You cannot look at the modern era of football without first acknowledging the prowess and dominance of the New England Patriots. Since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls out of the four they reached, won all 16 regular season games for the first time in NFL history in 2007, and broken countless team and individual records in the process. Belichick has three AP Coach of the Year awards, one less than the legendary Don Shula.
The chemistry Belichick has sustained with quarterback Tom Brady is historical. No coach/quarterback duo has won more games than this tandem.
With one more playoff win, Brady will have won more postseason games than Joe Montana. Brady has also been to a conference championship game over half the years he has played. In other words, Brady is giving his team the chance to play in the Super Bowl every other year.
That one win to break Montana’s record happens to be the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl also happens to be a rematch of a game the Patriots lost earlier this season and in the Super Bowl four years ago.
The Patriots have not beaten the New York Giants since Week 17 of the 2007 season. During the unprecedented careers of Belichick and Brady, no team has beaten them in three consecutive games.
The 2011 Patriots are a statistical anomaly. They were among the worst in football defensively.
They can’t stop opposing offenses on third down. The defense was without starters Patrick Chung, Brandon Spikes and 2010 AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year Devin McCourty for good chunks of the season.
On offense, the Pats leading rusher had fewer than 700 yards, and the two tight-end scheme hasn’t been popular since the 1970s.
Simply put, the fact Brady was able to have the second-best season of his career featuring tight-ends and no complimentary running game is unheard of.
On the contrary, Rob Gronkowski set two tight-end NFL records this season with 18 touchdowns and 1,327 yards. The 5-foot 9-inch Wes Welker caught an NFL-best 122 balls with 1,569 yards, second only to Lions’ receiver Calvin Johnson. Brady threw for over 5,200 yards, good for second all-time in a single season, and 39 touchdowns.
Brady is on a mission. He has played with a chip on his shoulder his entire life. Brady started at Michigan as a fourth-string quarterback and considered transferring to a smaller program at one point. He then split time with Drew Henson once he was given the opportunity to play.
After winning the MVP of the 2000 Orange Bowl against Alabama, Brady fell to pick 199 in the 2000 NFL Draft and was the seventh quarterback selected. He then entered training camp with the Patriots as the backup behind perennial Pro Bowler Drew Bledsoe.
Brady is the fiercest competitor in sports. Future Hall of Famers linebacker Ray Lewis and quarterback Peyton Manning acknowledge this.
The Giants are a team led by a former first overall pick in Eli Manning. Manning led his team by scrapping together six consecutive must-win games to reach the Super Bowl. In a way, their season reflects Brady’s career: overlooked and disrespected until they surprise you in the end.
However, it’s not up to Eli Manning to stop the Patriots’ offense.
It’s up to the Giants 29th-ranked pass defense. The Patriots have not lost since their 24-20 defeat at home against New York in Week 9.
Belichick and Brady have had two weeks to prepare for the Giants, more than enough time to iron out the flaws that haunted them last November. The Super Bowl is Brady’s arena and Belichick’s classroom. This matchup has destiny written all over it.
The New England Patriots will be Super Bowl Champions on Sunday, or YouTube will earn itself a video of me eating this column.