FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- No matter who you ask, the 2020 campaign was one to forget in New England. The team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and were under .500 (7-9 record) for the first time since Bill Belichick's first season as Patriots head coach back in 2000. On a macro and more dire level, the team also looked lost at the quarterback position in its first season post-Tom Brady. As Robert Kraft characterized it at one point last offseason, New England's 2020 season was "horrible."
How things have changed.
It took the Patriots just 12 weeks to earn more wins than they did during the entire season last year after moving to 8-4 following a 36-13 win over the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. This gives New England its sixth consecutive win and now puts them in sole possession of first place in the AFC East and in the thick of possibly earning the top seed in the conference.
"Look, eight games isn't enough to clinch anything or win anything," Belichick said postgame. "We have a long way to go."
Of course, Belichick is right. The Patriots still have a ways to go -- including two massive matchups against the Buffalo Bills in the coming weeks -- before they can crown themselves as anything. That said, as they now ascend over their win total of a year ago with four games still left on the schedule, it does seem worthy to say this aloud -- Bill Belichick is putting together a coaching masterpiece.
In just a year's time, the head coach has effectively overhauled most of the key pillars to his roster and the buttons he's pressed along the way have New England looking like the Patriots of old at this point in the season. This offseason, Belichick brought in the likes of Matthew Judon, Hunter Henry, and Kendrick Bourne in a free agent spending spree that this franchise had never seen before and those players have become main fixtures on their respective sides of the ball and key pieces to the almost instant turnaround.
Not only that, but Belichick turned the keys to the offense over to rookie Mac Jones right out of the gate, and with each passing week the young quarterback is showing signs of improvement, courtesy of his own work ethic and along with the coaching he's received on a daily basis.
Over this winning streak, Belichick's defense has ascended into elite status and has been particularly clutch in the pressure moments. Over their previous four games -- including this latest victory over Tennessee -- the Patriots have outscored their opponents 63-0 in the second half. That's certainly a credit to coaching adjustment made at the break by Belichick -- along with his assistants -- having a keen sense for what their team can and can't do during a given week and adjusts accordingly.
Despite being considered the greatest head coach of all time, Belichick has only won Coach of the Year three times in his career with the last coming back in 2010. If New England continues on its current path, he very well should be eyeing a fourth and possibly even more prestigious hardware for his entire team.