The coach, he acknowledges, has been the symbol of the team’s transformation from league also-ran to one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. With such a track record, Barclay implies, who has standing to question his decisions?
“It’s the way Belichick plays,” Peter Skarmeas of Danvers says. “It is what it is. He kept (quarterback Tom) Brady in there almost to the end. Most coaches wouldn’t have them in. But Belichick wants to do what he wants to do.”
Skarmeas sees Belichick’s personality playing a role in this. He smiles, “He may want to arouse his critics by doing things like this.”
Whatever the critics say doesn’t seem to bother the coach, however. Skarmeas’ smile grows, remembering all of Sunday’s intercepted passes, recovered fumbles and thrilling touchdowns.
“It was a great game. I just enjoyed the game,” he said.
Cynthia DiChrico of Peabody credits Gronkowski with having a desire to play. “He felt he could play. ... I get why people are questioning it. But sometimes players don’t want to come out.”
When that happens, she adds, the coach “trusts his guys. Just like (Denver Broncos quarterback) Peyton Manning calls his own plays. Belichick lets his players make some decisions.”
Brady is a good example of someone who has to be all but dragged off the field. He played virtually the whole game, taking snaps and throwing passes long after the outcome was decided.
That alarms Luis Garcia of Salem, who sees Brady as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. Moreover, he worries, pointing first to Gronkowski’s injury and then to Brady. “It takes a toll on you being out there,” he says. “You’re in there for a long period of time.”
Dave Black, a Danvers carpenter, levels the hardest hit on the coach’s decision. He complains that Gronkowski “absolutely” should not have been in the game with four minutes to play. “They brought in the backup quarterback.” Why not backup linemen? “It’s a tragic injury for the Patriots’ move forward. They say he’ll be back in four to six weeks, which is barely enough time for the playoffs.”