Phil Perry

How much is playing for Belichick a motivating factor for Pats players?

David Andrews, Matthew Slater, and Jabrill Peppers have voiced their support for their head coach.

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FOXBORO -- When David Andrews walked into the visitor's locker room in Denver after beating the Broncos on Christmas Eve, he saw his head coach, went in for a hug, and told him, "We tried to do it for you tonight."

Even at 4-11, during what has turned into a lost season, it's clear Bill Belichick has his supporters in the Patriots locker room. It could be Andrews, another longtime captain in Matthew Slater, or a relative newcomer in Jabrill Peppers.

"I'm someone who has not lost sight of what Coach Belichick has meant to this organization, to this league," Slater said earlier this month when asked about the speculation surrounding Belichick's future. "Certainly have not lost sight of his accomplishments. Nor soon will I. It is what it is. We can't worry about it."

After beating the Steelers a few weeks ago, Peppers -- who doesn't have the history Slater and Andrews do with Belichick -- also made it sound as though winning for Belichick meant something to him.

"I just feel good we could get it done for Bill," Peppers said following the team's third victory of the year. "And the rest of the coaches. They try to put us in the right place to make plays, and we did enough to win tonight...

"I don't really like all the flak [Belichick] has been getting. 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. When we had the opportunity to make plays, we didn't make them. But we made enough tonight."

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That feeling for Belichick is stronger in some corners of the room than others, though. For at least a couple of other vets in the Patriots locker room, it's the pull of playing for their teammates that motivates them more than winning for an embattled coach. 

"No, I feel like we play for each player in this locker room," Lawrence Guy said when asked if he felt the way Andrews did after the win last weekend. 

"You have a number on this team, you're playing for that number on this team. You're playing for that person's last name, their legacy. All of it's combined. Everybody has their certain reasons why they're doing certain things, but for me, I'm playing for the person next to me as they're playing for the person beside them."

Asked if the "flak" -- as Peppers put it -- Belichick has taken is in any way a driving force for him on game days, Guy said, "No, I've got my own problems."

"We all got our own things," Guy added. "I think the players do the best they can individually in the way they come here and compete and enjoy the experience that we have. You truly think about it, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sometimes we take it for granted.

"... You have to kind of soak it in and realize this is not an easy thing to accomplish no matter what your position is and that you have to embrace it every time you play."

When asked if playing well for Belichick is a motivating factor, Davon Godchaux said he didn't know what the future held for Belichick. But he also explained that one of his primary inspirations was to help his teammates be the best versions of themselves down the stretch.

"I don't know what's going to happen (with Belichick)," he said. "That's a good question, playing for Bill. I don't know what's going to happen. But I'm more so playing for myself, playing for pride, playing for my brothers, my teammates, because these guys, they bust it each and every day out at practice and work hard. I'm more so playing for them. 

"But at the end of the day, Bill's the coach. [Andrews] has a better relationship -- he's been playing with Bill for I don't know, a longer time than me. He would know better than I. At the end of the day, I'm just going out there playing for pride and playing for my brothers."

Whether it's their head coach, their teammates, their families, or their next job opportunity, there's plenty for the Patriots to play for when they head to Buffalo this weekend.

You can add to those the opportunity to play spoiler in their penultimate regular-season game. At 9-6, the Bills still have an outside shot at overtaking the Dolphins and winning the division, but a loss to New England would take them out of the running for the AFC East crown.

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