said, as well. We’ll just have to get in on film tomorrow, get things corrected and just try to move forward.
Q: How much pride did your team take in getting out to an early 17-0 lead and can you walk us through your fumble recovery and touchdown?
DH: We want to be aggressive on defense. That’s just kind of our mentality. It’s worked for us so far. Obviously, there’s plays that we’ve given up and corrections and stuff, but that’s part of football. There’s no perfect play. Freddie Kitchens had some good plays called up and dialed up. As far as the touchdown goes, I’m not sure how it came out. I haven’t really seen it. Just again, practicing the turnover opportunities that we get in practice, scoop-and-score, all of that stuff. It comes up in practice and it comes up in games so just try and take advantage of that.
Q: How did those three turnovers in the first quarter of the game impact the momentum of the game?
DH: I think anytime that we’re able to get the ball and take it away from the offense and give the ball to our offense, it’s a benefit for us. Even better when we’re able to get it and score or get it and change field position. It definitely helped us a few times today. Especially on the Chubb run. He made a really good run, broke some tackles, but those turnovers got us out of there. It helps us a lot, but obviously it’s something that we like and something that we pride ourselves on and something that we’ll continue to do.
Q: What are your thoughts on Bill Belichick getting his 300th win?
DH: I just think it’s crazy. Chase [Winovich], and Shilique [Calhoun], a lot of us were just talking while [Robert] Kraft was giving his speech about it. I couldn’t name one thing I’ve done 300 times. For him to get 300 wins at this level, I think he says it a lot about how hard it is to win in this league and for him to do it 300 times in the way that he’s done it is speechless.
Q: What’s the breakdown of the dance from your touchdown going to look like?
DH: Hopefully fun, man. The whole boogeymen ordeal thing, that was like a little fun thing for us and it kind of got blown out of proportion, but I mean it’s something that we do in practice. We have fun, we continue to work and we’re successful while we’re doing it so I hope we keep our foot on the pedal on that.
Adam Butler, DL
(On his two sacks)
“It was just one of those things where you have to make plays when they come to you. It just so happened to be my time to make a play and I did, on both of the sacks.”
(On Baker Mayfield)
“He’s a good player. I thought he would [scramble] and I was hoping somebody would stay in front of him. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and he took advantage of it.”
(On the success of the pass rush)
“You just have to win your own one on one matchup. Guys won when they were supposed to, guys got penetration and it was effective.”
Phillip Dorsett II, WR
(On the game conditions)
“No one seems to like the rain, but you have to deal with it and everyone has to play in it. Whatever it was out there, that is Bill’s [Belichick] slogan, whatever it is, we are in it. We have to prepare for it and just catch the ball.”
(On how happy they are with the performance and on getting the win)
“We are really happy. It is always good to get out with a win no matter how you get it. You never know what is going to happen and it’s always good to get it. We knew it wasn’t going to be perfect because of the conditions but at the end of the day we had to go out there and execute. We came out and got it done.”
(On being around a coach who has earned 300 victories)
“It is amazing and I am just so blessed to be a part of it. Even if it is just a small little two or three seasons, I am just so grateful to be a part of it and be coached by him [Bill Belichick] and be able to sit here and say that. To say I have played for the New England Patriots during the Bill Belichick era and Tom Brady, I am living the dream.”
(On Mohamed Sanu Sr.’s contribution)
“When you’re a professional you take your job seriously and you will be able to go out there and take it all in and be able to contribute. He makes plays that are critical. It was the third down or fourth down, the one that got challenged, that was a big play and then the crossing route he caught across the field, another big play. We needed him and he made it.”
Julian Edelman, WR
(On how it feels to get the victory and be 8-0)
“It feels great. Anytime you beat a team in the conference on a short week, it feels good. Our defense once again had a great game. Our offense made plays when we had to. There’s a lot of things we can work and we’re going to have to work on them in practice and get ready for a very tough Baltimore team.”
(On what one word would he use to describe Coach Belichick)
“One word? I don’t have a great vocabulary. Extraordinary, that’s what I would say.”
(On how proud as a group the offense was about ball security during the game)
“That was a high priority especially against their defense. They are a ball-hawking defense – strip, punch and chase team. That was one of our goals going into this, having good ball security.”
Stephon Gilmore, CB
(On what worked for him today)
“I was just trying to stay as close as I can, get my hands on him [Odell Beckham Jr.]. Get the formation and try and make plays for my team. Trusting my teammates around me, I was able to make some plays.”
(On if this was the toughest challenge they faced all season)
“I don’t know. It was a different game. You know, there are different challenges each and every week, I can’t say it’s the toughest. It was just a different challenge this week.”
(On if he had any help with Odell Beckham Jr.)
“I don’t know. I pretty much just tried to stay in front on each and every play and get my hands on him, make it tough on [Baker] Mayfield and trusted Devin [McCourty] back there on the post and Duron [Harmon] and those guys.”
(On the missed interception and reading the play)
“I should have picked that. I’m not going to sleep tonight. I’m not going to sleep. It was just a great call, a great call by Devin and we knew it was coming. I should have made that play.”
Lawrence Guy, DL
(On his interception)
“That’s just one of those plays where you play every down hard and stuff like that happens. It was a great defensive play. It was my first interception in nine years. I’ve had some fumble recoveries. I said, ’Oh man I’m going to go,’ but I didn’t go far. That was special, I’m going to get that ball somewhere and put it in my locker.”
