FOXBORO – If you’ve had quite enough of gauzy odes to the genius of Bill Belichick over the years, this story ain’t for you. We do appreciate the click, nonetheless, and pledge to return to our regularly scheduled lampooning of Roger Goodell later in the week.
Until then … are you kidding me? The Patriots took out a 2015 playoff team 27-0 with a third-string quarterback. A team that was 2-0 and stocked with coaches who either coached with or played for Bill Belichick who – you’d figure – would have known that walking onto that field Thursday night was like walking onto a minefield with snowshoes.
And maybe that was part of the problem for the Texans. Instead of the Patriots being at a disadvantage without their future Hall of Fame quarterback and his backup and a limited Rob Gronkowski and no Dont'a Hightower, the uncertainty morphed into an advantage for New England.
PATRIOTS 27, TEXANS 0:
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One that was exploited by a masterful coaching performance and unparalleled three-pronged execution on offense, defense and special teams.
Belichick’s had enough bouquets lobbed at him over the years (along with plenty of hand grenades), so he was very quick to credit everyone around him in the postgame.
“I thought that this whole week our coaching staff, let’s start with them, did a tremendous job. (offensive coordinator) Josh [McDaniels], (defensive coordinator) Matt Patricia, (special teams coach) Joe Judge – did a great job,” Belichick began. “(Quarterbacks coach) Jerry Schuplinski with Jacoby [Brissett], just how hard they worked to prepare the team to get them ready, and then how committed the players were.
“We really asked a lot out of the team this week,” he continued. “They responded. They never batted an eye. We got great leadership from our captains; a lot of our veteran players. Everybody just got on board and stepped up. So, just really proud of the way that these guys competed. . . The coaching staff just did a tremendous job this week. Good to win and we’ll be moving on pretty quickly from this one, but we’ll be able to enjoy it here for a little while. It’s a good win.”
Belichick drew even with famed coach Curly Lambeau with 226 career wins. When a question was posed about that accomplishment, Belichick redirected.
“It’s about our players,” he said, “it’s about our assistant coaches and about the job that they did. I wouldn’t really want anything to deflect the credit that they deserve for what they accomplished tonight.”
OK, if you’ve stuck this far, we’ll take one sideswipe at the NFL’s bureaucratic stuffed shirts who wish Belichick would take his thrift-shop vogue sideline attire and toddle off into retirement.
It’s performances like Thursday night’s that really juxtapose the pettiness and ankle-biting the league’s engaged in with the Patriots for much of the past 15 years with the football excellence that Belichick and the Patriots have come to represent.
The Patriots are the most evolved and intellectually sound football program the sport’s ever seen. Offensively, defensively, in the kicking game, personnel, roster management, game management, execution, they have no peer.
Yet these are the villains the NFL and rival franchises and owners see fit to demonize? It says more about the state of the rest of them that that’s the case than it does about Belichick’s Patriots.
The irony is that, as often as Belichick is described nationally as arrogant and ego-driven, at the core of the Patriots success is selflessness. Annihilation of the ego.
“Coming here, you know they know how to win and they have been winners in the past so it’s like, ‘Well, [expletive], this is what they must do to win so this is what we gotta do,” said tight end Martellus Bennett. “That’s how I look at it. I lost a lot of games and these guys have won a lot of games so they must be doing something right. The way these guys go into every single week, you just kind of fall in. They call it the Patriot Way so you just see how everyone else is doing it and – not to be a sheep – but you just fall in line and do your job.”
It’s not a coincidence that the Patriots covet players who are intelligent, diligent and have leadership skills. Players that may not have eye-popping measurables but who will understand what they are asked to do and trust in the operation.
“Each week, this place, each week we just try to figure out how we can take away their strengths and make them win by beating us with their weaknesses,” said safety Duron Harmon. “The way Coach Belichick does that each week is just amazing because no game plan is alike. No team we play is alike so how we game plan is strictly on each team. One week, you can be out there the whole game then another week, just based off matchups and game plan and how Coach Belichick feels you might not be out there. But the good thing about this team is everyone just wants to win. You know your reps might not be that big this week, they might be big next week but we just come out here, follow the game plan, trust the coaches and try to get the win.
“When that intellectual level kicks in and we’re all on the same page, I don’t want to say it, but it’s scary. It’s scary. We have some great players at every level on this team. Jamie (Collins) had an unbelievable game. He does that nearly every week. We have those type of players who make big impacts. When we’re all communicating and on the same page and talking and pointing it out, communicating, this is a great and fun team and defense to play for.”
Fullback James Develin went to Brown University. He understands the concept of learning and the role it plays in gameday success
“Our coaches do a fantastic job of preparing us for anything that may come up,” he said. “It makes you just feel more confident about everything. You’ve been through it countless times in walkthroughs and the classroom. It’s a really unique thing around here.
“It starts at the top. Everyone understands it’s the Patriot Way and you just fall in line and you just follow the lead and the lead is Coach Belichick and it branches off into offensive and defensive coordinators and then the position coaches and it really is truly incredible.”
Belichick kept deflecting from the podium late Thursday night.
“You know really it’s all about the players,” he said. “It’s all about the players. We gave them a lot of new things. We ran some plays that we haven’t run all year. We put them in and walked through them. We never got a chance to really run them, and a couple of those hit big. Defensively we tried to do some things that we just didn’t even practice them. All we could do was walk through them. It’s just not the same as repping them, but they understood. Again, they’re a smart group. They’re an astute group. They understood how it needed to try and fit against the Texans and then we got out there on the field and they executed it very well tonight. Just a tremendous credit to those guys.”
Said LeGarrette Blount, “In my opinion he’s the greatest coach to ever coach this game so anything he says I’m going to do and I feel like that goes for anybody else on this team. The results, the results speak for themselves.”
Just in case they don’t, this was a story to speak about this particular result. One of the most impressive in a coaching career filled with them.