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Interpreting Martellus Bennett: Super Bowl joy, a fond farewell or just Marty being Marty 02.08.17 at 12:49 pm ET
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It’s always difficult interpreting the words of a star athlete at the end of his contract.

Throw in a Super Bowl victory parade, fans screaming and showering them with love, it becomes that much more of a challenge.

Add in the boundless energy, spirit and personality of Martellus Bennett, and the task is just about impossible.

But it’s hard not to wonder if the Patriots dynamic and outspoken tight end was making a farewell address of sorts at the end of Tuesday’s rolling rally, just moments before joining his Super Bowl LI champion teammates at Boston City Hall Plaza for an address to the fans.

“We already knew we had the best fans in the country,” Bennett told reporters as he held his daughter Jett. “Super excited. There was a lot of energy, a lot of love. I’m happy.”

Does he actually believe the comeback happened on Sunday?

“Do I believe it?! [Shoot], I won the Super Bowl. What do you mean I believe it? It happened. I was there,” Bennett said.

What was it like?

“It’s cool. Awesome. It’s amaze-balls,” Bennett said. “I felt like for a couple of hours, [being] with these guys on this team again, one more time we were kings. We were kings for a couple of hours.”

Amaze-balls. Just another part of the lexicon that has made Bennett one of a kind in New England, as Chris Price documented in great detail. Bennett was the star of Super Bowl opening night, carrying on an in-depth conversation with J.B. Smoove about black unicorns and life in general at the Super Bowl.

Then Bennett, who enters free agency for the third time, began to wax very philosophical.

“I’m a champion. You can’t take that from me. I’m a champion today, I’ll be a champion tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll be a champion for the rest of my life. And the 2016 Patriots will always be champions. It’s pretty cool. I had to change my bio: ‘Super Bowl champion, NSA.” It’s pretty awesome. I’m super-excited.”

NSA is an acronym for “no strings attached” and indeed he is once again. But listening to Bennett, this felt different, and not just because he had just earned his first Super Bowl ring. Bennett, who turns 30 on March 10, is in line for likely the last big deal of his career. He has said all along this season that he’s not worried about the money because he’s been smart and diversified in his investments. Still, a lot of teams could come calling, and with Rob Gronkowski’s future clouded by injuries and uncertainty over a contract extension, Bennett is in a position of power.
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Read More: free agency, Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots, nfl
An estimated million fans turn out for Patriots rolling rally, Patriots players soak up the love 02.07.17 at 9:47 pm ET
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An estimated one million fans came out to Boston Tuesday for the rolling rally to celebrate the Patriots’ SB LI win. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

An estimated one million people turned out on the streets of Boston on a cold, wet and dreary day to celebrate arguably the greatest championship win in the region’s long and storied legacy of sports.

The traditional duck boat rally started a little after 11 o’clock Tuesday morning, with the first player’s boat carrying the three quarterbacks. Tom Brady was the first to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy as back-ups Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo took turns holding up blue “Roger That” t-shirts.

Brissett and Garoppolo then took turns with the prized trophy captured on Sunday night in overtime in Houston.

The rally took approximately 90 minutes to roll from the Hynes Convention down Boylston Street, onto Boston Common, where it turned left on Tremont Street. The rally then proceed briefly through the financial district before crossing over to Government Center, before ending at Boston City Hall.

On several portions of the rally, fans were lined up 10-to-15 lines deep. The crowd estimated by Boston Police was over a million, challenging the number from the 2004 Red Sox rolling rally and the 2002 Patriots rally that kicked off Boston’s 16-year run of 10 championships.

The music was at heart-pounding levels throughout, helping the fans ignore the cold rain and snow while dancing in the streets. There were numerous signs and t-shirts in the crowd throughout the four-mile route that took jabs and threw insults at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, including multiple “Roger That” references.

Bill Belichick and Brady addressed the crowd at the end at City Hall.

“These players, they’ve worked harder than any team I’ve ever coached,” Belichick told the crowd at City Hall. “They came to work every day and there were no days off.”

The coach then led the crowd in a chant of “NO DAYS OFF.”

“I told you we were going to bring this sucker home, and we brought it home,” Brady said, clutching the Lombardi he showed off during the rally. “Thank you, guys. We do it for you, we do it for us.”

Brady’s 7-year-old son Benjamin stole the show by getting on the deck of the boat the quarterbacks were on and dancing to the music and doing the “The Dab.”

“We’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives and we know you guys will, too,” Brady said to the fans, who responded with chants of “We want six, we want six.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Rolling Rally, Super Bowl LI
Run to Glory: James White joins pantheon of Patriots Super Bowl legends with game for ages 02.06.17 at 2:24 am ET
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Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

James White (28) runs for glory and scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — If it weren’t for Tom Brady rescuing the game – and being Tom Brady again at the end – James White would’ve and could’ve been the MVP of Super Bowl LI.

