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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
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
Devin McCourty won’t be making a show during Super Bowl LI national anthem 02.03.17 at 12:38 pm ET
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HOUSTON — Devin McCourty knows there’s a time and place for everything.

The veteran Patriots safety, appearing in his third Super Bowl Sunday, believes this is not the time to make a political statement.

In light of the recent demonstrations against President’s Trump immigration orders, celebrities like Lady Gaga have indicated that they would like to see some sort of statement of inclusion during the Super Bowl.

Lady Gaga, an outspoken opponent of the President, indicated that she would be making the same statement during her 13-minute halftime show that she has been making all along.

During the preseason, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a firestorm by kneeling during the national anthem in protest of what he felt was discrimination against Muslims and unfair treatment of minorities by police.

Several other players in the NFL, as well as other sports, followed with statements of their own. McCourty and Martellus Bennett raised their fists during the national anthem in the regular season opener in Arizona.

The Celtics locked arms together in unity during the national anthem in a preseason game against Philadelphia at UMass.

But McCourty said Thursday he will not be making any such statements on Sunday.

“Nah. I did that for a reason,” McCourty said. “I didn’t do it all season so I wouldn’t do it now. It was to get a point across. I was able to talk it and spread that word and do different things with that. I think it was good a learning experience for me to be able to speak out on something I felt passionate about.”

What did McCourty take from the experience in September?

“I was actually about to speak with some officers and do different things like that in Boston,” McCourty added. “I thought it was a great thing. Myself, Marty and other teammates getting involved with being able to learn different aspects of life and what other people go through. It was a good experience.”

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Devin McCourty, Lady Gaga, New England Patriots
Nate Ebner (concussion) returns while Alan Branch limited after toe stepped on Wednesday in practice 02.01.17 at 7:28 pm ET
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IMG_2495

Alan Branch speaks to media after Wednesday’s practice in Houston. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

HOUSTON — Riding that scooterboard might be a little more painful for Alan Branch.

The Patriots nose tackle, who rode about 100 yards on the skateboard from the back of the Patriots charter plane Monday to the team buses, told ESPN’s Mike Reiss he had his toe stepped on while at practice Wednesday, the first full day of workouts at the University of Houston in preparation for Super Bowl LI Sunday at NRG Stadium.

But he added, he’s “feeling good” and not concerned, something that was apparent as he spoke with reporters after practice with a smile.

Nate Ebner (concussion) cleared concussion protocols and was cleared for limited participation.

Martellus Bennett (knee) and Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) were also limited again. In total, six Patriots were limited at the practice which featured full attendance.

Danny Amendola, Jabaal Sheard and Brandon Bolden were all removed from the report on Wednesday.

Here is the complete Patriots injury report for Wednesday.

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

ST Nate Ebner (concussion)
DT Alan Branch (toe)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)

Read More: Alan Branch, Atlanta Falcons, Nate Ebner, New England Patriots
How Bill Belichick is preparing for a game that is ‘unlike any other’ and helping his team avoid ‘burnout’ at 9:47 am ET
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Jan 31, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Patriots head coach Bill Belichick laughs during the New England Patriots media session at the JW Marriott Galleria. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick laughs during the New England Patriots media session at the JW Marriott Galleria. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — When you’ve been to seven Super Bowls, you pretty much know the drill.

Such is the case for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. But even with that experience comes the challenge of pacing yourself on the game day unlike any other in the NFL.

When Brady spoke Monday night of trying to monitor his early energy in Super Bowl LI, he brought up the point about how important it is to save his best play for the end of the game.

“It’s a long day. It’s a long game. There’s long breaks, long halftime, long pre-game, a lot of emotional energy,” Brady said. “I think sometimes what happens is as the game goes on… we scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Seattle. I think some of the best football needs to be played at the end.

“So, you can’t waste all your energy before that. There’s some of these games that get out of hand for one reason or another. We’ve never had those. I hope that… I’d love for it to get out of hand in our hand. We’ve been in too many of these close games to realize its pretty unlikely for that to happen.”

Belichick echoed those sentiments Tuesday and detailed the challenges he faces as a head coach to monitor his players during the early parts of the Super Bowl.

