Monday, May 21, 2018
Sports

Pats seek elusive title

There are only three.

It's natural to believe there would be more. This is the 10th time the Patriots have made the playoffs in 13 seasons under coach Bill Belichick.

They have won a lot of those playoff games, too. Tom Brady could surpass Joe Montana as the winningest playoff quarterback in history today against the Texans. But when it comes to the big prize, the Super Bowl …

"Winning one early in my career (as a rookie), you kind of get the sense that it happens like this all the time. But it doesn't," said defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who along with Brady and receiver Deion Branch are the only remaining players from all three Super Bowl title teams.

"It's very, very hard to win at this level — at any level."

The Patriots have come close since their last title. They went 18-0 in 2007 before losing 17-14 to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Last season they had the ball in the final seconds of Super Bowl XLVI, but Brady threw incomplete into the end zone to lose 21-17 to the Giants.

It has been so long since the Patriots won a Super Bowl that the quarterback they faced in that game — the Eagles' Donovan McNabb in Super Bowl XXXIX for the 2004 season — no longer is in the league. It was their third title in four seasons.

"That was some kid back then," Brady, 35, said of looking back on his first Super Bowl title, a 20-17 win over the Rams that wrapped up the 2001 season.

"You really don't quite understand what has happened or what has been accomplished until you try so many times and you don't get to accomplish those things. It's very hard to win that final game of the year."

Getting to this point is routine for New England. Since its last Super Bowl title, it has been to the playoffs in six of seven seasons and won at least one playoff game four times. But in many ways, it is as inexperienced at winning it all as the Texans, who had never been to the playoffs until last season.

The Patriots, though, believe they have the advantage of experience, even if it has not been all good.

"You have to understand what's at stake," Wilfork said. "I think that's the biggest thing for this team to understand, where we're at and what it's going to take to win. That's when you talk about how many times you've been in the postseason.

"But if you can't put it out and you can't execute, I don't care how many times you've been at this level or how many games you've played in the postseason, it won't matter. It will not matter."

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Published: 05/20/18