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Brady won it all without Belichick. Can Belichick do it without Brady?

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The New England Patriots missed Tom Brady more than he missed them in 2020. That’s surely not lost on lion-in-winter coach Bill Belichick, even if he’d never say so

 

 

We found out last February that Tom Brady can win a shiny Vince Lombardi Trophy without any help from Bill Belichick. Now comes Part II: Can Belichick win one without Brady?

The bookies don’t think so, at least not this year. Oddsmakers have set the New England Patriots’ price on winning the Super Bowl at 18-1, joint-eighth with Cincinnati among the 14 playoff teams. (Green Bay are favorites at 7-2. The Steelers are the longest shots at 80-1.)
New England are four-point underdogs against their wild-card weekend opponents, the Buffalo Bills. But the Patriots are back in the playoffs after a year away, and Belichick, their longtime coach, sounds as if he is up for the challenge – by clamming up, of course.

Belichick needed an efficient 208 words over four minutes to answer seven questions Monday about the Bills, the AFC East rivals whom his Patriots will face Saturday night on the road. He was not grouchy, but succinct. Just got it done.

“We have a lot to get ready for,” Belichick said Monday of the Bills. As always, he could have been talking about any opponent.

So much has happened since Belichick and his quarterback, Brady, made the 2019 playoffs only to lose at home to Tennessee in the first round. Brady won his seventh Super Bowl in his first season with the Tampa Bay Bucs, and has had a second impressive season.

The Patriots went 7-9 in 2020 with quarterback Cam Newton, whom Belichick decided to scuttle in favor of Mac Jones, the rookie from Alabama who has been a pleasant surprise this season, throwing for 3,801 yards, with 22 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions.

A month ago, the Patriots were on a roll. They’d won seven in a row to improve their record to 9-5, including a 14-10 victory at Buffalo that was a Belichick masterstroke. It was blustery, so the Patriots threw the ball just three times, gaining just 19 yards, but ran it 46 times, gaining 222 yards and keeping the ball from the dangerous Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen.

After a bye week, however, the Patriots finished the regular season with three losses in four games, including a 33-24 loss Sunday to the Miami Dolphins (9-8). A day later, the Dolphins fired coach Brian Flores, who’d been an assistant to Belichick for 11 years.

It was a discouraging loss for the Patriots, who could have won the AFC East with a victory over the Dolphins (9-8) and a loss by Buffalo (11-5) to the Jets (4-13). The slide is similar to what happened two years ago, when New England were 10-1 but lost four of their last six.

New England’s current slide includes a 33-21 loss at home to Buffalo just three weeks after the Patriots’ victory over the Bills. Jones did not play so well, completing only 14 of 32 passes with two interceptions. Naturally, people wondered if Jones had hit a “rookie wall”.

Belichick is 69 years old and has done it all as a football coach – including, as his many detractors in New York will point out, suspiciously resigning as “the HC of the NYJ” and spying on, um, the Jets. Don’t forget Brady, as a Patriot, was busted for deflating footballs.

Nevertheless, both are still relevant, nearly two full decades after they led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory. (Here is how long ago that was: That was the first Super Bowl to be played in February, because the 2001 schedule had been pushed back because of 9/11).

Belichick and Brady have even gotten the Head-to-Head Matchup out of the way. That came in October, when Brady traveled back to Foxboro and beat the Patriots, 19-17, on a field goal with less than two minutes to play. But Jones kept pace with Brady all afternoon.

The week leading up to that game included the two chief combatants saying all sorts of nice things about each other. At one point, Belichick said of Brady’s longevity: “Nothing Tom does surprises me. He’s a great player. Works hard and takes care of himself. I mean, he’s talking about playing until 50. If anybody can do it, he probably can.”

Belichick would never, ever, say that he wants to see what he can accomplish without Brady – he might not even be thinking such a thing – but there is no denying that the two men will forever be linked. Plus, the Patriots missed Brady more than he missed them in 2020.

New England and Tampa Bay would not meet in the playoffs until the Super Bowl, anyway. The two teams will chart parallel routes for a month, and, besides that, neither team is expected to even make it so far. The Patriots might not get out of the first weekend.

