Patriots will look to the future while learning from past

Telegraph photo by TOM KING The Patriots logo dominated the video board at the top of Mercedes-Benz Stadium after Sunday night's Super Bowl win over the Rams.

ATLANTA – The celebration will go on for a little bit.

But sooner or later, the New England Patriots will have to move forward – while also perhaps looking back.

They may have to cut ties with older, more expensive players, ask others to take pay cuts, etc.

In other words, there will be turnover.

“It’s the National Football League,” Belichick said Monday. “That’s the National Football League, every team turns over, players and coaches, every year. … That’s the way it is. Whatever happens there, or doesn’t happen, we’ll try to do what’s best for the football team, and be competitive. We’ll see how it goes. Just going to enjoy the result of this one.”

Perhaps he’s mellowed with age. In years past, Belichick would be talking about how being in the Super Bowl would put the Patriots behind in scouting, planning, etc. Now he wants to enjoy the moment.

What does that tell you? We say it tells you he squeezed as much as he could out of this Patriot team, an 11-5 regular season team whose five losses were to teams that didn’t make the playoffs. He went back to basics just before Christmas, tired of seeing his team get beaten up in those losses, and the Patriots ran more, and pushed other teams around. In the playoffs, that style worked for an entire game against the Chargers and a half against the Chiefs, and an entire game in Sunday’s Super Bowl win over the Rams.

Now what? The Rob Gronkowski question looms. The Patriots won these games in the trenches. Their offensive line will face a possible issue if Trent Brown leaves via free agency, but remember, they drafted a linemen along with Sony Michel in the first round, Isaiah Wynn. Wynn spent the season on injured reserve with a torn achilles.

Each year the last couple of seasons, they have tried to tinker with the defensive line, but they’ll have to figure how to deal with Trey Flowers upcoming free agency first, then Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton. They’ll probably let Adrian Clayborn, signed last year, go to save room.

This is where the main moves will be. Up front. It’s how the Patriots became, in Belichick’s words, a team that “found a way to win.”

The losses don’t just pertain to players. New England’s defense had an air of aggressiveness under departed kinda sorta coordinator Brian Flores, now the Dolphins head coach. Flores’ touch directly impacted the linebackers as it rejuvenated Dont’a Hightower, and his love-hate relationship with the mercurial Kyle Van Noy seemed to be a motivating factor for the player in the team’s attack mode.

“We’ve done that all year,” Van Noy said. “We’ve played aggressive. We executed the game plan the coaches provided. We have great players here, elite football players.”

“Kyle and High are extremely versatile,” Belichck said Monday. “They play inside, off the ball, outside, on the ball, defensive end in some situations. … It was a great defensive effort (Sunday) night. As a unit, they played team defense.”

The Patriot defense doesn’t appear to be the weak link it was a year ago, not after this performance.

“We didn’t give up big plays, which they (the Rams) hit on evrybody,” Belichick said.

Offensively, the Patriots got a lot down the stretch out of first round pick Sony Michel. But now the question will be what it was last year – who will Tom Brady’s targets be besides Julian Edelman and running back James White?

Chris Hogan, whom Brady just couldn’t see to connect with in Sunday’s Super Bowl, likely won’t be back as he hits free agency (not that he’ll be in great demand). The Josh Gordon (restricted free agent) debacle may hover over the team but may simply run away from that.

Unlike last year, there is no drama after this Super Bowl. No Malcolm Butler mystery, no Josh McDaniels sudden change of heart. In fact, it was a McDaniels adjustment that may have saved the game from going to overtime 3-3.

“I think the real key breakthrough came when Josh went to the – McDaniels made a great adjustment,” Belichick said. “We went to a two tight end offense, but we spread them out. …. It was not something we had, I’d say, anticipated doing a lot in this game. We did it against Kansas City, but it was kind of right time, right situation.”

And right frame of mind. The 2019 Patriots will have a new look, but they will have the same quarterback. What they will need is the same savvy and demeanor they had the last six weeks.

Things may change, but not everything has to. The Patriots will be well served to remember how and why they became Super Bowl champions.

FINAL RANKINGS

AFC

1.New England (14-5). 2. Kansas City (13-5). 3. L.A. Chargers (13-5). 4. Indianapolis (11-7). 5. Houston (11-6).

NFC

1.L.A. Rams (15-4). 2. New Orleans (14-4). 3.Chicago (12-5). 4. Dallas (11-7). 5.Seattle (10-7).

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