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Heath Evans on M&M: ‘Never going to convince’ Marshall Faulk that Patriots didn’t cheat in Super Bowl XXXVI

01.31.14 at 11:48 am ET
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NFL Network analyst Heath Evans, a former Patriots fullback, joined Mut & Merloni from Super Bowl Radio Row on Friday to preview the Super Bowl and respond to Marshall Faulk‘s Spygate comments from a day earlier. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On Thursday, Faulk appeared on Mut & Merloni and indicated that he holds a grudge toward the Patriots, who upset his Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, implying that they gained an advantage from illegal videotaping.

“When you have that blood, sweat and tears mixed into a lost Super Bowl vs. the Patriots, and then you hear all the conflicting reports about what could be or what was or what wasn’t, the bottom line is that you just start throwing it all, ‘Well, everything they did, they won because they were cheating,’ ” Evans responded. “Well, the bottom line is, we know for a fact as a team that the day when Bill [Belichick] came in and squashed that whole thing, we know there was a whole bunch of other teams that current time, in that day and age in ’07, that were doing the same exact thing. It was just kind of the standard policy that, OK, if you get caught you take the tape and you just kind of let it hush-hush. Well, [then-Jets coach Eric] Mangini had his panties in a wad, kind of broke rank, and end of story.

“You go back to those Super Bowls, Marshall doesn’t know for a fact that anything was done. It’s speculation. Therefore, it’s a non-conversation. If it was facts, then we could argue facts. But opinions? I’m never going to convince Marshall. We’ve had these same conversations.”

Added Evans: “When you’re in it, and your life’s invested in this, and then you feel something has been taken away from you — I look back at 2007 and I listen to some of the conversations that I’ve had with Bill and the conversations we had right after that game. It had nothing to do with taping; it had the fact that we drifted away from our game plan and we fell right into the trap of what the Giants would want us to do. We became a pass-happy team instead of cramming it down [Michael] Strahan‘s throat.

“Well, it is what it is. Now we live with 18-1 for the rest of our lives. There’s nothing we can do about it. But it had nothing to do with taping some signals Week 1 vs. the Jets. We beat them by 40 points. We could have given them all our signals and we still would have beaten them by 25.”

Evans said the 2007 Patriots were a confident bunch that went into every game expecting to win and win big, making the Super Bowl loss to the Giants difficult to take.

“We felt that we were the greatest offense ever put together,” Evans said. “And it wasn’t a question of whether or not we were going to win, it was a question of how much we were going to win by. I was taught from Day 1 that defense is on the field to stop the opposing offense. And that offense is on the field to score points. And that special teams unit is out there to make a difference. And so you had 53 special men that didn’t second-guess anything that Bill was selling. And we bought in. We fell a bit short in the Super Bowl. Listen, I’ll always say that the better team won that day. But I’d love to play that game nine more times.”

Evans said “18-1 still drives me nuts,” and he laments the fact that the Patriot did not run the ball more vs. the Giants.

The truth is, you look back at that AFC championship game vs. San Diego. We ran the ball extremely well,” Evans said. “Back in Baltimore in Week 14 or 15 when they almost beat us, we were able to run the ball and get stuff done. When called upon, when we committed to it, we ran the ball extremely well. … You look back on the what-ifs of that Super Bowl. And our game plan was to run the rock, and to run it effectively, because we had just done it the week before vs. San Diego. We felt probably — not much less respect, I don’t want to say that — but we felt the ability to go out and run the ball vs. the Giants and take the air out of this and not let all their speed defensive line get to [Tom] Brady and dictate that game. Sad to say, that’s what happened. A lot of things went into that loss. There’s plenty of blame to be spread out.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On the Patriots’ biggest needs: “A lot of people disagree with me, but offensive line play. And now that Dante Scarnecchia is I guess retiring. ‘€¦ Dante is probably [one of the] top three finest football coaches I’ve ever been around. Dante had words for me in 2005 that I believe fully changed me as a ballplayer, and that really allowed me to achieve great success in this business. His smarts, the intangibles, the toughness that he brings to the table every single day, I worry about [losing]. If you could protect Brady — Brady is very rarely wrong. He’s going to get you into the right play. He’s going to do the right things at the line of scrimmage. And he’s going to drop in that ball when need be. But if he’s not protected, we know the lack of athleticism, we know his weak points.

“The wide receivers, we can talk about upgrading those. We can talk about the defense. We can talk about a lot of things. But the bottom line is you’re always going to win a ring if you can protect Brady. He is so dog-gone good, and near perfect almost every Sunday, that if you can protect him you’ve always got a chance. And the whole league knows that.”

On Wes Welker‘s hit on Aqib Talib in the AFC championship game: “The ball was in the air. I know Wes. I’ve seen Wes avoid those guys a thousand times in practice, in the games. I’ve seen him kind of stutter his feet, get those guys to stutter [their] feet, accomplish his goal on that pick/rub route and then avoid contact. Well, I’m not saying anybody told Wes to go do that, but I firmly believe that was just a warning shot. Wes is one of the toughest players I’ve ever been around in my life. And I just firmly believe Wes is thinking, ‘We take Aqib out, or we just get him to slow down, we win this game.’

“I said that going in, we asked the question that week before the AFC championship game: Anybody more important than these two quarterbacks? I’m like, ‘Yeah, Aqib Talib.’ You lose him, your whole defensive plan goes out the window. And we saw it. You go back to Baltimore last year. He goes down, Joe Flacco looks like Joe Montana. But before, there was nothing there.”

On if Welker, coming off two concussions, would put himself in harm’s way: “We could always find bigger, stronger guys, but if I was going to sit down here and try to find tougher guys that I’ve played with in my 10 years, I’d be hard-pressed to find tougher guys [than Welker]. I know Wes, he’s smart, he’ll do anything for a team. He doesn’t have to be coached on it. He’ll find it himself.

“You hate to judge intent. Like I said, I’ve seen that same play a thousand times. And I’ve seen Wes avoid greater athletes and bigger defenders. And yet, you see that right shoulder go down. You see him maybe try to slip or maybe try to put that shoulder right into it. Did he know he was going to hurt him? No. Was he trying to hurt him? No. But do I think Wes was trying to give Aqib a warning shot, that, ‘Hey, this is coming your way all day long’? Abso-friggin-lutley.”

On pending free agent Julian Edelman: “If Julian’s smart, he’s going to know, ‘If Peyton Manning doesn’t want me, if Drew Brees doesn’t want me, or if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want me, I’ll be better to stay here.’ Because if Julian’s not with an extremely accurate quarterback — that’s the one thing I love about Wes. Wes was similar to me. He knew, ‘Hey, I’m not going to chase all the money. I might be unhappy with New England, but I’m going to put myself with a quarterback that I know I can have similar success.’ When ’09 free agency came around for me, there was a whole bunch more teams that were paying way more than New Orleans. But for me, I never wanted to taste defeat again. I never wanted to go back to a loser. …

“I just know this: Bill is going to pay Julian what he is worth to them. And that will be the right dollar amount. We’ve seen plenty of other wide receivers chase a payday, and then they got in different offenses with different coordinators and different quarterbacks, and they were never to be heard of again. And so Julian needs to be smart. And Bill and Robert [Kraft] will be smart. They will pay him what he’s worth.”

On who he thinks will win the Super Bowl: “Seattle. I said it from Week 1. … I was lucky enough to pick these two teams as my Super Bowl squads, and I said Week 1 that I firmly believe this defense would be Peyton Manning‘s kryptonite. And I believe that will be true.”

Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Heath Evans, Julian Edelman
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