Little margin for error: Patriots’ titles haven’t come easy
The New England Patriots are 5-2 in Super Bowls with Tom Brady.
They were thisclose to being 7-0.
So when folks wonder why the spread against Philadelphia is between 5 and 6 points, they should consider that the total difference in scoring in those seven games is 12 points: Patriots 169, opponents 157.
“If you look at a Patriots Super Bowl, a lot of people feel that the Patriots are going to be dominant and they should just wipe the floor with whoever they play,” says Jay Kornegay of the Westgate Las Vegas sports book.
“The reality is all their Super Bowl wins have been in very close games. Last year’s six-point victory was their largest margin of victory in all their Super Bowls.
“We expect the Eagles to be competitive and we expect them to get some support from the general public. This is the only event we make a line that depends on public opinion. There’s so much money from the public on this game than you would get from the so-called sharks.”
New England has not exactly been a pool of sharks in those Super Bowls. Consider that the Patriots have not scored a point in the opening quarter of any of those seven games. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
And while Brady certainly has deserved his four Super Bowl MVP trophies, particularly in the past two Patriots wins, aside from the most successful quarterback in the modern NFL era, there hasn’t been much to separate New England from the vanquished opposition.
Patriots 20, Rams 17: Super Bowl 36, Feb. 3, 2002
New England’s defense was masterful against the “Greatest Show on Turf”, playing an ultra-physical style that eventually led to some rules changes on how defenders could interact with receivers. Still, the Patriots blew a 17-3 lead and St. Louis tied it with 1:30 left.
That’s when Brady first showed he was, well, Brady. Rams coach Mike Martz, who ignored star running back Marshall Faulk far too often on a day begging for a run game, thought New England would play for OT. Instead, Brady, then 24, led his team to Adam Vinatieri’s winning field goal.
Patriots 32, Panthers 29: Super Bowl 38, Feb. 1, 2004
Again, the Patriots lost a late lead in a strange game, with all the scoring coming in the second and fourth quarters. The Panthers’ John Kasay, one of the league’s most reliable kickers, sent the kickoff following the tying TD out of bounds with 1:08 remaining. From their 40, the Patriots easily moved in position for another winning field goal by Vinatieri.
Patriots 24, Eagles 21: Super Bowl 39, Feb. 6, 2005
New England repeated, helped greatly by Philadelphia’s ineffectiveness in a hurry-up offense — and Eagles QB Donovan McNabb vomiting in the huddle at one point. But Philly did have the ball and a chance to win with less than a minute left before Rodney Harrison’s interception.
Giants 17, Patriots 14: Super Bowl 42, Feb. 3, 2008
This is the biggest head scratcher because the Patriots were undefeated, unstoppable on offense and chasing history. Yet Tom Coughlin and his staff outcoached Bill Belichick and his assistants, and a New England squad that averaged nearly 37 points was befuddled by New York’s pressure D.
Giants 21, Patriots 17: Super Bowl 46, Feb. 5, 2012
Coughlin and Eli Manning got the better of Belichick and Brady again, with a similar formula and some huge plays. But, just as in the 2008 Super Bowl, New England led late in the fourth quarter.
Patriots 28, Seahawks 24: Super Bowl 49, Feb. 1, 2015
This one will always be remembered for Seattle’s incomprehensible decision to throw from the New England 1-yard line in the final moments rather than hand off to Marshawn Lynch — who, incidentally, is nicknamed “Beast Mode”.
The Patriots were within a few feet and a few ticks of the clock of losing a third straight Super Bowl appearance. But Brady was sensational in bringing his team back from a 24-14 fourth-quarter deficit. At the time, that was the biggest second-half rally in Super Bowl history.
Patriots 34, Falcons 28, OT: Super Bowl 51, Feb. 5, 2017
Still shaking your head over this one? So is the rest of the nation outside New England — and maybe some folks there, as well.
This is when Brady leaped beyond the Joe Montanas and Otto Grahams of pro football to establish himself as the measuring stick at his position. Keeping his team hungry and focused while down 28-3 in the third quarter cemented his unequaled leadership.
Remember, though, that the tiring Falcons had an 8-point lead and were within easy field goal range as the clock ticked down. They came away with nothing after some curious and ill-advised play calling, instead playing right into Brady’s hands.
The lessons here are clear, for fans (and bettors) of all kinds:
New England has been beatable in its past seven Super Bowl appearances. And it lost only twice.