The Patriots miss Tom Brady extra each Sunday

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The Patriots miss Tom Brady more every Sunday

Bill Belichick brought Buffalo a smart plan, even with two uncovered recipients as his best outside playmakers, and even with an onside third quarter kick call in his hip pocket that should have stayed there. The New England Patriots were aiming for a possible touchdown towards Belichick's 36th win in 41 games against the Bills as Patriots coach before Cam Newton did something Tom Brady rarely did in the final seconds of a game.

He found a way to lose it.

Did Brady jump out of his chair, or at least dampen the cheers when Newton's fumble was salvaged from Buffalo by 31 seconds, giving the Patriots their first 2-5 record since Brady was a fourth-string rookie in 2000? ? Maybe, maybe not. But recently asked if he thinks Brady is satisfied with the different ways his Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Belichicks Patriots go, Brady's friend and former Michigan teammate Aaron Shea, who played six seasons with the Cleveland Browns, replied, "Tom would never do that say." , but we all know who Tom Brady is. He is the ultimate competitor. I definitely think Tom has personal motivation when it comes to (Belichick) and so do I. If you were to get a divorce, would your wife or husband want someone better to go out with? "

There is no rivalry in the NFL or in American sports, much like the rivalry between Brady and Belichick. The published ranking should include the eight divisions of the AFC and NFC, plus a ninth, unrelated division with two teams. Brady. Belichick. In the quarterback game on Monday night in Tampa Bay with the New York Giants, the quarterback has a lead of three games over the head coach, who now has his first series of four losses since 2002.

"It's the third time this year that we've been in this situation and unfortunately couldn't play enough games to win," said Belichick after the Bills finished their seven games in New England. He later added: "I think we did a lot of things well enough to win but not good enough to win because we didn't win."

What else was there to say? The Patriots have won six Super Bowls, 17 division titles (including the last 11) and countless such games with Belichick and Brady on the same team. Now 43-year-old Brady is playing for the 5-2 Bucs, and the Patriots suddenly look like any other sad AFC East opponent they have tormented for almost two decades. Even the Miami Dolphins are 4-3 ahead of them, with an exciting young quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa and a coaching star in Brian Flores who was raised the Belichick way.

It's enough to convince millions of football fans that Brady has already answered the one question that has long hovered over the league: who was more critical to the success of the Patriots, the historically great quarterback, or the historically great coach?

Just because Belichick fell behind Brady with a couple of touchdowns doesn't mean the game is over. He's just been discussing his team's big problems with SiriusXM NFL radio hosts Bill Lekas ​​and Charlie Weis, his offensive coordinator for the first three Patriots titles – an amazing move since Belichick almost never heard of the challenges and that in public commentary Opponent of the current week differs. Maybe he felt the need to explain defeat while Brady was winning for someone else.

Or maybe he wanted to remind football fans that it often takes a while to form a winning team in a salary cap sport. And that he went through a brutal New England season once, just one before proving he can build a program like the NFL has never seen.

The truth is that Bill Belichick's 2020 team looks a bit like Bill Belichick's 2000 team. What do they have in common? Lose football. Identity-free football. Veteran quarterbacks who lost their only Super Bowl appearance a few seasons ago and who are apparently less versions of their former selves.

Drew Bledsoe ultimately got the big, long-term contract from the Patriots (thanks to owner Robert Kraft) that Newton, the more dynamic player, certainly didn't get (thanks to Belichick), but it seems likely that their New England playoffs will end up in the same smoky pile. Bledsoe had two starts on the $ 103 million deal he signed in March 2001 before his injury opened the door to Brady. Newton, who signed for a year and the minimum base salary of $ 1.05 million, could be one and deal with Belichick whether or not Jarrett Stidham is seen as a long-term answer to the position.

