This may have been Belichick’s finest three hours

ATLANTA – Julian Edelman, with Bill Belichick about 25 feet away, was recounting his early days as a New England Patriot Monday morning, less than 11 hours after being named the Most Valuable Player award for Super Bowl LIII.

“I was a rookie, and it was about 11 o’clock at night,” Edelman told the media throng that was at the usual MVP/winning coach presser in the Georgia World Congress Center . “By the grace of God (Bill Belichick) was walking out with me at the same time, and he had probably said three words to me at the time.

“But I had just looked at him, and he had been watching film on the treadmill at 10 o’clock at night. ‘Coach, you sure like football, huh?’. He goes ‘It beats being a plumber.'”

Plenty of laughter. Belichick has always said something similar, when he was first hired as the team’s head coach and overall football czar back in January of 2000. “It beats working,” was always his standard answer.

“I think I said beats working,” Belichick said. “I have all the respect for plumbers. They do a great job.”

Oh you know a plumbing company is going to find a way to promote this.

Well, whatever it is, working or having fun working, Belichick probably never did it better than the last six weeks. His Patriots had hit the bottom with two straight losses in December, a month they usually own.

Something clicked. Who would have thought two basica gimmees against the Bills and Jets to end the season would mean that much? Apparently to the team’s frame of mind, they did. And it continued on in the playoffs.

Belichick did something. Exactly what that was, who knows, but it was superb. Besides the Xs and Os, what he’s done over 17 years is establish a culture. Either you buy in or you head out.

Edelman harkened back to that sight of Belichick watching film.

“You see a three time Super Bowl winning coach (at that time), and any assistant coach do that, it’s got to rub off,” he said. “And if it doesn’t, you’re not going to be there.”

“We have fun, but it’s work,” Edelman said. “You guys have your pens and papers and recorders, that’s your job. Ours is going out and playing football.

“There’s only 16 games in a football season. So those practices are like mini-games. You can’t afford to go out and mess up a game. … Every game is so valuable so the intensity of our practices is so high.”

As for Sunday, the concensus is that de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores, now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins – ironically his now-team owner, Stephen Ross, was at the hand-off presser early Monday morning as Miami hosts the Super Bowl next year – gets credit for a superb job. And he should. But you could tell that Sunday’s game plan had Belichcik’s fingerprints all over it. Daze and confuse the offense. Play zone when they expect man. Play man when they expect zone. And pressure the quarterback up the middle as often as possible to force a quick thinking mistake. The intense Flores learned well.

Rams QB Jared Goff was no match for the Belichick/Flores combo. You could see it all week. He looked overwhelmed, and it carried into Sunday. Perhaps this experience will help him and his young head coach, Sean McVay, who was basically taken to school.

“There is no other way to say it,” McVay said, “but I got outcoached.”

Belichick was asked how he felt to be mentioned in the same breath with coaching greats Curly Lambeau and George Halas, with whom he now shares the honore of being the only coaches to win six NFL titles.

“It’s incredibly flattering,” he said, noting he grew up watching the greats, saw Vince Lombardi coach that first Super Bowl in 1967 and also ended up coaching against a few like Bill Walsh. But while Belichick’s word is always final with his team, he doesn’t want the credit.

“It took the entire team, the organization, a supreme effort,” he said. “All of us came together so the team could achieve its goals. Julian did a great job for us, but we had 45 other guys out there (Sunday) night battling.

“Happy that things worked out for us this year and we were able to be the best team in football this season. That’s hard to be in this league, but these guys earned it.”

So did the head coach. If you were to predict back in November, say, after that 54-51 Rams Monday night win over Kansas City, that the Patriots would shut both out in the first half in the post season and also hold the Rams to just three points, the men in white coats would be summoned to pay you a visit.

Clearly, the head coach reached his team. Best job since the last time they beat the Rams in the Super Bowl.

Edelman was asked what his favorite play was on Sunday. The answer is symbolic.

“My favorite play,” Edelman said, “was our last play when we took a knee.”

Yes, but once again all the others in the NFL now have to genuflect at the altar of the Church of Belichick.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.

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