Patriots fans were treated with two final looks back at their championship 2018 season on Wednesday night, first with Do Your Job 3 and then America's Game: 2018 Patriots. As always, NFL Films does an outstanding job not only revealing all the unsung hard work, but telling the smaller stories that aren't always apparent on the surface.
Let's dive in, first with takeaways from Do Your Job 3.
The third installment of Do Your Job was another fascinating look behind the Patriots football curtain and this time we got an intimate look at the football mastermind relationship between Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels.
While past episodes shined a light on behind-the-scenes folks like Ernie Adams, this time it was McDaniels' turn to shine despite being featured prominently in previous episodes. While the Patriots dynasty is always affiliated with Belichick and Tom Brady, McDaniels has been there from the very start as well and this felt like long overdue credit for what he's meant to the team.
The episode opened up with the Patriots ring ceremony where Belichick, while thanking everyone for their hard work toward another championship season, told McDaniels he was glad he didn't go to Indianapolis. That set the stage for the two coaches to take center stage throughout the hour.
The cameras at the ring ceremony also caught Belichick and Brady discussing how the coach had brought even the "loser" rings from the Super Bowl losses. "This is the night for it," Brady told Belichick. It was a nice reminder that while they had disappointing endings, 2007, 2011 and 2017 all had their special moments as well.
Together, Belichick and McDaniels take the audience through key moments of the Patriots 2018 season. Perhaps the most interesting point was the realization that the team was no longer a no-huddle, spread offense. No, what they did best was run the ball and it was a commitment to the ground game that sparked a season turnaround.
What's always the best part of these Do Your Job shows is seeing the chess match that Belichick and McDaniels are playing in their preparation and execution. It's the ultimate example of putting their team in position to win, no matter how it might look or be interpreted.
Credit goes to the players for buying into that philosophy and executing, but the long shared history and experience of Belichick and McDaniels makes things immensely easier for everyone. That knowledge gets applied to every game plan and can be re-thought on the fly, even in the Super Bowl.
Most of all, they are resourceful and against the Rams is where McDaniels figured out late in the game, "we just need a drive." They cobbled together the only touchdown-scoring drive of the game using creative personnel packages to get favored matchups. It was a master's class in football coaching strategy and a ringing reminder why the Patriots have been so good for so long.
But that resourcefulness and the ground game that saved the 2018 season dovetails into what the coaches of the Patriots are facing this season. The running backs that they had to lean on in 2018 are back, but three key blocking pieces in front of them are gone, while the wide receivers and tight ends behind Edelman are again in transition with big question marks.
The Patriots do always seem to figure it out, but they might not be able to resort to the same fallback plan they had last year.
As always, football is a fluid and ever-evolving game and 2019 will provide its own unique challenges. There's every reason to think Belichick and McDaniels will figure things out once again.
The sixth edition of a Patriots America's Game came with commentary from Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and the McCourty twins.
The story of Jason McCourty finally joining his brother Devin and then making a championship run with the Patriots is the anchor of the story. After never making the playoffs in his first 10 seasons, Jason made one of the highlight defensive plays of the Super Bowl, breaking up a sure touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks at the last possible moment.
The twins gave this Super Bowl win and the documentary recounting it a special familial flair.
As we saw with the Do Your Job 3 special, the team was searching for an offensive identity for much of the season and that was once again reinforced here. Special attention was paid to those who were writing the Patriots off, saying this was the end of the dynasty.
Tom Brady's comments to a reporter after the divisional round win over the Chargers that "everyone thinks we suck" was a galvanizing moment. They had to face an AFC Championship on the road, a game they had not won since the 2004 season, and had lost three times since (2006, 2013 and 2015). Getting back to their roots of playing the underdog was a unique touch to the 2018 Pats.
In retrospect, the win over the Chiefs was one of the greatest wins of the Patriots dynasty and a throwback to the early years. Given their road woes all season, the near-unstoppable Patrick Mahomes and the unending line of fans and pundits waiting for Brady and Belichick to finally be done, the drama had not been higher since the early 2000's.
Ultimately, most of what we saw in America's Game was already out there except for the perspectives of the players narrating. The most entertaining moment? Rob Gronkowski recounting the Miami Miracle. "It was supposed to be a Hail Mary, there was no Hail Mary," said Gronk. "He blows right past me, I almost fall, and they won the game." Only Gronk could make you chuckle at such a mind-blowing loss.
Julian Edelman telling Sony Michel to save his conference championship celebration because it was nothing compared to winning a Super Bowl illustrated the veteran leadership that Edelman provides. Edelman's value to the team was dripping all over the entire hour, especially as he screamed at Tom Brady "you're too old!"
America's Game wasn't quite as ground-breaking as Do Your Job was, but it was still a detailed recap of another magical season.
With the NFL season starting tonight, it's bittersweet to put these entertaining productions behind us as the entire league is back at the bottom of the mountain once again. The best side effect of winning a Super Bowl is that you get shows like these that reveal what was really going on and being said behind closed doors. For a team as tight-lipped as the Patriots, it doesn't get any better and now these videos will take their place alongside those that came before them as detailed analyses of the greatest football dynasty in history.