Patriots

Patriots legacy hangs in the balance

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Patriots legacy hangs in the balance

INDIANAPOLIS Help me out, because I might be getting this all wrong.

Am I to understand that, if Asante Samuel had closed his hands a little quicker at about 10 oclock on February 3, 2008, then Tom Brady would be the best quarterback that ever played and Bill Belichick would be the greatest coach in NFL history and the Patriots would stand above the '70s Steelers and the '90s Cowboys and the '60s Packers as the greatest dynasty in NFL history?

Because, apparently, thats what it boils down to. Sunday in Indianapolis, the Patriots will play the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI and if the Patriots win, Brady, Belichick and the entire franchise vault into greatest ever with little conversation position.

Four Super Bowl wins and five appearances in 10 seasons. The sixth ring for Belichick in his coaching career, Brady with a 141-40 lifetime record and a 17-5 postseason mark.

If they lose? Then Brady and Belichick go from a pair that won three Super Bowls in a four-year stretch but despite going 86-26 since their last Super Bowl win in 2004 and authoring the only undefeated, 16-game regular-season in NFL history they have had a blemished record since 2004 because . . . well, really because Asante Samuel didnt close his hands fast enough.

If Samuel had done so in Super Bowl 42 and picked off Eli Manning on that second-and-2 play with 80 seconds remaining and the Patriots up on the Giants 14-10, then New England would have won and this game Sunday would be all about adding another layer of icing to the best team ever cake.

But Samuels failure to come up with that pick and the resultant touchdown pass to cap that Giants' drive and the 17-14 New York win, thats what makes the Patriots of 2001-2011 just greatest-ever also-rans?

Apparently so.

Because Sundays game from a Patriots standpoint has been framed as an all-or-nothing proposition. Win and end the argument. Lose and invite being relegated to a lifetime of Yeah, buts . . .

Seems kind of odd, but thats what I gather.

Brady, if he never wins another game, is already a certified Hall of Famer, Bob Costas said last week. If somehow the Patriots had won the game four years ago, and Brady has the epic season he has and then completes a perfect season and then goes and wins this one, then the only real discussion is, Is Tom Brady the greatest quarterback whos ever played? Hes still in that discussion as it is, but it might have been a 'case-closed' discussion if he could have won that one and then added this one.

And the Patriots? Would a win against the Giants make them the greatest team ever?

I think in the estimation of many, they would, said Costas. You have to remember that Walshs 49ers won three, and then won a couple more under George Seifert. Chuck
Noll was a perfect 4-for-4 in Super Bowls (with the '70s Steelers). People will contend that the league was different then and in many ways it may have been more difficult to win. You can also make the opposite case. There are always going to be apples and oranges. I dont think it would establish Bill Belichick and the Patriots as beyond question the greatest coach and the greatest team. But theyd be right there in the argument.

Costas perfectly sums up the prevailing opinion. If the Patriots win Sunday, they are then and only then in the discussion. Lose? No dice.

Which brings us back to Asante Samuel.

Which makes me wonder, is that all there is? Super Bowl wins? Thats the trump card? Even if the difference between a win and a loss in a Super Bowl is a few inches of skin and the head coach and quarterback did all they could?

Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, every Patriot coach and player had left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium expect for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

After all his teammates had left, Brady stood in one of the end zones, wearing a black jacket and black jeans, a camera dangling from his neck. He gathered in a small informal circle with his parents, Tom Brady Sr., and mother Galynn and three sisters, Maureen, Julie and Nancy. They spoke for a few minutes before Brady kissed them each and left the field.

Belichick left the field just before Brady, having spent his final minutes on the stadium turf talking to boyhood and college friends.

By 10:30 p.m. Sunday on the field they seemed almost reluctant to leave on Saturday their NFL legacies will be altered. For better or worse.

Till death and beyond.

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: