The New England Patriots truly should not have much trouble dispatching their next opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, who have lost eight consecutive games and enter Week 11 with the NFL’s second-worst record.
Patirots coach Bill Belichick despises complacency, however, and he was quick to point out during his Tuesday conference call what happened the last time New England faced a team coached by current 49ers bench boss Chip Kelly.
Kelly was at the controls last December when the Philadelphia Eagles handed the Patriots one of their most embarrassing defeats in recent memory, scoring 35 consecutive points in a 35-28 stunner at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots, who carried a 10-1 record into that contest, jumped out to a 14-0 lead, then looked lost from the midway point of the second quarter until late in the fourth.
Kelly’s 4-7 Eagles played touchdown bingo during their 35-point explosion, scoring twice on Sam Bradford touchdown passes, once on a blocked punt, once on a punt return and once on a 99-yard interception return. New England managed to stage a late comeback with 14 points in the final six minutes but could not close the gap.
That game also featured the infamous Nate Ebner drop kick, which some pundits — correctly or incorrectly — viewed as a turning point in the Patriots’ season. New England lost twice more down the stretch to cough up home-field advantage, then fell to the eventual champion Denver Broncos on the road in the AFC Championship Game.
“Certainly, we didn’t do very well last year in the Philadelphia game in both the kicking game and really in any phase of the game,” Belichick recalled Tuesday.
The win over the Patriots was the highlight of an otherwise mediocre 2015 season for the Eagles, who finished 7-9 and promptly fired Kelly. Thus far, the New Hampshire native has found little success at his latest stop, as the Niners have not won since shutting out the Los Angeles Rams in their 2016 season opener.
“Coach Kelly’s a great coach,” Belichick said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I’m sure that he’ll do things that will attack us as he did last year against Philadelphia, so we’ll have to not only do a good job preparing for those schemes, but also again with players that we’re not really familiar with or as familiar with their skill set. It’ll take a lot of good preparation and film study.”
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images