Is this the sweetest championship of them all? And more pointedly, could it be the last of an era? Take a good, long look at pro football’s acknowledged greatest dynasty, one equally revered and reviled. It started out 17 years ago when, as lovable 14-point underdogs, the New England Patriots pulled off one of the game’s biggest upsets. Now, with their record-tying sixth Super Bowl title in their record 11th appearance, they may have earned their final acclamation against a team that was seeking to avenge that very loss in 2002 that started the Patriots on their path to greatness. In the Boston Globe’s Never Gets Old, New England fans far and wide can savor this sixth championship, earned in spite of the usual accompanying distractions. There were questions about the quarterback: was he finally too old, at 41, to carry what some saw as a mediocre team? But those who were convinced by reports that a major rift among New England’s holy trinity of owner Robert Kraft, mastermind Bill Belichick, and field marshal Brady—first reported last season—would deter them from their appointed task, simply hadn’t been paying attention. This triumvirate tunes out the noise and shows its opponents how the game should be played. Relive every moment of the 2018 regular season and 2019 NFL playoffs, from opening kickoff to the latest hoisting of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. There’s also a comprehensive Super Bowl retrospective section, which chronicles all 11 of the Patriots’ appearances in the big game since 1986. With its vibrant color photographs, essential statistics, memorable quotes, and acclaimed commentary by some of the nation’s best sportswriters, this book is the ultimate New England Patriots keepsake. Never Gets Old takes you inside the legacy and behind the scenes on an all-access pass, providing commentary and insights on Brady, Belichick, All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore and the rest of a roster that silenced the doubters once again. And it fully commemorates what Patriots Nation has known for most of the 21st century: This is a team for the ages.
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The Boston Globe was founded in 1872 and is the recipient of 23 Pulitzer Prizes. It is based in Boston.
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Stalwart defense helps Patriots achieve sixth title as Brady overcomes struggles to guide trademark fourth-quarter drive.
By Dan Shaughnessy | Globe Staff
Take those old records off the shelf. The Patriots have joined the Steelers as the winningest teams in Super Bowl history, securing their sixth Lombardi Trophy with a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
This one will not go into the vault as an instant classic. It was a punt-filled rock fight that will best be remembered for New England's staunch defense and a Rams offense that set records for futility. It was 3-3 after three quarters and the Patriots "broke it open" when Tom Brady came to life and directed a 69-yard touchdown drive to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead with seven minutes left.
It looked as if the Rams might tie it inside the five-minute mark, but quarterback Jared Goff — a Ram in the headlights all night long — threw up a wounded duck that was easily picked off by Stephon Gilmore at the 4-yard line (I think Gilmore called for a fair catch on the ball) with 4:17 left. That effectively ended it. Julian Edelman caught 10 passes for 141 yards and was named MVP of the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history.
Fortunately for the Patriots, there are no style points in these wins. Everyone knows that this was not one of the stronger Patriots editions of the Bill Belichick-Brady era. They lost five road games and were underdogs for the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City. But they overcame all the obstacles. They were smarter than the other guys at every turn. And in the end, the Hoodie earned his eighth Super Bowl ring (two as an assistant with the Giants), and 41-year-old Brady became the most decorated player in football history with his sixth championship.
The tractor-pull victory nicely bookends the Patriots' stunning upset of the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI — a seismic event that triggered our ongoing New England pro sports High Renaissance. Since young Brady stunned the Rams in 2002, the Patriots (six), Red Sox (four), Celtics and Bruins (one apiece) have won 12 championships, worn the tread on local duck boats, and made Boylston Street the Hub's 21st century Canyon of Heroes. No American four-team sports city has experienced anything like this. Ever.
"It's sweet," said Belichick. "Everyone counted us out. We're still here."
