Despite blowing an 18-point lead to the Steelers on Saturday night, Jacksonville rebounded to defeat Pittsburgh 31-29. Their reward? They now get to travel to Foxborough to battle the undefeated Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs.
"We've kind of been spending, of the three possible opponents, most of our time on Jacksonville over the weekend, given the fact we played Pittsburgh a month ago and played Tennessee earlier in the (pre)season," coach Bill Belichick said.
"Jacksonville is one of the best teams in the league and they have been, over the last third to half of the season, leading the league in scoring, yards per game, defensive yards per game, third-down offense, time of possession, pass defense. They're very good at everything. Special teams. The long kickoff return against Pittsburgh the other night, that was obviously a big play. They can run it. They can throw it. They don't turn it over. They can stop the run. They can rush the passer. They play good pass defense. They're a sound team. They're big. They're physical. They're well coached."
While Belichick was busy preparing for Jacksonville, the Associated Press was busy recognizing him and quarterback Tom Brady. Belichick was named the AP Coach of the Year, while Brady took home the MVP award.
This marks the second time Belichick has won AP Coach of the Year honors. He also won it in 2003 after leading the Patriots to a 14-2 regular season, capped off by their second Super Bowl title in three years.
Of course, in New England there isn't a lot of joy apparent in winning individual awards. Belichick was quick to remind everyone that when it comes to the Patriots, it's all about team.
"It's certainly an honor and something I appreciate," Belichick said about winning the award. "I think there are a lot of great coaches in this league. I think there are some guys who have done some fantastic jobs with their team, so it's really an honor to be selected.
"At the same time, I think it's much more of a team award than an individual award based on the success of our team and the players and what they've done. Certainly the assistant coaches, they're the ones that do most of the coaching and most of the preparation. I think they deserve a lot more credit for that than I do but it is certainly an honor to be recognized like that. But I think most of the credit needs to go to the players and the team for winning and for the assistant coaches and the job they did."
In one of the most anti-climatic announcements of all-time, Brady was named the AP's Most Valuable Player. Brady was a no-brainer for MVP, receiving 49 of the possible 50 first-place votes. Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who finished second behind Brady, received the only other first-place vote. Brady not only directed the Patriots to a perfect record, he also recorded one of the greatest years of any quarterback in NFL history.
Surrounded by an offensive line that only allowed 21 sacks and big-play threats at receiver, Brady tossed for 4,806 yards and an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes. But it wasn't just the numbers that won Brady the award. He also made big play after big play in the Patriots' most closely contested games of the year to keep the team undefeated headed into the playoffs.
Brady predictably followed his coach's lead by saying this isn't an individual honor but rather a team accomplishment. However, his teammates know the award is well deserved.
"I can't think of anyone more deserving, not only for this season, but for the way that he has led this team over the years," tackle Matt Light said. "He is responsible for a lot of the things that we have accomplished. I hope it gives people a better understanding of what he is like. Off the field too, he is the same kind of guy. Just the way he conducts himself and the professionalism that he shows. I am just happy for him. He deserves it."
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