Jones labeled the way he played against the Dolphins as “super embarrassing”, even though he completed all nine of his fourth-quarter passes for 121 yards. The Patriots had a chance to win the game until their final play went haywire, resulting in a Miami touchdown.

“Obviously played poorly, coached poorly, didn’t do anything very well,” Belichick said while wearing a mask with the state flag of Maryland, where he grew up. “So just too many – too many mistakes, way too many. So we’ll go look at the film, turn the page here and make some corrections and move on to next week. So that’s really about it.”

A day later, he was reluctant to talk about a third game against Buffalo, saying that the coaching staff was still reviewing the loss to the Dolphins. The Bills have won four games in a row after a 33-21 loss on 12 December to, yes, Brady and the Bucs.

Asked what he’d tell his players who’d be playing in their first playoff game, Belichick responded: “Try to play and coach well. It’s a one-game season. It’s no big mystery.”

The key part is that it is no big mystery to Belichick. This will be his 44th playoff game as an NFL head coach. His teams lost only 11 of the first 43. Belichick said Monday, “I don’t think we lack confidence.”

That must be why Ty Law, the Patriots’ Hall of Fame cornerback, told Boston.com: “I’m going with Bill Belichick for one game.”

And if Belichick wins one playoff game, his team can certainly win three – or even four. There is no dominant team in the playoffs, not even that team with his old quarterback. Bet against the coach in the hoodie, if you dare.

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Tennis Phenom Leylah Fernandez Shares Her Love For Soccer

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Leylah Fernandez had a stellar 2021 and bagged her first-ever trip to a Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open. In addition to her superb play at Flushing Meadows last September, Fernandez started the 2021 season off right.

 

 

In March 2021, she sailed through her first four matches at the Monterrey Open to reach the final there. In the final at the Monterrey Open, Fernandez dominated Swiss player Viktorija Golubic, 6–1, 6–4, which gave Fernandez her first-ever WTA career title at age 18. In defeating seven total competitors, Fernandez was also the youngest player in the main draw, and she marked the extraordinary feat of reaching the final without dropping a set.

Currently, the Canadian-born Fernandez is ranked No. 24 in the world. Just before the New Year, she was named the 2021 Canadian Press Athlete of the Year.

Yet, while Fernandez is squarely focused on continuing her ascent in the tennis world, she will tell you that picking up the tennis racket wasn’t her first foray into sports as a youngster.

“I started sports by playing soccer. It was my first sport and in some ways my first love,” Fernandez said, in a recent Zoom interview. “I remember watching (Canadian soccer legend) Christine Sinclair at a young age, and taking in her commitment and dedication, watching her as a player throughout the years.”

Fernandez adds that it was Sinclair’s devotion and work ethic—and perhaps Sinclair’s remarkable 188 in 30 games as a Canadian international– that helps inform Fernandez’s own approach to tennis now.

And of course, Fernandez says she was ecstatic when her home country took the Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer last summer in Tokyo.

“Seeing the Canadian women win the gold was heartwarming. When they finally won, I was jumping for joy, just like every other Canadian soccer fan.”

Leylah Fernandez had a stellar 2021 and bagged her first-ever trip to a Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open. In addition to her superb play at Flushing Meadows last September, Fernandez started the 2021 season off right.

In March 2021, she sailed through her first four matches at the Monterrey Open to reach the final there. In the final at the Monterrey Open, Fernandez dominated Swiss player Viktorija Golubic, 6–1, 6–4, which gave Fernandez her first-ever WTA career title at age 18. In defeating seven total competitors, Fernandez was also the youngest player in the main draw, and she marked the extraordinary feat of reaching the final without dropping a set.

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Currently, the Canadian-born Fernandez is ranked No. 24 in the world. Just before the New Year, she was named the 2021 Canadian Press Athlete of the Year.

Yet, while Fernandez is squarely focused on continuing her ascent in the tennis world, she will tell you that picking up the tennis racket wasn’t her first foray into sports as a youngster.

