For Bill Belichick, Patriots’ strategy is no flip of the coin
FOXBOROUGH — New England fans are accustomed to seeing their team win. And not just football games.
The Patriots have been particularly lucky when it comes to the coin toss as well, winning the pregame ritual 19 of their last 25 times. And when they win it, they consistently defer taking the ball until the second-half kickoff.
Coach Bill Belichick touched on what goes into the decision during Wednesday's morning briefing with reporters at Gillette Stadium.
"It's one of the things we discuss prior to the game,'' he said. "We try to do what's best for that particular game, for that particular situation.''
Belichick said oftentimes the choice comes down to the final few seconds before the referee flips the coin.
"Sometimes we actually withhold that decision until we see what the actual field conditions are for that particular game — like last Thursday night,'' he said.
But that night, the Dolphins actually took a page out of the Patriot playbook and deferred after winning the toss.
"Games that are weather games, that could affect our decision too,'' said Belichick.
"How you want to start the game. What your offense is, what the defensive game plan is. Maybe not the first play, but in general, here's how we want to start the game. Maybe that affects it.
"There can be a lot of factors, so we try to consider them all and try to do what's best.''
Stork to deliver?
Center Bryan Stork, who has been on the injured reserve list with a designation to return, can do that Sunday when the Patriots host the Redskins. He has been practicing regularly after a concussion and subsequent neck problems forced him to the sideline.
Asked Wednesday how practice was going, Stork said, "Just doing my job and trying to get better.''
The 6-foot-4-inch, 310-pounder wasn't terribly revealing when asked if he were comfortable with his health at practice.
"I'm just trying to get better every day,'' he said. "Doing my job.''
In his absence, undrafted rookie free agent David Andrews has stepped in and played every offensive snap.
When Tom Brady was asked if he had any input into who might start at center, he smiled and said, "Not much. Not much.''
Leading pass catcher Julian Edelman (52 receptions, 584 yards) popped up on the practice report as a limited participant because of a knee injury. He looked unaffected during the portion of practice the media was allowed to watch. Three players did not practice: defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard (ankle), offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (toe), and guard Tre' Jackson (knee). Also listed as limited were running back Dion Lewis (abdomen), receiver Keshawn Martin (hamstring), and guards Ryan Wendell (knee) and Shaq Mason (knee).
Under Belichick, the Patriots have played 18 games in which they've been favored by at least 14 points. The 19th, assuming the line holds, will come Sunday (it was at 14 Wednesday). The Redskins are coming off their bye week, and before that set a franchise record for largest comeback when they erased a 24-0 deficit to beat the Buccaneers, 31-30.
But history says the Redskins have an enormous challenge. The first 18 times a Belichick-coached Patriots team played a game in which it was favored by 14 points or more, the team never lost. Might the Patriots be opening themselves up to overconfidence against such a decided underdog?
"We're not looking past them, by any means," said defensive tackle Alan Branch. "For anyone to say that we can look past them, that's definitely wrong. I'm sure Bill puts you in the right place if he catches you slipping up and looking past them.
"But it's the whole locker room in general. We're not the type of players that will take this game for granted. We study up and take every opponent seriously."
Though the Patriots have that perfect 18-0 record straight up, they haven't always covered the spread, including the past two games: last year against Oakland (16-9) and in 2012 against Jacksonville (23-16). In fact, the Patriots have failed to cover a spread of 14 points or more five of the past six times.
Devin McCourty wasn't checking Twitter all day Tuesday to see if there might be a family reunion in the offing, as rumors persisted that the Patriots might make a deadline deal for his twin brother, Titans corner Jason McCourty. "I was in meetings, so I missed all of the excitement," Devin said Wednesday. "I got to it a little late. We always said it would be cool to play on the same team someday, but just not this year, I guess.'' Belichick said Tuesday was spent preparing for Washington and not on trade talk as the 4 p.m. deadline came and went without a single move leaguewide. "I was concentrating on the Redskins,'' he said . . . Brady was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the 25th time in his career after his four-touchdown performance vs. the Dolphins. It was Brady's 24th career game with four-plus TD passes. Only Peyton Manning (27) has more AFC Player of the Week honors than Brady.