The meaning behind New England Patriots QB Mac Jones' special cleats

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Mac's cleats: "Be Brave." The words stood out on the blue cleats that New England Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones wore in the team's most recent victory over the Buffalo Bills.

There's a poignant story behind those words, and it comes from 7-year-old Robbie Klein and his family -- dad Joel, mom Kayla, brother Eddie and dog Atticus. The Kleins live just outside of Boston, and through the care that Robbie receives at Boston Children's Hospital, they have linked up with Jones.

On Monday night, they watched the Patriots beat the Bills 14-10 with Jones wearing "My Cause My Cleats" partially designed by Robbie, who lives with hemophilia, a medical condition in which the ability of the blood to clot is severely reduced.

The cleats had Robbie's name on them, as well as "Be Brave" -- both in his own handwriting.

"We were thinking of different phrases and really that's him in a nutshell. And that’s our family. I always say to him at night 'I'm so proud of you, you're so brave,'" Kayla said. "We might have sad and scary moments at times, but we're not a sad family at all. And our story is not sad. It's a story we hope highlights something good, like the work that Children's is doing."

Jones wearing the cleats, especially during a nationally televised game on ESPN, does just that.

"I'm new here to Boston and I've been very passionate in the past about working with different organizations. Robbie obviously doesn't have a chance to play football, but he loves sports. I took a lot of that into the game with me, just being brave, trying to represent him and the people that may not be able to be out there," Jones explained.

The connection was made, in part, from all Patriots rookies visiting Children's Hospital as part of their onboarding process when first joining the team. Jones said he looks forward to getting to know Robbie, who enjoys swimming and playing golf and tennis, among other sports.

The family had a watch party Monday and Kayla said that while they had seen the cleats beforehand, "to see them in action on the field was surreal."

Summing it all up, Kayla added: "Through Mac, and the cleats, if we can bring awareness and some much-needed funds to Children's, while also honoring those living with hemophilia, we're all in."

2. Injury questions: There hasn't been any definitive word on the severity of injuries to safety Adrian Phillips (knee) and running back Damien Harris (hamstring), as the ailments knocked both players out of Monday night's win. Needless to say, the Patriots' bye week comes at a good time for Phillips and Harris, the latter of whom seemed to be in good spirits as he watched center David Andrews' postgame news conference. The Patriots' next practice is scheduled for Tuesday, which could provide more clarity.

3. Flex thoughts: Could the Patriots and Bills -- scheduled to play at 1 p.m. on Dec. 26 -- be headed toward another prime-time matchup? The NFL is expected to finalize its Week 16 schedule this week. The Sunday night game that week is Washington at Dallas, so executives will likely be asking the question, "Which game has more national appeal?" CBS also has the Steelers at Chiefs at 4:25 p.m. ET -- an appealing game, for sure -- so the possibility that Patriots-Bills remains at 1 p.m. is not far-fetched.

4. Key number of carries -- 24: Former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was a guest on the "Next Pats" podcast with Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston, and as usual, he shared behind-the-scenes insight. "From a philosophical standpoint, as an offensive staff, we always used to say, 'If we can run the ball 24 times or more, we felt we had a really good chance to win the game.' Because we were a balanced offensive football team. That, to us, was very important. We strived for that all the time," Scarnecchia said on the podcast.

5. Chaux down: Nose tackle Davon Godchaux, one of the most impactful defenders in Monday's win against the Bills with a career-high 10 tackles, took off to his native Louisiana for the bye week, where he planned to eat crawfish and take family Christmas pictures. Players had been in for meetings Wednesday, but aren't required to return until early this week. Before he left, Godchaux shared something linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley said about the team's turnaround from a 2-4 start to the season -- how players demanding more accountability from each other was a spark. "When it comes from your peers, guys take more heed to it," Godchaux said.

6. Bye-week battle: The Patriots and Colts will both be coming off bye weeks leading into their Week 15 clash on Saturday, Dec. 18 (8:15 p.m. ET, NFL Network). That negates any perceived advantage of facing a team coming off a bye, although entering Week 14 action, the bye hasn't produced a notable edge -- teams are 12-11-1 playing after their off weekend. That record includes two games -- Dallas/Minnesota and Tampa Bay/Washington -- in which both teams were coming off a bye.

7. Deferring decisions: Monday's extreme wind gusts created a situation where head coaches Bill Belichick and Sean McDermott had to consider the possibility of direction being more important than the football. McDermott ultimately played it conventionally, the Bills winning the opening toss and deferring their choice to the second half, when they took the ball. That meant the Bills went against the wind in the decisive fourth quarter. Had the roles been reversed, it wouldn't have shocked me if Belichick took the extreme step of sacrificing a possession to ensure the Patriots (leading 11-7 at halftime) had the favorable wind in the fourth quarter. He's done something similar in the past (2015, OT, vs. the Jets).

8. Guy as Payton nominee: Veteran defensive tackle Lawrence Guy is a worthy choice as the Patriots' Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. Guy, who along with his wife Andrea started a foundation that provides resources and opportunities for financially disadvantaged families, will now wear a special decal on his helmet the rest of the season in recognition of the honor. One additional note: Safety and longtime captain Devin McCourty had been the nominee for four years, but in a selfless act, he said after his 2020 nomination that it would be his last because he wanted others' work to be highlighted.

9. Gilmore check-in: Playing for the Patriots can raise a player's profile, and in turn, when a player leaves the organization it can seem like he fades from the national radar quickly. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore somewhat falls into this category. Since landing in Carolina, he's played in five games and his playing time is slowly picking up -- 17, 16, 13, 37 and 43 snaps. The Panthers are 2-3 in those games, with Gilmore totaling nine tackles and two interceptions.

10. Did You Know: Monday's win ensures the Patriots will finish the 2021 season with a winning record, their 35th since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Only Pittsburgh (37) has more.