New England Patriots

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 06: Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills looks on during pregame warm-ups prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium on December 06, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

We’ve seen plenty of signs in recent weeks that the Patriots’ Belichickian mystique is back. Blowing out the Jets. Outclassing a string of younger, trendier head coaches. Truthers in the media surging into full-on discredit mode.

The latest sign is courtesy of the Buffalo Bills, specifically head coach Sean McDermott and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. They joined forces in their postgame reactions to practically redefine the term “salty.” A tour de force of salt that defies easy explanation. Just like he has for two decades running, Bill Belichick is befuddling opponents to the point of frustration. With their powers combined, the Bills just delivered possibly the most indignant postgame reaction ever seen from a team that lost to the Patriots.

Let’s start with the two safeties. The Bills lost despite the Patriots attempting only three passes the whole game, which surely isn’t a good look for anyone. But at the end of the day, the Bills defense only allowed 14 points.

That didn’t stop from reporter Jerry Sullivan (who apparently has a Dan Shaughnessy-like reputation in Buffalo) from asking Hyde and Poyer, on losing to a team that had virtually no passing offense: “Does that embarrass you?” The word “embarrass” seemed to set both of them off.

  • Honestly, I’m probably leaning more toward Hyde and Poyer’s side here. The guy asked the question like an asshole. It’s not that it wasn’t a “fair question,” because it’s fair to ask about giving up 222 rushing yards in a loss. It’s that he asked it like an asshole. If you have the opportunity to ask the players a question directly in the first place, it’s the right thing to do to have a little tact, even when asking a tough question. You don’t even hear questions asked like that from Boston reporters that often – but at the same time, Patriots players are famously restrained in pressers and emotional outbursts are the rarest of the rare.

    Which brings us to Hyde, who really put on an instant classic performance. “That’s funny, we’ll remember that, I’ll remember that,” he tells Sullivan, wagging his finger. Then as he exited the press conference, he had some parting words: “It’s all about respect, man. I come in here every week and I answer your questions truthfully, honestly. I appreciate you guys. Don’t do that. Don’t do that.” (Honestly, after meeting this guy, I have a hard time trusting anyone named Micah.)

    Perhaps Sullivan got what he wanted in the end. One of those guys.

    Poyer resorted to some mild excuse-making, but he led the Bills with eight tackles and, again, they gave up 14 points, and only six from the second quarter on. So it’s reasonable that he would stick up for himself in this spot.

    “We made stops when we had to,” Poyer said. “They had one big run. They’ve got good backs. They kept coming back to a couple runs. I don’t know how you want us to answer that question.”

    Monday night’s game will be remembered for a long time for a number of reasons, most of them weather-related. For Patriots fans, the postgame salt from the Bills only adds to the history.

  • ‘It’s not a Bill Belichick-type thing’

    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 06: Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills reacts during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium on December 06, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 06: Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills reacts during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium on December 06, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

    Hyde and Poyer let their frustration boil over in the postgame press conference, but they had a relatively understandable level of salt. But Bills head coach Sean McDermott? He transcended the salt. He was the whole damn mine.

    Apparently, according to Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit, McDermott “was effectively asked about the psychological impact of having Belichick on the other sideline.” So more needling from the Bills media. But McDermott gave into the prodding at a level rarely seen. He gave Belichick the press conference equivalent of a slap across the face.

    “Let’s not give more credit than we need to give credit to Bill Belichick in this one,” McDermott said. “Whether it was Bill or anybody else, they beat us, right? But you sit here and you tell me when we start with an average starting field position of the 40-yard line, and he starts at the 23-yard line … and we were 1-for-4 in the red zone and they were 0-for-1 in the red zone? You give me that ahead of time, I’d say I like my chances. I like my chances.

    “I don’t think, with all due respect, it’s not a Bill Belichick-type thing. It’s, what are you doing with the opportunities you got? What are you doing with the opportunities you got? We turned the ball over on the plus-30-something yard line. Sloppy football. Sloppy football. I’m very comfortable in that situation.”

    Extremely bold strategy for McDermott to discredit Belichick’s impact on the game while simultaneously laying out the reasons why he was so severely out-coached and out-prepared. “Sloppy football” is a result of inadequate coaching 100 percent of the time. Field position and red zone play are only two facets of the most multifaceted sport on the planet. He’s basically trying to convince himself the Bills actually won.

    McDermott somehow took it even a step further. He went out of his way to call out Belichick for his lone glaring mistake in the game, which was putting N’Keal Harry back to field punts for the first time in his NFL career. That obviously backfired. But McDermott was asked why he made both of his top two returners inactive.

    “The same reason that [the Patriots] turned it over on their punt return team, I wasn’t willing to do that,” McDermott said. “I wanted to put a guy back there that I trusted, that was going to make good decisions with the ball.”

  • Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) tries to move past Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) on a run in the second quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) tries to move past Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) on a run in the second quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    To briefly be fair to the Bills, they weren’t exactly dominated. They did have multiple opportunities to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The defense didn’t have much to be embarrassed about, overall.

    But if anyone should be embarrassed, it’s McDermott. The game itself was close throughout. The Patriots didn’t “dominate” the game, but they certainly controlled most of it. And in terms of overall preparation and game-planning for the weather, it was a Belichick masterclass. At least, it looks like one when compared to McDermott, who seemingly treated the wind like some kind of nuisance, or something only they had to deal with.

    Did the Bills prepare for the wind at all?! Or did McDermott just go to Josh Allen like, “What? No, F*** THE WIND! Go out there and sling it, kid!”

    Beyond the weather, the Bills were a situational disaster. They had first-and-10 inside the Patriots’ 20-yard line twice in the fourth quarter and ended up with zero points while going backward. If they want to play in a Super Bowl in their current era, Allen needs to execute better in those situations, and McDermott needs to have his team prepared for those spots. Every possible spot.

    The Bills have shown a capability of showing up on big stages at times, but not consistently. It might be too late now, though. Until they bounce back, it feels like Belichick has broken them for good.