The Patriots will play in their 11th Super Bowl in franchise history on Sunday night. Super Bowl LIII is their third in a row and ninth during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. A coach/quarterback combo appearing in nine Super Bowls together in unprecedented. Roger Staubach and Tom Landry are second on that list with five appearances. Brady and Belichick have already won five Super Bowls together. And now, a sixth ring is within grasp. If the Patriots do win, they would tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl championships in franchise history.
Here is a ranking of the Patriots’ teams from their ten previous Super Bowl appearances:
10. Super Bowl XX (Chicago Bears 46 New England Patriots 10)
This is easily the worst Super Bowl in Patriots’ history, as they were dominated by the famous 1985 Chicago Bears. Granted, they were playing the team that a lot of people recognize as the best football team of all time. But losing by 36 in a Super Bowl (where they were down 44-3 entering the fourth quarter) certainly puts them last on this list.
Then Pats head coach Raymond Berry is in the Hall of Fame, but as a player not as a coach. And then Pats quarterback Steve Grogan is all but forgotten in NFL history. This New England team made the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. If you’re gonna finish second in a season, it might as well be to arguably the greatest team of all time.
9. Super Bowl XXXI (Green Bay Packers 35 Patriots 21)
Drew Bledsoe was this Patriots team’s quarterback and former two time Super Bowl champion head coach Bill Parcells was at the helm. This team wasn’t able to finish the job in what ended up being Packers quarterback Brett Favre’s lone Super Bowl championship, but they had a successful season. It was the Patriots’ second Super Bowl appearance ever and presented a bright future for the team.
Bledsoe threw four interceptions the Packers held Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin to under four yards per carry. As a side note, Bill Belichick was the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach of this Pats team. They had a glimpse of their future glory under Belichick.
8. Super Bowl XLVI (New York Giants 21 Patriots 17)
Not only have Brady and Belichick appeared in eight Patriots Super Bowls before 2018-2019, but those are the eight greatest seasons in franchise history. Super Bowl XLVI was the second time in five seasons the Pats lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. This team was a normal Patriots team of this era. They dominated in the regular season on their way to a 13-3 record and the number one seed.
This was a great team, but nothing special compared to their other AFC champion squads. Brady was great as always and led a drive in the fourth quarter to put his team on top. But the Giants drove down the field and scored to take the lead with very little time remaining. New England ended up with their second SB loss of the B&B era.
7. Super Bowl LII (Philadelphia Eagles 41 Patriots 33)
This was a crazy Super Bowl but ended up going against New England’s favor. The back and forth shootout essentially ended when Brady lost the ball on a strip sack by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham.
While the Patriots gave up over 30 points for the first time with Belichick as head coach in the Super Bowl, that didn’t stop the offense from keeping the team in the game. Brady, at 40 years old, threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating over 115. It wasn’t enough to lead his team to victory, but did show the NFL that he can still play despite his age.
At one point, it seemed like Brady and the Pats would close this game out in typical New England fashion, but the Eagles just one more play than they did. Nevertheless, the Patriots did make back to back Super Bowls for the first time since 2003 and 2004.
6. Super Bowl XXXVIII (Patriots 32 Carolina Panthers 29)
For the second time in three years, New England won the Super Bowl. And for the second time in three years, Tom Brady led a clutch game-winning drive to win the Super Bowl. What’s funny on the other side of the game is the story of Panthers’ receiver Ricky Proehl.
Two years earlier, Proehl was a receiver for the Rams. He, a no-namer at the time, caught a game-tying touchdown with under 1:30 left in the Super Bowl. But Brady drove down the field and set up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning field goal. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, Proehl was playing for the Panthers. In a series of deja-vu events, Proehl caught a game-tying touchdown for Carolina with 1:08 left on the clock. And again, Brady drove down the field to set up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning field goal. For the second time in three years, Brady and Vinatieri stole Super Bowl heroics from Ricky Proehl.
5. Super Bowl XLIX (Patriots 28 Seattle Seahawks 24)
This Super Bowl victory was a huge one for Tom Brady. The team hadn’t won a ring in ten years, since 2004, and the defense was the main reason for all three of New England’s early 2000s championships.
By winning this Super Bowl, Brady finally was the best and most important player on a championship team. In addition, it legitimized the entire previous decade to be considered a dynasty for the organization. Malcolm Butler made a tremendous goalline interception of Russell Wilson to seal the game for New England. Without his help, they may have been stuck at three Super Bowls for even longer.