(On his forced fumble)
“You know it was a rainy day. So on a rainy day the ball is a little bit slippery. So, it was one of those things where you just go after the ball and it just happened to pop out.”
(On how it felt for the defense to fill up the stats sheet)
“It feels great; Adam Butler made some great plays. It was just one of those situations where the defensive line knows what you have to do, and you have to play your role. That’s where we are. We play together and we play our role in the defense, and we continually do that.”
Duron Harmon, DB
(On Cleveland’s offensive approach)
“They are a physical football team. They were trying to run the football, try some RPO’s, trying to stay out of third downs. They were able to do that in the first half. We were able to play some better football in the second half, started stopping the run and our offense did a good job of scoring and letting us play from ahead.”
(On whether the Browns were rattled)
“I don’t think so. They stayed tough. We had three turnovers in a row but they stayed with their game plan running the football. Our offense did a good job of keeping the ball, especially later in the game. It allowed us to turn it into a passing game and do what we need to do from a defensive standpoint.”
(On being a part of Bill Belicheck’s 300th win)
“It’s amazing. Being able to be a part of it to see what he has been able to accomplish, it’s amazing. I’m just happy we were able to get the 300th win for him today and continue to move forward.”
Jonathan Jones, DB
(On the play that he forced a fumble)
“He [Nick Chubb] made a good play at breaking, he was headed to the endzone and I was able to track him down. I kind of saw the ball and went for it. I was able to get it out and it raining was a key part of it. ”
(On how much swatting at the ball is practiced)
“A lot, some coaches emphasize is getting the ball out, applying pressure to the ball, especially today we knew it was going to be raining. That was a key part of it, attacking the ball over and over and I feel like we did a good job at that.”
(On not giving up on that play)
“It was just hustling. This whole defense hustles, flying around to the ball, and everybody is accountable to each everybody. So when we’re out there we give 100 percent effort to get to the ball.”
(On Lawrence Guy getting an interception)
“Oh man, he has more interceptions than me. It was a great play, he got off the ball and they just gave it right to him. It was a heck of a play.”
Jason McCourty, CB
(On defensive leverage in poor weather)
“It is always important, but on a day like today it is really important because of the conditions that were out there. Not only the conditions, but when you mix in the type of athletes they have, you have to play with good leverage. The guys are slippery and it is hard to make tackles. From a teammate standpoint, if I am sitting on the edge and I am staying outside when someone is coming from the inside out, we can guarantee in our mind that he is not getting outside. Bill talked about it before the game and during the week, with the weather, it would come down to fundamentals.”
(On Browns trying to create yards after the catch)
“Once you see what the weather is when you get up in the morning, you know both teams will try and get the ball out quick and get the ball in the hands of guys to try and force us to make plays in space. That is already part of their game with the athletes that they have but even more so in these types of conditions.”
Mohamed Sanu Sr., WR
(On the emotion he showed after his second catch)
“It felt great. Tom [Brady] put it on the money. I had to catch it in self-defense.”
(On what it meant to have Brady’s trust on the third down conversion)
“It was great. We actually talked about that early in the week and he said to be alert and we were on the same page.”
(On how it felt to be a part of a team that is 8-0 and seems to have something special)
“It’s really special because you can see why they are the way they are. You can see why they have won as much as they have. How deliberate they are at practice and the time they spend on the keys to the game.”
(On what he thought about the play of the defense)
“Was there like three turnovers in a row? I have never seen anything like that. It was unbelievable.”
Matthew Slater, WR
(On Bill Belichick’s 300th victory)
“I think it speaks to who he is; his consistency, his character, and his preparation and just his love for the game of football. To do it for that long, it is really impressive.”
(On has he [Belichick] adapted or changed over the years)
“I think his core principles are the same. He is always going to preach accountability and discipline, team and working together and the fundamentals. The game has evolved and he has evolved. I have seen him evolve the last 12 years and do the little things to try and make this team better. I think at his core, who he is, it is the same person that started years ago.”
(On coach Belichick sticking with the core team over the years)
“Well I certainly appreciate that. I appreciate that he has kept me around all of these years. I appreciate that that is his mentality. He hopes to instill a culture here and keep that culture in place. As I mentioned, that culture is about team and being unselfish and being accountable and working hard. The guys that buy into that and continue to perform in their role they are going to have an opportunity to be here. I think that is what he is looking for and if you do what he asks he is going to give you a chance.”
(On one word to describe coach Belichick)
“Consistent, you know what you’re going to get from him and you know what is expected of you. There is no guess work involved in that. You know what he expects from this football team and that consistency is something you appreciate as a professional.”
Ben Watson, TE
(On his long reception)
“Everyone will say that was a good catch, but it was a good throw. He put it in a spot where only I could get to it. Whenever you are in man and you are going down the seam like that, that is the place you can put it. He [Tom Brady] is the best at putting it in a great way for the receiver to get to it. When I saw it up there I knew I had a chance at it. The coverage was coming from the inside and followed me down the seam. You either go over the top or the back shoulder.”
(Asked if Jon Jones chasing down Nick Chubb reminded him of the time he chased down Champ Bailey)
“You just don’t give up on a play, that’s all. You don’t give up on a play. You never know if your effort is going to pay off in a turnover or not. That’s what we are paid to do, keep chasing until the whistle. I couldn’t believe it because Nick had good ball security, he had it high and tight and sometimes that happens. As ball carriers you know those guys are always coming and they do a really good job of punching it out.”