But what happened in 2001 after Belichick lost 13 of his first 18 games as a patriot coach was meant to be a reminder of how quickly and dramatically things can change in the NFL. Before the start of 2020, Belichick Brady didn't just lose a free hand. He lost eight players in the top division to COVID-19 opt-outs, including two solid players from the heart of his defense, Dont & # 39; a Hightower and Patrick Chung, who together made 246 regular season and postseason starts for the year had graduated from patriots. After dominating the AFC East and the league for so long, Belichick is now in the same position as he was 20 years ago: trying to start a brand new program.

The opt-outs, injuries, missed training and playing time for COVID-19, as well as the $ 26 million dead pay cap assigned to a number of ex-godfathers including Brady, Antonio Brown and Stephen Gostkowski, have made the transition COVID-19 endangers dynasty to whatever comes next. "I'd say this is kind of a year where we've adjusted our cap from previous years' spending," Belichick told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "We just weren't able to match the depth of our squad that we had in a few other years. That gives younger players more options. So it's a combination of all the reasons."

Of course, in this combination, no reason is more striking than the living legend that Belichick did not bring back. Brady's friend Shea gave the quarterback some advice before signing with Tampa Bay. The two Michigan men are close. They lived a floor apart in college, in units directly above and below each other, and still talked regularly. Brady is the godfather of Shea's nine year old son, Kinzy, and is now the franchisee for a head coach, Bruce Arians, who was Shea's offensive coordinator in Cleveland.

"I told Tom BA was the smartest offensive guy I've ever seen," said Shea. "I said to Tom," You are going to have so much fun with him. "I thought it was a match made in heaven.

"I'm looking at how New England designed wide receivers," he said. "No disrespect to anyone, but come on man. Now look at the offense in Tampa. Tom brought (Rob Gronkowski) with him, and now he has Antonio Brown. … Now that Tom has his guns, I leave knew that Tom had so much in the tank and was so motivated. He is 43 and plays like him 33. "

68 year old Belichick will almost certainly train well into the 1970s. Some believed he would survive Brady and give himself more chances of winning another title; It's physically easier to train than to play quarterback. But Brady has been known to potentially play past the age of 45, which seems more realistic from week to week. Years ago, after Shea told his friend that he had achieved everything in the game and should consider retiring, Brady asked him if he liked his job. Shea sold suites for the Browns and told the quarterback that he wasn't enjoying it.

"All I want to do is play quarterback in the NFL," Brady replied.

He still has one year left on his current deal.

"This won't be Tom's last deal," Shea said.

Meanwhile, Brady has the chance to lead the high performing Bucs to their first post-season appearance in 13 years and make Tampa Bay the first team to play a Super Bowl at their home stadium. Winning the No. 7 ring at Raymond James Stadium with Arians as coach that same year, which may see Belichick under 500 for the first time since 2000, would be "a moment Tom drops the microphone" in Shea's words. "

No, Belichick shouldn't have attempted that surprise onside kick on Sunday after New England drew the game in the third quarter. The Bills used the field position to score a touchdown for Josh Allen's run. "We're trying to make a positive game," Belichick said when asked about strategy.

It wasn't easy to play positive games without the injured Stephon Gilmore on defense and without the injured Julian Edelman on offense. The two best wideouts in New England were vacant Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd, who took nine catches and 97 yards. Newton played a pretty good game until the fatal fumble, but he hasn't been the same player – and New England hasn't been the same team – since being sidelined by COVID-19. Newton has had no touchdown passes against five interceptions in his last three starts.

Belichick later said that Newton is still his quarterback, but it's hard to see how much longer the Patriots can go without figuring out what Stidham is about. Funny how it goes. Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert told people ahead of the draft that he thought New England would act on the first round to pick him up. NBC Sports' Peter King reported that the Patriots were in love with Herbert. Imagine what Belichick could have done with this year of transition if he'd got his hands on it.

Hey, sometimes you get lucky with the draft and find Tom Brady at selection 199, and sometimes you don't. This 2020 season is an extremely painful exercise for Belichick to endure bad football while Brady lives happily ever after – for now – in Tampa.

But this game is not over yet. Bill Belichick can still find his long-term quarterback and he can still build another championship team.

And Belichick can still hope someone else will stop Tom Brady from winning another Super Bowl before he does.