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Jim McBride

If you bet against the Patriots today, that might backfire

Bill Belichick’s Patriots didn’t begin the season as they would have liked.MICHAEL DWYER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots have buried a lot of opponents over the last 15 seasons, but perhaps the thing they’re best at burying are bad memories.

In fact, one time Bill Belichick literally held a funeral service to exorcise the demons that may have been haunting the team.

Following a 30-10 loss in Miami that dropped his club to 1-3 in 2001, the coach placed a ball from the game in a makeshift coffin. At the next practice, the players gathered at a spot close to the practice field where a hole had been dug.

“Bill took us out back and we had a shovel and we buried that football,’’ Willie McGinest recalled this past week. “And we pledged that we would bury all the bad [stuff] that we did that game. And that was one way of kind of getting over it. Moving on.’’


The tactic worked as the Patriots ran off 10 wins over their next 12 games — including six straight to end the regular season — en route to the first of the franchises’s five Super Bowl titles.

That 2001 season is one of three in which New England has dropped its opener and bounced back to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots also did it in 2003 and 2014.

No team gets rid of the bitter disappointment faster than New England, which is 38-11 after a loss since 2001.

Lots of players in the locker room this past week talked about refocusing and putting the frustration of the Week 1 loss to the Chiefs in the rearview mirror. McGinest agreed that moving on quickly is key, but he warned against completely erasing those memories.

“One thing you can’t do — the week is so short — you can’t keep worrying about it. You can’t keep beating yourself up about it,’’ said McGinest, now an NFL Network analyst. “But you damn sure got to remember it. It should leave a bad taste in your mouth and you don’t want to experience that feeling again.’’


Former linebacker Willie McGinest played six seasons with New England under Bill Belichick, winning three Super Bowl rings.Jim Rogash/Getty Images/File 2015

Kevin Faulk, another of the mourners at the football funeral in 2001, agreed with McGinest and said “focus” is usually the buzzword around Foxborough after a loss.

“Focus on yourself. Focus on the team. Focus on what’s going on,’’ said Faulk. “Understanding, ‘Hey, we let one slip away, we have to get it together.’ Move forward and correct the mistakes.’’

The mood in the locker room following the loss to Kansas City was morose. McGinest is familiar with the feeling.

“It’s miserable,’’ he said. “You think about all of the work you’ve put in throughout camp and it’s your debut. It’s the opener. And you go out and you lose and the thing that [ticks] you off the most is probably because you know you should have played way better than you did. You have a bunch of mistakes that turned into big plays . . . It’s embarrassing because you’re the champ. It’s sickening. It’s the worst feeling in the world.’’

McGinest said in the immediate aftermath of losses, Belichick would address the team briefly. But not a lot needs to be said.

“Bill doesn’t hold any punches but immediately everybody knows — guys were disgusted,’’ said McGinest.

Devin McCourty said the coach’s modus operandi hasn’t changed much from McGinest’s description. He said Monday has more of an impact than Sunday.


“After the game, there’s not much — win or lose — that goes on for us after the game,’’ said McCourty. “Bill will talk for maybe three minutes, but it’s coming back the next day and figuring everything out.’’

McCourty believes coaches like watching game tape right away to prepare for Monday’s film session. The safety said most of the players have an initial viewing before arriving for work, too.

“It kind of prepares you for any lashes you’re about to get,’’ he said with a smile.

Leadership goes a long way in preventing carryover to the next week. McGinest believes Tom Brady was showing that kind of leadership right after the game when he said the team needed “more urgency” and that they need “to dig a lot deeper than we did tonight because we didn’t dig very deep [against the Chiefs].’’

As McGinest noted, Belichick always will take the blame, but responsibility ultimately falls to the guys in uniform.

“It’s our fault as players when things break down on the field — mental errors, blown coverages, not setting the edge against the run and giving up big plays,’’ he said. “When we have blown assignments when everyone is not on the same page — that’s the players. And the only people that can fix that are the players — and I think that was Tom’s message. Guys got to find it within themselves to go out there and not forget, but bury all the bad football and get back on track.’’


McGinest said that in his New England heyday, the players were harder on themselves than the coaches ever were after a loss. That attitude is something Brady has always brought to the table, and as he watched his old teammate following the Chiefs game, McGinest couldn’t help but have a feeling of déjà vu.

“Tom’s a competitor, man. He hates to lose. He’s going to take blame, but he’s also going to hold other people accountable,’’ McGinest said. “If they’re not preparing, if they’re not doing extra, if they’re not doing what he thinks is enough to get them to go out and compete at a high level, he’s going to let you know about it. And there’s a lot of guys in that locker room that will let you know.’’

Willie McGinest, here with Tom Brady, said the Patriots’ star quarterback expects all teammates to compete at a high level.John Tlumacki/Globe staff

McGinest pointed to McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, and Julian Edelman as guys that will provide leadership.

“I don’t care if [Edelman] is on the field or not,’’ McGinest said. “He has a right to do that because he works his tail off.’’

McGinest said he is “1,000 percent” certain the Patriots will clean up their mistakes and bounce back. So is McCourty.

“Bill will always come in at the beginning of the week and set exactly where we are as a team and what we need to do to improve. And guys take that on,’’ said McCourty. “And I think that’s the biggest thing, guys taking on that challenge because this is the NFL and it’s tough to win and when your head coach that’s been coaching 40-something years comes in and says, ‘Look, we’re bad at this and that and this is what we need to do.’ And if you do that, then most of the time it’s going to work out well for you. Since I’ve been here we’ve always had guys that don’t get sensitive and just put on their hard hats and get to work.’’


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.