For the Patriots, it’s all about the next game. Coaches and players rarely look past the next opponent on the schedule. That’s not true for the entire organization, however. There’s a chunk of the staff whose jobs are all about looking ahead.
On to fill in the blank, sort of speak.
The Patriots are in the middle of an unorthodox late-season schedule that includes three games in 12 days, back-to-back Thursday night games, followed by a third straight prime-time game Monday in Arizona that is the first stop on a weeklong West Coast trip.
The advance scouting department is busy preparing for future foes even as the majority of the organization is focused on the current game.
“That’s what we do every week. Like there’s somebody always [getting] ahead for the following team. So, even if we play Sunday to Sunday, there are people that are working on the next team on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,’’ said Bill Belichick. “So, when we finish with a game on Sunday, then everybody else can pick up with them where things are at with film broken down, information assembled in various, multiple ways. So, that process is always in place.
“Obviously, it gets heightened a little bit when you’re coming off a four-day week like the Minnesota game, right? That’s even a little bit different. But we always have that. So, it’s not anything that’s new. That’s what we’ve always done. Of course, the team is all dedicated to the game, but most of the staff members are dedicated to the current game. But there is segment of our staff that’s really preparing for the future game.’’
As soon as those packages are distributed after the current game ends, the advance staff starts the process all over again for the next team on the itinerary.
“Then that carries into, let’s call it, Monday and Tuesday of a normal week, maybe even Wednesday,’’ the coach said. “Then by that point, it’s kind of time for them to turn the page and move on to the next opponent. So that’s kind of their routine for the whole year.’’
Belichick, who is in his 48th NFL season, has been part of the advance team at different points in his career.
“I’ve done that multiple times in my career, early with Baltimore, Denver, being at places like that, that’s what you do,” he said. “Your week is kind of I would say Wednesday to Tuesday or maybe Wednesday to Wednesday. Then once you get to that Wednesday of the game week, then you’re on to the next week. Then you do things at the beginning of the following week to help the staff. As they’re getting familiar with the team, there’ll be people who say, ‘Hey, take a look at this,’ or ‘Can you put this together? Can you make a tape of this? Can you look into this a little bit deeper?’ Then you dive into those individual projects to help the staff prepare for the players coming in on Wednesday or Thursday.
“Usually by that time, then you get to the game and then you kind of have to recoup and refresh your game day responsibilities.’’
The advance staff can include support personnel, scouts, and coaches, who must juggle responsibilities for multiple games.
“There’s certain members of the coaching staff in each phase of the game — offense, defense, special teams — that’s kind of in that advanced preparation mode. Honestly, some of it is just getting all on the same page when you play a team, say a team like Arizona, would be a good example,’’ said Belichick. “Defensively they run a lot of different things, right? They run multiple fronts and multiple coverages. They blitz, I don’t know, call it 50 percent of the time, somewhere in there. They play a lot of different people. They have a lot of different personnel groups. So, it’s kind of like what are we calling this? What is this? So, as we’re looking at it individually, you’re calling it one thing, I’m calling it something else, somebody else is calling it something else. Wait a minute, how are we all going to talk about this, so we actually know what we’re talking about? Like that would be big thing for this week.
“Same thing with, again Arizona is a good example, some of the plays they run are not quite the same maybe. OK, what are we going to call this play? Is this play really that play? Or is this play really a different play with this little variation to it? How do we want to present that to the players? Is it a pass? Is it a run-pass option? What category does it fall into? How do we want to call it? How do we want to categorize it?’’
. . .
Rookie Brendan Schooler has a team-high 12 special teams tackles. Next highest is Jabrill Peppers and Cody Davis with six. Davis is on injured reserve . . . Matthew Judon has 13 sacks and is on pace for 18. Andre Tippett (18.5) holds the franchise season mark, set in 1984 . . . Mac Jones’s streak of 156 passes without an interception is the NFL’s longest active streak . . . Shawn Smith’s crew will officiate Monday night’s game.