FOXBORO, Mass. — The high of beating the Arizona Cardinals didn’t last long for the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick is on to Miami, and that means looking at January’s embarrassing 20-10 loss to the Dolphins.
It’s pretty clear Belichick is using that loss to knock down and inspire his team. He seemed borderline obsessed by it in Wednesday morning’s news conference.
“I’d say the thing that’s most etched in my mind, I’m sure our team’s, is the last time we went down there,” Belichick said in his opening statement. “That was a pretty rough day for us. Other than James White breaking a tackle, we barely had 100 yard of offense, couldn’t play defense, couldn’t really do anything.”
Belichick’s not wrong. It was ugly. The Patriots put up just 196 yards of offense and allowed 438. They tried to run the ball and couldn’t, picking up just 70 yards on 27 attempts. Quarterback Tom Brady was just 12 of 21 for 134 yards and was sacked twice. Jimmy Garoppolo, this week’s starter, was 1 of 4 for 6 yards. White picked up 32 percent of the Patriots’ total offense on one 68-yard catch and run. The Patriots unsuccessfully relied on the deep ball, throwing six of them and completing zero.
A lot has happened since that game. The Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs then lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. Brady’s four-game suspension was reinstated, and Garoppolo led the Patriots to a 23-21 Week 1 win over the Cardinals.
The Patriots added tight end Martellus Bennett, wide receivers Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell, rookie guard Joe Thuney, defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Shea McClellin and cornerback Eric Rowe and lost defensive end Chandler Jones, wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin, tight end Scott Chandler and defensive tackles Dominique Easley and Akiem Hicks.
The Dolphins added head coach Adam Gase, running back Arian Foster, rookie guard Laremy Tunsil, linebacker Kiko Alonso, cornerback Byron Maxwell, guard Jermon Bushrod, defensive ends Mario Williams, Jason Jones and Andre Branch, safety Isa Abdul-Quddus and rookie cornerback Xavien Howard. They lost cornerback Brent Grimes, wide receiver Greg Jennings, defensive end Olivier Vernon, running back Lamar Miller and wide receiver Rishard Matthews.
Despite all the changes the loss, not the win over the Cardinals, is still first on Belichick’s mind as the Patriots move on from Week 1.
“Pretty easily. All you have to do is turn on our game against Miami last year,” Belichick said. “Sickening. Yeah, it doesn’t take long at all. I don’t know if you got a chance to see that or not. Wasn’t very good — bad coaching, bad playing, just bad period.”
The loss came up again when asked about Ryan Tannehill’s improvements.
“Since he killed us last year?” Belichick asked.
Because of the previously mentioned additions and subtractions — and the fact that this game is at home, not on the road — there’s reason to believe the Patriots won’t have as much trouble this week. Jones, running back LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Julian Edelman and linebacker Dont’a Hightower didn’t play in that Week 17 loss. Their offensive approach was suspect at best, and veteran Steven Jackson was plodding along at running back.
Don’t mention that to Belichick or the Patriots this week, however. This is how the head coach motivates his team.