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Belichick, Brady Just Keep Winning

November 6, 2018

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick argues a point with line judge Brian Bolinger, left, and referee Brad Allen during Sunday's 31-17 win over the Green Bay Packers. AP PHOTO Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FOXBORO -- Quarterback Tom Brady grows older but never looks it. Bill Belichick looks it but his coaching act never grows old. We look hard for something about these Patriots of Brady and Belichick to analyze.

We should instead just continue to ride the wave.

The winning world of Brady and Belichick must eventually come crashing down. Time will demand it. But it hasn’t yet.

The silly season of September doubts is a distant memory. It is November and we all know the drill.

“Seven and two, it’s a long way from 1-2, where we were,” said Brady after the Patriots defeated the Green Bay Packers, 31-17, on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium for their sixth straight victory.

After that 1-2 beginning, the Patriots are 7-2 through nine games for the third straight season and for the fifth time in six seasons. (The stretch of 7-2s was interrupted by a 9-0 in 2015.)

The rest of the AFC East is wobbling again in Brady and Belichick’s wake. Fools on parade. Remember when the Patriots headed into the final weekend of September tied with the Bills and Jets at 1-2, two games behind the 3-0 Dolphins?

Well, the Patriots are 6-0 since then, a streak that began with a 38-7 win over the Dolphins. The other three AFC East teams are a combined 5-13 since then. Four of the Patriots’ final seven regular-season games are against these so-called division “rivals.” It is hard imagining a scenario unfolding over the next eight weeks in which the Patriots do not win the AFC East for a tenth straight year (and for a 15th time in 16 years). New England fans’ eyes instead are on Kansas City, where the 8-1 Chiefs hold a one-game lead over the 7-2 Patriots in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Patriots own the head-to-head tiebreaker, having beaten the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxboro on Oct. 14. The Patriots have played in the last seven AFC championship games (4-1 record at home, 0-2 on the road).

Outside the division, the Patriots do have tough tests awaiting against Minnesota at home on Dec. 2 and at Pittsburgh on Dec. 16. Concerning the business at hand, the Patriots on Sunday will be in Tennessee to play the Titans, who were 3-4 heading into their Monday night game in Dallas.

The Patriots will then head into their bye week.

Tennessee’s first-year head coach is Mike Vrabel, who won three Super Bowls as a Patriots linebacker. After surprisingly trading Vrabel at age 33 to the Chiefs in 2009, Belichick’s prepared written statement said Vrabel epitomized “everything a coach could seek in a professional football player.”

Belichick is 14-9 against his former assistant coaches pretending to be him, including 1-1 this season (beat Bill O’Brien’s Texans, lost to Matt Patricia’s Lions). Vrabel will be Belichick’s first ex-player to take a head-coaching shot against the master.

“He’s very astute and picks things up quickly,” Belichick said about Vrabel on Monday. “He works hard, but has a good aptitude for football. I think the game comes fairly easily to him in terms of understanding concepts and situations and things like that. He was a great player here, one that hopefully will be recognized into the Patriots Hall of Fame.”

Without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the second time in three weeks because of ankle and back woes, and without leading rusher Sony Michel for the second straight week because of a knee injury, the Patriots on Sunday night still put up 31 points while beating the Packers by two touchdowns. And as the saying goes, they left some points on the field, failing to score after having a first down at the Packers 1 in the third quarter.

Even more encouraging was how New England’s defense picked up steam against one of the game’s great quarterbacks, shutting out Aaron Rodgers and the Packers over the final 26 minutes.

The Patriots are again winning in ways nobody imagined in August. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has been an occasional running back during a six-year career built on explosive versatility. On Sunday night he rushed 11 times for 61 yards, with 40 of those yards coming over four consecutive stampedes in the second quarter, concluding with a 5-yard touchdown run that put New England up 17-10.

While Belichick noticed the 6-foot-2, 228-pound Patterson run enough in Oakland last season (13 carries, 121 yards, 2 TDs) to know Patterson could do what he is doing if called upon, it really wasn’t the plan. But then Rex Burkhead and Jeremy Hill went on IR and rookie Michel’s propensity for knee injuries dating back to high school continued.

That left New England with do-it-all James White and ... well, Patterson.

“I mean, look, we thought we had good depth at running back,” said Belichick. “And we did at one point in the year. Depth in August and depth in November are two different things.”

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