Super Bowl preview: It’ll be boom or Pats’ bust

Douglas Flynn

It really isn’t fair. Only two other teams in the history of the NFL have won 18 games in a season. Both, the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and 1985 Chicago Bears, had their records blemished with a loss yet still are considered among the greatest teams of all time.

This year’s Patriots have already won 18 games, and they’ve done it without a single loss. Yet, if they lose Super Bowl XLII, they will not be considered  one of the greatest teams in NFL history alongside their fellow 18-1 forebears.

Instead, they’ll be seen as the ultimate chokers, ridiculed for winning every game they played except the one that mattered most.

Finishing touch

Everything  they’ve already accomplished – the first perfect record in a 16-game regular season, the record 589 points, the individual marks set by Tom Brady and Randy Moss – will all be overshadowed with just one slipup Sunday.

“It’s only special if we can finish it,” said linebacker Junior Seau. “The 18-0 record is nothing without finishing.”

Now that’s pressure. But it’s a pressure the Pats have been dealing with for months now. Since they won at then-fellow-unbeaten Indianapolis in Week 9, the hype for a potential perfect season has been building and building.

“It starts with the media,” said receiver Donté Stallworth. “I think with us winning every game this year, which hasn’t been done before, people were talking about it midseason, as far as us being able to go undefeated and all this other stuff, but I’ve always felt like pressure is what you allow it to be.

“These guys here have played in, I think it’s 109 Super Bowls now. So I don’t think they’ll be worried about any pressure.”

Old pressure

The Patriots’ experience will help in handling the pressure they’re facing

. The core of the team has been through the Super Bowl hype before, and all of them have weathered the media storm of the undefeated run to get to this point.

“It’s a one-game season,” said safety Rodney Harrison. “I think you have butterflies, but I think the pressure goes away each day that you come out here.

“You prepare, you work hard and you get more familiar with the New York Giants. So I think for the last eight weeks – that confidence that you’ve built with those games – you use that as confidence for the big one. I don’t feel like we feel any pressure. Not at all.”

At least not any more than  they’ve already dealt with.


The early-season blowouts disappeared as the Pats had to struggle through close calls in late November and December, culminating with a rally from 12 points down in the second half in the regular-season finale against the Giants – the

same Giants they’ll have to beat again to finish their quest for perfection.

And a loss this time around will make that prior win, and every other win this year, seem hollow.

But as impressive as the Giants’ three straight postseason wins on the road have been, it pales in comparison to what the Pats have been building up to.

“Our goal is to win every game and we’ve been blessed to be able to do that, so now the goal is to go 19-0 because that’s the next and the last and the only step to go,” said fullback Heath Evans. “The pressure’s there, but we’re coached well enough to, hopefully, fly under that pressure.”

‘Great position’

Even with Bill Belichick at the helm, the Pats won’t be able to avoid the pressure in this one. Instead, they seem willing to embrace it.

“I think this is one of the reasons that you play the game, obviously to be in a situation like this,” said defensive lineman Richard Seymour. “We work hard all year and we’ve put ourselves in a great position. Now it’s about finishing it.”

If they don’t, their legacy will be finished. Those first 18 wins won’t mean anything. They’ll just be the setup to a lifetime of jokes at the not-so-perfect Pats’ expense.

Belichick isn’t known for his sense of humor, but don’t bet against him getting the last laugh. One more win isn’t just the perfect way to finish this season for the Pats. It’s the only way.