When it comes to candid assessments of upcoming opponents, New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick will occasionally let people know exactly what he is thinking.
Those occasions are as rare as an amur leopard, but they do crop up now and then.
Going into Sunday night’s Patriots game against the Green Bay Packers, Belichick was asked to describe quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “He has great accuracy,” he told reporters. “Very mobile in the pocket. He extends plays. Really good vision down the field. Uses the cadence well. He’s a very good situational player. He’s just one of the great quarterbacks in the National Football League. No question about it.”
It was a nice description by a coach with unparalleled defensive expertise. During the heat of Sunday night’s game, though, he offered a different take, partly because of Rodgers himself and partly because of what the Patriots’ defenders were accomplishing. In any event, Belichick’s description of what was going on isn’t likely to please the quarterback.
“The pass rush is what we want,” Belichick, who was mic’d up by Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” for the “Sunday Night Football” game, told his players on the sideline. “Keep working the [expletive] out of those guards. Keep him in the pocket. He’s tried to throw us two interceptions now. We’re going to get one, all right? He’s just lobbing it up there.
“That’s a great job. Keep pressing him. If he runs backward, then run him out of bounds. That’s great. Let’s stay with that rush now.”
The interception part didn’t come true, but Rodgers completed an unusually low (for him) 55.8 percent of his passes. He passed for two touchdowns in the Patriots’ 31-17 victory. His counterpart, Tom Brady, didn’t put on a show that lived up to the pregame hype, either, and both ended up being a reminder that it was really Belichick’s show. His defense constantly pressured Rodgers and forced a fourth-quarter fumble that was the game’s big play.
“We always talk about progression,” safety Devin McCourty said after Sunday’s game. “It’s that time of year where you want to see some of those improvements. When you go against the greats, it’s hard to be perfect, but you got to be close if you want to have a chance to win.”
As for Belichick, he did something exceedingly rare, seeming to actually be, gulp, happy.
“I’m just really proud of the team,” he said.
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