FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick’s postgame news conference Sunday was heavy on reflection. Given the circumstances, that was fitting.
Sunday’s New England Patriots game was a celebration, both of Tom Brady’s NFL-record 201st career victory and of the 15th anniversary of the 2001 Patriots squad that hoisted the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy. More than 50 members of that team made the trip to Gillette Stadium for the occasion, which included a halftime ceremony at midfield.
After the game, which the Patriots won 26-10 over the Los Angeles Rams, Belichick took a lengthy trip down memory lane, explaining in great detail how the ’01 team set the standard for excellence in New England.
“That was a tremendous team,” Belichick said. “We struggled in the early part of the season. (We were) 5-5 at midseason. (We) won nine straight after Thanksgiving. A lot of those wins weren’t pretty. They were just good situational football, good toughness. Just being able to make the right play at the right time.
“We played pretty well on defense. We were good in the kicking game. We had a great kicker (in Adam Vinatieri). Antowain Smith gave us a lot of good yards, a lot of tough yards. Tom didn’t turn the ball over. Troy (Brown) gave us some explosive plays in the kicking game and enough plays on offense to win.
“You put it all together, that team, they found a way. They played the best. I don’t know if they were the best talent-wise, but they played the best, and that’s why they’re champions. They’ll always be right at the top for me in terms of individuals that I admire because of what they did.”
While his focus Sunday was squarely on beating the Rams, Belichick was able to catch up with some of the returning players during a dinner held Saturday night.
“Very special, absolutely,” Belichick said. “That was a great night for a couple of hours just to be able to see those guys again. A lot of them looked good. A lot of them looked like they could still play a couple of downs anyway. It was a lot of fun. It was great to see them. It was just a great opportunity to enjoy each other and reflect back on a great year.”
Before Super Bowl XXXVI, no Boston team had won a championship since the Celtics in 1986. In the 15 years since, the city has hosted eight more title parades, including at least one in all four major sports.
“I would say not only what they did for the Patriots and the program and this organization, but it was kind of a springboard for Boston sports over that decade,” Belichick said. “Not that we had anything to do with the Red Sox or the Celtics or the Bruins or anything else, but it was just the first one of many with those three great organizations. You kind of feel proud that we were the first one and that they all followed.
Belichick, a noted lacrosse fan, then added: “And the Cannons — throw them in there, too.”
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