New England fans were the coveted "12th man" in the season finale. Almost 1,100 miles from Foxborough, the Super Bowl turned into a virtual home game for the Sons of Bob Kraft. It was as if the crowd was culled from extras who auditioned for "Mystic River" and "The Departed." It's safe to assert that more than half the fans at this game have eaten at a Wahlburgers at one time or another. The Patriots fans' takeover of a supposedly neutral site speaks volumes about what Belichick and Brady have built. As they did in Houston two years ago, Patriots fans shouted down NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the trophy presentation.
And so the New England Patriots are champions. Again.
To paraphrase Brady, "They're still here!" You cannot beat them. You can only be envious of them.
Let's face it: "No days off," "Do your job," and "The Patriot Way" are woven into the fabric of New England, no less than Dunkin' Donuts, traffic rotaries, and the Pops on the Esplanade on the Fourth of July. You can make a case that in New England the Patriots have transcended cult and become a regional religion.
Blasphemy? Probably not.
Consider the church marquee sign in front of St. Mary's in Foxborough on Super Bowl morning, which read, "And you shall slaughter the Rams Exodus 29:11 Go Pats"
Oh, and let's not forget the book of Daniel, where it is written, "No one could rescue the ram from the goat's power." That's GOAT. Greatest Of All Time, a.k.a. Tom Brady.
Brady was not at his MVP best in this one. He completed 21 of 35 passes for 262 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass and had one interception. His quarterback rating was 71.4. But he led the Patriots to a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter — as he has done in each of the Patriots' six Super Bowl wins.
"It was like a home game here," said Brady, holding his daughter in his arms on the victory platform. "It was an unbelievable year. We fought through everything."
"We love you guys," Edelman told the crowd while endless confetti fell onto his bearded head.
Poor Goff. Hearing Gladys Knight sing the anthem was too much for the man. LA was too much for the man. The Super Bowl was too much for the man. He was 19 of 38 for 229 yards and never got his team into the red zone. His quarterback rating was 57.9. The Rams punted on their first eight possessions. It was a defensive tour de force by Belichick and defensive play-caller Brian Flores, who is scheduled to be named head coach of the Miami Dolphins at any minute.
In his pregame interview with Jim Gray, Brady said, "We came up short last year and I think that stuck with me all year and I know how badly I want this one ... I asked God this week, 'One more, and I'll never ask for one more.' "
Clearly, God hates the Rams.
Brady's winning drive was masterful. Taking over a 3-3 game with 9:49 left, he moved the Patriots 69 yards in five plays. He completed four straight passes, feathering the last one into the arms of a diving Rob Gronkowski at the 2-yard line. It might have been the last catch of mighty Gronk's career (he would not answer the retirement question after the game). Sony Michel ran it across the goal line on the next play.
"I knew it was going to come to me and I had to make that play," said Gronk. " ... This is unbelievable. This is amazing. This is surreal. Everything we've been through this season ... just unreal."
Moments after victory was secure, Boston's mayor, Marty Walsh, tweeted, "Fire up the duck boats. @CityOfBoston! We will see you at the #SBLIII parade Tuesday at 11:00 am!"
These are certainly the good old days of Boston sports. Last October, the Red Sox won the World Series, beating the Dodgers in Game 5 as thousands of New Englanders took over Chavez Ravine.
Exactly 14 weeks later, the Patriots were crowned champs on another Sunday night while their raucous, righteous fans took over somebody else's stadium.
Maybe they can all go to the White House together.CHAPTER 2
The Patriots and Chiefs combined for 38 points in the fourth quarter, the most points in one quarter of a conference championship game.
By Christopher L. Gasper | Globe Staff
Take a bow, Bill Belichick. In the distinguished canon of your coaching career, this is one of your greatest game-planning masterpieces.
If you're looking for the most valuable Patriot from the Patriots' pulsating 37-31 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, look no further than Fort Foxborough's resident genius.
His Hoodieness pulled out all the stops at Arrowhead Stadium and pulled off one of the most impressive and satisfying playoff victories of his distinguished tenure. Sun Tzu said that every battle is won before it's ever fought. Belichick was in full Sun Tzu mode to coax the Patriots to their first road playoff victory since the 2006 season. The Nobody Believed in Us New England Patriots won on the strength of an unbelievable game plan.
