Go re-read the title. Pronounce defense as "duh-fense", not the stadium cheer "D-FENCE! *clap clap while holding the letter "D" and a picket fence*".
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made a point of defending sophomore receiver Aaron Dobson and that simple action means everything for this team.
Earlier in the week, Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe reported that a source linked Dobson's inactive status over the past two weeks as a result of the youngster "mouthing off" to offensive coordinator. She has apologized to Dobson and admitted that her source was incorrect.
But that doesn't matter. It's entirely possible that the "mouthing off" did occur, but it didn't contribute to the benching. It could be the act of a player with a boatload of talent who felt frustrated with the timeline of his extended recovery.
And on another limb, it's possible that Dobson talked back to the coach and was benched to set an example for the rest of the roster- a sign that respect is necessary in the locker room.
Regardless of what actually happened (and knowing that Dobson is an upstanding teammate makes it seem extremely unlikely that he did anything that would warrant extended bench time punishment), the act of Belichick protecting Dobson is the best and most important action for the head coach at this point in time.
Dobson reached out to Belichick as soon as he heard about the rumor.
"It's just a rumor," Dobson said to the media after the release was made. "But coach killed it."
The team is at an undeniable crossroad at an ugly and fortunate 2-2. Both the offense and the defense are in disarray, with coaching and roster turnover alike resulting in inconsistent performances. The vultures and jackals around the league and in the media are waiting to pick at the carcass of the Patriots.
Belichick gave the team new life.
It's rare for Belichick to take the time to protect a player; Tom Brady is never good enough; the team has to look at the tape for improvements; ignore the media.
Belichick openly and actively listened to the media and took a stand to defend his team. He didn't wait for the circus tents to break ground. Instead of a story that could have spiraled out of control, Belichick grabbed the story with both hands and killed it.
Dobson is probably sitting since he's still recovering and doesn't quite have his lateral agility back, and in typical fashion, Belichick will never talk about injuries.
Today saw Belichick take back his team. He reasserted himself at the helm and proved that he will defend each and every player. For a locker room that has every reason to question coaching decisions and game plans over the first quarter of the season, there's no question the staff will have the players' backs.
The season is still young and there's plenty of time to get on track; the coach just managed to keep the team from going off the rails.