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Super Bowl XXXIX may have sealed Patriots legacy

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NICE, France – Three championship titles in four years. Can there any longer be any doubt that the New England Patriots are arguably the greatest team in the history of professional football?

Granted, New England has not exactly kicked butt in any of their Super Bowl victories. They have all been nail-biters. The first two wins (Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII) were decided by last-minute field goals. At least this time the Patriots spared themselves that sort of crunch by building up an adequate lead that their defense protected. But Pats quarterback Tom Brady was a bit out-of-character in last night’s contest, relying on a running game, instead of the passing game that has largely become his hallmark style of play.

Philadelphia outplayed us early and matched us on defense. It gave Patriots fans like myself pause for thought. My wife and I watched the game from an English bar here on the Cote d’Azur and midway throughout the 1st quarter, an Eagles fan sidled up to me and prophesized, “You’re gonna lose, buddy.”

Ah, the arrogance of a hungry fan whose team has not gone this far since 1969! I nonchalantly told him, “Nah, I’m not worried.”

The Patriots did pull off some great plays, sacking McNabb and intercepting the ball, even in the Eagles’ end zone. But I think the real talent lied in Brady fighting off the blitz.

New England went to Jacksonville as the defending champions and left as the reigning champions. It’s hard to believe this is the same 1-15 team that threatened to move to Hartford in the mid-’90s.

The NFL makes it very difficult for any one team to dominate year after year. Indeed, that maxim was brought home to Pats fans during the 2002 season when they went only 9-7 and saw their title pass to Tampa Bay.

But could it be that the Patriots, with two straight championship titles, are the New York Yankees of professional football?

The 2005 season will determine that beyond any doubts that continue to linger. Bring it on!

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