On Pro Football
---- — It’s been a week since Sunday night’s win in Atlanta, and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan still probably couldn’t tell you exactly where New England’s safeties were coming from.
Vintage Bill Belichick. Confusion led to delirium, which will ultimately lead to success.
That kind of win has been a long time coming, years actually.
Welcome back, Bill.
Don’t look at the numbers for a minute. If you do, Sunday night really wasn’t spectacular.
The Patriots gave up 23 points, surrendering a pair of 100-plus yard receivers and 421 passing yards.
“We came out, started strong, made some big red area stops,” said linebacker Jerod Mayo.
After reviewing the film, though, I was astounded at how many completions Ryan had, throwing at well-covered and often double-covered receivers. Right to the end, he asked Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones to answer his prayers. After a while, it appeared Ryan sought out double teams as if he had something to prove.
That’s the mental battle, and when he’s into it, nobody is better at that than Bill Belichick.
Finally, Belichick trusts this group. At least he has with Vince Wilfork in there for the first quarter of the season.
Sunday night, was the ultimate in defense — using just six or seven in run defense and getting it done. That allowed the secondary to focus solely on coverage.
The Belichick defense, through coordinator Matt Patricia, who has been ultra-conservative for the past three seasons, gambled that Ryan wouldn’t be patient enough to wait or check down to fourth option Harry Douglas.
The Pats goaded Ryan into trying to find the single coverage on one of the top three -- Jones, Gonzalez or Roddy White.
Meanwhile, Belichick turned five loose in the rush.
The game plan never allowed Atlanta to get comfortable.
Hopefully, the coach will keep it up and trust his blue-chip athletes like Chandler Jones.
Today’s matchup at Cincinnati (1 p.m., Channel 4) offers a similar challenge, one that should force the coach again into overtime.
Pats fans get so fired up when Belichick turns away from the field, with his team on offense talks to his defenders, like he’s finally into this defense.
The bottom line is that he’ll always coach defense first. The difference now is in the game plan. There is creativity, life and a purpose, all traits that prove Belichick is working overtime, not just on Sundays. He’s getting it done defensively seven days a week.
And of all the positive signs through a 4-0 September, that is the one that leaps out at you.
New England’s second quarter of the season, which kicks off today, could be a decisive one. With today’s trip to the Bengals followed by a home date with the Saints and division games at New York and with Miami, the Patriots could gain a little separation by the time November kicks off. ...
The Patriots’ first four victims are 5-5 right now (not including the losses to New England) which speaks to the mediocrity in the league. ...
Lost in the release of Zach Sudfeld last week was all that summer hype. Yes, he looked good in practice in August. But that’s often a product of the competition or lack thereof in camp, meaning the guys who are no longer playing the game. It will be interesting to see how the Jets handle him and for how long. ...
Don’t you get the feeling that by the time the cold months roll around, Belichick will lean more on LeGarrette Blount to shoulder the rushing load? I just see that the former Tampa Bay bruiser is more trustworthy than Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden. Come playoff time, it will be a more traditional Blount on the lead, with Shane Vereen, if healthy, playing a third-down role. ...