FOXBORO — Likely the only man who could delay Bill Belichick from giving his postgame address did so Sunday night.
In a crowded locker room, Patriots owner Robert Kraft stopped Belichick momentarily to honor him for earning his 300th career victory. Kraft opened by noting that Belichick’s first win came 28 years ago in Foxboro as the coach of the visiting Cleveland Browns. The Pats beat the Browns 27-13 Sunday to clinch Belichick’s latest milestone.
Belichick is now one of three coaches in NFL history to win 300 games. He trails only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) on the all-time list. Belichick came to New England after winning 37 games with the Browns and short ensuing stints as an assistant with the Patriots and Jets.
Kraft hired Belichick in 2000, but only after he was forced to surrender a first-round pick in a trade with New York for Belichick’s rights.
Before handing a game ball to Belichick, Kraft gave a nod to the coach’s last win before yesterday’s: “And I’m especially happy that 299 was against the New York Jets.”
Several Patriots spoke to Belichick’s success post-game. Most admitted they were in awe of the accomplishment.
“He’s the best coach of all time, and it’s a privilege to play for him for as many years as I have,” said Tom Brady.
Devin McCourty pointed to two traits when trying to explain Belichick’s Hall of Fame career.
“It’s consistency,” McCourty said. “He comes to work every day the same way. His expectations don’t change. It doesn’t matter who the player is, it doesn’t matter what situation, he’s gonna always remain consistent. And then I think his ability to give ownership to the players.
“There’s a lot of times for us as defenders, we go out there and he’ll tell us, ‘You’ve got five different options right here. Whatever you see is best … you make the call.”
Ferentz earns first start
At 30 years old, Patriots guard James Ferentz earned his first career start Sunday.
A lifelong journeyman, Ferentz bounced around Houston and Denver before landing in New England last season. He was among the oldest practice squad players in the league, then was promoted to the active roster and played in two games. This year, he’s remained on the roster and replaced injured starting right guard Shaq Mason, who was ruled out with an ankle injury.
Ferentz said he didn’t know until Sunday morning whether he would start against Cleveland. Mason had been limited all week in practice. Once he got the call, he knew it would be a special day.
“It means a lot,” Ferentz said. “I love this sport. I grew up in this sport, and for me it’s been a little bit different path than most. But I’m really fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”
Assessing his play postgame, he sounded perfectly a lifelong Patriot.
“I felt like I settled down as the game went on. Felt like I played a little bit better, but obviously there’s a lot to fix, a lot to correct,” he said.
The moment Ferentz said he’ll remember most, though, had little to do with football. Ferentz shared he missed his young son’s third birthday party earlier in the day, but was greeted by young Forest as he walked off the field. There were smiles all around.
Burkhead, Chung return
Patriots running back Rex Burkhead returned from a three-game absence due to a foot injury and had some company.
Burkhead finished with three carries for four yards. He also caught one pass for nine yards. The veteran back was one of seven Pats pass catchers to record a reception.
Chung came back after missing last week’s win over the Jets with a chest injury. Chung played fewer snaps than most games he starts, but nonetheless impacted a strong defensive performance. He finished with two tackles and a pass defensed.
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