FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The number to remember this week as it relates to the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl LI rematch with the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night is 36. That’s how many players on the Patriots’ 53-man roster at the time of Super Bowl LI remain on the team.
So it’s no surprise that watching film of the Patriots’ historic triumph is part of the plan this week.
Players say the key, however, is not reliving the euphoria of a game they’ve been trying to put behind them.
“The teams aren’t exactly the same, but the good thing is you can go back and watch the film and learn from it and see offensively how they were trying to attack us,” said fifth-year safety Duron Harmon, one of the team’s captains. “Although they have a different offensive coordinator, the head coach is the same, and the plays they had success on, I’m pretty sure they’ll want to do those again.
“So we have to study that film but not look too much into it, because that Super Bowl is already won for us, it’s already over with. It’s already in history. The only thing that can really help us from that game is maybe some tips on how they were trying to attack us. Other than that, it doesn’t really matter.”
Meanwhile, starting left tackle Nate Solder took it one step further. To him, the Patriots’ historic triumph “means nothing” this week.
“We’re facing them with a few new players, a few new different things that they do, and nothing from the past is going to matter. It’s going to matter what we do this week, with this team,” he said.
One of the points coach Bill Belichick drove home Monday is how neither team is as far along as they were on Feb. 5, 2017 in Super Bowl LI.
From a Patriots perspective, here are some of the main personnel-specific differences with their 2017 team compared to the Super Bowl championship team:
Welcome back, Gronk: Tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t play in the Super Bowl, as he had been placed on injured reserve.
Super Bowl players now on injured reserve: Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell; linebacker Shea McClellin (eligible to start practicing this week), cornerback Cyrus Jones (inactive for Super Bowl), defensive tackle Vincent Valentine.
Super Bowl players now on other teams: Tight end Martellus Bennett (Packers), cornerback Logan Ryan (Titans), running back LeGarrette Blount (Eagles), linebacker Barkevious Mingo (Colts), tight end Matt Lengel (Browns practice squad), defensive end Jabaal Sheard (Colts), defensive end Chris Long (Eagles), cornerback Justin Coleman (Seahawks), quarterback Jacoby Brissett (Colts), wide receiver Michael Floyd (Vikings), running back D.J. Foster (Cardinals).
Super Bowl players now retired: Defensive end Rob Ninkovich.
New Patriots players since Super Bowl LI: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr., cornerback Johnson Bademosi, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, running back Mike Gillislee, tight end Jacob Hollister, tight end Dwayne Allen, defensive end Cassius Marsh, linebacker Marquis Flowers, defensive tackle Adam Butler, running back Rex Burkhead, linebacker David Harris, defensive end/linebacker Harvey Langi, offensive lineman Cole Croston.
Summing up the value of Super Bowl LI in preparations, Belichick said on Monday on the “Dale and Holley Show with Keefe” on sports radio WEEI, “Yeah, sure, we’ll watch it. It’s our players against their players. There are a lot of players on both teams that played in that game that will play in this game. That being said, there are a lot of players that weren’t in that game that will be in this game.
“It’s a new year and the teams; neither one of them, I think, are where they were at that point in time a year ago. There is definitely some relevance to it. I don’t think there’s any question about that. We would always look at a team we played recently, last year or sometimes even two years ago.”