FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots turn the page quickly, and with Sunday’s road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars next on the schedule, safety Duron Harmon seemed ready for the topic when approached in the locker room after the team’s season-opening victory.
“One thing we talk about is never doing something to jeopardize the team. We always have to remember to put the team first before our own personal needs,” Harmon said, when asked how the Patriots handle it. “So if you go out of your way to embarrass someone, or trash-talk, you’re not putting our team first. We talk about pulling ourselves together and doing our trash talk with our pads and our play.”
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, on the other hand, is obviously operating out of a different playbook.
Ramsey’s less-than-flattering remarks about Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in ESPN The Magazine were obviously heard at One Patriot Place, but it would be a surprise if players were to address them this week. That isn’t the way the Patriots roll.
“It’s always in the back of our mind,” Harmon said of when an opponent trash-talks the Patriots. “We’re competitive, and we don’t want to create a distraction by disrespecting our opponent and trash-talking them before a game, but we definitely are aware to it, and we might use it a little bit as motivation when we get out there.”
History has proved that true. Using Ramsey’s remarks as the springboard, here are some of the most notable times the Patriots have channeled opponent’s trash talk into an on-field fury -- and one time it didn't work out in their favor.
"I don't think Gronk is as great as people think he is. Any time Gronk has been matched up with a corner, he's had a very bad game -- and that corner has had a very good game." Jalen Ramsey
to ESPN The Magazine
Anthony Smith’s guarantee (2007)
The Patriots were 12-0 and coming off a riveting Monday Night Football win over the Ravens as they prepared for a highly anticipated home game against the 9-3 Steelers. Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, second-year safety Anthony Smith was asked what gave him the confidence to guarantee a victory and said, “The guys I’m playing with.”
A reporter then asked him, “So the prediction is that you will win?”
“Yeah, we’re going to win, as long as we come out and do what we’re supposed to do,” Smith responded. “They have an explosive offense, so if we don’t give them any big plays, you know, and eliminate the dumb mistakes, I think we will win the game.”
When the reporter followed up by saying that Smith would now have a spotlight on him, Smith said, “I don’t care nothing about no spotlight.”
It wasn’t exactly a brash guarantee, but the Patriots turned Smith’s remarks into the ultimate show of disrespect. They went after him in a 34-13 victory, with quarterback Tom Brady finding Randy Moss for the first touchdown of the game, with Smith in coverage. As Brady raced to congratulate Moss, he stopped first where Smith was standing and was yelling into his facemask.
“I don’t care to repeat them, especially if my mother reads it. She wouldn’t be very happy with what I said,” Brady said after the game when asked what his words were to Smith.
On the next drive, Brady found Moss on a 63-yard bomb, which was the result of a play-action fake Smith bit hard on and then found himself out of position for the pass.
After the game, Bill Belichick piled on, saying, “We’ve played a lot better safeties than him, I’ll tell you that.”
Freddie Mitchell didn’t know jersey numbers of DBs (2005)
In the days leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX between the Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, receiver Freddie Mitchell was speaking with ESPN’s Dan Patrick and said he knew only the numbers of the Patriots’ defensive backs because it was a patchwork group. He then listed them incorrectly, and also taunted safety Rodney Harrison by saying, “I got something for you, Harrison.”
Mitchell later said he was joking, but the Patriots used his remarks as fuel, especially in the hype-filled lead-up to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots ultimately held off the Eagles to win 24-21, and some members of the organization went after Mitchell hard afterward.
“All he does is talk. He’s terrible, and you can print that,” Belichick said. “I was happy when he was in the game.”
Meanwhile, Harrison is still having fun at Mitchell’s expense. Earlier in 2018, prior to the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, he said, “Thank you, Freddie Mitchell. Without you running your mouth, we wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl.”
Antonio Cromartie gets last laugh (2011)
Trash talk isn’t always a bad thing for the opposition, with then-Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie proving that point.
He didn’t like Brady’s on-field demeanor in the Patriots’ 45-3 win over the Jets on Dec. 6, 2010, so when the teams met five weeks later in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, he described Brady thusly to the New York Daily News: “An a--h---. F--- him.”
That got the hype machine going, even though Brady never engaged Cromatie leading into the game, and in one of the more shocking results in Patriots playoff history, they lost to the Jets 28-21.
Cromartie recovered the Patriots’ onside kick to seal the result.
Marty Schottenheimer’s empathy lit a fire under Tom Brady (2005)
The Patriots were feeling the heat after losing big at home to the San Diego Chargers 41-17 in the fourth week of the 2005 season. The loss snapped a 21-game home winning streak and dropped the two-time Super Bowl champions to 2-2 when Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer struck an empathetic tone in noting the Patriots’ tough run of injuries.
“What they’ve done is remarkable, but at what point in time do you keep responding when you have to keep putting in new players?” Schottenheimer said after the game. “They’ve done it wonderfully over the last four years, but there comes a time where it has to catch up with you, even with a team as great as this one.”
Brady, playing the disrespect card like Harrison often did (Harrison was injured at the time), took offense.
“You don’t talk about our team. He has no business talking about our team,” he said. “He’s not our coach. We’ll let our coach talk about our team. We’ll let our players talk about our team. The only thing that we ever do is give respect to the other teams, because that’s what they deserve ...
“We lost some very key players, and we lost some great talents and some great leaders, but when you say, ‘They’re not going to win any more,' that just minimizes what Willie McGinest means to this team and what Mike Vrabel means, or Corey Dillon or Troy Brown or Deion Branch or Dan Koppen. Those guys are pretty good leaders. ... We won’t be throwing in the towel, I can promise you that.”
The Patriots turned things around to finish the season 10-6 before losing in the divisional round of the playoffs.