By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 29, 2007
FOXBOROUGH, Mass., Oct. 28 -- Bill Belichick's first thoughts upon handing a Hall of Fame coach the worst loss of his storied career?
"I thought that was, um, I thought that was a solid, uh, performance by our team today," Belichick mumbled.
"Solid" is perhaps one word for the 52-7 whipping Belichick's New England Patriots administered to Joe Gibbs's Washington Redskins on Sunday, a result that continued the Patriots' ruthless clear-cutting of every obstacle the NFL has put in their path. Gibbs offered a few additional descriptions.
"I don't know of a weakness they have," he said. "I don't think you could say enough good things about them. That's kind of the way I look at it. You've got to give them all the credit. I just know they were real, real good against us."
Let the record show that the Patriots have also been "real, real good" against everyone else in this two-month span of near-perfection. Witness their record (8-0), their margin of victory (25.5 points per game), their 30 touchdown passes (to 10 allowed). Consider their 79-7 scoring advantage in the first quarter, their 2.25 punts per game, their 48.8 percent success rate on third downs. Or just think about this: the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts are also undefeated, and yet New England's upcoming opponent has become almost an afterthought as the Patriots have stomped through the first half of their schedule.
So surely the team's star players could look beyond Belichick's coach-speak and admit they're in the midst of something special, right?
"We're just focusing on the task at hand and making sure we get better for next week," safety Rodney Harrison said.
"I know there were some mistakes that we made and we just have to correct them," running back Kevin Faulk said.
"Just trying to take these games and make improvements each week and try to put our best out there each week and build on the stuff that we screwed up," Tom Brady said.
Regardless of whether New England wants to acknowledge it, its dominance to this point will make next week's rematch of the AFC Championship game easily the most-anticipated game of this regular season. It will be the first time in NFL history two undefeated teams with at least seven wins have faced each other. The Colts, who rolled over the Carolina Panthers, 31-7, on Sunday, have beaten New England three consecutive times and have won 12 overall dating to last year.
"There's no better team in football than the Indianapolis Colts," Belichick said Sunday. "It will be a huge challenge for us."
"We know we have our work cut out for us," Brady added.
The Colts, who opened as five-point underdogs despite being at home, could say the same. New England is just the second team in NFL history to score at least 34 points in its first eight games, and Brady is on pace to shatter several NFL quarterback records. New England continued to attack after Sunday's game was well in hand, attempting and converting two fourth-down plays in the fourth quarter, but Belichick and his players said they were not sending a message to the Colts.
"We weren't thinking about the Colts," Harrison said. "We were thinking about the Redskins."
And what were the Redskins thinking after the game?
"They don't make mistakes," Washington tight end Chris Cooley said of the Patriots. "They've built a culture here. I mean, they're a mistake-free team. I think they pride themselves on that, they put themselves in the right place all the time, they give themselves the best chance to win. They played great today. That was a great team."