FOXBORO, MA — After an 0-2 start the Patriots now find themselves at 3-3 and will be looking to give Bill Belichick his first winning record as head coach of New England this weekend when they head to Denver to take on the Broncos.
After showing remarkable improvement since their disappointing start, Belichick spoke with his team on Wednesday and told them that there is a reason why they’ve improved, and he’s hoping they can continue making the same progress.
“What I told the team today was basically [they need to understand] why we won 3-of-our-last-4 and why we’ve improved, and that’s because we’re a better football team,” said Belichick. “We’re playing better. Why are we playing better? Because we’re practicing better and because we’re more aware of some situations and we have a better understanding [of them].”
“Our execution is better. If we continue to work like we have since the start of the offseason program, training camp, if we continue to work at that pace then we’ll continue to make progress.”
“[If] we think that we’ve arrived because we’re 3-3 and won one game on the road, big deal, then we won’t improve and we won’t be where we want to be.”
One concern that was pointed out two weeks ago by quarterback Tom Brady was how poorly the team practiced prior to their 30-10 loss to Miami. Brady later retracted his statements but regardless of what was said, the theory is still true. Preparation for an opponent begins on Wednesday and a good practice generally ends up leading to a good performance.
A bad one can generally lead to just the opposite.
“One of the things we talked about in training camp, and I talked to the team about a number of times is having a bad day,” said Belichick. “You just should never have a bad day. You might have a bad play, you might make a mistake, but it can’t turn into a bad day.”
“Bad Wednesday’s become bad Thursdays, bad Thursday’s become bad Fridays, and bad Friday’s become bad Sundays. You get to that point in practice where a guy jumps offsides, a guy drops a pass, or something happens like that. But the team needs to respond to that right there, and not make this a bad practice. We had a bad play, but we’re not having a bad carry and we’re not having a bad practice.”
“It’s a process that good football teams go through and that’s our target. That’s where we want to be, consistent day after day, week after week, and that will provide success over the year.”
Whether it’s a big satisfying victory or a disappointing defeat, the most important thing each individual player should do is maintain a consistent work ethic. Regardless of the outcome of the game it’s important that they are able to put that game behind them and move on to the next. Belichick calls this whole routine a “funeral”, where each week the players give their respects to what happened the week before and moves on. After the Miami game they even reportedly buried the ball to help try and put the game behind them.
“I think regardless of what happens on Sunday, you have to get rid of that game by Monday night,” said Belichick. “The coaches have to get rid of it, the players have to get rid of it.”
“It’s just like when we loss to Miami, it was just symbolic [by us] burying the ball. But the whole idea of having the funeral, paying our respects and moving on, that’s what we did. I think win or lose you have to do the same thing. We’ve got to bury the ball from Indianapolis just like we had to bury it from Miami, because that game won’t have any impact at all on this one.”
The Patriots now find themselves in a strange place, and that is in the middle of contention for their division which was something they haven’t experienced in a couple of years. They’ve been on both ends of big victories as well as disappointing defeats. So far they’ve been able to bounce back and continue making progress, and hopefully they can keep that going for the remainder of the season.
“Guys strike out, but they come back in hit home runs,” said Belichick. “That’s what it’s about. But when one strikeout leads to a pop up, and that leads to another strikeout, and that leads to when you finally get on base getting picked off, that’s a lack of mental toughness.”
“That’s a lack of usually of preparation and consistency, and there’s no way to win without that, not at this level.”