“I started sports by playing soccer. It was my first sport and in some ways my first love,” Fernandez said, in a recent Zoom interview. “I remember watching (Canadian soccer legend) Christine Sinclair at a young age, and taking in her commitment and dedication, watching her as a player throughout the years.”

Fernandez adds that it was Sinclair’s devotion and work ethic—and perhaps Sinclair’s remarkable 188 in 30 games as a Canadian international– that helps inform Fernandez’s own approach to tennis now.

And of course, Fernandez says she was ecstatic when her home country took the Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer last summer in Tokyo.

“Seeing the Canadian women win the gold was heartwarming. When they finally won, I was jumping for joy, just like every other Canadian soccer fan.”

At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo last July, the Canada women’s national soccer team went 1-2-0 in the group stage and then eeked out a win over Brazil on penalties in the first knockout round. Then, after beating the United States USM -2.9% 1-0 in the semifinals, Canada went on to win the gold medal over Sweden, beating them 4-3 on penalties, August 6, 2021.

Now on top of being perhaps Canada’s biggest soccer fan, Fernandez has also gotten involved in promoting what Pelé himself once called “the beautiful game.”

Youth Athletes United, a multi-brand youth sports franchisor behind such ventures as Soccer Stars, Amazing Athletes, TGA Premier Sports, and JumpBunch, announced a new partnership with Fernandez, just this week. Youth Athletes United promotes youth sports not only for the fun of it but also considers soccer and other sports such as tennis and basketball as a means to which kids all across North America can use sports to develop character and learn life lessons.

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THE SOCIAL SLICE: LEYLAH FERNANDEZ MAKES IT BIG WITH GOOGLE PARTNERSHIP

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Every week, dozens of tennis players from around the world post on their social media. From funny videos to training updates, there are simply too many accounts to keep track of. That’s why we do the work for you by selecting the best posts from across the world of tennis.

Welcome to the Social Slice:

Leylah Fernandez
You may have heard of Leylah Fernandez. The 19-year-old reached the final of the US Open last year alongside Emma Raducanu, making her a teenage sensation overnight. Now, the Canadian is making it big with sponsorships, sharing her latest commercial with Google. She showed off her table tennis skills in the company’s latest commercial for the Google Pixel 6.

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‘Classic Complaint’: Serena Williams’ Coach Patrick Mouratoglou Takes Daniil Medvedev to Task Over On-Court Remarks Against…

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Round 4 of the Australian Open saw top seed Daniil Medvedev take on American Maxime Cressy. Even though on paper, the match should have been a breeze for the Russian, that wasn’t the case.

 

 

In fact, Medvedev seemed to lose his demeanor today completely, yelling frustratedly throughout. He even admitted to trying to get into Cressy’s head by calling him lucky on his serves.

Now, Patrick Mouratoglou, known for coaching Serena Williams and Stefanos Tsitsipas, has some words for Medvedev about his behavior.

The Coach does not approve of Daniil Medvedev’s objections
At one point in the match, Daniil Medvedev had yelled “this is so boring!” owing to his opponent’s playing style. Cressy, at 6’6″, seems to be heavily reliant on the serve-and-volley style. So much so that the American played no other way throughout the four-setter today.

Then, Medvedev resorted to mental tactics, trying to offset Cressy by yelling about his serve, and how he was simply getting lucky by staying inside the line on his explosive serves. Moreover, he also complained to the umpire about the time Maxime was taking in between serves.

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Thus, when he called his Amerian opponent’s playing style “boring”, famous French coach Patrick Mouratoglou had some words for the Russian. He called Medvedev’s objections a “classic complain(t) of the baseliners.”

Medvedev himself is a player who prefers staying near the baseline, seldom coming close to the net, during rallies or returns. Mouratoglou called it a complaint of all such players “when they play vs Serve and Volley players.”

In his interview after his victory, Medvedev called his tussle with Cressy “a great match”. However, he admitted that “during the match, (he) got a little bit crazy.” Then, he addressed his vocal frustrations on court.

“I tried, you know, to say something in the air, but getting to his (Cressy’s) mind a little bit,” the World No. 2 admitted. Thus, he hoped that this way, “maybe he (Cressy) is gonna miss some shots.”

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