FOXBOROUGH – With one more practice scheduled for the Patriots before Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, coach Bill Belichick talked about playoff preparation, postseason urgency and anxiety, and how much he enjoys the process of getting his team ready to play. To help illustrate his point, Belichick even quoted former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Patriots meet the Colts at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, a win away from what would be a record-tying eighth trip to the Super Bowl. Much of the game plan already has been installed; Friday’s practice will be to reinforce focus points and tie up any situational loose ends.
“We’ve got a good football team, we’ve won a lot of games. We must be doing something right. So we want to keep doing that,” Belichick said on Friday morning. “At the same time, each game that’s played this time of year is more important, we’ve been saying that for the last month. It gets ramped up the closer and closer we get to the finish line.”
Sunday will be a rematch of a regular-season game won by the Patriots. With three wins over the Colts in the last three seasons, there’s a familiarity and a matchup strategy that’s worked well in the past. Belichick said a team can prepare all it wants, but things often change once the game starts.
“I think you always get to that point at some point. At some point, you get as far as you can go, and you want to get your team to that point, then you let the game unfold. No matter how much preparation you do, it’s going to be different in the game,” Belichick said. “Going back to Dwight Eisenhower’s quote: ‘Preparation is everything until the battle starts, and then it doesn’t mean anything.’ You’re reacting to what happens in the game or, in his case, what happens in the battle.”
Belichick has been part of eight teams that have played in the Super Bowl, six with the Patriots. Big-game experience heavily favors the Patriots, so Belichick was asked if that will make any difference against the Colts.
“Zero. I think it will be the team that plays the best; I don’t think it’s about how many All Pros, or how many playoff games [you’ve played],” he said. “I’ve been on plenty of teams that didn’t have any experience and won. We can go through the league and find just as many examples of that, so … zero.”
Reaching the postseason means there’s nothing else guaranteed, of course. Belichick said “one-game season” on more than one occasion during his Friday press conference, but did take a minute to discuss what he enjoys about the NFL year.
“I enjoy it all. I enjoy it from the start of the season in February, the Combine, draft process, to putting a roster together, bringing players in who haven’t been in the National Football League,” he said. “Working with them through the course of the year, preparation, game days, coaching some of the best players in the league, some great players, probably some of the best players that will ever play in the league at their position, and doing things with them that 99.9 percent of the players that play that position couldn’t do or will never be able to do.
“Just as much as working with the guys who don’t know anything or in some cases can’t do anything, but they work to improve and rise above that. I enjoy it all.”
That doesn’t mean he won’t get nervous before Sunday’s game.
“I think anybody who competes in any of these games has anxiety. I think it would be not normal if you didn’t,” Belichick said. “It’s competition. You always have a level of confidence, but competition brings anxiety. They go hand-in-hand.
“Again, we’ve seen plenty of examples, in all sports, at all levels, of people who have and haven’t been in these games, and we can find results on both sides of it. I think the team that performs the best on Sunday is the team that will win. I think all the rest of it’s just a bunch of hot air. Write whatever you want, I don’t think it matters.”