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Bill Belichick has won 247 games, including playoffs. He won a Super Bowl as a 14-point underdog. It’s one of his four Super Bowl wins.
So Sunday wasn’t Belichick’s greatest moment. But it was still amazing.
The New England Patriots were without quarterback Tom Brady, running back Dion Lewis, tight end Rob Gronkowski, guard Jonathan Cooper, tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer and defensive end Rob Ninkovich. Their quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, was making his first NFL start, replacing perhaps the greatest quarterback ever. They were going against an Arizona Cardinals team that was one of the best in the NFL last season and made it to the NFC championship game. And the game was in Arizona, where the Cardinals have rarely lost under Bruce Arians.
The point spread swelled, and the Cardinals were favored by as many as 9.5 points at some sports books. The Patriots hadn’t been that big of an underdog since the end of the 2001 season … in that Super Bowl they won against the St. Louis Rams, who were favored by two touchdowns.
And the Patriots beat the Cardinals. Incredible.
It’s not like anyone thinking clearly doesn’t have Belichick among the greatest coaches ever, but Sunday was a good reminder. The Patriots did a good job taking away the Cardinals’ big plays on offense and putting Garoppolo in positions to succeed. The Patriots are always well prepared, and that was especially true Sunday night. Winning at Arizona isn’t easy with a healthy team. The Patriots did it without many key pieces including two future Hall-of-Fame offensive players and most of their projected offensive line (offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who returned after a two-year retirement, is pretty darn good too).
It’ll be funny at the end of the year when the NFL coach of the year award is given out. It will go to the coach of whatever team most exceeded the media’s preseason predictions and not Belichick, who is the greatest coach in the game today and might be the best ever. Sunday night wasn’t Belichick’s most impressive moment as an NFL head coach. But it was a reminder of how great he is.
Here are this week’s NFL power rankings:
32. Cleveland Browns (0-1, Last week: 32)
Going from Robert Griffin III to Josh McCown isn’t a bad thing, necessarily — there’s a good argument that McCown is better right now — but the Browns showed nothing in the opener that provided any optimism for the next 15 games.
31. Los Angeles Rams (0-1, LW: 25)
They’ll be moving up from here in the next few weeks. But that performance at the 49ers was so incredibly awful, they deserve this spot for at least a week. The two worst teams in Week 1, by far, are the bottom two teams in these rankings.
30. San Diego Chargers (0-1, LW: 30)
Philip Rivers’ stats through first eight games in 2015 with Keenan Allen: 2,753 yards, 18 touchdowns, 102.1 rating. Rivers’ last eight games without Allen: 2,039 yards, 11 touchdowns, 84.6 rating. The one guy the Chargers can’t afford to lose is Rivers. Allen might be second on that list, and now he’s done for the season with a knee injury. Add in a devastating Week 1 defeat at Kansas City and coach Mike McCoy has a tough job ahead.
29. Tennessee Titans (0-1, LW: 28)
Excluding two plays, Marcus Mariota looked good on Sunday, a fine encore to a promising rookie season. The problem is the two bad plays, a regrettable interception and a flubbed handoff exchange, were each returned by the Vikings for touchdowns. Mariota will be fine, but that’s a tough way to lose.
28. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 31)
If the 49ers could play the second game of the “Monday Night Football” doubleheader each week, they’d be the 1972 Dolphins.
27. Atlanta Falcons (0-1, LW: 27)
Interesting that Devonta Freeman got 36 snaps on Sunday and Tevin Coleman 32, according to pro-football-reference.com. This seems like a full time-share to keep Freeman from hitting the second-half wall, like he did last season.
26. New Orleans Saints (0-1, LW: 26)
This can’t be considered that bad of a loss, considering the Raiders scored a 2-point conversion at the end and that came after a questionable fourth-down pass interference call on linebacker Craig Robertson, but that’s the kind of game you need to get. When Drew Brees throws for 423 yards and four touchdowns, including a 98-yarder at home, the Saints will end up regretting not getting a win out of it.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0, LW: 29)
Carson Wentz looked fantastic in his debut. It didn’t seem like it was merely a product of playing a bad Browns team, though it will be interesting to see if he can repeat it next week at Chicago on Monday night.
24. Chicago Bears (0-1, LW: 23)
Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman combined for 16 tackles and 12 assists on Sunday. It came in a loss, but the Bears have to feel good they’ve finally addressed the long-standing issue at inside linebacker.
23. Miami Dolphins (0-1, LW: 24)
It’s not like the Dolphins shocked the world, with their 11 first downs and 214 total yards at Seattle. But still, they had a chance to win and allowed a one-legged Russell Wilson to drive all the way downfield for a game-winning touchdown in the last minute. That had to be a really, really long flight back to Miami.
22. Indianapolis Colts (0-1, LW: 21)
Andrew Luck will carry this team to some wins. He was very good in Sunday’s loss. But what else do the Colts have that’s exciting?
