FOXBORO -- We won't write a blog post each and every time former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi goes on a podcast or a television program or a radio show and makes some comment about the team for which he used to work. Promise.
But this will be one of those blog posts because it directly relates back to something coach Bill Belichick was asked on Friday morning.
During Lombardi's weekly interview with WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Lombardi made mention of his belief that this weekend's game between the Patriots and Niners will serve as a good indicator of where the New England defense -- and its intensity level -- sits at the moment.
"I think this game is more about the Patriots," Lombardi said. "I think we're in November, we're before Thanksgiving, I think the Patriots need to figure out how they're going to play better defense. And it starts to playing with emotion. Defense is all predicated on playing with emotion and playing with some passion, and I don't see that on the field.
"I think most fans would agree that when you watch the Patriots play defense, it's more lethargic. You can't get your tempo, you can't get your enthusiasm [or] intensity from the offense. You can't rely on the offense to do that. I think it's time that the Patriots defense start to play with some emotion and passion . . . When you have a kind of swagger like Seattle does, you see them have some confidence because they've made some plays."
With that comment, Lombardi trampled what was already well-trodden ground.
Since dropping last Sunday night's game to the Seahawks, myriad questions have surrounded the Patriots defense. Most of them concern the intangible: On this very website, we've published articles and videos that have taken a look at the leadership on that side of the ball, and the energy with which defensive players have played.
Is there anything that can be done for those areas to be impacted in a positive way? Are there issues with those areas at all? It can be a difficult thing to grasp, but Belichick was asked a question on that very topic during his press conference Friday morning.
Looking at the identity of this team at this point in the season, Belichick was asked, do you think this team needs more swagger, more of an edge?
"Yeah, I don’t really know what that means, so I can’t answer the question," Belichick said. "I’m just trying to win games. I’m not trying to create, I don’t know, I don’t know what the identity is.
"The identity I’d like to have is a team that wins a lot of games. We’ve had some of that around here, so I’ll take that rather than being known as a, ‘this kind of team’ or a ‘that kind of team.’ I think if you’re a smart, tough football team that wins games, that’s what you want to be. The rest of it, I don’t really know what that means."
Belichick's opinion of the word swagger hasn't changed, it seems, in 14 years.
In Michael Holley's book "Patriot Reign," the author relayed an anecdote from one Patriots team meeting back in 2002, the season after they captured their first Super Bowl title. At that point, the Patriots were 3-3, and Belichick was frustrated with his team's attention to detail. He was also fed up with some of the things he was seeing players say in the media about recapturing the attitude they had during the championship season.
"I've read a couple of comments," Belichick started. "Now, I don't spend a lot of time reading the paper. I really don't. But I do watch a little about what we say and what we think. I've seen a couple comments here, some of the players talking about we need to get our 'swagger' back. Our attitude back . . .
"You know what? We didn't have a 'swagger' last year. If you [expletive] think about it, we didn't have a swagger. What we had was a sense of urgency, a sense of urgency about playing well, being smart, and captializing on every opportunity and situation that came our way . . . It wasn't about a [expletive] swagger. You can take that swagger and shove it up your [expletive], okay?"
So . . . we know that he knows what the word means. And we know what he thinks of it. And we can infer that what he really cares about is attention to detail, to execution. Though Belichick and Lombardi share ideas on a multitude of football philosophies, in this instance, it sounds as though their interpretations of what's plaguing the Patriots defense at the moment don't exactly line up.