Patriots

Belichick: Patriots benefited from rare padded practice

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Belichick: Patriots benefited from rare padded practice

Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a comment during his postgame press conference that stood out as a bit of a change from the norm. He liked the way his team had practiced in the days leading up to New England's 27-6 win over the Texans on Sunday night, and he decided to highlight the effort his players showed him.

"Well, first of all I am real proud of our team this week," he said. "It was a tough week. I thought we competed hard all week, in terms of preparation, on the practice field, we practiced in pads and worked on a lot of fundamental things and those guys had a great attitude about it."

Belichick pointed out that the Patriots worked out in pads in part because that's a rarity for this time of year. 

Since the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and NFLPA was signed back in 2011, all NFL teams have been permitted just 14 fully-padded practices during the regular season. Teams are allowed one per week through the first 11 weeks of the season. After that, teams have to pick their spots as to when they ramp up contact. 

After consecutive losses to the Broncos and Eagles, the Patriots opted to use one of their remaining padded practices on Wednesday of last week. They had struggled on special teams, their pass protection had broken down, and their tackling had been sloppy at times. 

What better time to do some full-contact fine-tuning?

Players could have complained or gone half-speed, Belichick explained, by they approached the challenge with a certain zeal and became a better team for it. 

"You put on pads at the end of the season . . . Look, nobody's 100 percent this time of the year on our team or on any other team you play," Belichick said. "That's football. It takes a toll on everybody. So it's certainly the more comfortable way just to not have contact during the week -- which we're forced to do that the majority of the time anyway in terms of padded contact -- so not having that during the week, and when you do have it, then sometimes players can look at it as we're sore, we're banged up, [and take an] I-wish-we-weren't-doing-it type of attitude.

"But I think that our guys went out there and they worked hard. When we practiced on Wednesday, we definitely got better. We improved in a lot of the areas that fundamentally we were trying to address. I think that showed up in the game. It certainly wasn't perfect. I'm not trying to say that. But I thought that [it was] a hard week of preparation both on and off the field, and pushing each other.  Not just each individual preparing separately, but preparing and adjusting with his teammates, and getting on the same page on communication and adjustments and how to handle certain situations. Especially against a team like Houston -- that defensively has a lot of great players and gives you a lot of looks, and offensively can play at a fast tempo and force tough communication situations -- our players did a good job of that all week."

Belichick said he felt confident in the week of work his team had put together long before their drubbing of the Texans, but he was pleased to see that work pay dividends. 

"I told them that before the game, so it wasn't an after-the-fact thing," Belichick said. "I knew we had a good week of practice, and I knew we prepared hard, and I was just glad to see it show it last night. They got out what they put into that game. That was certainly a lot better than what we did last week."

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

The Patriots will face the Detroit Lions Sunday night in the Pats latest matchup against a former Bill Belichick assistant. The Lions hired Matt Patricia after the defensive guru spent 14 seasons under Belichick in New England. But so far, Patricia and the Lions are off to a rough start (0-2), and it could get worse -- it's been well-established that former Belichick pupils have struggled against the Patriots. 

TOM E. CURRAN'S HARD TRUTHS

But what about Tom Brady against Patriots assistants-turned-head coaches? Patricia will be the fifth former coach Brady will face, joining Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Bill O'Brien, and Josh McDaniels. Patricia will join Mangini and Crennel as former defensive coordinators to scheme against Brady, while O'Brien and McDaniels went from calling plays for Brady to trying to stop him. Who has the advantage, Brady or his coaches?

VS. ERIC MANGINI

Belichick first discovered Mangini as a ball boy in Cleveland. Mangini eventually became New England's defensive coordinator for a season before accepting the head coaching job with the New York Jets. Because he was in the AFC East, Brady played Mangini the most of any former coach. Brady and the Pats went 4-2 in the regular season and 1-0 in the postseason against Mangini's Jets. Mangini's defenses picked Brady four times in those six games, but Brady still threw nine touchdowns. He completed 116 of his 190 pass attempts (61 percent) for 1,346 yards.

As head coach of the Browns in 2010, Mangini's team beat Brady and the Pats 34-14 for one of their five victories that season. Brady went 19-for-36 for 224 yards and two TDs in that game.

VS. ROMEO CRENNEL

The defensive coordinator for the Patriots' first three Super Bowl champion squads had no answers for Brady and the New England offense in a matchup against the Browns in 2007. The 2007 NFL MVP completed 22 of 38 passing attempts (58 percent) for 265 yards, three TDs, and zero interceptions. 

VS. BILL O'BRIEN

Bill O'Brien called plays for the Patriots from 2009 to 2011, but is probably most known in New England for his infamous yelling match with Brady on the sidelines during a game in 2011. O'Brien is now in his fifth season as the coach of the Houston Texans and his defenses -- which, for the record, have been very good -- have had absolutely no success against Brady. The Patriots are 3-0 in regular-season games and 1-0 in the postseason when Brady starts against O'Brien. Brady threw for 1,168 yards in those four games, completing 91 of 142 passes (64 percent) and throwing 12 TDs and just three interceptions. 

VS. JOSH MCDANIELS

McDaniels, who is in his second stint as the Patriots offensive coordinator, has a great relationship with Brady, as shown in Brady's Facebook docu-series Tom vs. Time. But in 2009, the two faced off against each other when in McDaniels' first season as Broncos head coach. McDaniels got the win in overtime, but Brady played solid. He was 19 of 33 (58 percent) for 215 yards, with two TDs and no picks. 

OVERALL

It's been business as usual for Brady against his former coaches, with a record of 8-3 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs. In those 13 games, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,218 yards, 28 TDs and seven interceptions. Brady will look to continue his success against Patricia this weekend, as the Patriots look to get back on track with a win.

-- Will Lefkovich

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