These Patriots takes from NFL execs reflect very well on Belichick originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots are far from the NFL's most talented team. They have a rookie quarterback, lack a true No. 1 wide receiver and finished 7-9 a season ago.
So, how did they become the hottest team in the NFL?
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer offered some interesting insight Sunday into how the Patriots are viewed around the league, relaying one NFL executive's high praise of Bill Belichick and his coaching staff.
"We saw them as the best-coached team we've seen since we got here," the executive told Breer (as seen in the video above). "They do everything correct. They do everything disciplined. ... It's a master-level class in coaching."
Breer shared a few more quotes from NFL executives about the Patriots on Monday, and there was a familiar theme: The league is very impressed with how well New England is constructed as a team, and how well its players execute the game plan on Sundays.
"They’re so impressive to watch with the big-picture stuff—what they’re doing with (quarterback) Mac (Jones) and how that affects the defense, and what they do defensively," a rival executive told Breer for his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column.
“A lot of these guys defensively are declining. … But they get the most of these guys. They got rid of (Stephon) Gilmore, their corners aren’t very good, but they know exactly what coverages they’re gonna play. They know exactly what their matchups are gonna be."
A head coach whose team played the Patriots earlier this season highlighted New England's success in the run game, where Belichick's club has averaged 144 rushing yards over its six-game winning streak.
"You can tell they’re well-coached, they’re on their s--- in the run game, and with the amount of 21-personnel [two backs, one tight end] they run at you, it's tough," the coach told Breer. "It’s different than what you see from other teams. No one, other than maybe Baltimore and San Francisco, runs it more than they do."
Patriots' point differential, last six games
The Patriots' run-heavy approach has exceled against lighter, more athletic defensive fronts designed to stop pass-happy NFL attacks. That's no coincidence, either: Belichick and his staff assembled the NFL's heaviest offensive line and drafted a bruiser in rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson to exploit that trend.
New England made changes at several key positions this season, drafting impact rookies like Jones, Stevenson and defensive tackle Christian Barmore while adding multiple weapons on offense (Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry) and veteran defenders in edge rusher Matt Judon and cornerback Jalen Mills.
So far, those newcomers have all filled specific needs for the Patriots and helped the team emerge as a legitimate threat in the AFC. That's a testament to Belichick's ability to identify talent and to get the most out of the players in his building.