4. Super Bowl LI (Patriots 34 Atlanta Falcons 28)
Down 28-3 midway through the third quarter, New England stormed back to tie the game in regulation and win in overtime. Not only was this the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, but it was also the third largest comeback in NFL playoff history.
New England looked all but dead after the Falcons entered the third quarter up 21-3 and scored another touchdown to extend their lead. Everything had to go perfectly for them to even have a chance, and well, let’s just say everything went perfectly. The defense made plays, from Dont’a Hightower’s strip sack to a sack of Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter to knock Atlanta out of field goal range. With only about four minutes left, that field goal would most likely have iced the game. And since incredible catch after incredible catch had gone against the Patriots in previous Super Bowls, it was time for one to go in their favor. Receiver Julian Edelman barely kept the ball off the grass to make a key reception during their game-tying drive. The Pats went on to tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Then, they won the coin toss and finished off the comeback one drive into overtime.
This is the game that, in many people’s mind, put Tom Brady as clearly the greatest quarterback of all time. It also tied Bill Belichick in championships with Vince Lombardi and made cemented Belichick as probably the greatest NFL coach of all time.
3. Super Bowl XXXVI (Patriots 20 St. Louis Rams 17)
One of the biggest upsets in the Super Bowl era earned the Patriots their first Super Bowl in franchise history. St. Louis’ offense, known as the “Greatest Show on Turf” was led by Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. All four are current or soon to be Hall of Famers. The Rams were the defending Super Bowl champions and had been dominant all season long. However, New England came out to play and Tom Brady ended the game with one of his many game-winning drives.
This was also the season of the infamous “Tuck Rule” game between the Patriots and Oakland Raiders in the divisional round. Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson strip-sacked Tom Brady and the Raiders recovered to clinch the game for Oakland. However, the call was overturned because of the Tuck-rule, since Brady was tucking the ball after his throwing motion when the hit occurred. New England kept the ball, tied it with an Adam Vinatieri 45-yard field goal in heavy snow. They won in OT with another kick by Vinatieri.
This was the season when Tom Brady’s mystique began to glow, with one clutch drive after another. As a reminder, this was the first game where Brady and Vinatieri stole Ricky Proehl’s Super Bowl magic
2. Super Bowl XLII (New York Giants 17 Patriots 14)
This team cannot be number one because they didn’t complete the job and win the Super Bowl. However, looking at the roster and full body of work, this was clearly the best football team in Patriots’ History. Brady had his best season ever, winning MVP unanimously. He had 50 touchdowns to only eight interceptions. Randy Moss was at his peak and finished the season with an NFL record 23 receiving touchdowns. New England even had the best offensive line in the league.
Defensively, this team had new stars as well as returning ones from their previous SB runs. Players like Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau, Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel were on the roster. This was as loaded as a team can get in the modern era. Naturally, they came as close to perfection as anyone since the NFL expanded the regular season to 16 games. At 18-0, the Pats were nearly unanimous favorites to win the Super Bowl. But it wasn’t meant to be, as David Tyree’s helmet catch led a Giants game-winning drive.
This team didn’t finish on top of the NFL, but was definitely the best team in football that season. They were inches away from going down as the greatest football team of all time.
1. Super Bowl XXXIX (Patriots 24 Philadelphia Eagles 21)
After winning Super Bowl 39, the Patriots claimed a third Super Bowl in four years. They redefined the definition of an NFL dynasty and continue to do so. This season, New England’s defense was number two in the league, allowing only 16.3 points per game. They had guys like Bruschi, Harrison and Ty Law, among others, shutting teams down.
In addition, this was the season when Brady started to go from a piece of the Patriots puzzle to a major reason they would contend for the championship. He made his second career Pro Bowl and played extremely well in the playoffs. Tom Brady completed nearly 68% of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions throughout the postseason. In addition, his 109.4 playoff passer rating is still his highest in any single postseason run. It was a big jump from the 77.3 and 84.5 passer ratings he had in New England’s two previous Super Bowl-winning runs.
Defensive excellence, the rise of Tom Brady and capping off the season with a Super Bowl championship make the 2004-2005 Patriots the greatest team in franchise history.
Featured image by The Boston Globe
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