PHOENIX — Based on his demanding approach to football, there is likely no greater compliment from Bill Belichick than for the Patriots coach to say that a player works hard.
Belichick didn’t single anyone out the morning after the Patriots captured Super Bowl XLIX with a pulsating, 28-24 comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Instead, he credited the work ethic of his entire team, which delivered the fourth Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots organization, making Belichick only the second coach, along with Chuck Noll, to win four titles.
“All year long, this team grinded it out. They’re tough physically. They’re tough mentally. They competed day after day,” Belichick said. “I can tell you that I work this team hard. I know from personal experience that this team came to work every day. They didn’t make any excuses. When things didn’t go right, they just rolled up their sleeves and got back to work and tried to fix them.
“It wasn’t always perfect like last night. It’s a group that never stopped competing, never stopped fighting, and never stopped playing. I think [Sunday’s] game, for me, was reflective of the entire year, what I saw on a daily basis from that group of players and coaches.”
Quarterback Tom Brady, who was named MVP of the Super Bowl for a record-tying third time, confirmed Belichick’s assessment.
“All the guys work really hard. It’s a big commitment that a lot of players make to play this game and it’s a lot of sacrifices and a lot of support from a lot of people that love you and support you,” Brady said. “So, probably the most gratifying thing is to win the game and then to celebrate with your teammates and your loved ones. We’ve been on the other end of this two times in the last seven years, being ahead late in the game with the chance to win it, and not closing it out. I’m glad we had the opportunity to do it.”
Brady’s leadership is well documented. When you combine that with the quarterback’s work ethic and the right teammates, a team culture is born. It didn’t win the Patriots the Super Bowl. But it certainly played a part.
“As Tom said, the beginning of OTAs through training camp, every day of the season, the regular season, I don’t think this season turned in one day or on one play, five minutes or anything like that,” Belichick said. “It was a day by day, practice period by practice period process where we just all worked harder to get better and fix the problems and fix the things that didn’t go well in both the coaching and the playing standpoint.
“It’s a long process. We weren’t the same team in October that we were in September. We weren’t the same team in December that we were in October. We got better on a consistent basis throughout the course of the year. Last night was a finished product.”
Belichick pointed to a loss, not a win, as the turning point of the Patriots season. At halftime of what would be a 41-14 loss at Kansas City in Week 4, Belichick liked what he sensed from his team, and the second half served as confirmation.
“I thought that was the game and the situation — obviously it didn’t go well and we weren’t in any position to win the game — but at the end of the game in the second half, fourth quarter, I thought our team played as hard as they could play,” Belichick said. “We didn’t play well. We weren’t coached well, but we competed hard. That was a good sign.
“When we got some other things straightened out and improved, we got better results, such as the following week in Cincinnati and many as a team in weeks after that.”
The loss to the Chiefs dropped the Patriots to 2-2. They won their next seven games.
Worth the effort
Like Darrelle Revis, receiver Brandon LaFell signed with the Patriots for one reason: To win a championship.
So as the confetti fell Sunday night, it was exactly what LaFell and Revis envisioned when they joined the team.
The vision started in training camp when Belichick worked the team tirelessly, something LaFell and Revis were taken aback by.
“Me and Darrelle, we were driving home one day during OTAs, they must have worked us to death that day. And we said it at the same time, ‘If we don’t win the Super Bowl after all this work we do, we’re going to the front office and telling somebody,’” LaFell said. “The way we worked in camp, I knew we had the talent to get here and win this game.”
‘Arts’ imitating life
Fans of the Electronic Arts “Madden NFL” video game are taken by the game’s realistic graphics, play-calling, and resemblance to the real thing. Well, you can add another impressive quality: The game’s ability to predict what’s going to happen.
In the simulation run before the Super Bowl, the video game not only correctly predicted the winning team, but it nailed the score (28-24), and also had the Patriots coming back from a 24-14 second-half deficit.
That’s not all. In the simulated game, Tom Brady threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns, while winning MVP honors. Pretty close; Brady, in winning that third Super Bowl MVP award, passed for 328 yards and four touchdowns. The simulated game also had Julian Edelman catching eight passes for 106 yards, including the game-winning touchdown. He finished with nine catches for 109 yards, and yes, the winning TD reception.
The “Madden NFL” Super Bowl simulation has accurately predicted the winning team in nine of the last 12 years.
In addition to the winning touchdown, Edelman had a number of key catches. The most important might have been the 21-yard gain on third and 14, extending a fourth-quarter drive with the Patriots trailing, 24-14. Edelman took a hard hit to the helmet after making the catch but stayed in the game. After the victory, Edelman, who missed the last two regular-season games after suffering a concussion, said he couldn’t talk about any injuries. The Associated Press reported Monday that Edelman was medically cleared on the sideline to return to the game.
In his Monday morning press conference, Belichick was asked if Edelman was checked for a concussion after the big hit.
“I’m a coach and I had a deal with our trainers and doctors. They’re the medical experts and they don’t call plays, and I’m the coach and I don’t get involved in the medical part,” Belichick said. “When they clear players to play, then if we want to play them we play them. The plays we call, I don’t have to get approval from them. It’s a good setup.”
Monday’s snowstorm caused the postponement until Wednesday of a duck-boat parade for the Super Bowl champions. The parade will start at 11 a.m. at the Prudential Center and end at Government Center . . . The NFL Network reported that linebacker Dont’a Hightower plans to have labrum surgery on his shoulder. The 24-year-old had been on the injury report since Week 14 because of the injury . . . NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told “60 Minutes Sports” that it was Colts general manager Ryan Grigson who told the NFL in the second quarter of the AFC Championship game that the Patriots might be tampering with footballs, setting off Deflategate.
Sunday’s game produced record television ratings, locally and nationally. The NBC broadcast earned a 49.7 overnight rating, which eclipsed the previous national high of 48.1, set two years ago when the Ravens beat the 49ers. With more than 114 million viewers, it was the most-watched show in US television history. In the Boston market, the game registered a 61.0, easily setting a record for the game locally. The old mark was 56.7 for the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl Feb. 5, 2012 . . . Barely 15 hours after Sunday’s win, Edelman and Malcolm Butler were the guests of honor at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. . . . With the victory, expect the Patriots to open the 2015 season by playing a home game on Thursday, Sept. 10. Who might the opponent be? In addition to the three division rivals (Jets, Bills, Dolphins), the Patriots will have home games against the Steelers, Titans, Redskins, Eagles, and Jaguars. Perhaps the Eagles? Or the Steelers? Or maybe the NFL sends the Bills, along with new coach Rex Ryan, to open the season in Foxborough? We’ll know in April, when the schedules are unveiled.
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