Bill Belichick has been quite quotable this week. Not when talking about the opponent, of course, as his one-word reply to a question about his assessment of Arian Foster ("Good") revealed.
It's the inquiries about the New England Patriots' 42-14 blowout of the Houston Texans last month and the implication it will have any effect on Sunday's playoff rematch that's been getting Belichick riled up enough to use words like "garbage" and "ridiculous" in describing such a connection.
"I think it's a bunch of garbage," Belichick said.
See, told you.
"The game comes down to teams, the way we match up this weekend, on Sunday," he said. "It doesn't have anything to do with some game that was played this season, last season or some other time. It doesn't matter. It's not this game. The game will have its own elements and it will write its own story. And I don't think any other game has any bearing on this one."
Belichick's strong responses in his press conference obviously mirror what he's been telling his players behind closed doors.
The veteran coach doesn't want them thinking they merely have to show up on Sunday and stroll to an easy victory. Nor does he want them to think the things that came so easily on that highly anticipated Monday night game (namely four touchdown passes for Tom Brady) will happen once again.
Recent history says Belichick might have a reason to be worried.
Over the past three decades, there have been 11 playoff rematches between teams who played a regular-season game decided by 28 points or more. The team that got blown out in the regular season has won seven of those games.
Maybe Belichick doesn't know the numbers, but he surely has a sense for how dangerous these rematches can be, particularly since one of those seven teams to bounce back was the 2010 New York Jets, who overcame a 45-3 drubbing in Foxborough on Dec. 6, then returned to Gillette Stadium on Jan. 16 to upset Belichick's Patriots 28-21 in a divisional playoff game.
So, the notion the Texans are about to lie down for the Pats is being met with strong resistance from Belichick and his players.
"I think you learn from it. You also understand things aren't going to be the same," Brady said. "They're going to see things that they're working on that are going to be different for us this time around. We do the same thing. You put a game plan in like we always do and you see if it works. And if it works, great, you win the game.
"But the next time you play them, you have to figure out another game plan. It's never, 'Let's just take a bunch of those plays and just run those again.'<TH>"
It's an interesting chess match teams play each time there's a rematch. One team was effective running a bunch of plays, so the opposing team tries to plug those holes. But while plugging them up, they also have to anticipate other plays the initial team might try to create. And so forth.
The problem for the Texans in this matchup is the Patriots did a whole lot of things well the first time around. They ran the ball well, they threw it short, they threw it long, Brady got rid of it quickly, Brady held the ball a while after play-action fakes, he threw to the edges and threw up the middle.
Defensively, the Pats blitzed effectively and also rushed with their down linemen well. In the secondary, they read Matt Schaub's eyes well, such as when safety Devin McCourty cut in front of Kevin Walter to pick off a pass Schaub thought was a touchdown when it left his hand.
There were plenty of things New England did right that night, and thus there's plenty upon which to build a new game plan.
Including Rob Gronkowski, who missed the first meeting with a broken arm.
"You've got to realize this is the NFL, and what happens in one game is not going to happen in another game," safety Steve Gregory said. "It doesn't reflect how good a team is or isn't."
That's the kind of quote Belichick wants to hear. But there's the reality of a particular play or scheme working multiple times against the same team. It happens more often than the average fan might realize.
"It's like in boxing, when a boxer has a vicious right hook," said Patriots wide receiver Donte' Stallworth, who is on injured reserve but has seen plenty of adjustments or lack thereof in his 11 seasons. "You know it's coming sooner or later but you have to defend for the other stuff. As you're looking out for the other stuff, here comes that right hook."
Gary Kubiak his hoping there won't be a quick knockout this time around.
"I think every opportunity to play in this league usually ends up being quite different than what you faced the first time," the Texans' coach said, adding of looking backward: "You're making a huge mistake if you start saying, 'If we would have done this, if we would have done that, we would have been fine.' We weren't fine, we got our tails kicked."