There is almost nothing Bill Belichick has not seen in his two decades as head coach of the New England Patriots, including playing a team thrice in a single season. The Patriots did so in 2006 and 2010, both times going up against the New York Jets.
On Saturday, they will play another division rival for a third time. Belichick and his team will travel to Western New York to take on the Buffalo Bills in the wild card playoff round.
The circumstances may be unusual even for the future Hall of Famer, but his approach to the game does not change because of them. It’s just another game, and a new challenge despite the previous two matchups earlier this year.
“Each week has its own challenges,” Belichick said on Wednesday. “I’d say what’s a little bit different about this one is just how quickly we’ve played Buffalo with a couple of weeks in between each of the games.”
The Patriots and Bills first met in Week 13, with New England earning a 14-10 road win. Just three weeks later, Buffalo got its revenge thanks to a 33-21 victory at Gillette Stadium. Another three weeks later, they are not set to meet again.
Obviously, both teams bring considerable experience into the postseason matchup.
“We know each other well,” said Belichick. I’m sure there’ll be wrinkles. I’m sure there’ll be things that both teams will do that try to keep the other team off balance or to give them a little bit of a different look. I think that’s just part of it, whether it’s three games or you play a team twice every year for multiple years. It’s kind of the same thing. Each game has its own unique circumstances and matchups.
“The plays won’t get called against the same defenses or vice versa. We’ll have to see how things play out. I don’t think we want to make up our mind on how this game is going to go in any phase of it. We’ll execute the things we do as well as we can and if we have to make adjustments, then we’ll make them in game, but that’s kind of the way it is every week. I don’t really see a big change here for us.”
The biggest change for the two teams — at least compared to the first game in Buffalo in Week 13 — will likely be the weather. The first game at Highmark Stadium was played in windy conditions which led to the Patriots calling only three pass plays all day. The forecast for Saturday projects limited wind but temperatures in the single digits.
Regardless of environmental or other circumstances, however, the Patriots will prepare for this game like any other.
“The big thing any time you play a team a second or third time, or whatever it is, it’s a new game. We’re starting from scratch,” said Belichick.
“Don’t think or assume the game is going to go like another one did. Be ready to play it out, play it as you see it, and make the necessary adjustments and decisions that come up in this game. Whatever happened in some other game happened. We learned something from that, but we have to play this game as it plays out. It’ll be different than any other game. As long as we do that, we’ll be OK.”