By TERESA M. WALKER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Thursday, January 11, 2018
NASHVILLE -- Dick LeBeau against Bill Belichick.
It doesn't get much better than that for NFL fans. Tennessee linebacker Wesley Woodyard believes the rare matchup is a showdown for the ages.
"Oh man, it's going to be a battle of the masterminds," Woodyard said when the Titans defensive co-ordinator tries to outwit Belichick and his New England Patriots.
"Two Hall of Fame coaches, I'm sure Belichick will be there hands down. Coach LeBeau's seen a lot, coached a lot of playoff games, so we're relying heavily on his experience and to go out there and play hard man.
That's all we can do for our coach."
Well, LeBeau is only in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his 14season career as a cornerback, though he certainly qualifies for consideration for designing the zone blitz on defence. LeBeau also has an NFL-record 45 consecutive seasons as a coach, putting him ahead of only one man - Belichick with 43 - in that category.
The two will be very instrumental in determining the outcome on Saturday night when the upstart Titans (10-7) visit Belichick and his defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (13-3) for a spot in the AFC championship game.
And Belichick made it very clear that coaching against LeBeau is not something he enjoys. "I wouldn't use that word, no," Belichick said. "It's very challenging. Coach LeBeau is a great coach, he does a tremendous job, [he] has for his entire illustrious career as a player and as a coach. Really revolutionized the game, and his system has certainly withstood the test of time."
Belichick ticked off how LeBeau's Titans have led the NFL in rushing defence over the past two seasons and led the league this season for the fewest big plays allowed of 20 yards or longer. Belichick says the foundation of LeBeau's defence remains the same over the years, modified for the players he has and the teams he's facing.
The man with five Super Bowl titles as head coach in New England made clear he has great respect for LeBeau, whom he considers a good friend.
"I learn an awful lot from watching him, watching his defences and watching the way that he does things," Belichick said. "Techniques and adjustments and schematics and so forth. He's one of the great coaches to ever walk the sidelines in this league."
Told that Belichick said he learned a lot from him, LeBeau said he was humbled.