The struggles of Bill Belichick proteges in head coaching roles are well-documented. But former Patriots players have fared much better: Mike Vrabel’s Titans are once again in the mix for the No. 1 seed, and Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings are 8-1.
O’Connell, whom the Patriots selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, is enjoying a successful rookie coaching campaign. The ex-QB spent three seasons on Washington’s staff before moving to the Rams, where he served as offensive coordinator for three years. That means O’Connell is part of Sean McVay’s coaching tree, and not Belichick’s.
PATRIOTS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN
But that doesn’t mean Belichick didn’t influence O’Connell. Despite only playing one season in New England, O’Connell credits Belichick with dispensing valuable advice on how to win football games that he carries with him today.
Early in FOX’ broadcast of Minnesota’s thrilling 33-30 overtime win over the Bills, analyst Daryl Johnston said O’Connell told them in their production meeting that Belichick preached the importance of winning the turnover battle.
Teams that turn the ball over often don’t even give themselves a chance.
As the graphic shows, the Vikings play clean football and are excellent in crucial situations. The star power of Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen may be mesmerizing, but plenty of teams feature great skill players.
Penalties and turnovers can easily nullify highlight-reel catches and touchdown runs.
That proved to be true at the end of Vikings-Bills: Josh Allen’s two late-game turnovers cost Buffalo the win. First, he fumbled on the goal line, allowing the Vikings to recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Though Allen drove the Bills down the field for a game-tying field goal to force the game into overtime, his interception in the red zone sealed Minnesota’s win. The Bills were up 27-10 in the third quarter, and mistakes cost them.
Even Allen’s dynamic athleticism isn’t enough to overcome red zone interceptions. He’s thrown six picks in his last three games, and unsurprisingly, the Bills are 1-2 in those contests.
Overall, the Bills’ record in close games over the last two years is 2-9.
Those are the spots in which self-inflicted wounds can kill football teams. Belichick has seen it happen for decades.
And he’s willing to share his wisdom.