The skeleton in Bill Belichick's closet most commonly known as "Spygate" has reared its ugly skull yet again. This time, it's a double-sided story of guilt by association.
It all began when Belichick's former offensive coordinator, current Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, took his team to play the 49ers in London earlier this season. Apparently, the day before the game at Wembley Stadium, Broncos video director Steve Scarnecchia videotaped San Francisco going through its walk-through.
It's an incident that's seemingly eerily familiar to the accusations surrounding Belichick's Patriots and the alleged taping of a Rams walk-through prior to Super Bowl 36 in February of 2002. Though New England was never proven guilty of that accusation, the team was fined back in 2007 for filming signals on the sidelines against the Jets. The team and its coach were fined a total of $1 million and lost a first-round pick in the punishment handed down by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Last week the league was investigating a Belichick understudy. Though by all accounts McDaniels never watched the tape of the 49ers walk-through, he failed to immediately make the league aware of its existence. That didn't happen until Denver executives contacted the league later. The NFL investigated and subsequently fined McDaniels and the team $100,000 ($50,000 each) while Scarnecchia was fired with cause.
Further bringing the Patriots into the Broncos scandal is that Scarnecchia is not only the son of New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, but also worked for the Patriots video department for five seasons before leaving to join the Jets staff under Eric Mangini. Because Scarnecchia is considered a two-time offender thanks to his history with New England, he could be barred from the league.
But maybe the biggest tie into the Patriots, and what may most ruffled Belichick's feathers, is the way that McDaniels compared his team's taping situation with what occurred when he was working for the Patriots from 2001-2008. According to a report from FOX sports' Jay Glazer, McDaniels explained to his staff last Friday that this was a one-time incident and not like "Spygate" in New England.
"That was practiced, that was coached, that was worked on," McDaniels said, according to Glazer, of New England's videotaping practices.
What did Belichick have to say about his former assistant and his videotaping troubles?
"I'm really focused on the Jets," Belichick said as his team prepares for next Monday night's meeting with New York that pits two 9-2 teams in a battle for division, conference and league bragging rights.
Though Belichick and his team are on the periphery of another scandalous storm, clearly the coach doesn't plan on being dragged into any distraction before New England's biggest game of the season.
--QB Tom Brady had a perfect single-game passer rating of 158.3 in beating the Lions on Thanksgiving, becoming just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to post multiple perfect passer rating games in a career.
--RB Danny Woodhead now ranks second on the Patriots with 64 rushing attempts for 344 yards (5.4-yard average) with three touchdowns. Woodhead also ranks fifth on the team with 24 receptions for 230 yards (9.6 avg.) with one touchdown.
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has averaged 4.6 yards or better in each of the last three games, including his 59 yards on 12 carries (4.9-yard average) with two touchdowns in beating the Lions. For the season Green-Ellis leads New England with 145 attempts for 627 yards (4.3 avg.) with nine rushing touchdowns.
--TE Rob Gronkowski had five catches for 65 yards on Thanksgiving. The rookie second-round pick is New England's fourth-leading pass catcher with 25 catches for 310 yards with six touchdowns for the year.
--WR Deion Branch had just three catches against Detroit, but made the most of them totaling 113 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Branch's 79-yard touchdown reception was longest play from scrimmage this season.
--WR Wes Welker also had a pair of touchdowns in beating the Lions, with a game-high eight catches for 90 yards. Welker leads New England with 65 catches for 592 yards on the season with six touchdowns, the second-highest total of his career.
--ILB Jerod Mayo had another double-digit tackle day against Detroit, finishing with a game-high 12 tackles. Mayo leads the NFL, according to press box stats, with 131 tackles on the season.
--CB Devin McCourty, New England's first-round pick, had a pair of interceptions on Turkey Day. The rookie leads the Patriots with five interceptions.
--OLB Pierre Woods recorded his first sack of the season in Detroit, just a week after re-signing with the team after spending the first two-plus months of the season out of the league.
--ILB Gary Guyton also sacked Shaun Hill in Detroit, his second sack in the last three weeks.
--PK Shayne Graham hit his only attempt of the day in Detroit, a 19-yard field goal. In three games since replacing the injured Stephen Gostkowski. Graham is 4-for-4 on field goals.