The New England Patriots came from behind to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 and held on in dramatic fashion in order to clinch their ninth-straight AFC East title- so you’ll excuse the players if they’re excited about what they were able to accomplish.
Here is what the Patriots were saying after the game.
Patriots FS Devin McCourty
What happened on the JuJu Smith-Schuster play?
“It was just a play where [Le'Veon] Bell on the sideline blocked Jordan Richards and came off kind of getting me in a generous slip. It's a play we all wanted back. But it was a good job of finishing the play. Those plays you see a lot where a guy gets to the sideline and everybody starts jogging, and they score. Then it's game over. I think we just did a good job getting him down and being able to play a couple more plays.”
Patriots QB Tom Brady
What did they do to take away Rob Gronkowski in the first half that they didn't in the second?
“We only 18 plays in the first half - 13 passes, we hit ten of them. I don't know what Gronk had in the first half. We ended up throwing the ball more in the second half because we had the ball more. He just kept getting free. I thought he did a great job of separating and making the catches. I gave him some chances on one-on-one throws. He got the pass interference on the one. He's a tough matchup with his size and speed. He's a big part of our offense.”
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski
What were your emotions like watching that last defensive play?
“The emotions were up and down on that last defensive drive. I can tell you that. On that big catch and run it was like a rollercoaster. Then the first and second down in the red zone. You're down, and then you're up and then you're up again. Your down because you think he catches it, but then the ball pops up in the air and you are like, ‘Ohhhhhh,' and then we intercept it. The ride ended very well.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
When Dion [Lewis] scored was there any thought of working the clock?
“You can't be too cute. You have to score. I don't think you want to kneel on the ball there. So, I guess you could, but you have to score. Then you have to play defense. So it was a good run by Dion. I'm sure they were trying to keep him out, but he made a good run and got in. They got a big play on the under route, broke a couple tackles. We could have obviously played that better, but when you have to score, go ahead. Then defense has to play defense.”
Here are some quotes from other players.
Eric Rowe on forcing the game-winning interception:
“There was a lot of urgency on that last play. I see them – rushing to the ball. I see Matty P. [Matt Patricia] give the call, and I was like you know I'm the star. I was like man, no one is one the outside. I need to go on the outside. Then everybody was in panic mode trying to get lined up, and I see Big Ben [Roethliesberger] fake it and I was like, ‘Oh they are running a play.' I got my eyes on the receiver and noticed he was doing a slant. I didn't really think he was going to throw it because I was right on his hip. I mean he threw it, and I was like I need to break this up, boom. I thought they caught it, I was like oh my god. We came down with it, and I was ecstatic.”
Stephon Gilmore on winning the AFC East
“The Patriots have been beating me my whole career. I am glad I'm on this side now. These guys play together as a team. Everybody is out to win. That is one thing that I was looking for.”
Steelers DL Cameron Heyward on wanting to play the Patriots again
“Yeah, I like a shot at everyone that we lose too. There’s a road that we have to take. I know that we have the same record now. At the end of the day, we have a lot of football ahead of us. Two games and a guaranteed football game. Now we have to go on a four game winning streak from here. I don’t look at it anything crazy but five games, I mean, four to the Super Bowl. Three guaranteed because we are guaranteed a playoff. I’m looking forward to all of it. We can be dejected about this, but I like we are at.”