The New England Patriots are in position to become one of the greatest teams in National Football League history. The Patriots' squad is poised to become just the second NFL team to win three Super Bowls in four years.
The Dallas Cowboys won championship titles in 1993, 1994 and 1996. A victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Super Bowl 39 here in Jacksonville, Florida, would give the New England Patriots a similar title run.
A bruising defense has been the hallmark of New England's success. The guiding hand of coach Bill Belichick and the cool leadership of quarterback Tom Brady helped lead the Patriots to Super Bowl titles in 2002 and 2004. New England is considered the favorite to beat Philadelphia, which is making its first Super Bowl trip in 24 years.
With Belichick at the helm, the Patriots are 9-1 in postseason play, a record equal to legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, for whom the championship trophy is named. Belichick says the achievement is the result of many factors.
"It is all the things that go into making a team,” Belichick said. “It is the preparation. It is the practice. It is teamwork. It is being able to perform under pressure and make adjustments in games, perform in critical situations and on and on and on."
A third Super Bowl in four years would give coach Belichick victories in nine successive NFL playoff games, tying another Lombardi record. Tom Brady, twice the Super Bowl most valuable player, has not lost a postseason game in eight starts. But he says he is not the only one.
"There are a bunch of guys who are 8-0 in this locker room right now,” Brady noted. “I am included. And I think we are all proud of the fact that we are going back to the Super Bowl for a second year in a row."
Like coach Belichick, lofty comparisons have linked Brady to the past. Some sportswriters have placed the 27-year-old quarterback alongside his childhood idol, Joe Montana. The San Francisco 49ers-great piled up four Super Bowl wins and eight Pro Bowl selections. Brady is headed to his second Pro Bowl this year.
Montana completed 63.2 percent of his passes. He is seventh in NFL history in touchdown passes and eighth in yards passing in 13 full seasons. Brady has completed an impressive 61.6 percent of his passes in five seasons, including his rookie year when he played just one game. Brady's eight and zero playoff record compares to Montana's 7-1 mark in his first eight postseason games before finishing his career at 16 - 7.
Sunday's Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles has already been played out this season. But it was in a meaningless preseason exhibition game when New England won, 24 - 6. This time the NFL championship is at stake.