Prognosticators Beware: The Patriots Will Prove You Wrong

Matt LeBlancCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2007

IconPerhaps the most enjoyable part of Bill Belichick's tenure in New England has been his ability to punish the pundits.

Sure, the three Super Bowl victories were great. The winning streaks were nice. That Brady kid seems to be coming along nicely, too.

But seriously—how great was it to see the hoodie-less head coach stride to midfield Sunday with a smile on his face? He shook the hand of New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini, and CBS cameras clearly showed Belichick mouthing the words, "Great game."

Belichick then pumped his fist in the air.

It might not seem like much, but the simple act of wearing a smile instead of his usual scowl certainly must have caught the attention of some very vocal members of the media.

All week, we heard the stories about how Belichick and the Patriots wanted to destroy and embarrass Mangini and the Jets for the unforgiveable transgression of alerting the NFL to New England's sideline videographer in Week One.

"It's payback time for Eric Mangini," said Pete Prisco of CBS Sports last week. "The coach ratted out the Pats for "Spygate" and now he will feel the wrath of Belichick. The Patriots will pile it on. Tom Brady throws five touchdown passes."


Instead of going for the jugular, Belichick formulated a simple game plan for the Pats that was tailored to the awful weather in Foxborough: Run the ball, throw short passes when necessary, and keep the Jets on their heels.

Brady, on pace to break Peyton Manning's single-season record for touchdown passes, didn't throw a TD all afternoon. Laurence Maroney, the subject of much speculation about whether he can be a premier NFL running back, ran for 104 yards.

It was just the second time Maroney has rushed for more than 100 yards this season. 

"That was a good win for our football team," Belichick said in the post-game press conference. "It was a game where all three phases of the game, there were some key plays. The kicking game turned out to be big obviously. We were able to make enough plays that we needed to make to win. That was certainly one of our goals at the beginning of the year, to win in our division, and next week we have a chance to go 6-0 in the division. That's a good way to get to that point, and hopefully we'll be able to play well enough to win next week."

Behind the smile and between those lines, it's easy to see that Sunday's win provided much more satisfaction for Belichick and the Patriots than badly beating a Jets team destined to sit home during the playoffs.

Next week, the Patriots will play the 1-13 Miami Dolphins—the only franchise ever to complete an undefeated season, for now.

Any predictions, pundits?