All the Patriots’ third-year all-purpose back out of Wisconsin did was catch a record 14 passes for 110 yards, run for two touchdowns and catch another while scoring a Super Bowl-record 20 points to lead the Patriots to a 34-28 overtime win. White also finished with 29 yards on six carries.

White’s final run of the night proved to be the final run of the NFL season, a two-yard push for the end zone with 11:02 left in overtime to give the Patriots their fifth Super Bowl title in franchise history. How ironic that the least likely running back in the Patriots backfield heading into the playoffs made the biggest run of the season.

“It was a toss play,” White explained. “Obviously, the line did a great job blocking, Jules [Julian Edelman] did a great job blocking, I just had to run through one guy and find a way to get in there. I saw a crease. You have to find a way to make a play for your team at that point in the game – at the three-yard line, two-yard line, you just have to find a way in.”

What went through his mind when he realized he won the Super Bowl?

“I don’t know. I don’t know what my thought was,” White said. “I was just really excited. That’s what you dream about as a kid. It was an amazing comeback by our team and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

Now White is up on the pantheon of Patriots Super Bowl heroes with Brady, Adam Vinatieri and Malcolm Butler.

“It was just a great team effort,” White said. “We went into the second half and we knew it was going to be a long second half. If the defense could get stops we could put up points and keep narrowing their lead and we just found a way to get a victory.”

“We knew we had a shot the whole game. As an offense we weren’t playing well. We had some turnovers and were just getting in the game. We were driving the ball – we had like 20 minutes of possession in the first half. We knew we could drive the ball, we just had to stop turning the ball over, and I think that’s what we did in the second half. It hasn’t really set in. Honestly it’s all very surreal right now. It is just a great team victory. You couldn’t even write this script. You could never imagine it. We just went out there and got a great team victory.”

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Read More: James White, New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI,
Bill Belichick underplays his (and his team’s) place in history: ‘Rank them wherever’ 02.06.17 at 1:53 am ET
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HOUSTON — Even a game for the ages and a place atop the NFL mountain couldn’t break the stoic and business-like demeanor of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

His team had just recorded the biggest comeback victory in the first overtime in Super Bowl history, 34-28, over the Falcons and Belichick took the podium minutes after Tom Brady and was calm, cool and collected as always.

With the win, Belichick became the first coach with five Super Bowl titles, passing Chuck Noll. Does this make the Patriots the greatest team in the modern era?

“No I don’t get into that,” Belichick said. “Rank them wherever.”

But what came through loud and clear was his appreciation of his players who didn’t quit down, 28-3, with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

“The most important thing tonight is the team win,” Belichick said. “I am happy for our team, our players and our organization. Everybody worked so hard for this. The only reason I am here is because of what our players did, what our assistant coaches and coordinators did, but Chuck Knoll is a tremendous coach. A tremendous legacy. I coached against Chuck in his final game. I always admired Chuck and his style. The way his teams played. It is an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence with Chuck Knoll. Tonight is really about our team. It is not about some record or something like that. It is about what our team accomplished. They deserve to be champions. They earned it tonight.”

Belichick was actually asked if he might consider retiring and leave the game on top.

“Right now, I am thinking about enjoying tonight and this game that we won,” Belichick said.

The Patriots were getting manhandled in the first half. After Robert Alford returned an interception 82 yards for an interception, the Patriots were down, 21-0. They trailed, 21-3 at the half. What did Belichick tell his team?

“What did I tell the guys at halftime? Same thing we told them in the first quarter and the second quarter,” Belichick answered. “Just kept coaching and just kept trying to get better. Find ways to do things that were a little bit more productive.”

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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl
Snap Judgments: Tom Brady directs greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, Patriots win their 5th Lombardi Trophy in OT 02.05.17 at 10:29 pm ET
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The Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons in overtime.(Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons in overtime.(Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — The Patriots made history in the most dramatic way Sunday night in Super Bowl LI.

James White scored his third touchdown of the night on a 2-yard run with 11:02 left in the first overtime in Super Bowl history, giving the Patriots their fifth Super Bowl title with an unbelievable 34-28 win over the Falcons.

The winning touchdown came after a 14-yard pass interference call on the Falcons.

After being handed the Lombardi Trophy by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (who was roundly booed while delivering his congratulatory speech), Patriots owner Robert Kraft called the victory, “unequivocally the sweetest” of all the team’s championships.

Brady finished 43-of-62 for 466 yards and two touchdowns and earned his fourth Super Bowl MVP. White had a pair of touchdown runs and a touchdown catch.

Down 28-3 with two minutes left in the third quarter and 19 points in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history.

