FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick delivered an obvious but essential message to his playoff-bound players: Mess up now and the consequences are costly.
“I think coach said it best this morning,” Tom Brady said Thursday. “He said, ‘You make one mistake in this type of game and that’s your season.’ It’s no more, ‘I’ll get it figured out next week and it’s something we have to learn from and move on from.’ No, it’s your season.”
Belichick, a master of the complex game of football, hammers away at simple lessons that have made the New England Patriots a consistent Super Bowl contender.
Do your job. Improve each day. Focus on the next practice.
That approach stays the same no matter what game is coming up: preseason, regular season or postseason. It’s even more important now with the Patriots (12-4) set to host an AFC divisional-round game on Jan. 13 after earning the second seed and a bye.
Win or go home.
They went into their three-day break on Friday not knowing who they’d be playing. It would be the Houston Texans if they beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. Otherwise, the opponent would be the winner of Sunday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.
Whoever it is, Belichick’s approach and demeanor aren’t likely to change. After all, that’s gotten the Patriots to the playoffs in 10 of his 13 seasons and to the Super Bowl five times with three championships.
“He’s consistently himself,” punter Zoltan Mesko said. “He doesn’t try to emulate anyone else. Basically, he’s forged his own brand image with who he is, telling the truth about your game, tells you when it’s good, tells you when it’s bad.
“I think a lot of guys are appreciative of that. It’s tough to swallow the truth sometimes, but it’s very rewarding when you improve upon your game and you get praised on that.”