The Patriots won this game before it went to overtime in Arrowhead Stadium and Rex Burkhead plowed in from two yards out, before they even touched down in Kansas City. It was won by Belichick and his coaches, who formulated a brilliant, cohesive game plan that involved both sides of the ball, limiting the passing pyrotechnics of Patrick Mahomes and the league's highest-scoring offense.
The Patriots turned this into a game of keep away, and because of that they got to keep playing into February for the third straight year, becoming the first team since the Buffalo Bills (four straight from 1990 to 1993) to advance to three straight Super Bowls. Of course, it was Belichick as the New York Giants defensive coordinator who slowed down that famous K-Gun Bills offense to help the Giants win Super Bowl XXV.
That game plan ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This one should be framed for posterity as well.
The first rule of football is that you can't score if you don't have the ball. Mahomes and the Chiefs made the most of their touches, especially in the second half, when they scored 31 points. But ultimately they didn't have the ball enough to win this game. That was by Belichick's design.
The team that seems to be immune to time, playing in its eighth straight AFC title game, pounded the rock and drained the clock. Tom Brady and Co. had the ball for 43 minutes and 59 seconds to just 20 minutes and 53 seconds for the Chiefs. The Patriots ran 94 plays to just 47 for the Chiefs, who averaged 62.5 plays per game during the regular season.
The game ended the way it started, with Mahomes helpless and powerless on the Kansas City sideline as Brady and the Patriots churned out a touchdown drive. The Patriots got the ball to start overtime, and Kansas City never got it back, New England marching 75 yards in 13 plays. Along the way, the Patriots thrice converted on third and 10. The final, deciding blow of this heavyweight fight silenced the stadium that set the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar the last time the Patriots played here, the infamous Monday Night Massacre in 2014.
Belichick knew his team wasn't suited to win a shootout with the Chiefs on their turf. So, the Patriots tried to shorten the game and the amount of time that they had to defend an offense that led the NFL with 35.3 points and 425.6 yards per game. They did that in the first half and then ended up in a second-half showdown.
Just like they did in the regular season meeting on Oct. 14, the Patriots allowed 31 second-half points to the Chiefs after silencing and flummoxing them in the first half to take a 14-0 lead.
The Patriots set the tone and the tenor of the contest with their opening drive, a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown death march for the Kansas City defense that sucked 8:05 off the clock and the enthusiasm out of the home crowd. It was the Patriots' longest touchdown drive of the season. It ended with Sony Michel barreling in from a yard out.
The Patriots possessed the ball for 12:38 of the first quarter, and the Chiefs had it for 2:22. In the first half, the Patriots were on the field for 21:07 and ran 42 offensive plays for 245 yards, while the Chiefs had the ball for 8:53 and ran just 16 plays for 32 yards.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law, and the No. 1 reason the Patriots were able to withstand the magical Mahomes and the Chiefs, who turned this one into a whiplash of lead changes in the fourth quarter and forced overtime on a field goal with eight seconds left. Mahomes made the most of his chances, but Belichick had him off balance, as he finished 16 of 31 for 295 yards with three touchdowns and four sacks.
The Patriots played heavy — literally — with 22 personnel (two backs, two tight ends, and one wide receiver). They ran the ball 25 times for 99 yards in the first half. They also broke a tendency by running the ball with third-down back James White out of 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, and three receivers) when they had predominantly been a passing team out of that formation all season long.
Brady dropped back to pass 46 times in this game, completing 30 of his throws for 348 yards. Still, the Patriots ran more than they passed, attacking the Chiefs' cotton-swab soft run defense to the tune of 48 carries for 176 yards. The yards per rush average might not be impressive, but the complementary football displayed by the Patriots was.
"Yeah, it was good," Brady said. "They have an explosive offense with [Travis] Kelce and [Tyreek] Hill and Patrick. The way he played, he played a great game. You play on the road, and it's going to be tough. What travels is running the ball and playing tough. That's good in any weather, any condition, any environment, any stadium. That was a big part of our game.