Julian Edelman got his hands under a tipped pass just before the ball hit the ground before the two-minute warning. The miracle catch put the Patriots at the Atlanta 41. Several plays later, James White ran it in from two yards with 57 seconds left, followed by a two point conversion from Brady to Danny Amendola.

Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes and the Falcons turned two turnovers into scores as the Falcons appeared on their way to their first world championship in their 51-year history. Ryan played the first three quarters with a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.

The Patriots played their most uncharacteristic game at the worst time. LeGarrette Blount fumbled deep in Atlanta territory in a scoreless game and Tom Brady had a nightmare of a first half that included a pick-6 by Robert Alford.

Picked by nearly every national expert to lose, the touchdown underdog Falcons certainly didn’t play like it. Led by a Super Bowl-tying three sacks from Grady Jarrett, they manhandled the Patriots on both sides of the ball.

The Patriots finish the season 17-2 and are now 5-4 in their nine Super Bowl appearances.

The game started after an emotional rendition of “America The Beautiful” from the cast of “Hamilton” and the national anthem from Luke Bryan. Following that, President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara were carted onto the field and made their way to midfield for the coin toss. Both had been recently released from the hospital after battling various medical issues.

Matthew Slater called heads and the former President flipped the coin and it turned up tails. The Falcons deferred and the Patriots received to open Super Bowl LI.

Brady targeted Julian Edelman on the first two plays of the game. The first was an incompletion over the middle followed by an inside slant for nine yards. But the Patriots were forced 3-and-out when LeGarrette Blount ran to his right and was stopped for no gain.

Ryan Allen boomed a big punt and, after a holding call, pinned the Falcons inside their 10. On the first play, Devonta Freeman broke loose for 37 yards when he went to his left and cut back up the middle. But the Patriots quickly recovered, with the key play coming on a Patrick Chung tackle on Patrick DiMarco in one-on-one coverage. On the next play, Rob Ninkovich broke through for the drive-ending sack.

The Patriots got the ball for a third time in the first quarter but not before it ended, extending the first-quarter scoreless streak in Super Bowls to seven. In all seven Belichick-Brady Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots don’t have a single point in the opening 15 minutes.

Following a 27-yard completion from Brady to Edelman, the Patriots had the ball first-and-10 at the Atlanta 33. But on the very next play, Falcons linebacker Deion Jones made a huge play, powerfully stripping the ball from LeGarrette Blount. Defensive back Robert Alford recovered at the Atlanta 29. The Falcons wasted no time capitalizing. Matt Ryan fired a 19-yard bullet over the middle to Julio Jones, who wrestled the ball from Logan Ryan.

On the next play, Ryan targeted Jones on the left sideline. He was wide open for 23 yards to the Patriots 29. Freeman followed with gashing runs of 15 and 9 off right and left tackle, respectively. The Patriots were obviously on their heels against the hurry-up Falcons. The Patriots called time out on 2nd-and-1. But it didn’t help. Jones came in motion to the inside but Freeman ran a misdirect and jogged untouched to the goal line before diving in for the first score of the game.

The Falcons made it 14-0 against a reeling, backpedaling and seemingly winded Patriots defense. Ryan found tight end Austin Hooper on an in-slant from 19 yards. It marked the biggest Super Bowl deficit in the Belichick-Brady era.

Desperate for a score, the Falcons young secondary aided the Patriots’ cause immensely on the ensuing drive. The Falcons committed three defensive holding fouls on third down and the Patriots looked ready to capitalize, with the ball at the Falcons 23. But on yet another third down, there was no bail out from the officials, only a telegraphed pass to Julian Edelman on an slant that Robert Alford stepped in front of at the Falcons 18 and raced 82 yards for the second-longest pick-6 in Super Bowl history (James Harrison, 100 yards, Super Bowl XLIII), falling behind 21-0.

The Patriots, in desperate need of a drive and some big breaks, got one on the next drive. Brady dropped back to pass and was hit. The ball wobbled. But instead of another turnover, the ball landed in the hands of Martellus Bennett, who gained 19 yards. Then several plays later, Brady hit James White in the right flat. White made 28 yards. The Patriots made it down to the Atlanta 3 on another completion to White. But a holding call on Bennett brought it back to the 23. On the next play, with 12 seconds left, Brady threw to Bennett in the left flat on a screen. The clock nearly ran out as Bennett was tackled. But the Patriots were able to execute a 41-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it 21-3 Atlanta at the half.

The Falcons ran just 19 plays in the first half to New England’s 40.

Closing Time noteTom Brady becomes the first quarterback to win 5 Super Bowls.

[For a full box score and stats, click here.]

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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick New England Patriots, James White, Matt Ryan
Super Bowl scene-setting from Houston: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick look to make Super Bowl history 02.05.17 at 3:11 pm ET
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The scene inside NRG Stadium, hours before kickoff for Super Bowl LI. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

HOUSTON — The moment is finally here for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady – and the New England Patriots.

