FOXBORO -- New England's matchup with Carolina Monday night marks just the fifth time these teams have met in the regular season, and sixth time overall. The teams last met in 2009, when the Panthers traveled to Gillette December 13 and brought a 20-10 loss home to Charlotte.
Though a positive outcome for the Patriots, the four-year old game film won't help much. Carolina has since brought in a new coach, new coordinators, and new quarterback.
Bill Belichick broke down on Friday how the team prepares for such an unfamiliar opponent.
"I think it all starts in the offseason," he noted. "When you have a team like this or like we had with Atlanta and New Orleans earlier in the year, you look at them and you go through the 2012 season and you see what the makeup of the team is, what they’re trying to do, what their basic makeup is, what they’re successful at, what they have trouble with. Then as you look at this season, you kind of compile it a little bit with last year. If it’s the same, then it’s the same; if it’s different, then what are the differences and why have they gone the way they’ve gone? Is it because of personnel? Is it because they’ve changed their philosophy? What is it?"
The coach pointed out that every team experiences some turnover from year to year. As familiar as the AFC East rival Jets are, New England had to deal with a new offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg. And Buffalo shook up the whole regime by hiring Doug Marrone and his selected staff.
It doesn't much matter if the names have NFL resumes attached or not; a coach or coordinator can do different things with different personnel.
"I think if you look at a team like Carolina, with I know [Mike] Shula is a new coordinator but he was there and obviously there was going to be a carryover from what Rob [Chudzinski] did and [Ron] Rivera was there. You have a lot better idea from year to year. I would say we took our notes from 2012, put them with what we had this year and I would say there a lot of things that are the same. The things that are different, we’ve noted those and said, ‘OK, it looks like they’ve made a little bit of a shift here. It’s a little bit different from what we saw in the offseason but we understand why they’re doing it and so forth.’"
So while the Patriots may not look back to 2009, they will have to study more tape than what Carolina is offering this season.
"If you just try to pick up and watch three or four films on a team that you don’t know very well, from not having played them in three or four years, you can easily miscalculate something, whether it’s their personnel -- maybe you’re seeing a guy that’s not quite 100 percent and then you get him and he is 100 percent or you don’t see a guy for whatever reason, do what he can really do and then all the sudden it hits you and then you get surprised by it -- or scheme-wise, you see something that you should have seen but you just didn’t do enough homework on it," Belichick explained.
"You try not to let that happen."