Belichick studies Pats’ possible playoff opponents
Bill Belichick doesn’t have much time to rest during the
Patriots’ bye. He’ll study ways to improve his own team and beat
three potential playoff opponents.
Just as he’s done so many times before.
New England’s coach won’t know until late Sunday afternoon who
his team will host the following Saturday night in the divisional
round, Cincinnati, Indianapolis or Kansas City.
”We can maybe do some preliminary work, but there’s a good
chance that if we work on all those teams,” Belichick said, ”then
two-thirds of it is going to be, I don’t want to say a waste of
time, but a waste of time for the moment.”
So he’ll also review recent games of the Patriots (12-4), who
have a first-round bye for the eighth time in his 14 seasons as
”It starts with just the Patriots,” Belichick said.
They’ll face Cincinnati if the Bengals beat the San Diego
Chargers on Sunday. Otherwise, they’ll play the winner of
Saturday’s game between Indianapolis and Kansas City. The Patriots
lost to the Bengals 13-6 after winning their first four games this
season. They haven’t played the Colts or the Chiefs this year.
Whoever they face, defensive end Chandler Jones knows the
Patriots will have to be even more disciplined than usual.
During the postseason, ”mistakes can’t be just limited, but
they have to be eliminated,” he said.
The Patriots clinched the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with
a 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills on a rainy Sunday. LeGarrette
Blount set a franchise record with 334 all-purpose yards by rushing
for 189 and returning two kickoffs for 145. He also ran for two
touchdowns for the second straight game.
The four-year veteran is one of several key players who are in
the playoffs for the first time.
Three rookie draft picks started against the Bills – cornerback
Logan Ryan, safety Duron Harmon and linebacker Jamie Collins. And
two 23-year-olds who had joined the Patriots as free agents, Chris
Jones and Sealver Siliga, started the game at defensive tackle.
”I almost think it’s a good thing that we’re a young team
because sometimes these guys don’t know any better,” special teams
captain Matthew Slater said. ”Who knows? Maybe if we were an older
team, it would be like, `Oh, man, I’ve been in this situation
before and it hasn’t gone well.’ With these young guys, they just
keep their nose down, they keep grinding, they bring a lot of
energy, they’re dedicated to what they’ve been asked to do.”
They’ve gotten their chances because of season-ending injuries
to defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and linebacker
Jerod Mayo. Two starters in the secondary, safety Devin McCourty
and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, were sidelined against the
Perhaps the biggest unexpected contribution for the Patriots
came from Julian Edelman. Getting a chance to play more after wide
receiver Wes Welker left as a free agent for Denver, Edelman caught
105 passes. In his other four seasons, he totaled just 69.
”It’s cool and everything, but you really go out and you play
for other things,” he said, ”like playing in the last game of the
year and winning that game. We put ourselves in an opportunity to
go one step closer to that.”
The Patriots had a bye last season, beat Houston 41-28 in the
divisional round then lost the AFC championship game to Baltimore
28-13 in Foxborough.
In the offseason, they traded with Tampa Bay for Blount. Like
many of his teammates, he provided a surprising boost.
”It’s so hard to know how it’s all going to turn out,”
Belichick said. ”Of course, it’s good to see that guys that you’ve
brought in have been able to fit in, not all of them obviously, but
some of them have been able to fit in and contribute. It’s a long
process and one that takes a lot of different twists and
But the Patriots ended up where they usually do, in the
”It’s a good spot to be in, but we’ve got to go out there and
take advantage of it,” quarterback Tom Brady said. ”Anything can
happen if you don’t go out there and give it your best. We’re going
to try to be our best in a few weeks.”
NOTES: The Patriots made three practice squad moves, signing
offensive lineman R.J. Mattes and linebacker Taylor Reed and
releasing offensive lineman R.J. Dill. … In Robert Kraft’s 20
years as owner, the Patriots have made the playoffs 15 times and
are 20-11 with six Super Bowl appearances, including three
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org