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BOSTON (CBS) – When the Patriots visit Buffalo this weekend, they will open Bill Belichick’s 14th season as New England’s head coach.
True, it will be his 233rd contest overall directing the Patriots. And yes, it may very well result in one of the five wins separating Belichick from the top five all-time in NFL coaching victories.
But make no mistake, Sunday’s encounter with the Bills is neither a continuation nor a next chapter. What occurred last January, when New England lost in the AFC Championship game, was an ending. What happens this weekend is a beginning; of a story, and for a team unto itself.
“Each year is a new year with a new team, new circumstances, new challenges, new everything,” Belichick said in a press conference on Monday. “That’s the great part about football. You don’t pick up where you left off, good or bad, you start all over again. We’re getting ready to start the regular season. It’s a big challenge for us, but we’ll see where it takes us.”
As will we.
The tumultuous offseason that preceded this new season was unlike any other in franchise history. In its aftermath, the Patriots began training camp amidst a great deal of uncertainty, particularly on offense. Specifically, at receiver and tight end.
When exhibition play concluded, four rookies had worked their way into the receiving corps. Ten other first-year pros also made the 53-man roster. Of the 14 rookies overall, half were selected in the draft, half were signed after the draft. However they got here, on Sunday they’ll all be facing another first: their first taste of regular-season intensity.
Play will flow, if not fly by, faster. Schemes will be far more complex. Communication, verbal or otherwise, will be made more difficult by a Buffalo fan base hoping the next of the new eras in Bills’ history finally ends years of futility.
All of the above will hold true for another newcomer. On Sunday this observer will see a different game as well, trying to keep up with the radio play-by-play on his first regular-season broadcast. New everything, indeed.
As for this ‘new’ Patriots team led by old stalwarts like Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, the past may be past; but it can still serve as precedent. Each of New England’s last 10 teams won at least 10 times. The four from 2009-12, went a cumulative 49-15 (.766). None of those four, however, won a Super Bowl.
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Regardless of circumstances and challenges and everything else, here in New England every new team faces the same expectations. Each new season is supposed to bring another championship.
As always, months of planning and preparation have been invested in this latest new season, which officially begins just after 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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“This is what we’ve worked for,” Belichick said. “This is everything we’ve done; all the preparations in the spring, our OTA’s, our off-season training program is to get to the regular season and the regular season is here. Yeh, we’re excited; we’re read to go.”
So are we. Let’s see where it takes us.
Bob Socci is in his first season as the radio play-by-play voice of the New England Patriots. You can follow him on Twitter @BobSocci.