BOSTON (CBS) — Inside the winning locker room at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Patriots head Coach Bill Belichick had to dampen the mood when addressing his team.
“All right, look,” he said. “It’s Wednesday night. It’s Wednesday night, and we’ve got a really short week here. We want everybody ready to go.”READ MORE: Patriots Power Rankings Update: Is Bill Belichick's Team The Best In The AFC?
Such is the reality for NFL teams when facing the unpleasant turnaround of a game on Sunday followed by a game on Thursday night. It comes for every team, so the challenge isn’t unique. And with Thursday Night Football becoming a regular part of the NFL season over the past decade-plus, veteran coaches have developed different strategies for such occasions.
Fortunately, Bill Belichick has helped shed some light on how he runs things on a week like this.
His explanation began immediately after Sunday’s 45-7 win.
“As I told them after the game there, it’s Wednesday night, and [Monday is] Thursday, on a Sunday schedule. So we have a lot of work to do here in a short amount of time. So we’ll just enjoy this one briefly but we’ve got to move on and turn the page to Atlanta very quickly,” Belichick said. “It was a good day for us today and hopefully we can fill the tank back up and be ready to have another good, quick week here and be ready to go on Thursday. Because that will be a big challenge for us heading down there.”
Belichick noted that the Patriots’ work on the Falcons from the preseason doesn’t provide a comprehensive understanding of the team now, as first-year head coach Arthur Smith isn’t running things in Atlanta the same way he was as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator. Likewise, veteran defensive coordinator Dean Pees — who ran New England’s defense under Belichick for four years — isn’t running a carbon copy of what he ran in Tennessee from 2018-19.READ MORE: Let's Look At The Buffalo Bills, Who Will Host Patriots In Their Biggest Game Of The Season
“We’ve got a long way to go on the Falcons and what they do, even though we’re familiar with Coach [Arthur]Smith and Coach [Dean] Pees, that team looks a lot different than the Titans from what we looked at from them in the past. We did some work in the offseason and we knew, of course, this was going to be a short week so we tried to prepare for some offseason work on the Falcons, but it appears that that’s not going to be all that — it will be relevant but not all that relevant,” Belichick said on Sunday . “And obviously they have some outstanding players starting with [Kyle] Pitts. That is going to be a major problem, a guy we haven’t faced and a guy they have done a great job of utilizing in different roles and has had tremendous production. [Matt] Ryan is having a good year. You know, they can certainly move balls and score a lot of points. They are very dangerous.”
That assessment came before Belichick had a good grasp on the Falcons’ blowout loss in Dallas, which happened concurrently with the Patriots’ blowout win on Sunday. Still, Belichick is never one to underestimate any opponent, and the discussion about short-week preparation continued during Belichick’s video conference on Monday morning.
“It’s really about, for the coaching staff to the players, learning about your opponent. You have less time to make decisions. From a coaching standpoint, you need to make good decisions. You need to make them quickly. If you give the team a poor game plan or poor direction, then it’s really hard for them to overcome that,” Belichick said. “There’s pressure on both coaching staffs to do that, and, again, Atlanta is a hard team to get ready for. They do a number of different things, both offensively and defensively.”
Belichick explained the decisions that coaching staffs have to make, which includes a certain level of trying to predict the future.
“You have to make the decision as to whether you’re going to put your chips on, ‘They do a lot, but this is what we think they’re going to do,’ or, ‘Cover everything and be light on something they end up doing a lot of,'” Belichick said. “Again, from the players’ standpoint, [Monday is] Thursday for us really for a Sunday game, and we haven’t even given them the scouting report yet. So it’s a lot of information for the players to absorb — both the individual players, the schemes, and then situational football — again, another thing that Coach Smith and the Falcons are very good at. So, familiarizing ourselves with situational plays that are really different from, let’s call it normal plays, that’s something we’ll have to really study hard too. But both teams have the same schedule, so it is what it is. But it’s just cramming a lot of information in a short amount of time and making good decisions that you don’t want to clutter things up, but at the same time, you don’t want to be unprepared. And that’s the — I would say, that’s the fine line of it.”MORE NEWS: This Seahawks Era Appears To Have Ended With A Russell Wilson Goal-Line Interception
As Belichick noted, both teams are in the same boat, so there’s no advantage for one side over the other. The playing field may be level in that way, but that doesn’t change the amount of work coaching staffs put in on such a week.