Despite Belichick?s reputation as an old-school, hard-nosed football coach, he?s not really much of a yeller. Rather, the New England Patriots head coach prefers to spend his time teaching his players in the most direct, orderly fashion possible.
But last week, Belichick really got into his offense for its inability to generate long plays, scolding the Patriots for being the NFL?s only team without a 20-yard run or a 40-yard pass. The message was relayed throughout the week, and it was a major point of emphasis at practice heading into Sunday?s game against the Tennessee Titans.
After a 59-0 thrashing of the Titans, which included five touchdowns of at least 28 yards — including the 45-yard run and 40-yard pass Belichick was screaming for — Tom Brady is hoping he temporarily put a muzzle on his coach.
?It?s important for the offense to hit those [long plays] when they?re there,? said Brady, who completed 29 of 34 passes for 380 yards and six touchdowns. ?If we hit a few more of those in the past — last week, obviously, [in an overtime loss to the Denver Broncos] — it would be a different story. We?ve got to make those plays when they?re there. They gave us a couple opportunities [Sunday]. Coach Belichick was pretty tough, being the only team to not have a 40-yard pass play or a 20-yard run all season. Hopefully, it?ll keep him quiet for a week or two.?
The Patriots? offense Sunday simulated the 2007 machine that destroyed opponents, as it set franchise records with 619 net yards and 59 points. The Pats exposed the Titans? weak and depleted secondary the way a good team should, and it started in the first quarter when Laurence Maroney split a hole on the line and burst for a 45-yard touchdown run, the second longest of his career.
On their next series, Brady hit wide receiver Wes Welker down the left sideline for 48 yards, which set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal that pushed the Patriots? lead to 10-0. Within a span of 2:15, the Patriots checked off two of their primary goals for the week.
?I just think the execution was better,? Brady said. ?We?ve had guys open. It?s the quarterback?s job to throw the ball accurately and get the ball to the guys who are open. We did a better job of that [Sunday] all around. The pass protection was great. That?s a very good front seven that [the Titans] have, and the offensive line kept them out of there. Guys were getting open in the secondary. Randy [Moss], any time he has three touchdowns, you know that?s a great game. Wes had another great game because he always does. It was just a better all-around effort. That?s what we need.?
A flea flicker on the next series resulted in a 40-yard touchdown to Moss, who made an outstanding catch with three defenders closing in behind him. Moss added his second touchdown of the day less than a minute later when Brady found his big-play target in the back of the end zone from 28 yards out. Less than three minutes after that, running back Kevin Faulk turned a screen pass into a 38-yard touchdown, which pushed the New England lead to 31-0 and effectively served notice to the rest of the league that Brady and Co. had their swagger back.
Moss finished with eight catches for 129 yards and three touchdowns, while Welker had 10 receptions for a career-high 150 yards and a pair of scores. Maroney chimed in with 123 yards, the third-highest total of his career.
This doesn?t mean the Patriots have flipped the switch and will instantly emulate everything they did in 2007, but it quieted their critics, both outside and inside the locker room.
?I think we were just sick of hearing them, and we just wanted to shut them up,? Welker said. ?We were able to do that [Sunday] a little bit. It?s something that definitely needs to be a part of our offense, and I think we?ve been so close on a bunch of them that we were just barely missing. [Sunday], we were able to hit on some of those, and it made the game a lot easier.?