"Sony ran his butt off. Rex ran his butt off. It was a great win."
It didn't all go to Belichick's plan, as Brady threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone on third and goal in the second quarter, and the Patriots got stuffed on fourth and 1 from the K.C. 25 in the fourth quarter.
In some ways, this was reminiscent of the 2006 AFC Championship game against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots led that game 216 at the half and couldn't hold on, losing 38-34.
The Patriots led 17-7 to start the fourth quarter. They led 24-21 with 3:32 to go after a second TD run by Michel (29 carries for 113 yards) and 31-28 with 39 seconds left after a 4-yard touchdown run by Burkhead. This time they left Mahomes too much time. He drove the Chiefs to the tying field goal. But he never saw the ball again, as the Patriots won the coin toss in overtime and took the ball 75 yards in 13 plays to end it.CHAPTER 3
Road Game Warrior
By Nora Princiotti | Globe Staff
Julian Edelman loves road games, because you can quiet your doubters on the road in a way that's impossible at home. He loves the road for its opportunity to prove you can accomplish something in front of those who don't believe you can. He likes to poke the bear.
Edelman walks a fine line with the underdog stuff. Before this AFC Championship Game, he sold "Bet Against Us" T-shirts on his website. Edelman walked off the field at Arrowhead Stadium exactly how he wanted to, with the shrieks of his victorious teammates piercing the dejected silence of the crowd drifting out into the cold and the offseason, but it took two of the biggest catches of the Patriots' season in overtime to make that happen. Midway through the fourth quarter, it looked as if Edelman might have won that bet for those he taunted when a sequence involving the receiver gave the Chiefs their first lead late in the game.
"It's part of the game," Edelman said. "I always preach you've got to have a short memory, whether it's good or bad. That was a bad play. I felt awful. But you've got to move on."
The events Edelman needed to move on from began with the muffed punt that wasn't — it doesn't have a name yet, but it will get one. It came with 8:47 left in regulation after Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt knocked one to the Patriots' 31yard line, with Edelman deep to return it.
Edelman should have cleared out of the way. Instead, he let the ball bounce in front of him and up over his bicep, maybe touching his left thumb, maybe not. He didn't field it, and Kansas City receiver Gehrig Dieter snatched the football and ran for the end zone. The play was ruled a muffed punt and recovery by the Chiefs.
It was reviewed automatically, and for an eternity. Video replays weren't clear, it appeared impossible to tell if the ball had grazed Edelman's thumb or missed him by millimeters. Regardless, it seemed like a tough call to overturn.
But then it was overturned, and there was outrage. Beer cans flew around Arrowhead Stadium until, just two plays later, football justice was served.
Tom Brady targeted Edelman with his first throw of the ensuing drive. The ball bounced off Edelman's fingertips — it certainly touched them that time — and into the hands of Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen. Two plays later Kansas City took its first lead of the game. But the Patriots came back and then the Chiefs responded and at the end of regulation they were tied.
You know what happened next. On the game-winning drive in overtime, Edelman went over the middle and converted two gotta-have-it plays on third and 10, one for 20 yards and the other for 15, connecting with Brady as he always seems to this time of year.
"Jules is going to get open, Tom is going to find him, Jules is going to make the play," Phillip Dorsett said. "It's amazing. It's something like I've never seen before between two players."
In a game that both teams seemed to win and lose a dozen times over, Edelman came through in the end, and finished with seven catches on 10 targets for 96 yards. This is a player whose team struggled without him in the first month of the season, when he was suspended. Guilt comes with that. It's also a player who missed last year with a torn ACL and who felt conflicting emotions watching his team go to a Super Bowl without him.
"He's a competitor," said Matthew Slater. "He's going to take those things hard but he's going to keep fighting. That's the story not only of Julian Edelman, that's the story of all 53 guys on this team."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Never Gets Old"
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Facts & Figures,