Victories don’t come easy in the NFL. They require a strong week of preparation, sharp attention to detail and efficient execution of a gameplan.
But even if you manage to check all these boxes against the New England Patriots, there’s a good chance you’ll still come up short.
The Patriots haven’t annually been the most talented team over the past two decades, but they’ve remained a tough out over the course of a dynastic run that likely never will be matched. This is a testament to head coach Bill Belichick, who routinely makes the absolute most out of his 53-man roster from top to bottom.
Belichick has entered rarified air, and even his own colleagues aren’t afraid to admit the Patriots coach is in a league of his own. Joe Philbin knows firsthand just how tough it is to take down Belichick and Co., and the former Miami Dolphins coach’s evaluation of New England’s strengths sums up the nightmare matchup.
“What separates him and that team from a lot of the other teams in the league, first and foremost, they never beat themselves,” Philbin told The Athletic’s Jeff Howe. “I used to tell the team, look, we’re going to have to beat these guys fair and square, and we’re going to have to beat them at their own game. They’re not going to hand us the game. They’re not going to make a ton of mistakes. There aren’t going to be a ton of penalties. They’re not going to give us the ball a bunch. Number two, the turnover margin that they’ve had since they got it rolling in 2001 is ridiculous. It’s impressive. That’s tied into not beating themselves.”
Philbin continued: “When you play them, you’re going to have to go earn a victory. My view of football is fundamentals, discipline, hanging onto the ball, execution. Not to take anything away from (Belichick’s) schematic expertise, but if you were to ask me, schematics are the second part of the equation. The first part of the equation is the execution and discipline.
“When you play that team,” Philbin told Howe, “you’ve got to hold onto the football. And it’s not easy to force Tom Brady into a mistake, and Dante (Scarnecchia) does such a great job with the (offensive) line — they know where you want to go when you blitz. That ball security is off the charts, and that gives you a great chance of winning. The third thing we always stressed was they do a really good job of situational football. You had to have your third downs detailed, your red zone thought process on both sides of the ball. Special teams was another area where they were very sound.”
After taking in Philbin’s remarks, it’s easy to understand why the Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders. With another strong roster and Brady and Belichick at the helm, expect more of the same in the 2019 season.
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