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Callahan: Matt Patricia knows the Patriots better than any ex-coach ever — and they don’t care

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The Eagles won’t need a secret weapon Sunday to beat the Patriots.

Their weapons are known, and they are dangerous: Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Oh, and don’t forget the defensive line that averaged more than a sack per quarter last season and has since added two first-round picks.

If, however, the Eagles did require a secret weapon, his name might be senior defensive assistant Matt Patricia.

Stop laughing.

Patricia’s knowledge of the Patriots’ football operations is deeper and more detailed than any other coach to face them in the Bill Belichick era. No ex-assistant has returned to face Belichick with coordinator experience on offense and defense, not to mention his year as a Senior Football Adviser. However disastrous last season was  — and it was a football hellscape of ugly penalties and hideous turnovers  — Patricia still knows the Pats’ playbooks and personnel intimately.

Patricia learned at Belichick’s knee for 16 years, including six as a coordinator or advisor. It was at that same knee he took a public spanking from every media analyst and radio caller who watched his bland, bumbling offense last season. That, according to sources, is among the chief reasons Patricia left.

People close to Patricia recognized the toll the season and criticism took on him by early January. Weeks later, Patricia didn’t return to the facility with the rest of the coaches to begin offseason preparations. In fact, several Patriots staffers seemed to greet him with surprise in mid-March when Patricia made a public appearance at Devin McCourty’s retirement press conference.

Not long after that, Patricia flew off to Philly.

The problem now, with the Eagles visiting for Sunday’s season opener, is Patricia knows how Belichick thinks. He knows because Belichick taught him how to think. And it’s how Patricia helped shape Bill O’Brien’s thinking in his first days as a Patriot.

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones leans into speak to Matt Patricia, a senior football advisor, as they leave the field after a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1, 2023. (Staff Photo/Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones leans into speak to Matt Patricia, a senior football advisor, as they leave the field after a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1, 2023. (Staff Photo/Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

“I learned a lot from Matt when I worked with him years ago,” O’Brien said Tuesday. “I came in as a quality control (coach in 2007), and Matt helped teach me a lot about being a quality control coach here in New England. We have a lot of respect for Matt.”

As damning as recent history has treated Patricia (who, make no mistake, has always played a leading role in his own demise), it’s been similarly unkind to Belichick versus his ex-assistants.

Brian Flores won four of his last five battles with the Patriots as the Dolphins’ head coach. Titans coach Mike Vrabel knocked Belichick and Tom Brady out of their last playoff game together in January 2020. A year earlier, Vrabel ripped the Pats by 24 in Nashville.

And months before that loss, Patricia managed the same with his toothless Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football, 26-10.

Institutional knowledge of your opponent matters. It’s why teams mine the minds of players and coaches who played for their next opponent every week of every season.

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