As far as in-season vacations go, the bye week is as close as you're going to get for an NFL team. They'd never refer to it as such, especially the Patriots, a team that prides itself on regimen, hard work, and attention to detail. But at the very least, the week off allows teams to regroup, get healthy, and chart a course for the rest of the season.
Not surprisingly, quarterback Tom Brady, who has been with Bill Belichick since 2000, is all-in on that philosophy.
"You're always trying to improve individually in your techniques and the fundamentals," he said via ESPNBoston.com. "You can get a lot of work over that time in training camp, because once again, you don't really have an opponent. So you focus on your own techniques and fundamentals, which lead to good execution within a scheme. And then once you start playing, it's all scheme, you don't have a lot of time to work on the fundamentals stuff. This week, for the players, it’s fundamentals, it’s techniques."
More generally, Brady welcomed the break not so much for the R&R but because it gives the Pats more time to get better. "It's nice when it (the bye week) comes halfway through the year so you have a nice sample size to see what you're doing well and what you're not doing well," he said. "I know the coaches have been hard at work these past few days to identify some of those things, and that's a lot of what we'll go over today, and we'll go out and practice."
It's also an opportunity for Brady to self-scout.
"You just don't have that much time during the regular season because you're trying to prepare for your opponent," Brady said. "With no opponent, you try to focus on things you can do better and there's certainly a lot of things that I think we can do better."
History suggests that won't be a problem. The Pats have won the division nine of the last 10 years. They've also won 114 games over that time and never lost more than six times in a season.
"I think it's important, as I've said, to not really ride the roller-coaster of the season, the highs of the winning and the lows of the losing," Brady said. "When you have a bad game, you can't have another bad game which leads to a bad month and then you have to be nearly perfect the rest of the way. When you lose a game, you have to put it behind you, you have to move forward and if you lose again, you've got to do the same thing. I think that's ... to try to get the things that we've been good at it, things that we're consistently doing better than other things, I think that's what most important and that leads to better execution over the course of the season."
We've said it countless times before, but as long as Belichick and Brady are around, New England will be in the postseason conversation. Never mind the annual concerns that this is the year that Brady loses it -- he's too competitive to let that happen. Plus, we'll all know when he's done because he'll retire.