FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. What 'On To Cincinnati' means to players: In what is either a fun coincidence or a reflection of how NFL schedule-makers have a great sense of humor, the Patriots host the Chiefs on Sunday, and then they are on "On to Cincinnati" after that. This is the same set of back-to-back opponents as in the 2014 season, and one of the defining moments of the Patriots' Super Bowl dynasty.
The Patriots had been blown out in Kansas City, and the ensuing days were filled with clips of coach Bill Belichick repeating he was "on to Cincinnati" in the postgame news conference.
"I was a senior in college at Miami, and when I saw that interview, I was laughing," receiver Phillip Dorsett said. "I'd always been an admirer of Coach Belichick because he is who he is. He's not going to change for anybody."
Now that Dorsett has been with the Patriots since 2017, it makes even more sense and is especially applicable this week coming off a rare loss.
"It was a rough game, everybody was calling it the end, but at the end of the day it's about the next game. People have bad games. So it's 'On to Cincinnati,'" Dorsett said.
Veteran offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse was playing for the Bengals that season, and he remembers it vividly.
"I watch my fair share of sports talk shows, and you kept seeing the clip, and it was humorous for sure. But it was also quintessential Bill Belichick. Literally making his point and moving on to the next thing, all in one sentence," Newhouse said. "Now you hear college coaches, even NFL coaches, using it the same way."
Newhouse relayed that he didn't recall Bengals players mentioning it in preparations for the game, as they were 3-0 at the time before walking into a hornet's nest at Gillette Stadium.
Second-year tight end Ryan Izzo was a senior at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, New Jersey, that year and first saw Belichick's news conference on YouTube as it "popped up as one of the top things that day."
Fourth-year cornerback Jonathan Jones, who at the time was in the middle of his college career at Auburn, smiled at the memory.
"I received it as someone just trying to move forward, and obviously now being here, it fits the culture here. You can't change the past, things that happened. You learn from it, and then you have to move on. The quicker you can move on, the quicker you're ready for the next challenge," Jones said. "That's the thing about the NFL. It's week to week. The longer you stay in the past the further you get away from your next objective."
Center James Ferentz was a rookie with the Texans at the time, and he recalled the general discussion surrounding the Patriots at the time he saw Belichick's unforgettable news conference.
"Everyone was writing them off for dead, I saw it, and I was like 'I guess they're on to Cincinnati,'" he deadpanned. "But now that I've been here, I understand what he was saying. What's happened is happened, the only thing you focus on is moving forward. That's the mentality he preaches for this team -- it's on to this week."
2. Windows haven't been open for Brady: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is averaging the fewest yards per attempt (6.72) since the 2002 season, and that has naturally sparked questions as to why. One thing that would help: receivers giving him bigger windows in which to throw. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Brady has thrown the most tight-window passes over the past three weeks, completing 30% of them.
3. Chiefs vs. Patriots -- a contrast in speed: Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the Patriots don't factor in NFL Next Gen Stats and miles per hour in their preparations; however, the numbers can help paint a picture of a unit's speed. Consider this: The Chiefs have an NFL-high 14 plays this season in which their ball carrier reached 20-plus mph, while the Patriots are the only team without a single play of 20-plus mph. The ball carrier with the fastest recorded speed for the Patriots this season is Antonio Brown, who hasn't been on the team since mid-September.
Cruz: Patriots' defense will struggle vs. Mahomes
Victor Cruz expects Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to be too much for the Patriots' defense on Sunday.
4. Belichick and Saban documentary fits for the die-hard fan: A billboard promoting the NFL Films-produced "Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching" documentary set to air Tuesday (HBO) is on Route 95 South, not far from Gillette Stadium. That has contributed to the anticipation for the 75-minute documentary that includes the coaches sharing some of their blueprints for organizational success. How might things have been different for the Patriots in 2007 had they lost a regular-season game? Based on the documentary, Belichick has seemed to ask himself that same question. One area that left me wanting more, and seemed a bit incomplete, was at the end when Saban discussed how the demands and time commitment to a standard of excellence required a sacrifice from those in his family, and Belichick shared that he felt he had a more balanced life when he was a coordinator.
5. Quote of the week: “If you’re done growing, you’re done playing. My dad always said, ‘When you’re green, you grow. When you’re ripe, you rot.’ You try to continually go out and try to get better, and that’s what I’ll do until the day I’m done.” – Julian Edelman
6. Silver lining for Wynn -- injuries helped develop strength: Patriots left tackle Isaiah Wynn has been back in the lineup for two games after spending Weeks 3-11 on injured reserve, which has decisively upgraded the position. The 2018 first-round pick from Georgia said the hardest thing upon his return was making up lost time. "Everyone else was at Week 12, and this is just Game 3 for me," he said. "It's having that time to get caught up with everyone else, and opponents. I'd say it's getting better on a weekly basis." So is Wynn's health. Dealing with a shoulder injury upon his arrival as a rookie, then a torn Achilles in the 2018 preseason, and finally turf toe in the second week of the 2019 regular season, has been a frustrating experience for him. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia made the point that Wynn is now past all that and stronger than he has been since arriving in New England, which Wynn "definitely agreed with." Said Wynn: "Dealing with this whole injury thing gave me a chance to get stronger where I needed to so I could play in this league."
7. Bye week has been critical to Super success: With four games to play in the regular season, the chase for first-round playoff byes intensifies. How important has that been recently? Consider that over the past six full seasons, every team to play in the Super Bowl had a first-round bye, which is the longest streak since seeding began in 1990. This further highlights the rising stakes as the Chiefs visit the Patriots today, with New England in position to earn a bye. ESPN's Football Power Index currently gives the team a 91% chance at having a bye.
8. My Cause, My Cleats initiative a big win: One of the best things the NFL has done in recent years is devote one week for players to promote a cause that is meaningful to them as part of the "My Cause My Cleats" initiative, and there were some touching stories throughout the locker room this past week. Even Belichick is joining in, as he has custom "Bill Belichick Foundation” shoes to wear on the sideline. Simply by looking at their feet, you can learn a lot about what is important to the people you are watching.
9. AFC East hasn't been this tight in Week 14 in almost a decade: The Bills (9-3) are surging, and because of that, this marks the first time since 2010 that the Patriots (10-2) haven't had more than a one-game lead in the AFC East through Week 13 action. In that 2010 season, it was the Patriots at 9-2 and Rex Ryan's Jets at 9-2. While the Patriots won the division, the Jets ended up with the last laugh, going on the road and shocking New England in the divisional round of the playoffs.
10. All-navy uniforms a winning combo for Patriots: In 2002, Patriots captains approached Belichick about the possibility of wearing an alternate uniform -- blue pants and blue jerseys. Belichick's response, as you might expect, was along the lines of "What are we doing here?" The Patriots ended up doing it and losing to the Packers, 28-10. Players received the message that there should be less focus on what the uniform looks like, and more on what the performance looks like. That story is brought up in light of this fun stat: With the Patriots set to wear their all-navy uniforms (formerly "color rush") against the Chiefs, they are 6-0 all-time in the current version of the uniform, which was updated in 2016.