Business as unusual
New England says it has no extra motivation in matchup with Indianapolis, but competitiveness of Brady and Belichick indicates otherwise
The New England Patriots say they’re preparing for Sunday night’s game in Indianapolis just like it’s any other game. Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are dismissing suggestions the Patriots will be out to exact their DeflateGate revenge on the Colts. Yeah, right. In a sport of ruthless competitors, no tandem is more ruthlessly competitive than Brady and Belichick. They had to endure an offseason in which the validity of their four Super Bowl triumphs, appropriately or not, again was questioned. Brady had to go to federal court to have a four-game suspension by the NFL overturned. The league’s appeal of that ruling continues to hang over his head.
Now they get their chance to take it out on the Colts, the franchise that alerted the league office to be on the lookout for under-inflated footballs in last season’s AFC title game in Foxborough, Mass.
The Patriots didn’t have much use for the report by NFL investigator Ted Wells. But they might find this passage from pages 44 and 45 of the Wells report useful this week:
On January 17, 2015, the day before the AFC Championship Game, Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson sent an email to the NFL raising concerns about the air pressure of game balls used by the Patriots. Grigson sent his email to David Gardi and Mike Kensil, both senior members of the NFL Football Operations Department. The email from Grigson attached a message from Sean Sullivan, the Colts Equipment Manager, describing these concerns. The Grigson email described the Sullivan message as an “FYI” and stated: “all the Indianapolis Colts want is a completely level playing field. Thank you for being vigilant stewards of that not only for us but for the shield and overall integrity of our game.” In relevant part, the attached message from Sullivan stated:
[“]As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that
they don’t get an illegal advantage.[”]
The Patriots are the team that went unbeaten in the 2007 regular season and AFC playoffs, falling one Super Bowl mis step against the New York Giants shy of a 19-0 season, in the wake of the SpyGate scandal. They are the team that has won its first four games this season, post DeflateGate, by an average of 18.3 points. Yet they say it’s business as usual this week. “I’m always pretty motivated regardless of the opponent, regardless of the team or the week, whether it’s a preseason game, whether it’s a regular season game,” Brady said during his weekly meeting with reporters. “They’re all important because there are so few of those where you get an opportunity in your life. So I don’t take it for granted. I think it’s exciting to go out there and do something that I love to do, to go out there and do it with teammates who I love to play with. We all put a lot of effort in — the coaches, players. So it’s another opportunity for us to go out there and see if we can be a good football team.”
Be li chicks aid at a news conference :“I mean, look, it’s the same questions every week. We’re getting ready to play a game on Sunday. We’re going to do the best we can to prepare for it and be ready to go and perform well on Sunday night. That’s what we do.”
The Colts undoubtedly know better. But they also have other issues about which to fret. They were off to a 1-2 start under fourth-year quarterback Andrew Luck before he missed two games with an ailing right shoulder. Veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck took over and beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans to improve the Colts’ record to 3-2. Now it could be back to Luck for this game.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We’ve moved on, obviously, just like everybody else has moved on from that ballgame,” Colts Coach Chuck Pagano said of the rematch in a conference call with reporters this week. “We got beat. They outplayed us. And that’s the end of that.”
Deflated footballs or not, the Colts lost the AFC championship game to the Patriots by a margin of 45-7. That is not easily dismissed.
“I don’t think you ever forget, obviously, games like that, certainly one that was one game away from going to a Super Bowl ,” Pa ga no said.
Tom Brady drops back to pass during last week’s win at Dallas. Brady had to go to federal court to have a four-game suspension by the NFL overturned. The league’s appeal of that ruling still hangs over his head.
Coming off the DeflateGate scandal, the Patriots have won their first four games of the season.