Aaron Hernandez Patriots
January 15, 2012 by staff
Aaron Hernandez Patriots, Three straight postseason losses couldn’t erase all Bill Belichick has accomplished, but they did put a modicum of doubt into whether the New England Patriots could still summon their clutch postseason ways.
Consider a 45-10 beatdown of the Denver Broncos on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium evidence that they can. And the playoff win only served to highlight that Belichick has pulled all the right strings this season.
He’s played wide receivers in the secondary. He shifted Devin McCourty from cornerback to safety. He stunningly cut third cornerback Leigh Bodden midway through the season. He acquired two risks — Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco — prior to the season, only to release Haynesworth after Week 9 when it became clear the defensive end could not coexist with Patriots principles. For what it’s worth, New England hasn’t lost since.
Make it nine straight wins for the Patriots, and they can thank Belichick’s latest misdirection in part for Saturday’s blowout win. Newly-minted running back Aaron Hernandez (yes, the tight end) lined up in the backfield and dashed for a 43-yard gain on New England’s opening drive, setting up Tom Brady’s touchdown pass to Wes Welker that occurred just 1:51 seconds into the outing and opened the floodgates for the impressive victory.
Belichick is like the mother who looks at a beautiful living room and thinks of ways to rearrange the furniture for the better, the tactician who tinkers with new positions because versatility doesn’t hurt.
“Well, we didn’t have any backs in the game in that personnel grouping — we just had three receivers and the two tight ends. That’s not something we’ve done a lot of,” Belichick said. “You see all those receivers on the field and you’re not really thinking too much about about the running game defensively, so we tried to pop a couple runs in there just to keep them honest.”
Hernandez, who said he played a little running back in high school, rushed as many times on Saturday (five) as he had all season long, ending the night with a team-leading 61 yards on the ground. He did leave with a head injury after a rush during the final quarter, but said after the game he felt “ready, baby.” That’s good news for New England: Belichick’s offense now has a shiny new way to use a familiar weapon, one that’s 6-1, 245 pounds and quite shifty in the open field.
Denver coach John Fox swore the Broncos were prepared for Hernandez to play some running back after seeing the formation on film. But the move still seemed to catch Denver’s defense off guard.
“They have used that before and it’s something we’ve seen. Didn’t look like it, but we had seen it,” he said.
Denver undoubtedly had also seen much of what the Patriots tried to accomplish defensively. The Patriots’ strategy was nothing earth-shattering — contain Denver’s read-option, keep the Bronco’s rushing attack from hitting the edge, apply pressure on Tim Tebow and force him to make hurried throws from the pocket — but attentive execution limited Denver to just 252 total yards of offense.
“They had a good scheme going on, coach Belichick had those guys well prepared and they were well disciplined,” said Denver running back Willis McGahee, adding, “They did play a terrific game; they had us figured out from the beginning to end.”
It was nothing new for Belichick, cornering his coaching adversary into checkmate with a game plan that left no options unexamined. But after three straight postseason disappointments, it was a coaching clinic some were starting to doubt Belichick could still muster.
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