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Bill Belichick, Pats to NFL after win: 'We're still here'

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Before the New England Patriots embarked to Atlanta last Sunday afternoon, Tom Brady led the 35,000 fans crowding the Gillette Stadium field in a cheer, one with a surprising message.

"We'll still here!" they cried repeatedly, reminding the sports media-industrial complex, forgetful fans and anyone who would listen that reports of the Patriots dynasty's death had been greatly exaggerated.

On Sunday evening, following a 13-3 victory over the lifeless Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the refrain returned, this time with added meaning.

"It's sweet. It's sweet, Jim," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told CBS' Jim Nantz on the podium. "Everybody counted us out from the beginning the season, mid-season, but we're still here."

The Patriots had bought what they were selling, and it worked.

"It's satisfying. Just the way we grinded all year," tight end Rob Gronkowski offered after the victory on NFL Network. "It wasn't beautiful. Our season was up. Our season was down. Our season was up, then it was down. Then we were eliminated; nobody believed in us. No one thought we were ever gonna do it."

To be fair to the embellishing Super Bowl champions, the Patriots went through their relative share of struggles in 2018. New England lost at least five games for the first time this decade. The Pats dropped games to Belichick disciples in Detroit and Tennessee. Tom Brady looked gimpy, and so did Gronkowski. New England was considered an underdog in the AFC Championship Game.

But the Patriots were favorites in Super Bowl LIII, and they played like it. 

"We stuck together, that was the biggest achievement I've ever been apart of. Throughout the whole season, just the way we stuck together," Gronk explained. "Defense sometimes wasn't playing great, offense sometimes wasn't playing great, special teams sometimes wasn't playing great. But we all knew if we stuck together, found our identity; we could pull it off and that's what we did. We stuck together as a family in the down times and we pulled it off as a team -- it was unbelievable."

By the end of Sunday night, the Pats had secured their sixth Super Bowl title, tied for the most by any franchise, and neither Brady nor Belichick, the cornerstones of New England's historic run, gave an inkling that either would retire.

Cry all you want about the Patriots' unwarranted underdog complex, but the fact is they are still here and will be for at least one more season.

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