FOXBORO, Mass. — Haven’t you heard? The New England Patriots are “done.”
Well, that may or not be true (it’s probably not). But one thing’s for sure: Todd Bowles is not buying it.
The New York Jets head coach has heard the chatter that the 7-3 Patriots aren’t what they once were, particularly on offense. But ahead of his team’s Sunday afternoon matchup with the perennial AFC juggernauts, Bowles offered nothing but praise for his division rival.
“Same people, same offense we?ve seen for years,” Bowles said Wednesday during a conference call. ” … We know they have great players, and we know they can turn the switch and play great football and that?s what we?re expecting.”
And what about Rob Gronkowski, who many — especially those at the New York Daily News — believe is washed up?
“He?ll be a game-breaking talent until he retires,” Bowles said. “That?s the only time you don?t have to worry about him.
” …. He can block. He can beat corners, safeties and linebackers so it doesn?t matter who he goes against. He?s just a well-rounded player. He?s a very intelligent player. I don?t know if he gets enough credit for being a smart player, but he?s a very intelligent player.”
As for New England’s offense as a whole, Bowles knows his team still needs to respect a unit that ranks seventh in the NFL in points scored.
“Between Gronk, and (Julian) Edelman, and (Josh) Gordon, and (James) White, and (Sony) Michel … they still have them all. They still have a whole bunch of guys that you?ve got to defend. … And that?s not even mentioning the quarterback who?s probably better than everybody.”
Well, Bowles isn’t buying any of that talk, either.
“(Brady’s arm will be) as strong as ever until he retires,” Bowles said.
Lastly, let’s talk about the defense. New England’s defense looked inept in a Week 10 loss to the Tennessee Titans and, outside of a couple strong performances, really has struggled all year. But Bowles understands a veteran-led unit coached by Bill Belichick never can be overlooked.
“They?ve been playing great football,” Bowles said. “I understand they lost the last game, but that was uncharacteristic of how they play and I know they?ll bounce back.
“They?re very solid up front. They play great man-to-man coverage. They?ve got very good coverage safeties that are very intelligent and you know they play very smart football. And they?ve got linebackers that can cover and blitz as well. I expect them to play normal Patriots football.”
Now, we’re not going to pretend like Bowles isn’t simply offering some run-of-the-mill “coach speak.” After all, giving the Patriots bulletin-board material is the last thing any head coach wants to do.
But there was a lot of truth in what Bowles had to say Wednesday, regardless of what the talking heads tell you.