Gruff Belichick comes late to NFL party as Brady and the Patriots chase Rams victory
13:00 GMT, 27 October 2012
For the second time in franchise history, Bill Belichick is bringing the New England Patriots to London. But – in stark contrast to the St Louis Rams – the controversial head coach is in no mood to spread the transatlantic NFL love-in.
While the Rams have been in England since Tuesday, spreading the gospel of Roger Goodell, enjoying Arsenal's training facilities and hosting events at Nike Town, the Patriots have joined the party late.
Hours after landing, a jet-lagged Belicheck addressed reporters on Friday sounding distinctly underwhelmed to be here.
'It’s good to be in London… Excited to be here. We’re looking forward to the game and facing the Rams — and London. It’s always nice to be in London,' he said.
Stony faced: Bill Belichick faces the media after the Patriots' late arrival in London
One could argue excitement would
prompt an earlier arrival, but Belicheck continued his terse mood,
swatting away questions about the potential of an NFL franchise in
'I’m not really sure. I haven’t
really thought about it. I’m just trying to coach the team I’m on, and I
don’t know about all the rest of it,' he replied with typical vim and
After all, he has a game to focus on. The Patriots are one of three AFC teams with a winning record and after stumbling to 4-3, they top a surprisingly competitive AFC East. The Rams, meanwhile, are 3-4 and prop up the fierce NFC West.
Both teams know a win could kick-start their season, and the Wembley crowd could be in for a treat.
After all, there is some history between the two franchises.
Cast your mind back to a decade ago when the unheralded Patriots beat the mighty St Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI to herald the beginning of a dynasty.
Belichick was in his second season as Patriots head coach, one year removed from a 5-11 record.
quarterback was a young Tom Brady, an unheralded sixth-round draft
pick, thrust into the team when Drew Bledsoe burst a blood vessel in the
second week of the season as the team were sinking to 0-2.
Wild scenes: Patriots players grab the Vince Lombardi trophy to win the first Super Bowl – two more would follow in 2003 and 2004 – in franchise history
To reach the Super Bowl was unlikely enough. Nobody was giving them a chance against a Rams team dubbed 'The Greatest Show on Turf'.
But a new age dawned as the Patriots won 20-17. Power shifted, and the last decade has passed very differently in St Louis and New England.
The Patriots won two more Super Bowls as Belichick and Brady built a perpetual contender that has reached the playoffs in eight of the past 10 seasons.
The Rams snuck into the play-offs twice more before everything unravelled, but never again has their team carried the same aura.
The two teams meet at Wembley for the third time since that famous night in New Orleans, as evenly matched as they have been since 2002.
This season, the Patriots have stumbled to a 4-3 record while the Rams see cause for hope in their 3-4 mark.
It is exactly the kind of match-up the Wembley series needs in its sixth year.
The novelty value is gone, and fans need something more to keep them engaged.
At ease: Tom Brady addresses the media in London
From next year, they will have annual visits from the Jacksonville Jaguars to look forward to – not the most stylish of teams, but at least a common element for fans to hang their hat on and watch develop.
That role was supposed to belong to the Rams, owned by Arsenal chairman Stan Kroenke, but they withdrew from the deal to focus on stadium redevelopment.
One visit will have to do, but it is well-timed as they begin their re-birth.
'This is an opportunity for us to spread the word,' said coach Jeff Fisher. 'As I like to say, the Rams are back.'
The Patriots do not need a revival. They are just trying to see how long they can keep this going.
At 35, Brady's best days might be behind him, but he remains as driven as ever.
'He continues to improve,' Belichick said. 'As a player each week is a different challenge for him. There are always new things to get a read on. He's very diligent, always looking for the little things that may prove an edge.'
The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years starting in New Orleans, but have lost twice in the big game since – including last season – something that keeps Brady hungry.
Strong arm: Brady and back-up QB Ryan Mallett are in jovial mood in Foxborough earlier this week
'Sometimes you have to experience difficulties and challenges in order to move forward and be better at what you're doing,' he said.
'I don't think you ever get over really important losses. They stick in your mind, but at the same time you don't let them affect what you're doing.'
For Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, 11 years Brady's junior, Brady remains a role model.
'He's one of if not the best quarterback in the league,' Bradford said. 'He's been playing at a high level for a long time and any time you turn on the tape and watch him, it's very evident he's in total control.'
If Brady's work ethic is admirable, it pales in comparison to that of his coach.
Belichick borders on the obsessive, even though he has occasionally crossed the line – 2007's 'Spygate' scandal involving Patriots assistants illegally taping practice sessions of other teams will remain a stain on his legacy.
Coaching keeps him young and he shows no sign of slowing now he is in his 60s.
'I enjoy what I'm doing, I love the game of football,' he said. 'I love every aspect of coaching.'
Getting acclimatised: The Rams' Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis and Sam Bradford get used to the English elements
Belichick's total commitment rubs off on his players.
'He's the only coach I've ever played for and the only coach I ever want to play for,' Brady said.
'Nobody works harder at this job than coach Belichick and what he brings in terms of preparation every single week, his commitment to the team, is exceptional.'
The rewards have been an exceptional record of success and a surefire place in the Hall of Fame one day. But nothing lasts forever, certainly not in the NFL.
The Rams have not beaten the Patriots since Super Bowl XXXVI.
If they can change that at Wembley, perhaps this will come to be seen as a game where power changed hands once more.