21. Buffalo Bills (0-1, LW: 20)
Sammy Watkins’ foot injury might not keep him out of any games, but it’s not something that seems like it will get much better as he continues to play on it. And the Bills’ offense was really bad in Week 1.
20. Dallas Cowboys (0-1, LW: 19)
Dez Bryant: 75 snaps, five targets, one catch, 8 yards. That needs to change, but was it a product of having a rookie quarterback who doesn’t want to make mistakes?
19. Washington Redskins (0-1, LW: 16)
Still waiting for them to beat a good team (and yes, the idea to not move Josh Norman around to match up with Antonio Brown was awful).
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0, LW: 22)
Defensive end Jacquies Smith’s knee injury and trip to injured reserve won’t generate a ton of attention, but he’s 26 and had 13.5 sacks the past two years. It’s a big blow to Tampa Bay’s pass rush.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1, LW: 17)
There’s nothing wrong with Sunday’s loss. The Jaguars had a shot late, and a play here or there goes better (or a better fourth-and-1 call at the end) and they pull off the upset over Green Bay. The Jaguars should feel fine with how they looked in Week 1.
16. Baltimore Ravens (1-0, LW: 15)
It was good to see receiver Breshad Perriman, a 2015 first-round pick who missed all of last season, and tight end Dennis Pitta, who missed all of last year, contribute to a win. Pitta’s three catches were his first since Sept. 21, 2014. Perriman had only one catch but it was a nice one down the sideline against tight coverage.
15. Detroit Lions (1-0, LW: 18)
Running backs Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah looked like a great combination, combining for 228 yards and three touchdowns. They did most of their damage in the passing game, with 10 combined catches. Once defenses adjust to that, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron will benefit. This is a tough offense to defend.
14. New York Jets (0-1, LW: 13)
Leonard Williams, last year’s first-round pick, had 2.5 sacks in the opener. Muhammad Wilkerson had 1.5 sacks and new nose tackle Steve McLendon added a couple. The Jets’ defensive front is going to be amazing.
13. Minnesota Vikings (1-0, LW: 14)
Anyone worried about Adrian Peterson? Just 31 yards on 19 carries is concerning for a team that is going to rely on him even more than usual. But then again, Peterson had 31 yards on 10 carries in Week 1 last year and won a rushing title. The last time Peterson had 100 rushing yards in the opener was 2009.
12. Oakland Raiders (1-0, LW: 12)
If you want to be a playoff team, you have to win games like at New Orleans. It wasn’t easy and the Raiders showed a lot of resiliency. And the next four weeks (vs. Atlanta, at Tennessee, at Baltimore, vs. San Diego) aren’t too tough.
11. New York Giants (1-0, LW: 11)
Odell Beckham had a relatively quiet day, with four catches for 73 yards, and 45 yards came on one reception. And the Giants still won on the road against a division rival. That’s a great sign.
10. Denver Broncos (1-0, LW: 10)
C.J. Anderson is going to have a huge season. He was very efficient after a slow start last season and now he’s going to get as many carries as he can handle.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0, LW: 8)
The comeback was great and Alex Smith played very well. But it’s still fair to ask: How do you fall behind 24-3 to the Chargers at home if you’re a top-10 team?
8. Houston Texans (1-0, LW: 9)
J.J. Watt had no tackles and one assist in his return from back surgery and the Texans defense still destroyed Jay Cutler. If Watt plays like himself at some point this season, look out.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0, LW: 7)
We found out how the Bengals will react to losing their Nos. 2 and 3 receivers in the offseason and being without tight end Tyler Eifert the first few weeks of this season. They’ll just throw to A.J. Green every down. Looked like a good plan in Week 1.
6. Arizona Cardinals (0-1, LW: 2)
I’ve heard so often since Sunday night that the Cardinals aren’t any good this season. Calm down. It’s one game. They lost on a missed field goal in the final seconds. They’ll be fine.
5. Green Bay Packers (1-0, LW: 6)
It wasn’t the explosive Packers offense we’re used to — Aaron Rodgers had 199 yards, Jordy Nelson had just 32 yards, they had just 95 rushing yards as a team — but it was good enough for a win. The defensive front seven looked very active.
4. Carolina Panthers (0-1, LW: 1)
No reason to worry about the Panthers, though there were times it was clear they had two rookie cornerbacks playing prominent roles. No matter how much a scheme is set up to minimize the cornerback position, opponents can still find them.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 5)
Antonio Brown, 2016 NFL MVP. Get used to it.
2. Seattle Seahawks (1-0, LW: 3)
A Russell Wilson injury was always the one thing that could derail the Seahawks, considering their treacherous backup situation. He seemed to be scrambling for his life every play behind a struggling line, so you have to worry about him taking many more hits if he can’t move on that bad ankle.
1. New England Patriots (1-0, LW: 4)
They have three home games and then Tom Brady comes back. If they’re 4-0 when that happens, teams better start figuring out how to win an AFC championship game at Foxborough if they have Super Bowl dreams.
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