FOXBORO --- Bill Belichick’s Patriots weren’t playing their best game Sunday, not by a long shot,. However, they were still seemingly in control of the Dolphins, leading by double digits for the better part of the afternoon.
Almost from jump, quarterback Tom Brady was under siege, taking one hard hit after another. It was a throwback to the first month or so of the season when the Pats offensive line had difficulties keeping their most valuable player upright and - eventually - in one piece.
True to form, Brady stood in there and took it, delivering the goods despite the punishment. No question it wore on him at points - Brady threw only his 3rd interception of the season - but still finished with 227 yards passing and 4 touchdowns.
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“I definitely took some shots,” said Brady. “They're a tough d-line. They've obviously made a lot of investments in that group and those guys play really hard. You're right, they got some good shots on me today but I'll be back at it and be ready to go Wednesday.”
As the game wore on, and the Dolphins seems to be taking some liberties both during and after the play. Social media - and a few in the press box - believed it might be best for Brady to put on a baseball cap and let Brian Hoyer finish up the game. One reporter decided to pose that question to Belichick in his postgame press conference. It went as you would expect…
Were there any thoughts about taking Brady out of the game late with the score out of hand?
“What – on the kneel downs? What difference does it make?” the coach wondered.
The question continued. Before that. Belichick contorted his face and had at it.
“No. I mean it’s easy for you to sit there and say the game is out of hand. I mean, if you watch games in the National Football League, a lot can change in a hurry,” he scolded. “The only time I think the game is in hand is when they’re not going to have enough possessions to get the number of points that they need. Sorry, we just see that one totally differently.”
Thus ended the exchange, but reopened a debate that has been had many a time during the Belichick era. Should Belichick be more protective of Brady?
The answer now is no. It’s always been no.
Brady’s backups don’t tend to get many snaps, even in lopsided games - anyone remember the 2007-08 season? - and nothing has changed, not even with Brady turning 40 before the season started. No, this is the way Belichick coaches. He keeps his QB in late, has his starters take snaps on special teams from wire-to-wire (Rob Gronkowski broke his arm on an extra point once in a one-sided game with the Colts) and continually insists that no one player is bigger than any other. That might not be entirely accurate, but Belichick is sticking with his story until he tells us otherwise. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.