MINNEAPOLIS: Tom Brady will attempt to write another chapter of NFL history here Sunday as the New England Patriots chase a record-equalling sixth Super Bowl crown against a Philadelphia Eagles team desperate for their first ever win.
One year after masterminding the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, when the Patriots overturned a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons, Brady is back on the stage he has come to dominate.
If last year’s heroics confirmed his right to be regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time, a further triumph on Sunday at Minneapolis’ US Bank Stadium will elevate the 40-year-old into his own personal pantheon.
A slew of records could go up in smoke if the Patriots overcome the threat posed by an Eagles side revelling in the role of underdogs.
A sixth win for Brady would give him more Super Bowl wins than any other player in history.
Brady would also become the oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl, surpassing his great rival Peyton Manning, who was 39 when he led the Denver Broncos to victory over the Carolina Panthers two years ago.
Win or lose, Brady will already become the oldest non-kicker to play in the showpiece when he suits up this weekend, 16 years after guiding the Patriots to his first Super Bowl triumph, a 20-17 win defeat of the St. Louis Rams in 2002.
So far, Brady has shown little sign of yielding to Father Time.
He has amassed a league-leading 4,577 yards this season, and talks of playing into his mid-40s.
“Why does everyone want me to retire so bad?” he said this week. “I’m having fun.”
Yet there are undeniable clouds on the horizon for the Patriots machine, the so-called Evil Empire who remain the team that the rest of the NFL loves to hate.
Two of head coach Bill Belichick’s most trusted lieutenants, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive counterpart Matt Patricia, are expected to depart at the end of the season to pursue head-coaching opportunities.
And the Boston franchise’s campaign has also been jolted by a reported rift — denied — between Belichick, Brady and team owner Robert Kraft, sparked by the shock trade of back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in October.
Lying in wait for Brady and Belichick are an Eagles team who powered into the Super Bowl with a 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings that no one saw coming.
The Eagles sealed their place thanks to a dazzling display from quarterback Nick Foles, the back-up who was thrust into the starting position after an injury ended Carson Wentz’s season in December.
Wentz’s injury prompted many Eagles fans to wonder if the team was cursed. But after an uncertain start, Foles delivered the game of his life to blitz the Vikings in the NFC Championship decider.
Foles, however, accepts that even if he helps upset the Patriots, he will revert to being a back-up next season when Wentz returns fitness.
The 29-year-old is unfazed by that prospect.
“I’m excited to watch Carson get healthy and get back on his feet and hopefully be part of him getting back to where he was,” said Foles, who was only 16 when Brady was winning his third Super Bowl ring, against the Eagles in 2005.
If there is a gulf in experience between Brady and Foles, a chasm separates Belichick and Eagles counterpart Doug Pederson.
Belichick 65, has won seven Super Bowl rings, two as an assistant with the New York Giants and five as head coach with the Patriots, in a career spanning five decades.
Pederson, 50 and only two years into his first head coaching job, was coaching a high school team in Louisiana when Belichick won his fifth Super Bowl in 2005.
Pederson, however, says the Eagles are embracing the role of underdogs. Some of his players have even taken to wearing latex dog masks during their postseason.
“I think that’s the mentality of our football team,” Pederson said.
“I think that’s the mentality of our city, and I’m OK with that.
“I’ve been an underdog my whole career, my whole life. Everything I’ve done, I either haven’t been good enough or something negative has been written or said, and I just blow it off.” –AFP