ATLANTA – On Tuesday, perhaps still a bit bleary-eyed from the Opening Night media extravaganza, a handful of select Patriots players met again with reporters little more than 12 hours after the opening festivities for Super Bowl LIII. Head coach Bill Belichick joined them at a podium in an adjacent ballroom of the team’s midtown hotel for about 20 minutes of mostly congenial interaction.
A few questions were summarily dismissed, including one brazen radio personality who tried to goad Belichick into taking a “selfie” with him. It was clear, though, that Belichick was in good spirits as he fielded questions that skewed heavily toward an international audience.
Much of Atlanta was shut down Tuesday due to an expected snowfall that never materialized, and when asked about how the Atlanta weather is impacting his team’s preparations this week, the head coach drew laughs when he responded, “I haven’t been outside this building today, so, I couldn’t tell you if it was eight feet of snow out there or 95 degrees. I have no idea.”
The very next question came from an Australian media member, and a smiling Belichick interrupted her question to ask, “How’s everything on the other side of the world?”
The tables were turned on Belichick, whom a Chinese reporter made laugh out loud when he told the coach that there are some 30 million NFL fans in China and 29 million of them are Patriots fans. That line was an attempted setup to coax Belichick into revealing how much longer he plans to coach the Patriots.
“I certainly appreciate the support of our Patriots fans in China,” he replied. “Right now, I’m really just focused on trying to help our team do the best I can to prepare our team for the Rams. I’m not going to really worry about anything else beside that… As far as the future goes, right now the future for me is Sunday night against the Rams.”
Not surprisingly, when the topic invariably turned to New England’s opponent in this Super Bowl, Belichick was effusive of the Los Angeles Rams’ players and staff, led by head coach Sean McVay, who turned 33 years old last week.
“Great matchup against an outstanding [Rams] team,” he continued. “Extremely well-coached, prepared, they have great players, great staff. They’ve pretty much led wire-to-wire… I see a good football team that’s been consistently good for the two years that [McVay’s] been there – [they] led the league in scoring over that period of time, they’re very good on defense, very explosive in the kicking game. He’s done a great job of creating that explosive, attacking team that’s very hard to play against. They haven’t been beaten very many times over the last two years.”
While dismissing the significance of his own team’s experience in recent Super Bowls as “minimal”– this is New England’s third consecutive appearance and fourth in the last five years – Belichick somewhat surprisingly conceded that his players may have embraced the mentality of an underdog this season to motivate them over the past several weeks.
He added that he and his squad are “privileged to represent the AFC… after a year of ups and downs,” but emphasized that, “What’s important on this year’s team is that these players have worked hard, tried to improve every single day. As coaches, we’ve tried to do the same things.
“We’ve tried to adapt and adjust to our strengths and weaknesses, our opponents, and tried to find the right combination to make our team the best we can. Our players have embraced that. They’ve been asked to do a lot, been asked to do some things differently from what they’re used to... but they see it’s for the better of the team. I really respect and appreciate their attitude, their work ethic, their physical and mental toughness, and their resiliency. Everything doesn’t always go perfect, but we go back to work and try to correct it.”
The biggest motivation he and his team can draw from at this point, just days away from Super Bowl LIII, is the game itself.
“It’s the biggest game of the year,” Belichick remarked. “Everything’s on the line, everything’s at stake. We all want to go out and perform at our highest level.”
Report: Flores continues assembling future Dolphins staff
Signs continue to point strongly toward linebacker coach and defensive play-caller Brian Flores becoming the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins after Super Bowl LIII. Media reports have suggested that he is going to bring wide receiver coach Chad O’Shea along as offensive coordinator, and on Tuesday, an ESPN report listed several more names that are expected to join Flores in South Florida.
Godsey is a former Patriots assistant who spent three seasons in Foxborough from 2011-13.
Though Belichick wasn’t specifically asked about Flores or O’Shea at Tuesday’s media assembly, he made general reference to their situations when asked a question about how he tries to cultivate loyalty among his players and assistants.
“In some situations, when people have opportunities that are better than I can provide, which is the case from time to time, I certainly would not try to impede those people from advancing their careers as players or coaches. I understand that. I’ve been in that situation myself and I think that’s fundamentally the right thing to do.”
As Tuesday is traditionally an off day for NFL players, the Patriots and Rams held meetings at their respective headquarters in Atlanta, but did not suit up for practice. Those on-field sessions will resume on Wednesday. New England will stay in the Atlanta downtown area on the campus of Georgia Tech, while the Rams head about an hour northeast of the city to work at the Atlanta Falcons team headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
“Had a good week of preparation back in Foxborough,” added Belichick. “Going to fine-tune a few things here this week and be ready to compete Sunday night against a great football team. I have a ton of respect for what they’ve done, the way they’ve done it. We’re going to do our best to go out there and compete against them.”
It’s become a Super Bowl tradition for video game company EA Sports to run a simulated prediction of the game. The Madden NFL 19 video game matched up the Rams and Patriots, and at the end of four quarters, L.A. prevailed 30-27, after New England jumped out to a 17-3 lead. The Rams came back to take a 23-20 lead late in the game, but it appeared QB Tom Brady had thrown the game-winning nine-yard TD to RB James White, but Rams RB Todd Gurley recaptured the L.A. lead with a 5-yard touchdown run that finished the scoring.
The Madden prediction is far from a perfect forecast, of course. Last year, the computer game saw a 24-20 Patriots win over Philadelphia, but correctly guessed a Patriots comeback win over Atlanta in Super Bowl LI. In Super Bowl 50, the game guessed that Carolina would defeat Denver, which turned out to be wrong.
Tuesday night, there’ll be another Madden NFL 19 contest between the Rams and Patriots, only this time, New England’s Rob Gronkowski and L.A.’s Gurley will handle the controllers for their respective teams. The event will take place at The Garage at Tech Square in downtown Atlanta and livestreamed on the Mixer Xbox Channel.