“That’s a very challenging situation because there is so much leading up to the game,” Belichick said. “It’s such a long game between pregame, the start of the game, halftime, TV timeouts and so forth. It just extends longer than what it normally does including the pregame part of it.

“We just try and pace ourselves through that. Some of that is nutrition, hydration and things like that. Part of it is an understanding of what it’s going to be like so you don’t get surprised and get into the middle of the game or the middle of the third quarter. That’s kind of when the game would be ending but there’s still another 20 minutes to play or so. I think understanding that and making sure that the pace of the game for each individual, which is different, for an offensive line or defensive line, the pace is a little different than receivers or defensive backs that are running 30, 40, 50 yards to cover.

“It’s the difference between boxing and distance running. Then, you have a lot of guys in between. It’s definitely challenging but it’s the same for both teams. It’s the same environment. Everyone needs to try and maximize all those things, their rest, attentiveness and pace so they don’t burn out too soon. It’s a challenge. This game is unlike any other that way.”

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots
An epic Super Bowl answer from Bill Belichick on how watching dad scout was ‘unforgettable experience’ 01.31.17 at 5:13 pm ET
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HOUSTON — No one had a bigger and long-lasting influence on Bill Belichick than did his father, Steve.

In the David Halberstam book “The Education of a Coach” Belichick reveals just what coaching means to him and how his dad guided him to his life’s passion.

Just 12 hours after Tom Brady fought back tears talking about his father’s influence, Belichick gave a nearly five-minute dissertation on exactly how his own father, a 34-year assistant at Navy, guided him on the path he’s enjoying now, as he makes his seventh appearance as a head coach in the Super Bowl.

“He influenced it greatly,” Belichick began. “I grew up going to Navy practices and meetings that he would have with the team. He scouted the Navy upcoming opponents. On Tuesday nights, he would go over to the field house, the team would come over. He would watch the film with them. Of course, back in those days players went both ways so it was kind of [like] you’d watch continuous game film, offense, defense, special teams. But the same guys were out there playing, whether out there on offense or defense.

“So I’d go over there with him and sit and listen to him talk to the team about, ‘Here’s what they’re going to do, this is a key, here’s this backfield set, here’s this guy’s stance.’ Whatever it was. He would talk to the team, prepare the team from a scouting standpoint and then going to practice. Of course, that gave me a great opportunity to a see a number of great coaches that were at the Naval Academy, head coaches like Wayne Harden and assistant coaches like Coach Rosano, Coach Corso, Ernie George, just go right down the line. There were dozens of them, Joe Mark, Joe Bugel, all the positions.

“Each guy had a different style, each guy had a different way of doing things. And I kind of learned that you could be a good coach doing it this way, doing it that way, fit in your style. But as it goes back to my day, hard work, preparation. To go to a game and watch him scout a game was it was an unforgettable experience really.”

But the backbone of Belichick’s coaching is preparation. That’s something he learned from his father, who was regarded as one of the most advanced scouts in all of football for three decades.

“There would be four or five other scouts in the press box scouting the game besides him,” Belichick said. “He’d be there with his book and scout it and he would write down the substitutions, the play and would be ready to go for the next play. Then, when it was all over, those plays, back in the days when it took two days for the film to come in, those plays were the game. I mean you had to wait two days before you could see the play on film.

“Meanwhile, there would be other guys scouting and they would be like, ‘What happened on that play? Who caught that?’ He was just so good at it so when the game would be over and we’d be driving home, we’d talk about the game. He saw every play, the blocking scheme, the defense, the pattern that they ran, how it was covered, what coverage they were in, who blitzed. He had a great vision so he taught me and tried to explain those keys to me, how he watched the guard triangle, fullback, get a run-pass key, take his eyes move down to the passing game if the quarterback was off the line of scrimmage. If it was a running game, then go to the line, see the puller, see the blocking pattern but before that, he already knew that he already knew the down-and-distance, the field position, the formation and the front, so that was already locked in and he would just put it together. So, it was really impressive.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Navy, New England Patriots, nfl
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