FOXBORO, Mass. — LeGarrette Blount was understandably speechless after watching New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the man he calls “the greatest coach to ever coach this game,” prepare a rookie quarterback on four days rest to beat the previously undefeated Houston Texans 27-0.
Trust in Belichick might be at an all-time high right now. And that’s saying something. Belichick is 188-69 in his tenure with the Patriots, and so far this season he’s led them to a 3-0 start without Tom Brady. On Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, it was young pup Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.
“You tell me what it says about him,” Blount answered when asked about Belichick’s preparation.
“Obviously he’s been coaching this game for a long time,” Blount said after a long pause. “In my opinion he’s the greatest coach to ever coach this game, so I’m going to continue to do everything he says. The plans fall in place. The only way we stray is if we don’t do what he says. Obviously he’s the head coach for a reason.”
On Thursday night that meant believing in Belichick when the Patriots took the field with one quarterback — a rookie — when Jimmy Garoppolo was injured and Tom Brady was suspended. It meant putting the Patriots’ best cornerback on the Texans’ second best wide receiver, and their second-best cornerback on Houston’s best receiver. It meant continuing to pound the run game even when it wasn’t working early in the game. It meant dialing up deep throws from Brissett when short passes and handoffs would kill the clock. It meant running option plays — the type you’d find on high school fields in Massachusetts.
Not everything Belichick does always makes sense on face value, but the Patriots know better than to fight it.
“I think it’s complete buy-in,” defensive end Chris Long said after the win. “Guys are all willing to work and be selfless. Whatever they’re asked to do, we do it. That’s a fun locker room to be a part of.”
The Patriots preach next man up, but that only works when the second- or third-stringer is just as well prepared as the starters.
“I don’t think anyone blinks an eye on whoever’s out there,” cornerback Logan Ryan said. “At corner, at quarterback, at running back, guys continue to step up year after year. We talk about it every year with injuries, and I think it’s the system. I think it’s the coaching, and guys wanting to be coached. Jacoby did a great job with scout team quarterback early in the year, and then him going against our defense, making us better makes him better and then all those extra reps he gets after practice on our offense, they paid off. I think the coaching staff gets a lot of credit for that.”
There’s certainly no better prepared team in the NFL than the Patriots. Through film work, verbal quizzes, written tests, Belichick makes sure every player on the roster is ready to do their job. And that showed Thursday night in a shutout win over a playoff-caliber team.
Oh, and he did it wearing a sleeveless cutoff crewneck sweatshirt over a mock turtleneck with trimmed sleeves.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images