Ving Rhames said it best when introducing the New England Patriots at Super Bowl LI: “Well New England, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Here we are again,” he said, “For the ninth time.” Two years ago, the New England Patriots had reached the Super Bowl for a record ninth time.
Two years later, the Patriots have reached the Super Bowl again. Except this time, it’s their eleventh trip and – oh yeah – their third straight visit. As we approach Super Bowl Sunday once again, it seems the nation is finally burned out on the team’s continued success; fatigued by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s relentless pursuit of victory, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds.
New England Patriots Advance to Super Bowl (Again)
“They Are Not Going Back to the Super Bowl”
The beginning of the season was not ideal. After coming out strong with a home win against the Houston Texans, the Patriots stumbled and dropped two road games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions. The former was at least somewhat anticipated – a potential revenge game for the AFC Championship from the previous year. That, and the Patriots tend to play like garbage in Florida anyway. The Lions game was unexpected, even with former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia leading the charge.
After those two losses, the talking heads went rampant. Max Kellerman and Rob Parker, among others, emphatically claiming that Brady was done for. That he was too old. Roasted. Cooked. There was no way this team – of all teams – was going back to the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. The pundits were determined that this was the beginning of the end of the Patriots dynasty.
Needless to say, it wasn’t. Fueled by rabid media, the team overcame their difficulties and went on a six-game winning streak. Two road wins against a stout Chicago Bears defense and a division rival, and four home wins against teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers.
Then came more losses, this time against the Tennessee Titans, the Miami Dolphins (finally), the Pittsburgh Steelers (also finally). The Patriots finished the regular season 11-5, a record good enough to secure the AFC’s second seed, but bad enough to set them up for potential playoff failure. As always, the Patriots stood defiant.
Bet Against Us
“There’s no way they’ll make it through the playoffs.”
When time came for the Patriots to take on the Los Angeles Chargers, a Patriots.com article had nearly 42% (10 of 24) of experts, analysts and reporters picking the Chargers to win. The same Chargers who barely escaped Baltimore after a game of field goals. And yet, when the time came, the Patriots laid the stomp on Los Angeles in a 41-28 game, where most of LA’s points came in garbage time. For the second time in a year, it was Boston’s mission to “Beat LA.”
“Okay, but there’s no way they can beat the Chiefs at home.”
In a rematch of Week Six, the Patriots and the Chiefs squared off once again, this time at Arrowhead Stadium. The talking heads claimed the noise would be too much for New England to handle. They said Andy Reid would out-coach Belichick. They said the Chiefs defense, now featuring Justin Houston and Eric Berry, would nullify the Patriots offense. And yet, near the end of the night, the Patriots charged down the field in overtime to win the game 37-31. You know what happened after that? The talking heads stopped talking about Brady being too old, and instead started complaining about overtime rules not being fair. You think they’d be saying the same things if the Chiefs had won on the first overtime possession?
We’re Still Here
After beating the Chiefs at home, it seemed that the nation had all but lost interest in football. Between the Patriots returning to the Super Bowl again and a blown call in the NFC Championship Game that essentially handed the win to the Los Angeles Rams, no one really cared anymore.
Then the Patriots held a sendoff rally, wherein more than 30,000 fans packed Gillette Stadium to see the team off to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. Brady took the stage to chant “We’re still here!”, and the media lost its mind again. “Still here?” they said, “No one ever doubted the Patriots.”
Except they did. The vast majority of sports media this year claimed that this Patriots team was bad. They talked about how Brady was too old, how Rob Gronkowski was washed up, and how the team’s wide receivers couldn’t catch anything. But now, after making the Super Bowl for a third straight year? It seems like everyone is just tired of one team’s consistent, enduring success.
And They’re Still Sick of It
After reaching the Super Bowl four out of the last five years, you can’t exactly blame people. At this point, the Super Bowl has become the annual Tom Brady Invitational. And based on owner Robert Kraft’s recent comments, it doesn’t look like the team’s reign is destined to end anytime soon.
“I would be quite surprised if he didn’t continue for quite a while as our quarterback,” Kraft told reporters in Atlanta. Kraft’s statement is an echo of something Brady himself already said last week. In an interview with ESPN, Brady said that there is “zero” chance that Super Bowl LIII is his last game. Considering Brady’s cap hit for next season would be nearly $30-million if the Patriots didn’t work out an extension – as well as the fact that his abilities don’t seem to be declining whatsoever – it’s looking more and more likely that his personal mission to play until the age of 45 is not only possible…but entirely likely.
And while that may be a drag for fans of the NFL, it’s probably a good thing for the NFL in general. Success inspires competition. Teams are lining up for the chance to take down the king, developing new strategies in their attempts to beat the Patriots.
The Dynasty Will End, But Not This Year
So, as we enter yet another Super Bowl weekend featuring two of the greatest names in football history (who have endured and overcome more than their fair of criticism), be sure to remember one thing: New England’s time will come, and the rest of the NFL will be able to freely compete for the Lombardi Trophy once again.
For now, the dynasty won’t be ending anytime soon. The rest of the AFC East is still a mess, which means another division title is likely in the cards. As for the fatigue that seems to have plagued the nation…well, that’s nothing new. The team’s enduring success has become mundane. But instead of complaining about the Patriots making it to the Super Bowl again, go ahead and just cheer for the Rams. It seems like that’s what almost everyone else is doing anyway, and that’s exactly the kind of energy the Patriots feed on.
Expectation vs Reality pic.twitter.com/qVDJFdrzS9
— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 31, 2019
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