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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Easy win? How dare you!

By Chris Forsberg
ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Maybe it was cold medication or just the natural effects of being a bit under the weather this week. Whatever the reason, Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn't in the mood Wednesday for questions that insinuated Sunday's game against the winless Colts would be an easy one for New England.

Before arriving at the podium, Belichick already had instructed his charges to direct all media inquiries about Indianapolis' 0-11 mark to him. And when the subject was broached during his morning news conference, Belichick grew increasingly agitated, eventually displaying a fiery side typically reserved for a side judge after a bad spot.

Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick kept an eye on his team's intensity during practice Wednesday.

The session started innocuously enough. Belichick, whose Monday news conference was interrupted by a coughing fit as he fights an illness, quipped that he'd try to "hold it together a little better" after a quick hack as he stepped to the podium.

But Belichick clearly arrived with a message, and just moments in, while discussing the Colts, he noted, "We never really worry about a team's record. We just worry about trying to get ready to play them and the matchup that we have on Sunday -- that's all that really matters."

For the first 14 minutes, the questions steered clear of Indy's struggles. Then came the first record-related query, and you could practically see Belichick's blood pressure rising.

A reporter said: "I know you don't like to talk about a team's record, but obviously the players have heard it, they know [the Colts'] record ..."

Belichick glared and didn't wait for the rest of the query.

"[The players have] heard me talk about it every week, so they really don't care about their record," he said. "And we really don't. What difference does it make? How somebody played two weeks ago against somebody else -- I mean, who cares? Us or anybody else. It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is how we and the Colts perform against each other on Sunday. That's all that matters. Who cares who won three weeks ago in some game with some other players? It doesn't matter."

Belichick You don't think you can gauge a team based on how a player blocks Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis? I mean, who else would you gauge it against? Are you kidding me?

-- Bill Belichick, answering a reporter's question on playing the 0-11 Colts

Then came a follow-up question, asking Belichick whether there's anything he does to keep his team from focusing on the opponent's poor record. He was more stern this time.

"We talk about it every week. It doesn't matter," he said. "There's 16 games on our schedule, and they're all the same. It's our team against that team that week. And we look at tape and learn about our opponent, scout them, and pick up tendencies -- their strengths and weaknesses, all that. But how we match up against that team that day is all that matters. The rest of it, it's just a bunch of garbage. You guys can write about it all you want, but it doesn't matter. Really. The winner of this game will be determined by who plays better on Sunday, not what happened four weeks ago. And this isn't a new story, but it's like this every week. Every week."

If the questioning had died there, it might have been somewhat less than noteworthy. But after some offensive-line chatter, the record question circled around again.

This time a reporter walked into a bit of a hornet's nest -- "I know you're saying that the record doesn't matter, but you obviously can gauge your team's performance better against a team that is more competitive or has a better record ..."

Again, Belichick didn't wait. Clearly irked, he reddened a bit and interjected.

"I don't agree with that. So, keep going on with your soliloquy, but I just don't agree with that," he said. "You don't think you can gauge a team based on how a player blocks Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis? I mean, who else would you gauge it against? Are you kidding me? Covering Reggie Wayne, [Austin] Collie and [Pierre] Garcon -- you don't think you can gauge your coverage based on those players? I don't care what their record is. You think there's better receivers around than them? Better pass-rushers than Freeney and Mathis? I'm not sure what games you're watching here."

Not since Bill Parcells used to snap, "That's a stupid question," have we seen that sort of incredulousness at the podium in Foxborough. Belichick clearly had a point he wanted to hammer home Wednesday, and he might as well have brought a sledgehammer with him.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady soon took Belichick's spot and explained how hard it is to win a single game in the NFL, something he said fans in New England take for granted given the team's success over the past decade. When he was asked why it's so hard for observers of the team to understand that difficulty, he was likewise direct.

"Because you guys don't play," Brady said. "You don't have to drop back and try to find the open guy with two guys breathing down your throat. You don't have to cover Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Or tackle those guys. They're damn good football players. And they've proven that year after year against us. So I've got a ton of respect for the Colts and the way they play. Someone said it earlier, we've had some great games against them. So we go out and expect to get their best. Their best has been very, very close at times this year. They played Pittsburgh very well, so when you see them play a team like Pittsburgh well -- and actually play them better than we played them -- you understand that they can certainly beat us if we don't go out and play well."

Does Brady truly believe that? It's likely Belichick won't let him -- or any other player in the Patriots' locker room -- believe otherwise. It's the only way he can ensure the Colts will remain winless after Sunday.

Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.