Their shot at Super Bowl history comes this afternoon on the turf of NRG Stadium in Houston where the Patriots aim for their fifth Super Bowl title in franchise history against the upstart NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.

On a warm, humid day in Houston, conditions inside the 71,000-seat retractable-roof facility will be ideal as the Patriots look to join the 49ers and Cowboys for the second-most Vince Lombardi trophies. Pittsburgh sits atop the mountain with six in the Super Bowl era.

The 49ers won their five in 14 seasons from 1981-94. With a win, the Patriots would claim their fifth in 16 seasons from 2001-16.

Belichick would surpass Chuck Noll for the most Super Bowl wins with his fifth while Brady would break a tie with his childhood hero Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. All three quarterbacks own four Super Bowl rings.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Sunday morning that the Patriots believe Brady when he says he has a desire to play 3-5 more seasons, and at a high level. Rapoport reported that the team would pursue a contract extension after the 2017 season, making it more likely they trade backup Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason. Garoppolo has been rumored to be atop the wish list of the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

Another story that broke Sunday morning was the news that the Patriots wanted to trade Jamie Collins to the Texans for DeAndre Hopkins in October before settling on the deal that landed the former Patriots star linebacker in Cleveland.

There are injuries on both side of the ball worth monitoring early on. The more serious appears to be with the Falcons. Starting Pro Bowl center Alex Mack is dealing with a chip fracture of the fibula in his left leg. The Falcons believe he can start and play effectively but head coach Dan Quinn admitted Thursday that there is a good level of concern about how it would hold up. Likely, it will come down to pain threshold. Julio Jones is battling a toe injury but said this week he expects to be full go for the game. Both players were limited all week but will start in the game.

For the Patriots, Alan Branch had his toe stepped on in the first practice of the week on Wednesday. A day later Branch said the toe was “a little sore” but that he was feeling good and should be fine in the game. Another defensive lineman could be more of a concern as rookie Vincent Valentine had back pain on Thursday and was limited the last two practices. Valentine also had back issues early in the season. He is expected to be available.

Then there’s Martellus Bennett. Like Alex Mack, the Patriots tight end has been dealing with a bone chips in his right ankle since suffering the injury against the Browns on Oct. 9. He will likely have a procedure once the season is over. As he has been throughout the playoffs, he will play through the pain for the Super Bowl.

Chris Price has the complete scouting report and breakdown of Super Bowl LI while Ryan Hannable has 51 fun facts to consider going into the game.

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI
Carl Banks breaks down exactly how Bill Belichick will approach the Falcons: ‘I think you’ll see more in coverage’ 02.03.17 at 2:48 pm ET
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Sep 20, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks speaks on stage during half time ceremony honoring the 25th anniversary of their championship at MetLife Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks played for Bill Belichick in two Super Bowls. (Ed Mulholland/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — Expect the unexpected.

That’s been the theme of Bill Belichick defenses in the Super Bowl against high-powered offenses.

As defensive coordinator of the Giants in Super Bowl XXV against the “K-Gun” Buffalo Bills, he featured a defensive line of just two players and dared the Bills to run Thurman Thomas while his linebackers and defensive backs were beating up on Andre Reed and James Lofton. The plan produced a 20-19 win, a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and earned Belichick his first head coaching job in Cleveland the next season.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, he assigned Willie McGinest to trail all-purpose back Marshall Faulk and beat him up as much as possible to take him out of the passing game as much as possible. Meanwhile, he played bump-and-run coverage on Issac Bruce, Az Hakim and Tory Holt. That produced the first Patriots Super Bowl win, 20-17, and kicked off an unprecedented dynasty in the modern NFL that continues today.

So now, 15 years later, Belichick has another huge task – coming up with a plan to contain Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu while keeping tabs on running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

Carl Banks was a Pro Bowl linebacker on Belichick’s two Giants teams that won Super Bowls. He has a unique perspective on exactly what Belichick might be planning this time around.

“I think it’s just basically he’s just going to focus on assignment football, fundamentals,” Banks told WEEI.com Friday. “That’s the probably the first thing he addressed. And then he goes in and shows how his team could be hurt by their key players.

“Everyone talks about Belichick taking everyone’s best player away. Well, I think their players take the best player away, and I think that’s going to be the key this time because when you have a player who’s sometimes better than the defense the you’re playing against them, it really comes down to fundamentals at that point.”

How will Belichick pick and choose who to take away Sunday?

“He won’t. He’ll put his defense in place and it’s really going to come down to making tackles. It’s fundamentals because playing assignments and playing fundamentals is what really will help them curtail their best players. You’ve got to make tackles.”
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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, Carl Banks, New England Patriots

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