By: Ian Logue
Excellence. That’s what head coach Bill Belichick demands from any player who plays in New England.
For some players, it works. For others, it doesn’t work out so well. That’s why as the Patriots won their eighth game of the year, Belichick seemed to appreciate the fact that despite all the adversity his team has battled through this season, they gave him the effort he hoped they would during their 38-20 win over the Eagles on Sunday.
Belichick said after their win over the Eagles that he was pleased with the effort his team gave leading up to Sunday’s game. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
“The players had a short week, we were banged up, tough game against Kansas City,” said Belichick after Sunday’s win. “We had some guys that weren’t able to play obviously, and other guys that played banged up. So give the players a lot of credit for sucking it up. Not just physically being out there, but mentally, all the preparation, the film work, the studying that they did, the extra meetings and everything that they did to really try to prepare for this game.
“Absolutely it was a great effort by the players and the assistant coaches too. It’s a tough week on them when you’ve only got six days, you’ve got a holiday right in the middle of it. Like you said, you’re all the road and all that. But that’s the NFL schedule. Those guys did a good job, they deserve a lot of credit.”
New England got down early, giving up a 58 yard reception on Philadelphia’s third play from scrimmage which helped set up the Eagles first touchdown. They then gave up a 44 yard reception on Philadelphia’s next offensive series that lead to a field goal to increase the lead to 10-0.
For most teams, it could have meant the beginning of a long afternoon. For Belichick’s team, they simply needed time to get a feel for what Philadelphia was giving them so that they could adjust and start making plays.
“I think overall we did a great job of just staying composed on the sideline and making sure we made the right adjustments once we came to the sideline to what Philly was doing to us,” said Deion Branch after the game. “Once we settled down we realized what they were doing, now we can go out and attack the way we should, and pretty much what we planned on doing for our game plan.”
That’s exactly what they did. They put together a 12-play drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis to cut the Eagles lead to 10-7, followed by another touchdown drive on their ensuing possession to go up for good at 14-10.
Belichick gave all the credit to his players for the turnaround, including quarterback Tom Brady, who he says did a great job of ‘pushing the issue’ against Philadelphia after figuring out the match-ups he felt they could take advantage of.
“I think Tom did a good job of really pressing the issue,” said Belichick. “He felt like we had them on the run a little bit with some of the empty stuff and some of our match-ups. We felt good about our running game too, but we just felt like we had some match-ups we could take advantage of.
“Tom just kept pressing it, and he took the guys that were open, I mean everybody got involved there. That’s what Tom does best, he finds the open guy, puts the ball on the money and he did it many times today.”
By the time it was over, Belichick found his team on the right side of an 18 point victory that really wasn’t even that close. Now here they are, 1-0 after the Thanksgiving holiday, which Belichick would likely be the first to admit is the toughest stretch heading into the final weeks of the season.
Granted the goal is to get five more wins just like them to get to where they want to be. However, despite all the naysayers who question their talent, he certainly appears to believe in the guys he’s got who have helped them achieve an 8-3 record. After another big win Belichick said he’s pleased with the effort they’re giving each week as they try to finish out the season strong over the next month.
“They’ve given good effort,” said Belichick. “I think they’re trying to do the things we tell them to do. I think sometimes we’ve got to do it better. We can coach better, we can have things maybe a little cleaner for them. But I think they’re trying to do their part in terms of physically and mentally, day after day, week after week, be consistent, be dependable and do what we ask them to do.
“I know we demand a lot, this isn’t an easy place to play and I’m not an easy guy to play for, but they have tried to respond and I give them a lot of credit for that.”