Every week before the Patriots play a game, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Reiss dissect the action as part of "Bruschi's Breakdown." This week's breakdown is posted for Sunday's divisional-round matchup against the Texans.
Bruschi starts off by acknowledging the mental challenges for both teams in a rematch of the Patriots' 42-14 thrashing of the Texans on Dec. 10:
"This is unique from a 'mental conditioning' standpoint in terms of the players and what they have to go through this week. It's not just the Patriots. It's also the Texans. When you look at it from the Texans' perspective, you just got drubbed by this team 42-14 and that taste is still fresh in your mouth. And now you have to go back and do something no one thinks you can -- that's a big challenge. Then you look at the Patriots' challenge. You watch that film and a lot of success you had offensively, defensively and on special teams, and you have to remind yourself "this isn't just going to happen again. We can't just roll our helmets out there and expect they are going to lay down." So it's mental challenges on both sidelines.
"To have that type of experience (losing to the Jets in the playoffs in 2010 after beating them a few weeks earlier), and to go through adversity like losing the Super Bowl last year and starting this year 3-3, that can help. But one thing I'd say is that they are in the tougher position than the Texans. As an athlete, when you're challenged and you have something in front of you like the Texans do, there is a determination to force a different outcome and prove people wrong -- it's almost easier to have that type of motivation, that type of underdog mentality. It's almost like the situation we had in 2004 with the Steelers. They beat us up on Halloween and then we had to go back for the AFC Championship. We had the motivation of 'this time we're going to do it right.' The Steelers had the tougher challenge."
Bruschi also thinks Bill Belichick should avoid the urge to overcoach his team this week. In Bruschi's opinion, the Patriots shouldn't veer far from what worked against the Texans the first time around:
"With coach Belichick, I think they need to be careful of overcoaching this week. They've gone into big games before and said, 'Fellas, this is what we did last time. Just forget about it and this is what we're going to do this time.' The idea is to bring so much of an adjustment level that it confuses the other side. But at this time of year, I don't think it's about confusion. I think that previous game means a lot. I think you watch that game, see what was successful, and how you succeeded and how you failed, and you translate that to this week. If it worked, keep it in the game-plan, and if it didn't, take it out. I don't think this is the time of year that you want to tinker too much. Sure, there will be some slight wrinkles and adjustments. I think you can make those on the sideline. But after scoring 42 points on them the last time, I don't know how many of those you really want to make. As for Kubiak and his game plan, it's a team that missed a lot of opportunities the last time -- multiple fourth-down opportunities, with receivers dropping passes. I think it comes down to players making plays more than any big changes. I'd also trust that zone-running scheme a bit more. When I look at this offensive line, I've seen chopping, ankle biting, barrel-rolling. They'll grab you, all that type of stuff, to get you on the ground on the back side. But there wasn't a lot of that Dec. 10 and I think they need to get back to what they are and get that run and play-action game going."
To read "Bruschi's Breakdown", CLICK HERE.