Following what could’ve been a demoralizing overtime loss to the Cowboys in Week 6 to move to 2-4, the Patriots have done more than just turn their season around.
New England’s won five straight games, including a 25-0 thrashing over the Falcons on Thursday night, improving their record to 7-4 on the season. Not only are the Patriots three games above .500, but they’re also solidly in the AFC playoff picture and just a half-game out of the top spot in the AFC East.
Questions arose during the Patriots’ slow start to the season, with several questioning if the players were fully on-board with Bill Belichick’s program. For instance, 12-year veteran Devin McCourty’s comments following the loss to the Cowboys appeared to question the defensive play call on the game-losing play.
After winning five games in a row though, the Patriots appear to be in a highly positive mood — with players sticking around to watch their teammates speak at press conferences to dancing at the podium.
Belichick believes winning can go a long way in influencing how players feel about the team’s situation.
“The relationship with the players is always a very special one,” Belichick told reporters Friday. “It’s not something, as a coach, that you can orchestrate. I think it just has to happen. Hopefully, you put players together that will be able to form those kinds of relationships, trust, camaraderie, and all those things, but it’s not anything you can legislate. It just kind of has to happen.
“I’m glad it’s happening, and I’m glad they do have that feeling because I do think there’s a chemistry that goes with communication, anticipation, knowing what the other guy’s doing and him knowing what you’re doing, and being able to play aggressively with all that. It’s a good thing. I’m glad they feel that way, and I’m glad that’s developing.
“It takes time. It takes some success. It’s not something you can talk about, and it magically happens. You need to back it up with some results that reinforce what you’re doing, what they’re feeling.”
One of those players who’s noticeably expressed happiness in recent weeks is Matt Judon. The linebacker’s played a pivotal role on the team in his first year in New England, already recording a career-best 10.5 sacks — which is the third-most in the league. Following the Patriots’ win over the Falcons on Thursday, Judon explained what he wanted the team’s mindset to be on the field and off it.
“We kind of want to be a-holes on the field, but good guys off the field, and make sure we don’t get penalized,” Judon said. “We play within the rules, but we’re a nasty group. That’s how we like to play and that’s how we gotta play in order for our team to win.”
Judon was the highest-profile pick up in the Patriots free-agency spending spree this past offseason, with New England giving him a four-year, $56 million deal. Belichick shared what he looks for in a person when signing free agents like Judon.
“We try to see what kind of person the player is on another level, how committed they are to football, what kind of worker they are, what kind of practice player they are, what they bring to the team, both on and off the field, and so forth,” Belichick said. “Each one of us has our own style, strengths, weaknesses, and all that. It’s not like one size fits all. That’s definitely not the case, but, fundamentally, you try to bring people in that you feel like would be a good fit for your team, whether they’re rookies, free agents, trades, or however you acquire them. That’s what you try to do. It doesn’t always work out that way, but hopefully it does. That’s the intent.”
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