The Patriots took the field for the first practice of Super Bowl week Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and as New England met with the media afterward, one thing is clear.
Coach Bill Belichick and the players are focused on one thing, and one thing only: Winning a ring.
“It was good for us to get out there and burn some energy,” New England star Tom Brady said. “Get out there and review a lot of things in the plan and still reviewing things. There’s still a lot of things that need to be tweaked that we practiced that we just got to keep adjusting. It’s really only Wednesday. … Everyone just wants really good practices and try to build confidence and anticipation with what we’re doing.”
First practice of #SuperBowl week: ✔#EverythingWeGot | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/xZVJN0q74f
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 30, 2019
What’s on the line for the Patriots? A win over the Rams would give New England its sixth Super Bowl championship, tying them with just the Steelers for the most in NFL history. The Patriots would win their 37th postseason game, which surpasses Pittsburgh for the most of all-time. Belichick and Brady would join elite company as the coach would join George Halas and Curly Lambeau as the only coaches ever to win six NFL championships. And Brady would surpass Hall of Famer Charles Haley (five) for the most Super Bowl victories of any player.
But the Patriots have to make it through Super Bowl Sunday first and fend off a strong Rams team. Belichick and several of the players acknowledged defeating Los Angeles will not be an easy task, pointing to the Rams’ strong defense and quick running backs as areas of concern. The Patriots talked about strategy, what it would mean to win a sixth championship, among other topics.
Here are five things we learned from the Patriots’ Wednesday media availability:
1. Coach Bill Belichick on how New England plans to protect Brady against Rams
“Pass protection will be a big challenge for us this week against the Rams. They have a great pass rush. They allow a lot of different players that can put pressure on the passer. It starts with Donald. It’s a lot more like him. … They have some blitz packages that affect your protection. We’ll have to do a good job of all of those and it’ll take a good team effort across the board — our offensive line, our quarterback, our receivers getting open so we don’t have to hold the ball, our tight ends, so forth. It’ll be a combination of things, but it’ll obviously be difficult.
“There’s no play really to relax on these guys. They can really do a lot of damage in a lot of different ways. We’re going to have to play 60 minutes of good football. We screw up one play and they’ll have it in the end zone.”
2. Brady on what it would mean to win a sixth ring with the Patriots
“Obviously if we win that would be an incredible achievement for our team and one of the incredible achievements is a great remembrance and that’s a Super Bowl ring. We want to play for those rings. That’s what being a competitor is all about and our team has established very high standards. You can’t win a Super Bowl ring in September, October, November or December. You can win it in only one month and you can’t buy it. It’s something that’s earned and if you win it, it takes a huge effort. I think that huge effort is what you remember more than anything because it’s a lifetime achievement that’s through a lot of hard work over a long period of time.”
3. Rob Gronkowski on what it was like to be thought of as underdogs this season
“We saw that. ‘We’re underdogs, we’re awful. We’re totally done.’ But you really can’t let that noise come in. You got to ignore it, but I would say this year we’ve taken it in more than any year usually. We’ve heard it more than normal. We didn’t let that affect us in a bad way. We took it in and then put it back out there with good energy.
“It’s going to be a battle they’re good. … (We tell ourselves) to just keep grinding to prove them wrong. Let’s show that we’re still here. Let’s show that we’re still playing high. You know it’s the NFL, you can have bad weeks and you can have a bad game, you can have a couple games that are bad, but we’re still going to keep fighting and we’re not going to give up.”
4. Julian Edelman’s not ready for retirement talk
“I’m 32, but I’m worried about just this game.”
5. Devin McCourty on mother’s inspiration, playing alongside brother in Super Bowl
“She’s been my hero since I was young. Growing up throughout the years and seeing her sacrifices, she got hurt on the job and had to collect disability. I think her whole life shifted towards raising her kids. She took us and picked us up from every practice from youth all the way up to high school, dropped us off at college. … My mom’s sacrifices throughout the year and what she was able to do for our kids taught me how to step up and be a man, be a father, be a husband and it’s really changed my life. As much as I think Jason and myself have enjoyed being together and having fun, she gets in tomorrow and I’m sure she’ll be all smiles.