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New England Patriots Happy About Winning, Even if Fans Are Not



New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe speaks during a news conference following an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Pittsburgh. The Patriots won 21-18. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

With the New England Patriots 21-18 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night came some mixed emotions from fans. A contingency of fans root for their team to win under any circumstances. However, it appears the majority of the Patritos fans this season are rooting for a high draft pick in the 2024 NFL Draft even more. But if the fans have divided opinions on the benefits of a 3-10 team winning games, the players do not. New England’s personnel is unanimous in their desire to keep piling up victories.

“It’s awesome” said quarterback Bailey Zappe. “Great to win, and a great feeling.” Fans rooting for losses are likely hoping for a new quarterback in New England in 2024. Those goals run contrary to those of the current starting QB. Nobody blames Bailey Zappe if losing games is not his top priority. “For right now, we’re going to celebrate this one.”

Earlier this season, when it was clear the Patriots would not be a contender in 2023, the reasons why New England would not be tanking games was discussed. Chief among these reasons was that professional athletes do not tank. Their careers are too short, unpredictable, and there is too much at stake for them personally with what is happening now. They also put too much work into their profession to be satisfied with losing. And, as everybody knows, losing is no fun.

“You have fun by winning. That’s what’s fun,” said captain David Andrews. “I look at the years I had the most fun; it was the year’s we were most successful.”

This season will not wind up as one of those years for the two-time Super Bowl champion even if the Patriots win out the rest of the way. But just because a Super Bowl is no longer a reality for this year’s team, it does not take away from the satisfaction of winning games.

Deatrich Wise is another team captain with a pair of Super Bowl rings on his resume. He was also happy to get back to what he had come to know in New England.

“It’s a really good feeling,” said Wise. “This is how it should feel every week.” But Wise doesn’t want Thursday night’s success to be the season’s last celebration by any means. “Our goal is to get more wins,” he explained. “I don’t care how the record looks. Our goal is to always get in the win column.”

“It’s friggin’ awesome,” was Jahlani Tavai’s description of how it felt to get back in the win column. He was far from alone in this sentiment.

“Gosh, it feels good man,” said Hunter Henry, one of the game’s stars with two touchdown receptions. “It’s been a hard stretch, hard year. Not been what we wanted at all. But this is a great step in the right direction.” The tight end added, “coming out with a win is huge.”

Along with job, came feelings of relief to put an end to the New England Patriots five-game losing streak. JuJu Smith-Schuster expressed this in regard to beating his former Steelers teams

“I appreciate our defense, our coaching staff and our team for going out there and fighting and getting this W,” Smith-Schuster exclaimed. He added, “So much relief for a lot of the guys. Just super excited to keep this going.”

Safety Jabrill Peppers expressed happiness for head coach Bill Belichick after the win.

“We needed it. I just feel good we could get it done for Bill (Belichick) and the rest of the coaches.” Peppers elaborated on his feeling for Belichick. “I don’t really like all the flak he’s been getting, because it’s on us as players to go out and execute. I personally feel like the game plan has been phenomenal week in and week out. And when we had opportunities to make plays, we didn’t make them. But we made enough tonight.”

Bill Belichick returned the favor, expressing happiness for the players. While he did appreciate Peppers comments about him, it was not what brought him job in victory.

“What I appreciate is the players and their effort and commitment to what the coaching staff has asked them to do,” Belichick explained. “The preparation, the training, the resilience, and determination to improve, to get things right, to make things better. And that’s what I appreciate about team, our players, our coaching staff.”

But even New England’s stoic head coach had to admit, “certainly nice to be on the higher end of the score.”

Despite the win, the New England Patriots position in the 2024 NFL Draft was not affected. They entered the game against Pittsburgh with the number two pick in the draft. They continue to own the second selection after their victory. But if more success is not well-received by Patriots fans online, it certainly appears it won’t dampen the celebration in the locker room. After all, these players and coaches put in the hours to try and win. They should enjoy it, even if others do not.