Bill Belichick usually likes to keep the New England Patriots on the level. Talk to him after a double-digit rout, and he'll tell you about an offsides penalty or a mistake they made on special teams.
But Belichick opted to use Sunday's 54-13 demolition of the New York Jets as an opportunity to pump up his team even further.
"I really have a lot of respect for these guys," Belichick said Monday on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show." "They come to work every day. We’ve improved every day, really every week. We’re far from perfect and far from where we need to be, but we’re heading in the right direction."
The Patriots are 3-4 and have yet to beat a team with more than one win. Their victories came against the Jets (twice) and the now-1-6 Houston Texans. They lost tight contests to two quality teams in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, however, and Belichick apparently likes the way his team has competed in 2021.
"Again, I have a lot of respect -- the guys have had a couple of weeks where it’s been tough, but they've showed a lot of mental toughness and resilience to keep showing up and working hard and getting better," Belichick said. "That's what you want as a coach to see your team work hard and improve. And they’ve done that."
You would have been hard-pressed to hear Belichick praise a 3-4 team just two years ago, when New England was a perennial Super Bowl contender with Tom Brady under center. But after last year's 7-9 campaign with Cam Newton and some early growing pains under rookie quarterback Mac Jones in 2021, it's safe to say expectations have changed in Foxboro.
The Patriots still have plenty of time to turn things around, too: They're just 1.5 games behind the 4-2 Buffalo Bills in the AFC East with more than half of their season remaining.
Then again, the 4-2 Los Angeles Chargers will present a much stiffer challenge next Sunday than the lowly Jets. So, perhaps Belichick is trying the opposite approach of boosting his team's confidence while it's already high, with the hope that Sunday's momentum will carry over into Los Angeles in Week 8.