There have been a fair amount of important regular-season games at Gillette Stadium over the years. That’s not surprising considering the level of dominance the Patriots have enjoyed for the better part of two decades.
Sunday night will feature another one as the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and their high-powered offense invade Foxborough in a game that could very well hold important postseason seeding implications.
The 5-0 Chiefs could establish a three-game lead over the Patriots with a win while also holding the all-important tiebreaker by virtue of a head-to-head victory. By no means would that be an insurmountable cushion, but with just 10 games to play after the Week 6 encounter, odds would be on Kansas City’s side down the stretch.
Therefore, Sunday night’s game hold a little more importance than most regular-season contests. Just don’t tell that to Bill Belichick.
The coach held his press conference on Wednesday and was asked if it felt like New England was playing for the top seed in the AFC.
“I feel like we’re playing Kansas City,” he said.
Do the stakes seem any higher?
“It feels like we’re playing Kansas City,” he repeated.
I guess Belichick isn’t big into the hype guy, but we already knew that.
Elsewhere, here are some highlights from Wednesday’s press conference.
Practice makes perfect – After defeating the Colts last Thursday night, the Patriots had the advantage of a few extra days of preparation for the Chiefs, and Belichick was happy about that considering everything that Andy Reid does to make life difficult on his opponents.
“I think it’s fortunate we’ve had a couple of extra days to work on Kansas City,” Belichick said. “Need a lot of extra time to prepare for this team. They give you a lot of problems with their scheme, players, very well coached, as they always are with Andy. This is a very explosive group, so easy to see why they are undefeated. This will be a big challenge for us this week. We will have to do a lot of things well and do them consistently. Do them for 60 minutes.”
UpHill climb – Dynamic Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill is one of the most explosive players in football with the ability to not only run past defenders on long passes but also to make big plays out of shorter ones. Belichick was asked about the dangers of pressing him at the line of scrimmage, which can be a risky proposition given his blazing speed.
“You hope it’s 10 yards. He can take those slip screens and go 80 yards, too. Yeah, it’s a problem,” Belichick said. “If you play off him, you give him too much space. Play up on him, he gets behind you. He’s a hard guy to defend. The quarterback can throw it deep. He stretches the whole field. They have a lot of run-pass option plays. If you stop the run, you’re light outside. If you’re heavy outside, you’re light inside. They do a good job. They can move the ball. They score a lot of points, got a lot of explosive players. Hill’s one of them but they’ve got a bunch of them.”
Belichick explained how the Chiefs use of Hill also is a challenge because Reid does a great job of keeping him on the move.
“Andy’s a great coach. He does a great job in game planning. You never know where [Hill’s] going to be,” Belichick said. “Where he is for you and where he is for somebody else depends on how you play and how they want to attack you, so you’ve got to be ready for everything with him. He could be anywhere.
“It’s always an issue. It’s easy to matchup one guy. It’s the rest of them.”
In the spotlight – One player who figures to be heavily involved in trying to contain all of the Chiefs weapons is cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He’s had an up-and-down start to the season thus far, allowing very few completions but some of them have resulted in touchdowns.
Belichick had some praise for his corner when asked about his improvement.
“I think he’s done a good job for us,” Belichick said. “Way better than last year, just overall everything. I mean, he’s a good player. He was a good player last year. I think his ability for us to utilize him in our system and for him to have maybe a better understanding for us as group in the secondary, not just him, but the entire group to function as one. It improved last year over the course of the year and I think it’s improved this year, too. He’s done a great job for us.”
Belichick also discussed Gilmore’s versatility, which allows him to compete against a variety of receivers of various sizes.
“His concentration, his skill set, his toughness,” he began. “He’s long. He’s got good strength. He’s got pretty good technique. He works hard at it. He studies the receivers well. He can run, he’s quick. He’s got good instincts. He’s got a lot of things going for him. But he works hard and he really has good focus.
“It’s hard to play that position. You’re not in on every play. You’re in on half a dozen to a dozen plays in every game but those are game-changing plays. You have to be ready on every play but the reality of it is that player doesn’t confront the ball or the pass for that play, or the running play – whatever it is – whatever gets out to him. It’s only a handful of plays but those are critical plays, so having that kind of focus and concentration and being ready for every play even though you’re only going to get one out of eight – whatever it is. There’s, I would say, a mental toughness that goes at that position that you need and he has it.”