Why teams always think they can beat the Patriots but rarely manage to do so

Rob Bradford
January 30, 2019 - 1:19 pm

ATLANTA -- LaDainian Tomlinson has come to grips with quite a bit when it comes to the Patriots over the years.

There was the feud he had with New England during his playing days in San Diego that was defused during a conversation with Bill Belichick at a Pro Bowl.

"It was over that same year," Tomlinson said during the NFL Network's media availability Wednesday.

He also has cycled through the what-could-have-beens after knowing how close he was to possibly playing in all those Super Bowls with the Patriots instead of earning a single appearance while employed by the Jets and Chargers. (Former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis told Tomlinson if he was still available at No. 6 in the 2001 NFL Draft the Pats were going to grab him, but San Diego swooped in a pick earlier, leaving New England with Richard Seymour.)

"To think how things could have turned if I went to the Patriots," he said.

But the lesson that perhaps took Tomlinson the longest to learn is something waves upon waves of teams continue to miss the boat on: You always think you should have beaten the Patriots but there is a very good reason why you didn't.

"They force you to do things over and over the right way. They force you to make a mistake. You get out of character," Tomlinson said. "And because they are so dialed into what they have to do to just win this one game they tend to … Here’s the thing, when you’re watching and studying them on film you think, ‘OK, there’s nothing really special about them.’ Especially when I played, they did have some dominant players but you always thought if we took care of those guys we could deal with the other guys. I think that’s what people see, but when you get out there in the elements, Tom Brady, how he approaches it, how he inspires his guys. That to me is how they are able to overcome any obstacles no matter what it is."

Tomlinson has an easy example of what he is talking about. As he points out, just turn back and take a gander at the AFC Championship Game.

"You look at the Chiefs for a second. The Chiefs had the game won and Dee Ford was offsides. That would never happen to the Patriots," he said. "That’s what they do. They’re consistently disciplined and the other team tends to beat themselves.

"You just always felt like even though you knew what you were up against you had a great chance of winning. That’s just the way you train yourself as an athlete. When you’re removed from the game you’re able to study them a little bit more closely and you realize why they’re so consistent and so dominant because most teams really beat themselves."