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The New England legacy adds another layer

The New England Patriots will now have to make room for another championship banner at Gillette Stadium.
The New England Patriots will now have to make room for another championship banner at Gillette Stadium. - Richard MacKenzie

Penalty Shots

It was fitting the best line after the Super Bowl came from the game’s most valuable player – New England Patriots wide-receiver Julian Edelman.

“I'll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day,” Edelman said, a clear reference to the Super Bowl one year before which the Pats lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 41-33, despite Tom Brady’s record-setting 505 yards in the air, including three touchdown passes, and New England’s 613 total yards of offence.

The Patriots would only accumulate 407 total yards in this Super Bowl but by holding the Los Angeles Rams to a paltry 260, they won the lowest scoring Super Bowl in the history of the game, 13-3.

A lot of people may argue that in such a low-scoring, defensive affair, it doesn’t seem right to have an offensive player, such as New England’s veteran slot receiver, who caught 10 balls for 141 yards, as the game’s MVP. The counter would be, while New England’s defense was stout, there was no player who really stood out above his teammates; a clear testament to the overall team effort by the Pats on that side of the ball, which stymied the NFL’s second best offence in the regular season, led by Rams’ coach Sean McVay’s creative play-calling and the talents of quarterback Jared Goff and running back Toddy Gurley.

If you had to single out one player, my pick would be linebacker Dont’a Hightower who had two sacks and contributed to a number of other hurries by Goff. But, you could say the latter about pretty much all of New England’s defence, including safeties Jonathan Jones (one sack) and Patrick Chung (before he broke his arm), who brilliantly disguised whether they would be near the line or dropping back in coverage.

I like the choice of Edelman too since he represents the Patriots’ Way of finding and developing players which might escape the radar of other organizations.

A quarterback at not-exactly-a-college-power Kent State, the Pats drafted him in the seventh round, envisioning him in the role he has now, which includes punt returner on special teams.

It should also be noted Edelman played a little bit of cornerback for the Pats in his early days, and covered on kick-offs and punts.

That versatility, as well as his physical and mental toughness, defines him as the perfect New England player; the type of players which have helped coach Bill Belichick and Brady maintain the dynasty which started in 2001 with a Super Bowl victory over, fittingly, the Rams. That game is also remembered for a gem of a defensive game-plan orchestrated by the head coach.

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Super blah

This year’s Super Bowl is being described as one of the worst and most boring.

I certainly agree there weren’t a lot of highlights (true for most defensive battles in sports) but, as a Pats fan, and even a football fan in general, I would say it, at least, still had drama, as the game was tied or within one score for, virtually, the entire contest (New England’s field goal with 1:12 left put them up by 10). Those referring to it as the ‘worst’ must be forgetting all those blowouts in the 1980s and early 90s where the games were, for the most part, over by half-time.

In fact, it was those types of results which inspired the league to develop a structure where parity would be paramount. A salary cap, greater free agency, weighted schedule, draft order; all these changes were instituted to make it harder for the traditional powers – the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers – to stay on top. Dynasties of the past, they said, would be impossible to achieve.

And yet, under that leveling-the-playing-field structure, the Patriots have put together an 18-year run of success unmatched in the annals of the NFL and, considering the odds stacked against such a run, perhaps all of North American team sports.

Belichick, Brady and team owner Robert Kraft have been the constants over that time but it has been the Edelmans, Chungs and Hightowers of this generation, and the Troy Browns, Tedy Bruschis and Vince Wilforks of the past, which have played an integral part in maintaining this unprecedented level of success and excellence.

How much longer can it go on … we’ll see?

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