BOSTON (CBS) — While most of New England is daydreaming about Lombardi trophies, banner unveilings, and the waving of Roger Goodell clown towels, Bill Belichick is focused on one thing and one thing only: The Kansas City Chiefs.
While pretty much everyone in the world likes the Patriots’ chances of starting the season 1-0 with a win Thursday night over the Chiefs (they’re nine-point favorites in Vegas as of Tuesday morning), Belichick — as usual — heaped much praise on his opponent to show his respect for the challenge facing his team. Belichick and the Patriots learned that firsthand three years ago, early in the 2014 season, when the Chiefs shellacked the Patriots on Monday Night Football.
It’s a loss that — as you might imagine — has stuck with Belichick, even through a pair of Super Bowl victories.
“I respect the way [Andy Reid] coaches his team,” Belichick said Tuesday. “I respect the way they play. They’re always tough. We’ve always had great battles with them. I don’t think anybody’s – I can’t think of too many teams that have handled us better than the way they handled us in 2014.”
Patriots fans will remember that game for many reasons, one of which was ESPN commentator and former QB Trent Dilfer exclaiming, “They’re not good anymore!” Several months later in a post-Super Bowl winning glow, Julian Edelman criticized Dilfer for jumping to such a sweeping conclusion.
Yet Dilfer was not alone, as Tom Brady and the offensive line played so poorly that Brady was benched in the fourth quarter. The loss was so ugly that reports started surfacing about the Patriots turning to Jimmy Garoppolo “sooner than later.”
Of course, Brady turned his season around, and the Patriots went 10-2 the rest of the way before beating Seattle in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs would go just 9-7 that season and fail to make the postseason. In the 2015 season, the Patriots handled the Chiefs in a playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Still, Belichick need not be reminded of what can happen when his team doesn’t play its best against the Chiefs.
“I have a lot of respect for Andy and the Chiefs and their players, coaches and their organization,” Belichick said. “They’ve established a strong organization out there in the last four years. I know we’ll have our hands full.”
Yet, when it came time to talking in depth about that 2014 loss, Belichick very quickly moved the conversation back to the matter at hand.
“In all honestly, I mean, I don’t really care about that. I don’t care about 2014 right now,” he said. “I’m just worrying about Thursday night. This team is this team, and the 2017 Chiefs team is the 2017 Chiefs team. Whatever’s relevant from previous games in Philadelphia or Kansas City, ‘14, ‘15, ‘07, ‘11 – whatever years they were – that is what it is. But, really, the focus is on this game. I’m not really too concerned about 2014 right now.”
Aware? Most definitely.