Patriots

Harmon doesn't need explanation why Butler was benched in Super Bowl

Harmon doesn't need explanation why Butler was benched in Super Bowl

FOXBORO -- Trying to find out why Malcolm Butler played just a single snap in the Super Bowl has been a fruitless and frustrating endeavor. Leads are followed but invariably passage ways lead to dead ends, or doors that get opened have nothing but a brick wall on the other side. 

Bill Belichick has done nothing to shed any light on the decision, despite being asked often including the day before training camp opened. His players -- past and present -- are in the same boat as we are. They haven’t gotten an answer.

And, according to safety Duron Harmon, they don’t need one.

“It’s over with,” said Harmon after the first day of training camp. “I mean it’s all what-ifs now and what-ifs are not going to change anything. So what is the point of going back in the past and trying to go over that and try to find answers when in all reality, it doesn’t even matter anymore in the 2018 season?”

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He’s not wrong. There is no changing what happened February 4th at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Eagles played a near perfect game offensively en route to a 41-33 victory in Super Bowl LII. But there were a handful of plays that Jordan Richards or Johnson Bademosi couldn’t make that Butler has made before. And maybe it was just that one play that would have turned the game. Butler had no answers following that game and still hasn’t said anything damming since. Harmon believes there is no room to let this question linger.

“You just gotta look at what you want to accomplish this year,” Harmon told me. “We know we want to play good football and be in a position at the end of the year to play more games in the winter. So looking at (the Butler situation), that doesn’t have anything to do with that (playing well this year). Malcolm has moved on. He’s with the Tennessee Titans now and it’s time we do the same (and move on).”

Harmon didn’t sound caution alarms about what would happen if the Pats don’t find a way to get past it, but this is a long season with pitfalls around every corner. He doesn’t want his teammates to waste energy on anything other than playing ball and stacking one day on top of the next, just like always.

“You’re looking at a tunnel and you can’t even see the light right now.”

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Stephon Gilmore aptly captures Bill Belichick's insane attention to detail

Stephon Gilmore aptly captures Bill Belichick's insane attention to detail

Those best equipped to describe Bill Belichick's football genius are the players he shares that genius with.

Take it from Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who's developed into one of the best defensive backs in the league since coming to New England in 2016.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr, Gilmore recalled a detail Belichick shared with him prior to a 2018 game that may go overlooked on other coaching staffs.

"He said, ‘When the ball is traveling in this certain direction, the wind is blowing hard enough where you should probably trail the receiver just a little bit because the ball isn’t going that deep,' " Gilmore told Orr.

"I mean, nobody looks at those kinds of things. It’s the little things like that. You listen to him."

Gilmore seemingly reaped the benefits of Belichick's extra insight, too. As Orr points out, both of Gilmore's interceptions in 2018 came in outdoor stadiums -- Week 1 vs. Houston Texans, Week 11 at New York Jets -- on underthrown deep balls. (You can see them at the 0:01 and 6:17 marks of the video below).

 

Gilmore's anecdote shouldn't surprise you: Belichick is famous for leaving no stone unturned and makes a habit of surveying the field several hours before a game to gauge everything from wind speed to field conditions to the position of the sun.

But every once in a while, a player like Gilmore gives us a reminder that Belichick's relentless preparation hasn't changed as he enters his 20th season as Patriots head coach.

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How Eagles' Brandon Graham uses Tom Brady to cheer himself up on bad days

How Eagles' Brandon Graham uses Tom Brady to cheer himself up on bad days

If you're in a bad mood, it helps to recall happier times.

It just so happens that one of Brandon Graham's happiest moments came at the expense of the New England Patriots.

The Eagles defensive end famously recorded a strip sack on Tom Brady with 2:21 remaining in Super Bowl LII, a crucial play that thwarted New England's comeback attempt and helped Philadelphia score a 41-33 upset.

According to NBC Sports' Peter King, Graham relives that play quite often. From King's "Football Morning in America" column Monday:

Graham told me he has a video of him strip-sacking Tom Brady in the biggest moment of Super Bowl (LII) on his phone, and when he’s having a bad day, he’ll watch it.

Brady and the Patriots probably never want to see that play again. But they found a different way of cheering themselves up by rebounding to win Super Bowl LIII the following year, as Brady now has shining moments from six Super Bowl titles to look back on should he ever need a pick-me-up.

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