The Bill Belichick Patriots have always been a team with swagger. They knew they were good and let everyone know it. They have been called arrogant but they backed it up on the field by winning four Super Bowl Titles. But that swagger is now gone.
The Pats used to own the end of the season. Belichick’s December record with the Patriots was 54-10. But after a 10-0 start the Patriots stumbled to a 2-4 record down the stretch. Sure you can blame it on injuries. But they have had injuries in the past and most of the time they kept on winning.
But now the Patriots are entering the playoffs playing not to lose instead of going for the jugular. It all started with the pooch kick against the Eagles.
Up 14-0 Belichick does what he always did. He wanted to squash the opponent. But that kick backfired, the Eagles recovered and went on to win the game in Foxboro.
Since then Belichick and the Patriots have gone into a shell. In three of the last four weeks they have had the ball at the end of the first half with time outs and elected to run out the clock instead of trying to score. They decided to kick off in OT against the Jets instead of putting the ball in Tom Brady’s hands. Sunday in Miami, Brady threw just five passes in the first half. Twice in that first half the Patriots had a 3rd and 8. They tried a shovel pass to Brandon Bolden and a Stephen Jackson run. Forced to punt both times. That would be conservative for Woody Hayes let alone Bill Belichick.
It seems that Belichick has no faith that his offensive line can protect his 38-year-old franchise quarterback. With Edelman out and Brandon Lafell doing his best Doug Gabriel imitation, Belichick has gone into a shell. But against the Dolphins and the Jets, he still had Rob Gronkowski and he still has the Greatest QB of all time. But Belichick is now playing it safe. Thats not the Bill Belichick who is acknowledged as one of the greatest coaches of all time.
On January 16, the Patriots will host either the Bengals, Texans, or Chiefs in the Divisional Playoff round. If Tom Brady’s sprained ankle allows him to be Tom Brady, Belichick regains his swagger. He and his staff will piece together an offensive line to protect Brady. Edelman will be back, Amendola will be healthier, and Gronk will be back to reeking havoc on defenses.