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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Tom Landry and George Halas maintained gravitas successful their fedoras and tailored suits. Square-jawed Don Shula was each business successful his tinted glasses and collared shirt. Bill Walsh struck a grandfatherly reside pinch his snow-white hair, sweater and khakis.
Then, there’s Bill Belichick. For 2 decades, a rumpled quality belied his superiority. His wardrobe remains scissored hoodies and ratty T-shirts. His comb astir apt is 4 fingers dragged complete his scalp. He still appears miserable astatine each times, a ghoul dressed to nan upside-down nines.
These days, Belichick’s squad looks for illustration he does.
That’s why this mightiness beryllium nan past clip he faces nan Buffalo Bills arsenic caput coach of nan New England Patriots. Once considered an unkillable fixture, nan Bills tin thief vanquish him Sunday successful Highmark Stadium. Rumors person been basking and dense passim New England that owner Robert Kraft will portion ways pinch Belichick aft a wretched season. If nan rumors proves true, depending connected whether Belichick retires aliases assumes power of different club, past this could beryllium nan past clip his visage darkens Orchard Park.
“The 1 point I’ve learned successful this league,” Bills halfway Mitch Morse said, “is to expect nan unexpected. Until I spot that …
“He’s been 1 of nan astir frustrating guys to play against, specified a masterful mind connected nan protect front. I person nan utmost respect for what he’s done and what he continues to do.”
Belichick has been a menace for nan full league, but his section power is unprecedented. New England has won 16 AFC East championships since nan NFL realigned divisions successful 2002 and 17 full nether Belichick. The adjacent closest coaches are Landry, Shula and Andy Reid astatine 13 section titles apiece. Belichick won 11 successful a statement until Buffalo stopped nan streak successful 2020.
Sean McDermott’s boys request a triumph to support their hopes robust for a 4th consecutive AFC East crown.
Belichick’s mystique unsocial is logic capable not to return New England for granted. The man has been a caput coach successful 9 Super Bowls, 3 much than immoderate different franchise.
“I look guardant to it,” Bills correct tackle Spencer Brown said. “I’m gladsome he’s successful our division. I bask going against those legends, coaches pinch that benignant of background. It’s ever a nosy crippled to look crossed nan section and think, ‘Holy … That’s Bill Belichick.’ I consciousness nan aforesaid measurement erstwhile I sewage to play against Tom Brady successful Tampa and Aaron Rodgers successful existent life.
“When you time off nan crippled and you’re driving home, you think, ‘Man, I conscionable played Bill Belichick.’ It hits location a small spot harder erstwhile you play against those guys.”
The Patriots person won only 4 games and are 13-point underdogs Sunday, but the Bills choked against them successful Week 7, erstwhile since-benched backmost Mac Jones orchestrated a last-minute, winning touchdown drive.
Even done a unsmooth year, Bill Belichick’s Patriots recovered a measurement to champion nan Buffalo Bills again pinch Week 7’s upset win. (Kathryn Riley / Getty Images)
Nobody has beaten Buffalo much often than Belichick. As New England’s coach, he is 37-11 against Buffalo and 104-42 against nan full division. He needs 15 much victories to surpass Shula for nan NFL record, including nan postseason. Shula jacked up his grounds against nan Bills, too, going 35-20. Shula swept nan full 1970s, nan 20 consecutive wins an NFL grounds against immoderate 1 opponent.
Might Belichick clasp diabolical powers complete Buffalo and foil its fortunes 1 past time?
“We’ve grown arsenic a group collectively,” Bills backmost Josh Allen. “I don’t want to return in installments distant from them. Their defense is playing astatine a very precocious level. They’ve sewage guys that are smart. They tin play aggregate positions. They’re rushing nan passer very good correct now. It’s a Bill Belichick-coached team. So we’ve sewage to return that into account.
“The truth that we mislaid crippled one, I think, shows we’ve sewage to put our champion worldly connected nan section aliases we’re not going to triumph this game. Frankly, it’s a crippled that we request to win. They cognize that. We cognize that. If I’m successful nan New England Patriot locker room, I’m looking to ruin (Buffalo’s season). An opponent’s hopes are connected nan line, a section rival. They’re going to beryllium fresh to go; I tin guarantee that. So that, successful turn, makes america fresh to spell arsenic well. With nan guys we person successful this locker room, there’s very small uncertainty we will beryllium fresh to go.”
For each nan demerits, Belichick has cobbled together a formidable defense. New England ranks sixth successful yards allowed per play. Opponents are averaging an NFL-worst 3.2 yards per carry, which would beryllium nan lowest successful 10 seasons if nan number holds up. Buffalo, meanwhile, has made a concerted effort to tally nan past 2 weeks. Allen completed conscionable 22 passes mixed while beating nan Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers.
After stunning nan Bills successful Gillette Stadium, nan Patriots mislaid 5 consecutive games, but person won 2 of their past three, doubling their triumph full pinch roadworthy upsets complete nan Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos.
“Their grounds doesn’t show it,” Brown said, “but you person to respect them and request a bully crippled plan. You person to salary attraction to nan details, beryllium disciplined and execute. We’ve played them truthful overmuch that you cognize what they’re going to do, and they cognize what you’re going to do.”
The specified show of Belichick tin beryllium triggering. Bills fans will beryllium tense Sunday because of nan stakes. While nan New York Times’ playoff simulator says nan Bills person an 89 percent likelihood of getting in, there’s a 24 percent likelihood of winning nan AFC East.
NFL Week 17 playoff clinching scenarios
With a 4th period of bad memories against nan Patriots to tie from, it’s easy to ideate them making immoderate crazy play connected typical teams — agelong a Belichick hallmark — jumping retired to an early lead and putting Highmark Stadium connected separator astir ruining what tin transpire adjacent Sunday successful Miami Gardens.
That’s each portion of Belichick’s sadistic mystique astir these parts, and a awesome prize for Bills fans if they tin watch him get bounced successful his past imaginable appearance.
Brown, who turns 26 successful February and doesn’t person children, knows he’ll beryllium talking astir games specified arsenic these for nan remainder of his life sloppy of what happens.
“Wherever he goes, whenever he leaves — if he leaves — it’s going to beryllium different,” Brown said, “not playing against him aliases seeing him successful those Patriots colors.
“I don’t cognize if he’ll still beryllium coaching erstwhile I person kids because he’s 1 of those guys you ideate being successful nan NFL forever, but they’ll cognize who he is.”
(Top photograph of Bill Belichick and Sean McDermott: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)