It had to be frustrating for the Patriots.
Second-year defensive tackle Malcom Brown was in the middle of one of the most productive stretches of his young career, similar to the one he put together at the end of last season.
Then, according to ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss, he was late to a meeting last week. That earned him a seat on the Patriots bench for most of their 41-3 drubbing of the Jets on Saturday.
Brown saw a career-low 16 snaps before the Christmas Eve matchup was over, and all 16 came in the fourth quarter with the outcome already in hand.
After the game Belichick called the decision to bench Brown a coach's decision, and on a conference call on Tuesday, he expressed some level of discouragement that Brown has not been more consistent this season.
Since the Patriots bye week, Brown has recorded 11 quarterback hurries, two hits, a sack and 10 run-stuffs, according to Pro Football Focus.
"Malcom’s had some good moments," Belichick said. "We're just looking really for more consistency there."
In Brown's absence against the Jets, rookie defensive tackle Vincent Valentine earned his first pro start and played in 41 snaps.
"Well, I think Vince is improving," Belichick said. "He’s still got a ways to go. There are a lot of things he is working on, he’s gotten better at, but it’s a different game in there. Especially for us where we play guys like him in different spots. Sometimes he’s on the center, sometimes he’s in the gap, sometimes he’s on the guard, sometimes he’s in a three-technique. He’s making progress. He’s coming along."
If both players could somehow step up their games to match that of veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch, Belichick explained, they'd be just fine.
"Branch has been by far our most consistent defensive tackle," Belichick said. "The other guys can shoot to get up to his level."
Branch has started all 15 games this season, playing 60 percent of the snaps. He's racked up two sacks, one quarterback hit, 14 hurries, 29 run-stuffs and one pass defensed in his 10th season, per PFF.