FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. One measure of pride for the Patriots under owner Robert Kraft is how the franchise's winning percentage during his tenure (1994-present) is unmatched by any team in the five major American sports leagues. The Patriots (.697) and San Antonio Spurs (.693) have been going back and forth between No. 1 and 2, with the Patriots' current eight-game winning streak currently helping them create a little distance.
With this in mind, I sought out quarterback Tom Brady's perspective on what he has seen from the Spurs over the years, and what parallels he might draw between the franchises.
"They've had great stability, coaching and players, and I think there has been different carryover between David Robinson, to Tim Duncan, to Tony Parker, [Manu] Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard. I think they have a great system and great coaches, and players that have really been able to play in that system for a long time," he said. "And the new guys come in and learn from the old guys, and they kind of embrace their culture and take it over."
In many ways, that's what Brady has seen from the Patriots since joining them in 2000.
"I think just that; we have a lot of veteran guys that played here and come back and talk to the linebackers, and talk to the running backs. Kevin Faulk has been around. Troy Brown has been around. All the linemen. Matt Light and Logan [Mankins]. Joe Andruzzi. Sammy [Morris] is in the weight room. Willie McGinest comes back all the time. Tedy [Bruschi]. Ty Law. Lawyer [Milloy]. Vince [Wilfork] comes back. It's great for everyone to see those guys and you realize you're playing for all those guys. You try to make them proud."
Here's how the top five winning percentages in the five major American sports leagues since 1994 currently breaks down:
Red Wings: .642
2a. Brady has added something to his pregame routine on the road this year, as he usually arrives on the earliest bus, stops in the locker room, and then makes a visit to the field for a quick seat on the bench. He relayed it was something he used to like doing earlier in his career, but it became too distracting when there were more people around, so he stopped. Now, as long as he arrives early enough, he's back to the old routine and said he enjoys getting an early feel for the surroundings and conditions, such as the wind.
2b. Last week's pregame field visit included a chat with Bills defensive line coach Mike Waufle, who was recruiting coordinator at Cal (1992-1997) when Brady was coming out of nearby Junipero Serra High School (about 45 minutes away). We don't know what Waufle said to Brady, the University of Michigan alum, but it might have been something like this: "Oh man, I'd like to have that one back."
3. Former Patriots defensive end/outside linebacker Chandler Jones is having a career year with the Cardinals, as his 13 sacks rank second in the NFL behind Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (13.5). Jones is threatening Simeon Rice's Cardinals record of 16.5 sacks, set in 1999. Since the Cardinals acquired Jones from the Patriots in a trade in March of 2016, Jones leads the NFL in sacks (24) and tackles for a loss (36). While the stats reflect part of Jones' impact, those in the organization have also spoken glowingly about his leadership in the locker room and the respect he's earned across the board.
4. Undrafted defensive lineman Adam Butler, who has been one of the Patriots' most productive rookies (42.7 percent playing time), has enjoyed a bunch of firsts this season and one of his favorites came on Saturday: A practice in the snow. The Duncanville, Texas, native who attended Vanderbilt said, "I always wanted to, but never got to play in the snow. I loved it." As one would expect, Butler said rookies were reminded about Saturday's forecast in advance (about 6 inches of snow was expected), and were advised by Bill Belichick to leave extra time to get to the stadium. Butler took his words to heart. "I got up at probably 4:30, just to make sure I wasn't late," he said, smiling. With that type of approach, it ensured there would be no repeat of 2009 in New England.
5a. Did You Know, Part I: Jimmy Garoppolo's 293 passing yards in last Sunday's comeback win over the Bears were the most of any player in his first start for the 49ers, according to Elias. That covers 44 different quarterbacks.
5b. Did You Know, Part II: Former Patriots No. 3 quarterback and current Colts fill-in starter Jacoby Brissett has been sacked a league-high 47 times this season, which is eight more than any other quarterbacks and the most sacks taken through 12 games since Jon Kitna in 2007 (48), according to ESPN's Stats & Information.
