FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots are in the middle of their most important week of preparation of the 2010 regular season, and there will be plenty of Pats-Jets talk to get you through the next few days.
But there are some other things going on that shouldn’t be overlooked. Here are 20 thoughts in this week’s edition of the Two-Minute Drill.
1. Bill Belichick gave the players the day off Wednesday after the team conducted a high-caliber practice Tuesday. Because of the upcoming Monday night game, the whole week was pushed back by a day, and Belichick must have thought an extra day of rest at this point in the season would be more beneficial than five practices leading up to a physical game against the Jets, especially with the short turnaround next week.
2. The Patriots don’t need any extra motivation to beat the Jets this week, but when it comes to potential bulletin-board material, I think the Pats would be much more fired up about wide receiver Braylon Edwards‘ “Dougie” in Week 2 than anything said by head coach Rex Ryan.
3. Speaking of Ryan, he told the New York media his purpose for taking the Jets job was to give Belichick a boot in the rear end, metaphorically speaking, I think. When that message was relayed to Belichick on Tuesday, he replied, “Sure, that’s understandable.” The message, Belichick knew, was Ryan wants to beat the Patriots, and good for him.
5. Here’s a funny — yet, accurate — way to put it: Quarterback Tom Brady missed every single practice last week but still had the second perfect passer rating of his career. The Patriots only had one true practice prior to the Detroit game, and Brady missed it. So, who needs practice? (Kidding.)
6. Belichick predictably declined to comment Monday when he was asked about the videotaping scandal in Denver, and Belichick’s detractors probably rolled their eyes afterward. But think about it, what would Belichick have to gain by commenting on Josh McDaniels and Steve Scarnecchia? By responding, Belichick would open himself up to follow-up questions such as: Why was he fined less than you? Did McDaniels and Scarnecchi do this in New England? It could go on and on and on, so Belichick cut those questions off at the head.
7. Safety Jarrad Page was active against the Lions after missing five games with a left calf injury, but Page didn’t get into the game. Still, he was happy to make more progress. “Everything is coming along as good as possible,” Page said. “It was good to be back last week, having the opportunity to possibly get out there. We’ll see how this week goes, see what happens. … I thought I was able to recover fairly quickly from the injury and get back.”
8. More telling than Wes Welker‘s mighty statistical output against the Lions (offensive players tend to do that in Detroit) were his mobility and comments after the game. First off, Welker just looked like a different, much shiftier player last Thursday than at any point in the season. And second, every player who battles back from a knee injury needs to rediscover their confidence. For the first time this season, Welker, who has been very cautious when commenting about his left knee, said he felt like his old self. That’s a great sign.
9. I spoke with Patriots Hall of Fame linebacker Steve Nelson about Jerod Mayo, and Nelson had some interesting things to say about Mayo’s game. Make sure to check back later Wednesday for that story.
10. By now, you know Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson dropped a game-winning touchdown pass Sunday and then blamed God for it. But Patriots fans might remember Johnson as the guy who caught a touchdown pass in Week 3, practically in garbage time, fired off an air musket and drew a 15-yard celebration penalty. Point is, Johnson, who actually dropped five passes against the Steelers, has a lot of growing up to do, and that drop was on him and no one else.
11. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia deserves a lot of credit for the work he’s done this season, especially while left guard Logan Mankins was out of town. In training camp, the Patriots used Nick Kaczur, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Rich Ohrnberger and Ted Larsen at left guard, and Connolly has started games at both guard positions because of Stephen Neal’s injured shoulder. Yet, the Patriots rank second in rushing touchdowns (13) and 16th in rushing yards (112.5 per game), despite the drastic changes they’ve also had at running back. And Brady has only been sacked 15 times.
12. Belichick discussed why Scarnecchia is such a successful coach. “Dante does a good job with details, a lot of fine coaching points, fundamentals,” Belichick said. “He really teaches the guys how to block from step one, and how to handle all the different schemes that we have and also that we have to see from other teams. Players work hard, [and] they work together. The offensive line is really a combination of the coach, and all the players and the quarterback seeing the same thing at the same time. That’s not easy to do, but that’s what it takes. You can’t really operate independently on the offensive line. You have to know what the guy beside you is doing, and all five of you have to block the five players that you’re accountable for, whatever the play is, run or pass. All the different looks and all the different things that can happen out there, all five of those guys have to see it the same way. And sometimes that works with the backs and certain protections or the tight ends, but certainly those five have to be on the same page, and Dante does a good job preparing them and getting them to that point, whether it be in meetings, walkthroughs, practice, film and so forth.”
13. All of the fighting that occurred at the end of the Pats-Lions game can be attributed to Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy. After Brady’s quarterback sneak, Levy fell very late on Brady on the pile, and he threw a solid elbow into Brady’s helmet. Obviously, the officials didn’t see it, but that is a fineable offense if the league office gets the video.
14. Brady, who was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft, has thrown a personal-best 199 consecutive passes without an interception. Amazingly, that interception came in Week 6 against the Ravens on a Hail Mary at the end of regulation.
15. Here are some other crazy stats. Since Week 7, there have been 166 interceptions thrown in the NFL by 46 different players. Two notable players on that list — Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. And then, the players at the top of that list: Brett Favre (10 interceptions), Drew Brees (nine), Peyton Manning (nine, including seven in the last two weeks) and Carson Palmer (nine).
17. Former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel is also having a good run with the Chiefs. Cassel isn’t a top-tiered MVP candidate, but he should receive some appreciation in the vote if this streak continues. In his last six games, he’s led the Chiefs to a 4-2 record while completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,456 yards, 15 touchdowns and just one interception. His 15 touchdowns are the most in the league in that time.
18. Belichick joined some pretty distinguished company with Thursday’s win in Detroit. Belichick joined former Dallas head coach Tom Landry as the only head coaches since the 1970 merger to record at least 10 consecutive winning seasons with one team. Landry did it for 16 straight seasons from 1970-85.
19. Belichick, whose next loss will be the 100th of his head coaching career, passed Joe Gibbs for 11th all-time with 172 career victories, including the playoffs, and Belichick is two behind Mike Holmgren and 11 behind mentor Bill Parcells.
20. Let’s play a little “what if” to see where Belichick will finish on the all-time list. If the Patriots win six more games this season, including the playoffs, and if Belichick coaches through 2014, which is the last year of Brady’s current contract, and if the Patriots average 13 victories per season (which was their average from 2001-09, including playoff wins) from 2011-14, Belichick will have 230 career wins. That will put him fourth all-time, one win ahead of Curly Lambeau, and then behind Don Shula (347-173-6), George Halas (324-151-31) and Landry (270-178-6). That’s pretty solid, considering Shula, Halas, Landry and Lambeau all coached between one and two decades longer than Belichick, who would reach his 20th season in 2014.