From 2000-19, Bill Belichick led the New England Patriots to one of the longest dynasties in modern professional sports history. That two-decade span saw New England earn six Super Bowl titles while appearing in the big game nine times.
Naturally, the one denominator here was the presence of the GOAT himself Tom Brady as New England’s quarterback.
Once Brady shockingly decided to leave the Patriots after 20 years ahead of the 2020 campaign, debates raged. Who was responsible for New England’s success? In today’s everyone needs to hold an opinion society, it was rare to give both future Hall of Famers credit. Once Brady led his new Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl title last season, the discourse obviously started to favor the quarterback.
In New England, Belichick’s Patriots posted an ugly 7-9 record with Cam Newton starting under center as a stopgap option to replace Brady. Was that the end of it with the Patriots? Having lost four of their first six to open the 2021 campaign, this seemed to be the outcome.
Not so fast.
With Bill Belichick relying on a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones under center, his New England Patriots steamrolled the hapless Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night by the score of 25-0. This represented the Pats’ fifth consecutive victory and has them on the brink of challenging the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.
Given his two-decade relationship with Brady, the common NFL fan thought Belichick was more of an offensive-minded head coach.
Dating back to his days as an assistant with the Super Bowl champion New York Giants back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, that was not the case. As their defensive coordinator, Belichick was responsible for leading some of the best units in the NFL. Defenses that were headed by none other than the great Lawrence Taylor.
The one common theme during New England’s dynastic run under Belichick was an elite-level defense. From 2000-19, this unit finished in the top-10 in scoring defense a whopping 16 times.
These Pats are back at that again in 2021. Pretty much leading a no-name unit, New England has been dominant on this side of the ball. That included the Pats yielding just 64 yards to Atlanta in the first half of Thursday night’s game. The Falcons didn’t reach the 100-yard plateau until late in the third quarter and saw three quarterbacks throw a combined four interceptions.
J.C. Jackson has been a ball-hawk in the backfield. Free-agent signing Matt Judon has complemented that with 10.5 sacks through 11 games. Meanwhile, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley leads a positional group that has been central to Bill Belichick’s success in New England. All of this has the Pats ranked in the top five in total yards and points allowed.
A star with the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide last season, Jones was seen as the most pro-ready quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. In reality, it seemed to be a perfect fit between him and Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Through his first 11 starts as a rookie, Jones is completing north of 70% of his passes for roughly 2,600 yards with 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He has just six fewer touchdown passes than all the other quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft combined. Let that sink in. We’re talking Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Justin Fields.
It’s not that Belichick is asking too much of his rookie. For the most part, it’s been all about the short, timing passing game. Without turning the ball over a lot, New England’s offense sets it defense up to succeed. That’s typically the issue when it comes to first-year signal caller. It has not been a problem for the Patriots this season.
Now at 7-4 on the campaign and having won five consecutive, there’s no telling what the ceiling is for these Patriots. Consecutive games against championship contending teams such as the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills ahead of a Week 14 bye will tell us more about this team. For now, it’s clear Bill Belichick has built another juggernaut with the New England Patriots. In the process, he continues to etch his name in the history books as the all-time great.