By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers sent out a tweet on Thursday afternoon. His message was short, and quite simple, but it showed exactly what was still on his mind.
“3 pts…” the tweet said.
And that was it.
Clearly, even though we’re approaching the two-week mark since Super Bowl LIII ended in Atlanta, the events of that night are still fresh on the minds of the members of the Patriots’ defense, a unit that held the No. 2 offense in the league to just three points.
While the members of Patriots’ defense — like most everyone in the NFL — are a confident bunch, even they remain a little surprised that they were able to dominate so thoroughly against a great opponent in the biggest game of the year. Kyle Van Noy, who retweeted Flowers’ tweet on Thursday, still can’t believe the Rams didn’t try to mix anything up after the initial game plan was clearly not working.
“Yeah. I couldn’t believe that, either. Like, they really didn’t do not one wrinkle. I was like, what the hell?” Van Noy said on the “Pardon My Take” podcast. “They got so many good players, they’ve got so many things they’ve done all year, and the one play they gave us which was a wrinkle was the [Brandin Cooks] screen that hit for a little bit. And that was it.”
The Rams averaged 421.1 yards and 32.9 points per game during the season, ranking No. 2 in both categories. In their two playoff wins, the Rams averaged 418.5 yards and 28 points per game. Yet against the Patriots, they mustered just 260 yards of offense and three points.
Van Noy said the Patriots’ defensive work might have stunned the Rams a bit.
“Maybe we were playing so good that they were like, ‘[Shoot], we don’t know what to do,'” Van Noy speculated.
The linebacker gave credit to what the Bears did against the Rams in Week 13, when Chicago limited L.A. to just six points and a season-low 214 yards of offense. The Patriots’ flexibility to change identities on the fly allowed them to take advantage of what they saw as a perceived opportunity.
“Yes and no,” Van Noy said when asked if the team changed its defensive identity for the Super Bowl. “There’s players that played different positions that hadn’t played that certain position all year. Like [Patrick] Chung, he played backer most of the game before he got hurt. [Jonathan] Jones, he actually played safety that game. So there’s things they put players in different positions. And we weren’t necessarily a zone team, we didn’t play zone very much all year. And in the Super Bowl, we were predominantly a zone team. And that kind of probably threw ’em off. Like I saw a clip of Sean McVay reading the clip, and he said, like ‘Oh [shoot]’ in his head, ‘they’re running the Bears’ thing,’ or whatever the Bears did. Shoutout to the Bears, baby.”
Van Noy joined the Patriots midway through the 2016 season, and he spoke about the larger culture in New England that leads to so much winning. Like many players before, Van Noy confirmed that even quarterback Tom Brady gets hit with criticism from Bill Belichick when it’s appropriate.
“Oh yeah. Yeah, that [stuff’s] sick, to be honest, because it sets the table,” Van Noy said of Belichick getting after Brady. “Like, OK, it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone’s on an even playing field. This is how it is here at work. You come in and you earn everything. And I respect that, because I felt like that gave me a chance to get on the field when I came in mid-year, and [Belichick] was like, ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. You earn your keep.'”
Van Noy, who recorded one sack and three quarterback hits while making four tackles in the Super Bowl, credited the Patriots for their lack of big egos as well as their preparation, which helped them to end the year with a Lombardi Trophy.
“We pride ourselves on watching hella film, that’s for sure. I mean, the coaches set us up for success, and players do as well,” Van Noy said. “We’ve got good players. I say we’ve got elite football players, we don’t got any prima donnas or stars or anything, which is nice, not having to deal with any of that [stuff].”