Patriots used week in California as bonding experience

After bonding off the field all week in San Diego, the Patriots bonded on the field Sunday night in their win over the Chargers.
After bonding off the field all week in San Diego, the Patriots bonded on the field Sunday night in their win over the Chargers. Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Under coach Doc Rivers, the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen era Celtics embraced the “Ubuntu” philosophy, the idea of sacrificing for the common good, of coming together and being accountable to one another.

Roughly, it boils down to “I am because we are.”

It was during a preseason trip to Italy in 2007 that the Celtics adopted Ubuntu, and it galvanized them to a championship run.

The Patriots’ time in California last week might just be the days that forge them into a championship team, their time of adopting Ubuntu, even if that isn’t what they expressly set out to do.


Bill Belichick always looks for team-first players, guys who eschew personal statistics in the pursuit of victories. As the days went on in San Diego, Patriots players talked of forging a bond, a time to come together that they wouldn’t normally have a dozen weeks into the regular season.

“Being in San Diego gave us the chance to bond,” team captain Vince Wilfork said on Sunday night, after a 23-14 win over the Chargers. “We watched extra film, we hung out, we talked football. Everybody prepared well, we had three good practices.”

Darrelle Revis, who had never experienced such a a trip during his time with the Jets and Buccaneers, tipped his cap to Belichick for the way things were structured, and felt that having the time together come immediately after the “devastating” loss to Green Bay was particularly positive.

There are only a few Patriots — Tom Brady, Wilfork, Stephen Gostkowski, Matthew Slater, Dan Connolly, and Ryan Wendell — who were with the team in 2008, when it had two in-season weeklong trips with the team playing all four West Coast teams.

The games were paired together, San Francisco and San Diego early in the season, Seattle and Oakland later, and the Patriots used the Santa Clara Marriott and San Jose State as their home base both times.


Last week, Belichick was, as always, trying to do what he felt was best for his team, eliminating the trip from Green Bay back to Massachusetts, only to fly to California a few days later. Belichick generally has the team go to the West Coast on Fridays for Sunday games, not the customary Saturday.

“I thought it was the best thing we could do. We got a lot of rest,” Belichick said. “We had a couple good days of preparation on Friday and Saturday, and I thought we played hard. They had a lot of energy and were ready to play a full 60 minutes.”

At least one player, California native Julian Edelman, was already lobbying after the game for the Patriots to do another extended road trip as soon as possible.

“We had a hard-fought battle against the Packers and losing, we flew directly out here; it was crazy,” Edelman said. “We were all at the hotel. It was like a team-bonding experience. It almost felt like [training] camp again.”

“I thought it was good for the team to be here; thankfully we won. Hopefully next time we come out here, Coach will let us do it again.”

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At times on Sunday, Qualcomm Stadium sounded like a Patriots’ home game, thanks to the large number of New England fans. Entire sections behind the Patriots bench were filled with people in navy and red, not the colors of the home team, and there were pockets of Patriots fans elsewhere too, in the upper level and end zones.


Even Belichick took notice.

“There was a lot of energy in the stadium: night game and the Chargers in their powder blues. . . . But there was a sea of Patriots fans behind our bench,” Belichick said. “I don’t think I’ve ever quite seen that before. They were all just kind of in the same spot; it was almost like a college game at a neutral site, where one side of the field is one team and the other side is the other team.

“We had all those fans right behind us. They were loud and vocal.”

The crowd even threw Belichick off a bit at times. If he was talking to someone on the sideline and not focused on the field and fans began yelling, the assumption on the road is that something big has happened for the home team, but on Sunday, those cheers happened at key moments for the Patriots.

“It was a little bit of a different sensation. It was an electric night,” Belichick said. “The crowd had a lot of energy. The support and the fans that we had at the game, and all of them there behind us was awesome. It was great.”

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Though he was flagged for unnecessary roughness, a penalty that negated a pick-6 by Devin McCourty in the third quarter, Brandon Browner’s hit on Chargers tight end Ladarius Green energized the Patriots defense.


Browner insisted after the game that he lowered his shoulder and aimed for the numbers on Green’s jersey, doing his best to avoid a helmet-to-helmet hit. But Browner hit Green with great force and with the emphasis on defenseless receiver hits, officials generally err on the side of caution and throw the flag in such a situation.

During the game, Belichick was clearly upset that the play was penalized; on Monday, he intimated that he didn’t like the call.

“We coach it exactly the way that’s written in the rulebook; what we’re allowed to do and what we’re not allowed to do, and that’s exactly the way we coach it,” he said. “It was a close play. You should probably talk to the crew that called it.”

“We coach whatever the rules are; we coach within the rules. Can’t lead with your head, can’t hit them above the shoulders. I think that’s the way players play it. Sometimes it doesn’t always turn out that way, but that’s what we try to do.”

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The ratings in the Boston market for the Patriots’ win over the Chargers — a 42.6 household rating and 63 market share — was the team’s second-highest ever on “Sunday Night Football,” trailing only a 31-27 win over the Packers on Dec. 19, 2010. That game drew a 42.6 rating and 62 share.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com.