Ron Hobson: Hard to predict the Patriots would be this good

Ron Hobson

Never saw this coming.

Sure, the Patriots have been good. They won three Super Bowls in this decade and that qualified them for the honor of the best team of the decade.

But where was the sign the Patriots could have put together an undefeated season?

Never saw it coming.

Sure, the offseason acquisitions were solid. But let’s face it, how many of your friends said Randy Moss was a problem that could infect the clubhouse when he was signed? But there was not a sign of it.

Wes Welker? He was just a role player with a poor Miami Dolphins team wasn’t he? Now he’s a game-breaker.

Never expected what Welker has become.

It’s just that as long as they continue to succeed, the more we are amazed. It’s a team unlike any we have seen over the past five decades the NFL. They are the best of all time if they win Sunday night’s Super Bowl against the New York Giants.

How could you say anything else?

We hear comparisons with the 1966 Green Bay Packers. Forget it. That offensive line averaged 250 pounds. It was a different time and a different game.

This week, we have a chance to try to figure out what makes the Patriots so unique. What makes them tick day in and day out when the pressure continues to rise during the season?

They are talented, of course. They have a great quarterback, which is a must. They are versatile offensively, which keeps opponents on edge. Their defense has complemented the offenses.

Bill Belichick always has this team prepared. But there is one thing he has been able to do that keeps his team on top of the elite in the NFL.

Belichick keeps them hungry.

The Patriots have an insatiable appetite for titles. They are the hungriest team in the game. Isn’t that what made the Celtics a dynasty? They loved socking away championships and loved being in the middle of a championship playoff.

It’s the same for the Patriots. Last year, when the team was a play away from making it to the Super Bowl, you would have thought they needed help from a therapist to recover from the loss to the Colts. Maybe it was that loss that propelled them to their current position.

You can see this week the Patriots veterans who have been to three, and in some cases four, previous Super Bowls, are basking in the experience.

Forget the word distraction when it comes to the build-up for the Patriots. Tom Brady says he loves getting in front of the media horde and talking about how his team got here this week.

“I think I love my job and there is nothing I would rather do than play quarterback for the New England Patriots,” Brady said. “None of this gets in the way because, at the end of the day, I think that this is what is extremely important in my life.”

You’ll notice when you watch all those media events, Brady has a smile on his face. It’s not forced. He is truly happy about being the quarterback of this record-breaking team.

He’s not alone. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi is particularly thrilled to be back in a Super Bowl, the fifth for him. He was a member of the 1996 team that played and lost to the Packers. He is also a stroke survivor and this game takes on an even greater meaning to his career.

Every one of the Patriots has a chance to become legends. Their names will be spoken for years to come because they were on the only 19-0 football team in NFL history.

“That’s a great opportunity,” Brady said. “It means so much to all of us.”

There is no air of invincibility with this Patriots team despite the fact they may look invincible at times. Belichick has kept this team, grounded all season.

They legitimately realize they could be beaten by the Giants, like they almost were in the final game of the regular season.

“Even ourselves, within the team, we don’t consider ourselves invincible,” Bruschi said. “The minute you consider yourselves invincible, you’re letting your guard down. If you think you can’t be beat, that’s the wrong thought to have.”

Of course, Bruschi is right, but there have been so many Super Bowl teams that went into the game cocksure they had a mastery over their opponent.

Most have been disappointed.

We will know by the end of the week if the Patriots are the greatest football team of all time. They seem to have the right mix of veterans and youngsters.

But a number of the players you will cheer on this Sunday won’t be there next year. It’s the way it is when you have 39-year-old linebacker like Junior Seau.

Based on what has happened here since 2001, there will be new faces with the same hungry desire to win another Super Bowl a year from now.

But, first, they have to complete what we never expected -- an undefeated season and postseason.

It’s something we never saw coming.

The Patriot Ledger

Success story

Since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, the Patriots have been one of the NFL’s elite franchises. Over the first 14 years of Kraft’s ownership, the Pats own the NFL’s highest win total and the highest winning percentage. They have won more Super Bowl titles, conference championships and playoff games than any other NFL team. Here’s some numbers compiled since 1994:

TOTAL VICTORIES (Including postseason)

Patriots: 162

Packers: 154

Steelers: 151

Broncos: 145

Colts: 143

Eagles: 133


Patriots: 3

Broncos: 2

Eight teams: 1


Patriots: 5

Broncos: 2

Packers: 2

Steelers: 2

Rams: 2

15 teams: 1


Patriots: 17

Steelers: 12

Packers: 11

Colts: 9

Eagles: 9

Broncos: 8