As Matt Judon replaced J.C. Jackson at the Patriots‘ postgame podium to talk about the defense and their shutout against the Falcons on Thursday, he bellowed a greeting to the media.
“What’s up gang?” an exuberant Judon said. “Sheesh.”
Judon had good reason for his enthusiasm. The outside linebacker had just helped the Patriots claim a 25-0 victory over the Falcons — the Patriots’ fifth win in a row, boosting their record to 7-4.
Meanwhile, after one question, a reporter noted that Judon now has a career-high in sacks at 10.5 with six games remaining. Judon put his hands up and did a little dance before the reporter finished asking the question, then praised his teammates for creating the opportunities.
“They just put me in a really good position to make those plays, and when my number is called, I have to go out there and make it,” Judon said. “… I’m just 1/11th of the defense.”
He’s 1/11th of a pretty good defense, which has now allowed six, seven, and zero points in its last three games. The Patriots dominated the Falcons with four sacks and four interceptions, including an ugly stretch in the fourth quarter when two back-up Falcons quarterbacks threw interceptions on consecutive plays — the first a pick-six and then an interception that allowed the Patriots kneel out the clock.
“I don’t want to brag too much,” Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson said, “but I feel like we have one of the best defenses in the league right now.”
Jackson — who corralled an interception himself and now trails NFL leader Trevon Diggs by two — continued.
“We have a good pass rush, we have some guys up front who are doing pretty good this season, and the secondary always been pretty good,” Jackson said. “And we’re starting to build our chemistry defensively.”
Judon was asked about Jackson’s proclamation.
“We’ve got to play like that every week,” Judon said. “We have to believe that every week, and we have to play like that every week. It don’t matter what anybody think as long as we think that. So y’all do the numbers, y’all do all that stuff, but we have to play with confidence, extreme confidence, and prepare to not let anybody score.”
More from Patriots postgame
– Kyle Van Noy finished with a pair of sacks, in addition as a 35-yard pick-six.
“It’s fun to play a game like that,” he said. “Those are the kind of games you dream about as a kid. I go back to when I had some troubles in high school where I was in juvenile at any rate, had some dark times, and then got a second chance to do things the right way. I try to take complete advantage. The man upstairs is looking out.
“I’m here this day because I didn’t put my head down. I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. It was very slim. I’m working to be a better man, better friend, better brother, better husband, better day, but I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to quit.”
– The lone touchdown of the game the Patriots’ offense managed to push by was a 19-yard pass from Mac Jones to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Agholor could not have found himself much more wide open.
“I think everybody else ran really great routes,” Agholor said. “So the zone or that area was open for me. And I took advantage of it.”
– Agholor said the Patriots are maintaining the mindset they found when they started the season 2-4.
“You have to be hungry,” he said. “… It’s underdog mentality, it’s a fighter’s mentality. You aim harder when you’re 2-4.you work harder when you’re 2-4, you pay attention to detail a little more when you are 2-4. So I’ll embrace it for sure.”
Running back Damien Harris said the real goal was improvement.
“It’s not really about our record,” he said. “clearly the beginning of the season didn’t start the way we wanted to. Week after week, we’ve progressed and we continued to get better, so why stop now? It doesn’t matter that we are 7-4 right now. It didn’t matter that we were 2-4 before. As long as we keep grinding, we keep moving forward, we keep progressing, every week we show up with the mentality to get better day in and day out, prepare the way that we need to and continue to enhance. That’s our goal.”
– How will Mac Jones enjoy a few additional days off after playing a Thursday game?
“Just get home, watch the film and then relax with my family and just keep watching film,” he said.
– Both Jones and Devin McCourty profusely praised the offensive and defensive lines respectively.
“They looked great out there,” Jones said. “They know who they are blocking. It’s cool to see them working together. … They’ve jelled really well, and I feel comfortable in the pocket with what they are doing. Some of those sacks tonight had nothing to do with them. That was me and issues I can fix by communication. They’ve done a great job.”
“We know that’s something we rely on,” McCourty additional. “clearly not just as a defense, offense, and defense. Our O-line and D-line take a lot of pride in trying to rule the line of scrimmage, and I think the games we’ve won and the games that went well for us, that’s what you see. You see our O-line and D-line really control the game up front, and from that, it really opens up the rest of the game.”
– Jones threw just his second interception in the Patriots’ last five games (all of which were wins). After a spectacular throw and catch to Hunter Henry on the play before in the third quarter, Jones launched a pass intended for Jonnu Smith down the field, but A.J. Terrell picked it off.
“It’s first down and you never want to throw an interception on first down in the high red zone,” Jones said. “So I’ll have to watch it and see what happened, but the guy made a good play. The line gave me enough time, it was just a bad throw and a poor read.”
– Mac Jones didn’t make playing in Thursday Night Football games sound like much fun.
“It’s a once-a-year thing or at any rate,” Jones said. “So it’s definitely a learning experience. It’s not going to be perfect but like I said, we were just trying to win, and we got a chance to do that tonight, so it was great.”
David Andrews was more enthusiastic.
“It’s football, right? If you can’t get up for Thursday Night Football — you’re the only show on TV. How can you not love that? It’s primetime football, and we’re trying to win the next game and build something here. So I think it’s pretty easy to get fired up for a game.”
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