Patriots coach Bill Belichick was in quite a good mood during his press conference Friday, his last before Sunday’s playoff game vs. the Texans. In seven years of covering this team, when Belichick is happy on a Friday, it usually means he’s very happy with the team’s preparation and work during the week.
That idea was bolstered in the locker room, where players were in a light mood and there was an air of confidence as they wound down after practice.
“I think the team is excited, ready to get into the NFL playoffs this year,” Belichick said. “Hopefully we’ll have a good day of preparation today and use the next little over 48 hours to really get focused on the task at hand and go out there and be ready to play well on Sunday.
“We’re all excited to get going. It’s a great opportunity, good football team coming in here. We know we’re going to have to play well, play our best game to win. That’s the way it should be this time of year. Hopefully we can do it.”
Sunday is the 45th playoff game Belichick has been on the sidelines for in his 38-year NFL career, but he is just as excited for Sunday’s as he was for his first, when he was a special assistant with the Baltimore Colts in 1975.
“This is what we work all year for,” he said. “We worked all year, since the end of last season, to get to back to this point. This is really what it’s all for – all the team planning, the OTAs, the mini-camps, the meetings, the walkthroughs, the preseason games, the practices, the regular season – it’s all for this.”
But for as much as he’s watched film, as much time as he and the assistant coaches have spent preparing the players, Belichick still gets nervous because he can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen during those four quarters.
“I think there’s an anxiousness whenever you play. You always have that unknown of going up against the new opponent,” he said. “Who knows how the game will go – what they’ll do, how things will match up, what adjustments you’ll have to make and how the game will unfold.
“There will be different situations in the game that will make each game unique; that makes it exciting. There’s no way to predict how all that’s going to happen, you just take it as it comes. There’s always certain elements that are a guessing game or playing percentages … As a coach, you want to try to put your team in the best position you can so they can be competitive.”
Belichick essentially grew up at the Naval Academy in Maryland, where his father was a longtime assistant coach, and he used a military analogy about dealing with unpredictability.
“It’s like when you talk to the Navy SEALs and those guys about when they go on a mission, they talk about, ‘alright, so we get there and we practiced going over a six-foot wall and the wall is 30 feet high.’ Well, that’s the way it is in the NFL.
“You practice for whatever: you think you’re going to swim across a 200-yard lake and the lake is 800 yards across. You have to get across it. You get in an NFL game and think you’re going to get this and then you get that. Or you think they’re going to play this guy and they play some other guy. You face new challenges. That’s part of the gamesmanship and part of the competition: you figure out which team can do it better than the other one.
“There’s always that unknown in the game, but things happen that you just can’t predict or prepare for because they’re working on things. We don’t know what they’re doing. They’ll come up with something that will cause us to make an adjustment. I’m sure we’ll do the same thing to them somewhere along the line. Everybody has to figure it out and make the best of it. That’s what makes this a great game.”