5c. Did You Know, Part III: With an eye ahead to next weekend, the Steelers are 17-2 in their last 19 regular-season games, which is tied with the Patriots for the best record in the NFL since Week 11 of last season.
6. Having already apologized behind the scenes to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for his sideline outburst last Sunday, Brady nonetheless opened his Saturday news conference with a public apology. I didn't think it was necessary because it was passionate heat-of-the-moment stuff between two extremely close and competitive friends (just like Brady and Bill O'Brien in 2011). But when framed in the context of Brady wanting to set a better example to teammates about respecting coaches -- because some might not fully realize the dynamics and tightness of his relationship with McDaniels -- it made a lot of sense.
7. If recently signed defensive end Eric Lee (4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, INT last week vs. Bills) continues to contribute to the Patriots, the team might have to send a thank-you note to one of its all-time great players, Mike Vrabel. One thing I learned about Lee this week was that he didn't have much going for himself NFL-wise coming out of South Florida -- he hadn't been invited to the combine -- but Vrabel (then-Texans linebackers coach) had personally worked him out in the pre-draft process and that ultimately led to Lee signing with Houston as an undrafted free agent in 2016. If not for Vrabel, it's possible Lee might not have been given a shot to play in the NFL.
8. This is a hat-and-T-shirt week for the Patriots, which was how team Hall of Famer Tedy Bruschi always explained games when the team was playing for a championship because hats and T-shirts would be waiting for them at their lockers if they won. A win over the Dolphins on Monday would clinch the AFC East title (or a Bills loss to the Colts Sunday would do the same), and with that as a springboard, here are a few "championship" notes:
This would mark the Patriots' ninth division title in a row, which would extend their own record of division titles.
The Patriots would tie Dallas (1975-1983) and Indianapolis (2002-2010) for the most consecutive playoff appearances with their ninth straight.
The Patriots enter Monday with a 79-22 record in AFC East play since 2001, which is the top intra-division mark in the NFL over that span.
It would be the team's 19th playoff berth in Kraft's 24 years of ownership, and the 17th division title since Kraft purchased the team in 1994 (most in the league in that span).
Dec. 10 marks the deadline for fans to purchase raffle tickets for the chance to win a Super Bowl LI Championship ring, with proceeds benefiting the Patriots Charitable Foundation. The winner will be drawn Dec. 11.
9a. With the Patriots' victory over the Bills last Sunday, Bill Belichick improved to 273-127-0 in his career as a head coach, with his .683 winning percentage narrowly moving him ahead of George Halas (324-151-31, .682) and into the top spot among head coaches with at least 160 career victories. Don Shula (347-173-6, .666) and Curly Lambeau (229-134-22, .630) are next on the career winning percentage list.
9b. On Army-Navy weekend, one word came to mind after watching "The Belichick Legacy" on CBS Sports Network, which highlighted the late Steve Belichick's four-decade-long impact at the Naval Academy: Human. Bill Belichick doesn't often allow himself to become emotional in interviews, but he was close to choking up multiple times. Among other things, viewers learn about how meaningful it is to be buried in the Naval Academy cemetery, and how rare it is for that to happen. An exception was made for Steve Belichick to be buried there because of all his meaningful contributions.
10a. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, on the "Know Them From Adam" podcast with ESPN's Adam Schefter, had a notable explanation of how he tore his ACL in an Aug. 25 preseason game against the Lions at Ford Field: "It's a sticky surface, but I was trying to run 15 yards at a full steam ahead, and stop and go at once [to] another area. People want to say I make that cut every time but I don't make it with that type of velocity. I think it was kind of like I disrespected the game a little."
10b. How embarrassing it is when your phone, and specifically Schefter's entertaining podcast with Edelman, unexpectedly starts playing loudly in the middle of a Bill Belichick press conference? I found out first-hand this week. Thankfully, Belichick went easy on the fine.