Bill Belichick has now enjoyed the morning following a victory 249 times in his career as an NFL head coach.
Rookie third-round pick Jacoby Brissett was enjoying the morning after for the first time as an NFL starter on Friday.
But, in his traditional day-after-game conference call with the New England media following the Patriots utterly impressive 27-0 shutout of the Texans on Thursday Night Football, the coach continued a trend he started in his postgame press conference focusing on the impact the players had in the on-field success rather than basking in the glow of the spotlight himself.
Interestingly, while Belichick was emphasizing that players and not systems win games in the NFL, his own troops in the postgame locker room at Gillette Stadium were quick to acknowledge the importance of the coaching staff in the short-week win.
The reality is that NFL winning comes thanks to a combination of talent and coaching. But with the Patriots now having improved to a 3-0 start atop the AFC East led by fill-in backup Jimmy Garoppolo and the fresh-faced rookie Brissett, Belichick made it clear he believes that players are the most important ingredient to NFL success.
Those feelings are just a part of the highlights from Belichick's rare Friday morning, day-after-game conference call.
1. "It's all the players": Tom Brady and Belichick have dominated the NFL for the better part of two decades, building Hall of Fame credentials as a tandem. But given Garoppolo's success over the first six quarters of 2016 and Brissett's winning formula in the most recent six quarters of action, some might be prone to believe it's the system that wins in New England, regardless of the quarterbacks under center.
Belichick isn't buying that. The coaches put a plan in place each week based on the circumstances, but that ends in the meeting room and the players are left to the on-field execution.
"Look, we just try to go out there every week and win. Try to go out there and put the best game plan together with the players we have against the opponent we're playing against and win," Belichick declared.
"Of course the players' talents are important. They are the ones who win the games. Who do you think goes out there and runs the ball and blocks and tackles and throws and catches? It's all the players. Who else does it besides them?"
2. "There is no coach blocking Watt": J.J. Watt has been the best defensive player in the NFL for most of his career. He's a dynamic, versatile game-changer. Just not against the Patriots. Watt was once again held in check in Thursday night's New England win, the fourth time he's faced the Patriots, a team he's never recorded a sack against. Sure, Watt may still be recovering from offseason abdominal and back surgeries. But the bottom line is that the guys on the Patriots offensive front had a good plan to work with and simply got the job done against the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
"I think Josh [McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator], Dante [Scarnecchia, offensive line coach], Ivan [Fears, running backs coach], did a good job game planning for the Texans defense. But there is no coach blocking Watt. Players have to do that. And they did a good job of it. We did a good job of staying in front of him, blocking him with the proper technique. He's very quick and long and can get around blocks in a hurry. So you have to be on balance, it's hard to get overaggressive or overextended on him or he'll just slip right by you. I thought our players blocked him with good technique. They played hard and blocked him well."
Watt had a mere two assisted tackles on Thursday night.
3. Brissett TD had "remarkable" timing: Maybe the signature play of the latest Patriots signature win with a rookie third-string quarterback under center was Brissett's 27-yard touchdown run around right end in the first quarter. The quick play-action, naked boot was a designed run that saw rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell run off cornerback Johnathan Joseph and make a block at the end to get Brissett into the end zone. But Belichick pointed out the timing of the play that allowed it to succeed, including a key block from right guard Shaq Mason.
"Jacoby took the ball, kind of took one step back, gave a quick ball fake to LeGarrette [Blount] and then he just went to the edge and it was timed out well with Shaq who cut [Houston linebacker Benardrick McKinney] on the line of scrimmage, got him down and kind of knocked him off balance. By that time Jacoby was already outside," Belichick described. "Once Jacoby got to the corner, it was really a run all the way there was no pass option on it, once Jacoby got to the corner then it was Joseph was tied up with Mitchell and then [Andre] Hal, the free safety came over and missed the tackle, Jacoby cut back on him for the score."
Belichick said the play was one of a handful new looks that the Patriots installed during the course of the short preparation week, ones that never really got practiced given that the team basically held walkthroughs all week leading up to Thursday night to allow players' bodies to recover physically on the quick turnaround.
"Jacoby's touchdown run, that would be an example of one of those plays," Belichick said. "We felt like we could get a good, we thought that we could get what we ended up getting, we thought we could get outside and there wasn't really anybody left out there except the corner who was in man coverage. Once we got outside then it was just a question of when the free safety would get there or if an inside linebacker would be able to get there quick enough. But because LeGarrette flowed across the formation, that dragged the linebackers with him so there was, as you saw, nobody left.
"But the timing of the play between Jacoby and Shaq was really perfect, which was remarkable considering we've never run the play other than just a walkthrough. But Shaq cut McKinney down at the perfect time as Jacoby was getting outside of him. McKinney just really didn't have a chance to recover. So that was an example. There were some other plays as well.
"A couple of those plays really helped us in the game."