January 28, 2018


Why Pats don't get tight when games do (Karen Guregian Sunday, January 28, 2018, Boston Herald)


There's being prepared. And then there's what happens when you're coached by Belichick. The Patriots know the rules, and they know what can and can't happen for every conceivable situation that could play out.

"We're just really prepared for each and every situation because in games like this it's usually one or two plays that dictate the game," safety Duron Harmon said Wednesday. "You can play a perfect game for 59 minutes and make one mistake in the last minute of the game and cost your team the win. We just do a great job of just preparing for situations. Making sure that whatever situation comes up that we're comfortable enough to get through it and play through it . . . when you practice it as much as we do, it becomes second nature."

Former Steelers linebacker James Harrison had no idea how many meetings could be squeezed into a day -- until he arrived in Foxboro. It's about knowing the opponent inside out, so you can play freely and without hesitation. As we know, Malcolm Butler practiced the situation for his Super Bowl XLIX-saving interception against Russell Wilson in the week leading up to the game many times.

"It's confidence, it's preparation, it's going over things time and time again. It's all the walkthroughs, the meetings, being able to see things on the field before they happen, because you've studied film, and you're so well-prepared. That's a key," former Patriots safety and two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison said. "So when you see the Malcolm Butler play, or the Stephon Gilmore play (against Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game), or the Dont'a Hightower play (against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI), you're not surprised, because they prepared for that all season."

According to Matthew Slater, when you're as prepared as the Patriots, it allows you to play with a certain confidence and sense of calm -- whether it's the first minutes of the game, or the final anxious minutes with a Super Bowl weighing in the balance.

"When you prepare properly, it allows you to play with confidence, regardless of the situation," Slater said. "It allows you to play with poise, because you've done it before. You understand what's happening. I think that preparation is a big part of it."

Physical conditioning [...]

Former Patriots center Damien Woody offered a different angle on this.

"Belichick used to say fatigue would make a coward out of any player. If you're out of shape, that's when you lose your mental edge," Woody said. "So he was a stickler for you being in top shape, being smart, knowing your opponent, and knowing the situations. If you do those things, that's the difference. That's what gives you the edge over your opponents."

Mental conditioning [...]

"Coach (Belichick) makes it as hard on us during the course of the week, and that in turn mentally conditions us for the stressful situations," Slater said Thursday. "It allows us to go out and execute in those stressful situations."

Woody once described the Belichick environment as being "demanding" and "there's just no way you can be comfortable in that environment."

But, as former Patriots defensive end Andre Carter explained, there is a method behind the madness.

"There are going to be times in a game where it gets down to inches. Well, most guys who tighten up aren't able to perform to the best of their ability," said Carter, an assistant coach with the Dolphins this season. "So he'll put you in uncomfortable situations, so that teaches you to be mentally strong." [...]

Right personnel

Belichick always seems to find the right guys, and they're always in the right place, at the right time. They're selfless and hard working, and they're always making plays at the most critical moments. They may not be superstars, but the plays they make are significant just the same. [...]

Said Harrison: "When you win in Super Bowls, it's the stars that get all the credit, but it's the role players that get you to the championship. You have to have role players play well in big moments. And that's what they've been able to do, whether it's Dion Lewis, Amendola, it can't be all about your stars. Brady and (Rob Gronkowski) will always get the highlight. But when you're trying to win a championship, or close playoff games, it comes down to the role players."

Posted by at January 28, 2018 8:11 AM


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