New England Patriots Super Bowl XLIX Ring: Capping An Era

Patriots frontLast February the New England Patriots won their 4th Super Bowl championship in the last 14 years. Coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been front and center for each one. In doing so they became only the second coach /quarterback combo to achieve 4 titles in the Super Bowl era. On Sunday they attended a ceremony hosted by Robert Kraft to receive the hardware commemorating the event.

With all that has hit this organization over the last couple of years, you knew Kraft was going to go all out. Detractors had said Belichick hadn’t won since Spy-Gate. The legacy of Tom Brady as the best quarterback of his generation, was in question by some pundits. Victory in Super Bowl XLIX completely laid those to rest.

First off the team had gone undefeated, played in two Super Bowls, and appeared in two more AFC Championship Games since. So where the Patriots hadn’t won since Spy-Gate argument came from never made sense. How Tom Brady held a 3-1…oops make that 4-1 advantage in Super Bowl victories somehow had him behind Peyton Manning was lunacy.

Patriots side 2Going into Super Bowl XLVI, I already gave Belichick his laurels. Where Vince Lombardi was the NFL’s greatest coach of the first 50 years of pro football, Belichick is the greatest of the last 50. Eight trips to the AFC championship game, six Super Bowl appearances with four wins. No one comes within hailing distance of that type of performance.

It will be interesting to watch how pundits speak of this era of Patriot championships in the future. The first dynasty ended with their victory in XXXIX against the Eagles. Yet they won consistently for the next decade before winning it all 10 years later. Someone might bring up the 1980-1990 San Francisco 49ers, but they didn’t have two more trips to the Super Bowl between championships during their tenure. Just NFC Championship losses to the Dallas Cowboys.

Patriots sideWhat about the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s who won 3 championships in 4 years?? Well the first dynasty equaled that feat of 3 in 4 years and consistently won for a decade after that, appearing in 3 more Super Bowls winning one. Dallas won only 1 playoff game in the next decade after that.

Now if we put the Patriots up against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s and the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s the debate intensifies. Many will point to the Spy-gate and Deflate-gate incidents to tarnish their accomplishments, yet it’s not enough.

This run for sustained excellence is one of the best in NFL history. As The Chancellor of Football, looking at this ring I don’t think of  the 2014 championship, I think about the closing of an era. Last year they won on guile and quarterback know how, they weren’t clearly the best team. Yet they didn’t have to be.

Winning back in February had more to do with the championship mettle Belichick and Brady were able to instill in a new group of Patriots. Much like the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1995 Dallas Cowboys, and the 1967 Green Bay Packers they barely finished ahead of the pack. Will they do so in 2015?? You’ll need to read the previous article to see how The Chancellor thinks they’ll fare in 2015. It’s this bauble that cemented the legacies of the Patriots, Belichick, and Brady.

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NFL.Com Bracketology: 2000 Baltimore Ravens v. 2001 New England Patriots

Ray Lewis being introduced before Super Bowl XXXV. Calm before the storm?

If they were STILL playing Super Bowl XXXV, the New York Giants STILL wouldn’t have a touchdown against the Ravens defense. The 2001 Patriots were a hodge podge group of old grizzled veterans and a young holdover quarterback who performed admirably with a short passing game. Needless to say if they were to play back then, he isn’t the Tom Brady we know now of the 50TD passing season and 3 Super Bowl championships.

You have to take him as a new quarterback who played a layman game in Super Bowl XXXVI. He only threw for about 180 yards and his passes were mainly to running backs on that last drive. Against the Ravens formidable rush Super Bowl MVP and NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis, would have made life miserable for journeyman RB Antoine Smith. The same circle routes out of the backfield that nearly got Tiki Barber beaten into oblivion in XXXVI would have had the same effect against Lewis and Jamie Sharper.

An unlikely hero emerged in the Super Bowl XXXVI upset in Patriot QB Tom Brady.

The Ravens were #1 against the run (best in history allowing 970 yds) and were stout up front with Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa. Lewis roaming free would have tipped or intercepted intermediate routes where Patriot WR Troy Brown, David Patten, and Charles Johnson couldn’t get deep. Duane Starks (The [[_]]) and Chris McAlister teamed to form the most underrated CB tandem in the Super Bowl era. They along with Safeties Ken Herring and Hall of famer Rod Woodson would have picked off at least 5 passes.

After all in Super Bowl XXXV, they were able to pick off Kerry Collins who had just tied the NFC Championship record with 4TD passes and 5 overall in a 41-0 trouncing of Minnesota. In all actuality the 2001 Patriots had two lucky breaks happen for them. The first was “The Tuck Rule” which was one of the worst calls in NFL history that demoralized the The Oakland Raiders. The second came when in preparation for the AFC Championship, Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis in trying to come back from a hamstring injury, took a painkilling shot that struck a nerve in his leg…rendering him ineffective for the game. Without their running game the Steelers fell 21-17.

Yet had these two played on full strength, the Steelers were the better team. The Patriots had situational substitute veterans in LB Bryan Cox, LB Roman Phifer, NB Terrell Buckley, DB Terrance Shaw, and a soon to be famous ex Steeler in LB Mike Vrabel that they still would have confused Trent Dilfer into a few interceptions.

However the 1-2 punch of Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis would have overpowered the Patriots by not allowing them to sub. That would open up the play action pass to Quadry Ismail, and Brandon Stokely once they substituted and crowded the line. This was the only pass that Trent Dilfer through well was the deep up routes. At the height of Baltimore’s defensive power and against a QB making about his 13th start in Brady…the Ravens would shut them out 23-0. Lots of punts in this game…

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