The Patriots Are In The Super Bowl Yet Again and I'm Trying To Make Sense of Their Unprecedented Success
For the 8th (eighth!) time Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are headed for the Super Bowl. I still can't wrap my head around it. If someone says they played 8 years in the NFL it's extremely impressive, this dude has played 8 Super Bowl seasons. It really doesn't even make sense.
Last night with a 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars the New England Patriots extended their league record of Super Bowl appearances to 10. That's double digits, folks. This is going to be the 52nd Super Bowl ever and the Patriots have appeared in nearly 20% of them. Not bad for a franchise that didn't win its first playoff game until 1985. Before you ask, I'll answer, no it never gets old. The most impressive run in the history sports only gets better, and better.
I'll be honest with you, despite countless playoff comebacks by TB12 I was getting quite nervous during this game, it's just my nature. I blogged about not having expectations a week or so ago to make potential heartbreak easier, and I'm going to be honest with you I did not follow my own advice. While going in I did respect the Jags, (I've been saying for months they'd make the AFC Championship Game) I just didn't think there was a way the lowly Jaguars could beat the Patriots in the playoffs.
They nearly did.
After Dion Lewis fumbled on a play that I called mere seconds before it took place I was extremely nervous.
I think I handled the fumble quite well.
When the Patriots converted on 3rd and 18 I went from thinking the game was over to realizing Tom Brady was about to do it again.
That conversion reminded me a lot of the 3rd and 14 Edelman conversion in Super Bowl XLIX given the situation, score and time remaining in both games.
Tom Brady despite a cut up hand, and no Gronk for the entire second half had himself a pretty solid day against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
But this post isn't about my reactions during the course of the game, or breaking the game down, it's about sitting back and admiring what the Patriots have done. The Patriots have been a legitimate Super Bowl contender for nearly 20 years. Even when Brady got hurt in 2008 then went 11-5. There is no run like this in team sports ever. 18 years of domination.
Think about this for a moment.... the Patriots are going to their 3rd Super Bowl in a 4 season span for the 2nd time in franchise history. 17 of the 32 teams in the NFL have been to less than 3 Super Bowls in their entire franchise history. Four teams have never been. With a win against the Eagles February 4th they'll join the 90's Cowboys and 00's Patriots as the only team to ever win three Super Bowls in four years.
When those great early 90's Cowboys teams did it, that was it. That core didn't ever get back. Amazing run, but it was a short window. They never got back to the mountain top. Dallas has won three playoff games since 1995, they haven't even been to one NFC Championship game since they won their last Super Bowl.
Meanwhile after winning three Super Bowls in four years that first wave of the Patriots Dynasty continued, in 2006 they nearly made it back to the Super Bowl only to blow a 21-3 lead in the AFC Championship Game to the Colts. Then of course in 2007 they were one stop away from a perfect season. That group realistically could've won five Super Bowls in seven years.
2008 to 2009 was kind of the changing of the guard in New England. Tom Brady missed basically an entire season, the key faces of the early 2000's dynasty either retired or moved on, guys like Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel were all gone by the 09 season.
The Patriots could've crumbled and it would've been okay by NFL standards, that's what happens. These runs of success aren't supposed to be prolonged. The 60's Packers were an all time dynasty then it took them 30 years to get back to the Super Bowl. The Steelers of the 1970's had a six year run of Super Bowl success then waited until 2005 for Pittsburgh to win again. There's peaks and valleys in football, and really all major sports. Teams have a group of core guys who have a certain "window" for success, then they close, guys move on and teams are forced to start over again.
That hasn't happened for the Patriots. While the faces have changed a ton over this run of dominance, two have remained the same; Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. It hasn't mattered who else is on the team, as long as these two guys are around you can pencil the Pats in for 12 wins.
What's the craziest part of this whole run to me is that at one point their first run has been considered by many experts to be one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history, and now it's not even the best in Patriots history. IMO win or lose come Super Bowl Sunday the 2nd wave of the Patriots dynasty is more impressive than the first.
It's been well documented that the Patriots were playing in their 7th straight AFC Championship game but really let that settle. In those games they had a winning record of 4-3. For 7 straight seasons they were either in the Super Bowl or within a game of it. The next closest streak in 5 straight AFC Championship games which the Raiders did in the 70's. They only went 1-4 in AFCCG and back then only 4 teams made the playoffs.
For 8 straight seasons the Patriots have had a first-round bye. That means they finished either 1st or 2nd in the AFC for EIGHT YEARS IN A ROW. No down years. The early 2000's Patriots that won three out of four missed the playoffs in the year they didn't win a Super Bowl. This run's team that didn't win the Super Bowl was a two point conversion away from forcing overtime in the AFC Championship Game.
Every year of the 2010's the Patriots have won at least 12 games. The Jets have won 12 games ONCE in their franchise's history. This has been done with waves of different guys, some faces have been the same, but not for every year. Last year Patriots won the Super Bowl without Rob Gronkowski, this year they're back in the Super Bowl without Julian Edelman.
What this run does have in common with it's 2001-2004 counterpart is that like the 2004 Patriots the 2017 Patriots are going to be losing both coordinators after the Super Bowl. In 04 Charlie Weis left to become the head coach of Notre Dame, Romeo Crennel became head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The 2017 Patriots are going to lose Matt Patricia to the Lions and Josh McDaniels is likely to become the Colts new head coach. Which is why I really want Patriot fans to appreciate this. There's a great possibility this may be it for the Brady-Belichick Patriots. They'll probably be Super Bowl favorites again next year, but after losing both coordinators after the 2004 season the Patriots went a decade without winning a championship. I'm just saying the run has to end eventually, and this year kind of has a senior year vibe to it.
Realize that no run like this will ever happen again, how lucky we as Patriots fans, especially around my age or younger have been. I don't know what it's like to have a losing season. When the Patriots went 5-11 in 2000 I was in 3rd grade.
Tom Brady has been on the Patriots since 2000. In the 16 full seasons Tom Brady has been the Patriots QB they've made the Super Bowl in HALF of them. In the remaining 8 years in half of those they were a game away from the Super Bowl. There's nothing in NFL history that even comes close to that. Joe Montana, the man many considered the greatest QB of all time only played 10 seasons with the 49ers. Brady has been in 8 Super Bowls.
Nothing will ever come close this again in team sports. I know it is going to suck once Brady and Belichick are gone, but guess what? They aren't gone yet. #NotDone