Notes From Foxboro: Re-living 'hard truths' of Super Bowl LII helps Patriots move forward for Eagles rematch

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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Sometimes, if you want to overcome past mistakes, you need to face them head-on. It's a learning experience. A severely painful, stomach-churned learning experience.

The Patriots defense made just so, so many mistakes in Super Bowl LII against the Eagles, a "bury the tape" kind of performance in which they allowed 41 points and 538 total yards. But for Bill Belichick and his prideful players, it helps to go back through the game film and see what they can learn from it.

It might take a Clockwork Orange-style contraption to keep the defense's eyes on the screen. But whatever it takes to get better for next time.

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Next time comes on Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Patriots get their for-real rematch against the Eagles. A lot of the same players remain on both sides of the field, especially on the Patriots defense. Belichick admitted on Wednesday that they could pull some things from that game even though it was two seasons ago.

"There's some similarities in matchups there," said Belichick. "There's quite a few differences, but it's worth looking at."

A whopping nine Patriots defenders remain from that game who played at least six snaps. So for much of that group, it was a torturous but necessary probe that helped them forge ahead for the lower-stakes, modestly-budgeted sequel.

"We were so close, but at the end of the day so far away from winning that game. But there’s a lot of hard truths in there that you have to look at," said safety Duron Harmon. "And you’ll see about the team and you’ll see what we’ve gotten better at and where we need to be better at and where they try to attack us, and just take that from the film and just use it to your advantage, so on Sunday we can have a good understanding of how they want to attack us and how we want to defend ourselves."

Feb 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is tackled by New England Patriots strong safety Patrick Chung and outside linebacker Elandon Roberts in the first quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the stabilizing presences in revisiting Super Bowl LII has to be cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who locked down Eagles receiver and former South Carolina roommate Alshon Jeffery after he caught an early touchdown on Eric Rowe. Gilmore is your classic one-week-at-a-time player who seems to have an uncanny ability to distill moments filled with heavy emotions down to just the fundamental truths. In this case, the Patriots just need to play better football and win the thing this Sunday. Gilmore's not one to dwell on something he can't undo.

"It’s not a good feeling [to re-live the Super Bowl], but there’s nothing you can do about it," said Gilmore. "You just try to not let it happen again, not lose a game again. That’s how I look at it."

Oh. It's worth mentioning that the Patriots defense went right back to the Super Bowl the year after that game and absolutely, positively dominated the high-powered Rams. So maybe they've been over Super Bowl LII for longer than believed. But they admitted that bringing back that tape brought back a lot of the negative feelings associated with it. Ultimately, it should only be a galvanizing force for the defense to kinda, sorta get one back against the Eagles on Sunday.

N'Keal Harry expected to speak Thursday

A group of reporters huddled around rookie receiver N'Keal Harry's locker on Wednesday, hoping to get to speak to him for the first time since training camp. We all rotted away like we drank the wrong Holy Grail cup.

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Not really. We survived the harrowing ordeal. But the word is we will get Harry for the first time on Thursday. He's been through plenty, including his preseason debut and multiple injuries and a stint on injured reserve and a journey all the way back to the 53-man roster.

Harry didn't make the active roster for the Patriots' loss to the Ravens two weeks ago. It would be great to see the kid make his NFL debut against the Eagles for a Patriots offense that could use another boost of pass-catching talent.

McCourty reacts to Kaepernick's new opportunity

Patriots safety Devin McCourty has been one of the team's most prominent voices when it comes to addressing social justice issues. He's been a smaller but notable part of the wave started by free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The latter is finally getting another opportunity to play in the NFL again, though, assuming we're not looking at a complete dog & pony show.

McCourty reacted to the news on Wednesday that Kaepernick is getting a Combine-style tryout with NFL teams. The Patriots will reportedly have a representative at the event. McCourty was happy to hear Kaepernick, who hung 41 points on the Pats in 2012 with the 49ers, is getting a fresh chance.

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

"I think it’s awesome. I think for him - a guy that’s been fighting to try to get back in the league - and I think from a player standpoint, a lot of guys have watched him play football and truly think he deserves a shot to play in this league," said McCourty. "So, I think it’s cool to see and I hope something comes out of it. I hope he gets consideration for an actual job in the NFL, because he played good football when he was out there. From a talent standpoint, I think everybody that watched is like ‘Well, we know that this guy can play on Sunday.’

"So I think for us as players it’s not as big of a deal, but I think for him I think that’s what matters, because of everything he’s given up to stand up for something he believes in. I think it would be awesome to see him get signed and get to play football again."

Van Noy ready to hear it from Eagles fans

The Patriots are heading into a #HostileEnvironment at Lincoln Financial Field. Eagles fans tend to be a little ... crass. Aggressive. Skilled in the art of projectile vomiting.

Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy thinks they'll be ready to handle the noise, which basically means ignore it. Or maybe snap a few back at a couple loudmouths in the front rows.

"I don't really listen to people talking trash," said Van Noy during an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak and Bertrand. "I mean people have said some crazy stuff. But Philly fans, they're known for being some of the ruthless ones out there. We're excited for it. I think we'll have a couple comebacks for them here and there, so we'll be ready."

Listen below for the full interview, starting at the 12:40 mark.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].