NFL News of September 8, 2003

Lay this egg right on the face of Bill Belichick. That’s where the blame for the Patriots’ embarrassing 31-0 exercise in sleepwalking against the Bills yesterday belongs.

The Genius isn’t looking too smart today.

…It’s a coach’s responsibility to put his players in a position to win games. His decision to waive Lawyer Milloy five days earlier deprived the team of its defensive captain and quarterback at the worst possible time and created an all too predictable predicament.

Everything was going well. The offseason acquisitions had worked well and fit in with the incumbents. The team went 4-0 in the preseason and was approaching the regular season with more than the normal amount of bravado and confidence.

Then came The Mistake. Lawyer! He didn’t need no stinkin’ lawyer. He was Bill Belichick, dammit, and he’d use his skills to make Antwan Harris just as effective as Milloy.

If that’s what he wanted, fine. Just do it a month or two before the preseason begins, not five days before the real games are played. If you were surprised by the Patriots’ performance yesterday, you weren’t paying attention to what took place in the locker room over the course of the last week.

The rest of the players were stunned at first but he assumed they’d get over it. They were professional athletes and they’d respond. That’s what Belichick thought. That was also a serious tactical error by the coach.

—Kevin Mannix, The Boston Herald “Belichick to blame for loss; Coach fumbled away opener”

Belichick and the Patriots won the next two Super Bowls. The Bills did not beat the Patriots again until September 2011.

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