Even a coach as experienced as Bill Belichick had to acknowledged the reality of the Patriots’ dramatic Christmas Eve win over the Broncos on Sunday.
“That was a wild game,” he said after New England’s 26-23 victory. “Really proud of our guys.”
“Got off to a rough start, but those guys really battled back, hung in there,” Belichick continued.
Noting that it was “good to come out here and win,” Belichick was asked what he thought of rookie Chad Ryland’s game-winning 56-yard field goal.
“Big kick,” the Patriots’ coach replied. “I think our whole team showed a lot of mental toughness. All week, all year.”
The Patriots were propelled at times throughout the game by a dominant defense, specifically defensive tackle Christian Barmore.
Barmore, 24, registered three sacks and two tackles-for-loss on a career night.
Asked about the defensive tackle’s contributions in 2023, Belichick cited Barmore’s consistency dating back months.
“This was by far his best off-season,” Belichick said. “He’s continued to train really hard, which has I think kept him a little bit healthier. I know he’s played a lot of football, but he’s been able to maintain that health and that conditioning. I think that offseason training has really helped him.
“And the experience has helped him. He did a good job tonight. We set up a couple of things that worked well. He was able to take advantage. I thought overall our pass rush was disciplined.”
Bailey Zappe threw a pair of touchdown passes and orchestrated a final drive to put New England in field goal range.
Having won two of the team’s last three games, Belichick was questioned if he should’ve benched Mac Jones for Zappe earlier in the season.
“Yeah, we’re just looking ahead to Buffalo now,” the New England coach replied.
Looking at the difference between the win over Denver and some of the Patriots’ earlier losses, Belichick again cited the fine margins of NFL games.
“You’ve got to make them to win,” Belichick said of his team’s timely playmaking, “and tonight we made them. Unfortunately, there have been some other weeks where we haven’t been able to make them.”
Zappe, who was cut by the Patriots earlier in the season (before being added back and winning a starting role), is among a group of players who have impressed Belichick with their resiliency even in a difficult season.
“Him and a lot of other guys,” Belichick referenced, “just hang in there and learn from their mistakes. Just try to improve and keep moving forward. Can’t look back too much. I mean you look back to learn, but you prepare, move on to the next challenge, and try to get better. He’s done a good job of that, and so have a lot of other people.”
The Patriots are now 4-11 heading into a New Year’s Eve matchup with the Bills in Week 17. Still, a comeback win in Denver helped add a little extra holiday cheer.
“Yeah, of course,” said Belichick when asked if his Christmas will be sweeter thanks to the result. “Absolutely. Happy holidays everyone.”
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