We have seen this movie before.
The one where the Patriots win twelve plus games, score a couple playoff wins in Foxboro and end up in the Super Bowl amid all the chatter about how they cheat to win and how they get all the calls. There are few things more certain than death, taxes . . and the Patriots being in the Super Bowl. This is Groundhog Day in cleats.
And once the Patriots get to the Super Bowl, well . . . you know. They vanquished the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ back in 2002 when they came from behind to beat the Kurt Warner led St. Louis Rams with a field goal as time expired. They were the ‘darlings’ of the league that year, the charming underdogs with spunk and a pretty boy quarterback who defied all the odds and took down the Goliath. Man, how things have changed.
Since then, the Patriots have been more consistent than Apple stock. Their laundry list of Super Bowl victims includes the Panthers, Seahawks, Eagles and Falcons. On that last count, the Patriots actually had us believing their remarkable run was finally over by spotting Atlanta a twenty five point lead before storming back to win, again.
This time around, they get a rematch thirteen years in the making. They beat Andy Reid’s Eagles in 2004 to cap off their second consecutive title and third in four years. And if they win it again this time around, it will be their second consecutive title and . . you guessed it . . their third in four years. Attention Patriots fans, please pick up the white courtesy phone, Bill Murray is calling.
There has never been anything like this Patriots run in sports. Not over this length of time and not with this degree of consistency there hasn’t. Tom Brady went a decade between world championships before beating Seattle a few years back. Which is the kind of story line that would be dismissed out of hand if you tried peddling it in Hollywood. Seventeen years later, the Patriots are still doing this. Tom Brady is still bringing his team from behind in January’s biggest moments. Bill Belichick is still making halftime adjustments that prove he might be the best there has ever been. New England is still the sports center of the universe.
The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t just going up against an MVP candidate quarterback and a battle tested coach who knows what to do with two weeks prep time. They are not just going up against a team that defies age and injuries and all this nonsense talk about mutinies inside the Patriots clubhouse. The Eagles are going up against seventeen years, five Super Bowl titles and a history unlike any the league has ever witnessed. They are going up against Jordan and Jeter, Gretzky and a young Mike Tyson. They are going up the Roman Empire, whose days are dwindling but still mighty. They are going up against a team that took the Jaguars best shot before reminding them that the game isn’t over after three quarters.
Here’s the thing. The Eagles don’t care a wit about that history. They’re too young to remember Gretzky and Jordan or the best of Derek Jeter. And the only thing they know about Mike Tyson is that his championship reign came to an end when someone finally punched him in the mouth.
Really, the only history the Eagles are going to focus on as far as New England is concerned are the two Super Bowl titles the Patriots didn’t collect. And isn’t it ironic that the Eagles are going to be borrowing a page from their long time rivals- the New York Giants- who have proven to be New England’s kryptonite not once but twice? And the game plan is really quite simple. Punch them in the mouth.
This is the tenth anniversary of that first Giants/Patriots clash, when Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin and a ridiculous helmet catch by David Tyree all conspired to ruin the Patriots perfect season. I wrote back then that the Patriots owned the worst 18-1 record in the history of the league. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Giants came back four years later, and with the Patriots hell bent on revenge, they beat them again.
The Eagles go into Minnesota with every intention of following that blueprint. They’ll be carrying a chip on their shoulder and the talent to give us a different ending. They’ve navigated injuries of their own. They lost their MVP candidate Carson Wentz during their division clinching game. They lost their all world left tackle Jason Peter and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks in the same game! And somehow, someway, they still made it to Minnesota.
They came to the Super Bowl not to praise New England, but to bury them. And yeah, we’ve heard this kind of thing before and we’ve seen how things usually turn out. And I expect that the Patriots are probably going to find a way to win, again. Because as a Dolphins fan, I’ve been conditioned to do so.
But this is a heavyweight title rematch, and so there’s that punchers chance thing to consider. We have the brash and cocky reigning champion going up against a brawler from Philadelphia. I’m pretty sure the Eagles would be just fine with the Rocky Balboa comparisons.
Considering what happened in the rematch.