For the 7th time I get to watch my favorite team play in the Super Bowl. At 25 years old that's insane. That's not supposed to happen, that's not how sports work.
We've heard all the cliches about how the NFL is set up for teams to not be great over a long period of time, between the salary cap, parity in the league and free agency teams can't stay together forever. It's true yet thanks to three constants: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft the Patriots have been consistently the best team in football for over 15 years.
A big story line going into this game was about all the experience the Patriots have in the Super Bowl and how the Falcons have almost none. What's more telling about that stat to me is how the Patriots roster only has 23 players I believe with Super Bowl experience when they were in the game just two years ago. Now already over half of the roster is gone. Change happens and it happens quickly in the NFL. Look at a team like the 49ers. A few years ago they were one of the best in football, appearing in three straight NFC championship games and made Super Bowl 47. Now they're one of the worst teams in the entire league. In the blink of an eye your championship window can be slammed shut.
Love or hate the Patriots you have to respect the fact that they're doing this for the 7th time since 2001. That will never happen again. What they've accomplished in any 5 year window during this run is more successful than most teams in the league do in a decade. I'm a Patriots fan and I know a lot of my readers are as well and I just have to say this, we need to realize this isn't going to last forever. Tom Brady is 39 years old. Bill Belichick has been the Patriots head coach for 17 seasons. We're a lot closer to the end than the beginning. I don't think it will be, but there's a chance this is the final time we see the two together in the Super Bowl. Even though it seems like they're in the big game every other year you cannot take this for granted. We just assume we can pencil the Pats in for 12 wins and a berth in the AFC Championship game every year when in reality that is insanely hard to achieve and is something that like 28 other teams in the NFL would kill for.
I hate saying this because it's a loser mentality, but I honestly believe potentially losing this game shouldn't hurt the Patriots legacy. I know that's not how it'd play out and large majority of Patriot haters will use it as an opportunity to talk shit, but appearing in 7 Super Bowls and having a winning record in them is a crazy feat. IMO Brady and Belichick are already the best quarterback and head coach in the history of the NFL, everything else they do at this point is just icing on the cake. The duo has a chance to win their 5th Super Bowl together. Something no player-coach combo in the history of the National Football League can say. What they've accomplished together will never be matched.
That being said of course I want them to win and think they will, but it's a team game. Even though MY team has won 4 Super Bowls I still think it's kind of unfair for that to be the "be all end all" when talking greatness. Championships are obviously very important and do matter but there's so many factors and other great teams and players, getting to and winning this game once is a huge deal. I've said it before but if Malcolm Butler doesn't make that interception and the Patriots lose Super Bowl 49 Tom Brady still had 4 touchdowns 2 INT, and a Super Bowl record 37 completions. But because of the INT it's remembered as an all time great performance, had they lost is he the goat (bad kind) for two costly turnovers, including one in the endzone? That one play shouldn't be what determines a quarterback's legacy, but that's how it goes.
I've gone back and forth a million times this week. I started out thinking the Falcons had no chance to stop the Patriots offense and wasn't really giving them any respect. I'd talk to people and say I think we win by two touchdowns. As days passed and we got closer to kick off I got more nervous as I tend to do. Two weeks to think about a game is a lonnngggg time. Negative thoughts start to creep in. I think despite having the best scoring defense in the NFL the Patriots have not faced a challenge like the Falcons offense. They're historically one of the best in league history, I think they scored like the 8th most points of all time. It's going to be a tall task to shut down Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the rest of the Falcons weapons. I'm very worried about how this defense will contain the Atlanta offense. I think despite it not hurting them yet, no Gronk is a big deal. The Patriots have been on this amazing run without the best TE in the history of the NFL. I'm worried about Gostowski. He's been shaky this season and after a long stretch of going back to form he did miss another PAT in the AFC Championship game. I'm worried about having to potentially rely on him for a big kick late in the game.
The New England Patriots despite all their success in this run did have a 10 year drought between championships. I got into the Pats at the perfect time and it you want to be a hardo and call it bandwagon jumping you can, but I don't see it that way because I was so young but since 4th grade when I starting understanding football the Patriots were great. In three of my first four years where I can truly remember football they won the Super Bowl. I thought this was going to be what happened every year. I soon learned how hard it was to win. Despite great teams for a decade the Patriots would come up just short. Now they have a chance to win two in three years. I can remember vividly after playoff loses year after year, wondering to myself will Tom Brady ever win a Super Bowl again? It shouldn't matter so much to me, but it does. It's stupid to get so caught up in something that you have no impact on and is just there for entertainment but I can't help it. I love this team. I know I'm way too emotionally invested in this team but frankly I don't give a fuck and am not going to apologize. I love the New England Patriots. A lot. They're responsible for some for some of the greatest memories of my life. Being a Patriots fan is a huge part of who I am. It's where I'm from. It's something that brings people together. How this game goes realistically is going to impact how the rest of this year goes for me. There is no joy quite like "we're Super Bowl champs" joy, and there's no pain like losing in this game. I don't want to deal with another Super Bowl loss. It's the fucking worst.
I don't care what the score is as long as the Patriots have more points than the Falcons I'll be happy. In my heart of hearts I just don't see how the Patriots lose this game. Although I said the same thing in 2008 and we all know how that turned out. But the situation is just too perfect giving all this team has gone through with deflategate and everything. They have a chance to once again win a championship and shut the haters up. I'm nervous, I'm excited, I'm terrified. I'm ready for this game to start.
If the Patriots lose you may not hear from me for a little while. However I think there's no way Tom Brady lets his team lose this game. I know despite all that they've said to the media that the Patriots want to win this game and have that awkward moment with Roger Goodell. I think it happens.
My official score prediction: Patriots 34 Falcons 24