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Heath Evans on D&C: ‘I’m going to second-guess Bill Belichick’ on some decisions before Super Bowl XLII

01.31.12 at 10:33 am ET
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Former Patriot Heath Evans made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to provide a player perspective on the Super Bowl matchup between the Patriots and Giants. Evans was a member of the 2007 team that saw its bid for a perfect season end in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLII thanks to an incredible drive by the Giants that engineered New York to a 17-14 win.

Evans eventually won a Super Bowl with the Saints before retiring after the 2010 season. Now, looking back on the 2008 heart-breaker against the Giants, Evans said he does second-guess some of Bill Belichick‘s decisions prior to the game itself.

“I’m going to do something stupid and I’m going to second-guess Bill Belichick,” Evans said. “We all completely agreed with the full pads Thursday Friday Saturday in Foxboro, the bye week. When we get to Phoenix, Wednesday was kind of a lackluster practice and I think Bill kind of thought maybe we were overlooking the [Giants] team. I don’t think we were. It was just, you have a bad day. Bill opted to put us in pads again on Thursday, which is that the reason we lost the game? Probably not. But if there was a way to freshen us up ‘€¦”

Evans also weighed in on the upcoming Super Bowl, noting that he does not expect Rob Gronkowski‘s high ankle sprain to hurt the team as much as people may expect. Gronkowski, Evans noted, seems tough enough to play through the injury. If he is unable to go, Evans said the Patriots coaching staff will be able to use a slightly different style of offense so that instead of having someone else fill in for Gronkowski, they will be able to play someone else in a situation that best helps that player to succeed.

Evans claimed that the most important factor in the game will not be Gronkowski or the secondary, but rather the protection of the quarterback.

“My thought is this, it is protecting Brady, but it’s not just by pass protection,” Evans said. “It’s by running the football. You flash back to 2007, the game plan was to run the football. We had some key mistakes early on in the game. Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick elected to get away from the run game, put the weight of the world on Tom Brady‘s shoulders. Ultimately, he did his job.

“Yes, 14 points, people said, ‘No, you should have scored more,’ but he drove us down the field. We scored. Just left a little too much time for young Eli Manning at the time.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.On the shortcomings in Super Bowl XLII: “It wasn’t overconfidence. It was just the way Bill had prepped the week. The week, all week off in New England, we had full pads Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Our team was so locked in. Brady was a man on a mission. So was Tedy [Bruschi] and [Mike] Vrabel. We were focused.”

On when it hit the Patriots that they might lose: “I’m not sure if we ever really took that hit because if you think about it, we just talked about Brady at the end of the game, Brady’s got the ball in his hands late in the fourth quarter, boom we go down and score. And then you never really think you’re going to have that magical drive against that Patriot defense. So I think you’re sitting there watching the confetti fall and you’re going man, that’s the wrong color confetti. … I don’t think we realized the emotional strain and pressure of just the whole season. You start in April and you build, and you build and you build. 4-0, 8-0, 16-0, 18-0 and I don’t really think we felt the weight until it was over and done with. We were a fatigued football team. Excuse? No. The better team won. I hate to say that. It pains me to say that. But the better team won that day so it’s not an excuse, but you get done with the season and you reflect back and you’re just like, ‘Wow. We were a tired football team.'”

On the team hotel the night before Super Bowl XLII: “The second thing which is kind of odd and I would suspect they would do it again this year too. Saturday night, kind of the rule of thumb is let’s get the players and the team away from the family/team hotel, away from all the distractions. Let’s put them where we can kind of get on a normal Saturday night routine so everything is structured perfectly like it’s been from Week 1 through Week 18. It really kind of backfired.

“The hotel was horrendous. We literally had guys with M-16s walking around the outside of our hotel. They warned us, ‘Don’t go outside by yourself.’ We were literally in the hood of Arizona. My room smelled like smoke. I remember Randy Moss being like, ‘I can’t sleep in this place. It’s like sleeping on a plywood.’ ‘€¦ but it was just little things like that. Again, is it the reason we lost? I don’t know. But you look back. Hindsight’s 20/20 and you say, what if?”

On what makes the Giants difficult to deal with: “It’s not the fact that they have so many athletes, it’s the fact that they move their athletes around in so many different places, so if you’re talking to Logan Mankins in a given week, he knows that he’s normally going to face two guys, and he’s going to know their height and their weight and their favorite move. He’s going to know their tendencies on run, down and distances. and their tendencies on pass ‘€¦ When you play the Giants, they’ve got all these fast, big, athletic guys and you’re going to be responsible to know, what’s the favorite move for six different guys.

“That’s the issue with the Giants. They just move these athletes around and so Matt Light can’t prepare for one speed rush defensive end. He’s got to figure out, ‘What’s [Justin] Tuck‘s main thing that he wants to do on third-and-6? What’s Osi [Umenyiora]’s favorite thing that he wants to do on first down in a run situation scenario. Those are the obstacles that really, I think you’ve got to tackle when you play the Giants.”

On who he thinks will win this year’s Super Bowl: “My heart is picking the Pats, but even with what I know about Bill, what I know about Brady and what I know about this team, it’s hard not to build out this matchup on paper online like they do every single week with these games, and think that the Patriots are going to win it.

“You look at the matchups, and I’m thinking Rob is going to be 100 percent, and so to me, I’m adding in all the weapons across the board, and I just think, you talk about a Giants team … the addition of Ahmad Bradshaw, if he wasn’t there, I’d pick the Patriots by 14-plus. The way they run the ball, he gets Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware playing better. And when you give Eli the ability for play-action, screen, deep shots, everything they do, it just, the run game calms down everything defensively. It makes guys skeptical on defense. It makes you a little shorthanded on the pass game because you’re always trying to figure out, ‘Alright, what’s coming next?’ Despite what I know about Bill, I still think this is a tough matchup.”

On why it is important for Gronkowski to be able to play: “The most critical aspect for Gronk to be in the game is for the shotgun runs and his blocking. He’s such a big, athletic big man. There were schemes they were implementing last week versus Baltimore that I saw kind of go ary when he was out. He goes back in and you see ‘€¦ they need to balance it out. They need to allow that defensive line to at least consistently worry about a run game where they just cannot tee off against Brady.”

On whether he would rather play with Brady or Drew Brees if he had to win one game: “It’s going to be Brees. Here’s why. If you think about the athletic defensive fronts that you take this day and age, Brees has a sixth sense that Tommy has, but he has the athleticism to escape more than Tommy has. So if you’re talking about one game, I’ve got to win it and they’re both playing the same defense and same playbook and everything else, that’s what I always go back to. These guys were twins that were separated at birth. One’s better looking and one got more athleticism. I don’t know which one is which, but ultimately, these guys, I’m telling you, the things that they do, how they practice, how they prepare, their photographic memory, their presence, how they calm a team, even the defensive players. That’s my only reasoning to picking Brees.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Heath Evans
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