A Circle-the-Wagons Night for the Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.--When it was over, linebacker Tedy Bruschi and quarterback Tom Brady hugged Coach Bill Belichick on the New England Patriots' sideline. The fans at Gillette Stadium cheered Belichick wildly as he exited the field. Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave Belichick a game ball and players offered testimonials to their coach in what they described as an emotional scene in the postgame locker room.
It was a circle-the-wagons kind of night for the Patriots, who followed a week of being called cheaters by overwhelming the San Diego Chargers, 38-14.
"I care about what people say," Bruschi said in the Patriots' locker room once the doors were opened to reporters. "This last week was tough. Did we use what was going on as extra motivation? We didn't. But I was aware of what was going on. It raised the importance of the game. What we did tonight speaks volumes. I think it starts with the head coach. The focus this week was on the San Diego Chargers, like he said about 20,000 times this week. We follow his lead."
Bruschi spoke at length about what the Patriots and their coach had been through during the week.
"The way he prepared us this week and the way he put his head down even when he was in the middle of all of that, he led by example," the linebacker said. "The affection [the fans] showed him is the affection we tried to show him after the game. Mr. Kraft gave him the game ball and some of us said some things.... It was up there with a lot of victories we had. You better look at us and see a bunch of winners."
He continued: "I think of past victories and past championships and people. We had to take it upon ourselves to go out and win this game. You guys say what you want to say and call us names. We'll block you out. We trust our preparation. We trust the people in here. That's what we do. He's our head coach and we stand behind him.... Something happens like that and people think it can mess a team up. After all the accusations and after all the name-calling, what did you see out there tonight? That's what we are."
He also offered a challenge to the Patriots' detractors on other NFL teams.
"Let's get all the players we had and you get back all the players you had," Bruschi said. "And we would win again."
Brady said he was proud of the way the Patriots handled the situation.
"I'm proud of the way our guys prepared this week," he said. "Over the years we've had a lot of distractions, and this team has always done a great job getting focused.... We've won quite a few big games around here. If we were going to listen to everything people said and respond, that's just too long a fight.... You just can't go out and respond to everything people say. There aren't enough hours in the day."
The weekly responses by Belichick and the Patriots will come on game days, Brady said.
"We're all fortunate to play for him because he's the best," he said. "I hope our fans realize how lucky they are because there aren't a lot of teams like this. I don't say that in an arrogant way. This is about a team.... I know the truth, and I know what I believe.... There's been proof for seven years. We're not changing what we do."
Belichick, in his typically understated way, praised his players' focus, but acknowledged that he'd felt the fans' support on a personal level as well.
Chargers tailback LaDainian Tomlinson realized what his club faced on this night.
"It was a trap for us, really," Tomlinson said. "They were saying, 'Everybody thinks we're cheaters. Let's go show we're not cheaters against one of the best teams in the league.' I'm not surprised at all that they played well."
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