Near the end of a Monday press conference that was mostly about Brett Favre's injury, I asked Brad Childress how difficult it's going to be heading to New England to face Tom Brady with a gigundous target on the forehead of Chris Cook and/or Frank Walker's head.
"I'm mindful of the last time we faced [the Patriots] here on Monday Night Football," said Childress, referring to the 2006 meeting in which Brady threw for 372 yards and four TDs in a 31-7 win. "It was like a surgical procedure. That’s back when we used to signal [plays] and things like that. I remember having a conversation with [then-defensive coordinator] Mike Tomlin about that. These were some of the all-time great signal stealers. In fact, that's what was going on. They were holding, holding, holding. We were signaling from the sideline. They were good at it. It's like stealing signals from a catcher."
When asked if the Patriots were calling their plays based on the stealing of the the Vikings' signals, Childress said, "Yeah. Is [the defense in Cover] 2? Is it 3? If you know that as a quarterback, that's as good as you can do. And they did as good as they could do."
Childress also said he had a "notion" the Patriots did that. "Having played them with the Eagles before that they were good [at stealing signals]. It’s something that we do as well," he said. "It’s good for one; it’s good for the other. We didn’t change it up. We didn’t use wristbands. We didn’t change the menu at halftime. They were good at that. Obviously you don’t need to give Tom [Brady] any added advantage."
Well, Childress might have inadvertently done just that, even though I believe he was trying to compliment the Patriots' coaching staff and Brady, and wasn't referring to the Patriots stealing signals illegally, which they were found guilty of during the whole "Spygate" controversy in 2007. But you can see how the Patriots could interpret Childress' meaning as the Patriots needed to steal signals to in order to win in the fashion they did.
This morning, Brady was on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan show in Boston. The station played Childress' comments for Brady. Brady reportedly laughed and said, "We've been called much worse."
Brady also said, "That game was so long ago. ... I remember us executing pretty well that night. I’ve heard different guys in the past say that. That’s come and gone. That’s been not a part of football here for a long time, and we’ve still won a lot of games. In ‘07, they changed the rule and so forth. I don’t buy a whole lot into that. The team that’s going to win this weekend is the team that plays better. I can promise you that."
The league has since put radio transmitters in the helmet of the defensive signal caller, so teams no longer have to do hand signals from the sideline.
The Patriots and coach Bill Belichick are experts at using any slight for motivation. So I'm guessing they'll use this because they'll view it as Childress saying they needed to steal signals in order to beat the Vikings. The Vikings were 4-2 at the time. The Patriots were 5-1.
The following season, the Jets accused the Patriots of taping their sideline signals in violation of NFL rules. The whole ordeal became known as "Spygate." Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team was fined $250,000 and had to forfeit its 2008 first-round draft pick.
Belichick also used it to motivate the Patriots to the NFL's first 16-0 season. They were 18-0 when the lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots are tied with the Jets for the best record in the NFL (5-1) this year. They were already going to be a tough team to beat.