FOXBOROUGH -- Bill Belichick has been able to motivate the Patriots to rise to the elite level of the NFL, so his ability to "sell" his team's next foe, the Arizona Cardinals, shouldn't be a surprise.
Even though Arizona -- 4-12 and last in the NFC West last season -- is as far from the Patriots' caliber of play as any team in the league.
"I don't think when Coach comes in and tells us what they are about, I don't think he is trying to hype them up. I think he is trying to tell us what it is. This is a good team," said quarterback Tom Brady. "Defensively they run around and turn the ball over. Offensively, Emmitt Smith is playing and he is doing a great job and they have some young receivers that are doing well and the offensive line is playing good.
"They can beat anybody. If you do not play well, then you are going to get beat. I don't think he needs to come in and feed us a bunch of crap. I think you have to tell it like it is. Hopefully, we go out and play our style of ball -- that is, physical, smart football. The times that we haven't done that, we have gotten beat, like Cincinnati, where we got embarrassed, and Jacksonville, where we got embarrassed."
The Cardinals are a rising team. The Patriots have been told to use caution. They buy it, hook, line, and sinker.
"There are really only five games of film on them," Brady said. "That is all you see. With the new staff, you really can't go back into evaluating what they have done in real critical situations. They have basically played one game where it has been critical, and that was last week. We are studying that film.
"We are studying the preseason and trying to put together a game plan that will best play to our strengths and their weaknesses. If we can do that, then I think we will come out of the game feeling good. You just don't know what to expect, so you are trying to prepare for everything."
For his part, Arizona coach Dennis Green has the Cardinals thinking anything is possible -- including defeating the Super Bowl champions -- even though Arizona lost its first game, 17-10, to St. Louis.
"I think we have been in a situation where we have been playing teams that were champions the year before and you want to play so hard against them," Brady said. "You really want to go out and prove to everyone else that you are a top-flight team. That is their challenge.
"Our challenge is to go out there and play at the level we want to play at. There were times last week where we did that and there were other times when we didn't. It was so close last week at the end. We won by a field goal. It is obvious that we need to improve on a lot of things if we want to continue to win each one of these games."
As for the temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90sexpected in Tempe, Ariz., Brady is not concerned with something he cannot control. "I think the forecast is warm for this time of year in Arizona," Brady said in the understatement of the year. "We have to be ready to play in it. It is going to be hot for both teams, and certainly something we are going to have to deal with and not make many excuses about it and just go out and play through it."
Brady is right. The temperature will be the same for both. However, the Cardinals are used to playing in it and training in it. The Patriots are not. There will be about a 30-degree difference between Foxborough and Tempe. The Patriots' conditioning will be tested.
Brady knows all that's necessary is for the offense to take care of business, and conditioning or the heat won't be a factor. He knows if he's out on the field longer than anyone, it means the defense won't get worn down. And that would seem to be Arizona's best chance of winning: wearing the Patriots' defense down.
"I think we just need to take advantage of our opportunities," Brady said. "If we get plays that are there to be made, we have to throw the ball and complete them. We ran the ball well last week. I think we have to continue to do that and try to score some more points. No more three-and-outs."
It's not as if the Patriots generally have a lot of three-and-outs. Last week they had just one in 10 offensive series. If they replicate that in Tempe, they'll preserve their defense. What they'd also like to do is mount a few drives of 10 or more plays. That could get the Cardinals winded and keep New England's defense fresh.