Patriots, Brady eye records vs underdog Eagles in Super Bowl

Sunday, February 04, 2018

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MINNEAPOLIS, United States (AFP) — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will have a slew of records in their sights today as they aim to defend their Super Bowl crown against a Philadelphia Eagles chasing a first-ever win.

Brady, 40, will become the oldest quarterback in history to win the Lombardi Trophy if he successfully leads the Patriots to a record-equalling sixth title.

A sixth title for Brady would also give him more Super Bowl rings than any other player in history, taking him one clear of San Francisco 49ers great Charles Haley.

Win or lose, Brady will already become the oldest non-kicker to play in the showpiece when he suits up Sunday, 16 years after guiding the Patriots to his first Super Bowl triumph, a 20-17 defeat of the St Louis Rams in 2002.

More than 100 million households in the United States are expected to tune in for Brady's latest tilt with “Father Time”, ending a tumultuous NFL season rocked by player protests and a feud with President Donald Trump.

Trump triggered a furious backlash across the NFL last September after making disparaging remarks about mostly African American players who refused to stand for the national anthem in a protest against social injustices.

Advertisers are expected to steer clear of politically charged TV ads, in contrast to last year, when issues such as immigration and women's rights were tackled.

Pop star Justin Timberlake, who headlines the half-time show, will also aim to avoid controversy, 14 years after the TV-watching nation were scandalised by Janet Jackson in the “Nipplegate” furore.

Today's finale comes one year after Brady inspired New England to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, when the Patriots overturned a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime. Since then, the veteran quarterback has shown signs of being on the wane.

He has amassed a league-leading 4,577 yards this season, and was the favourite to be named the NFL's season MVP yesterday.

Brady, who will be playing in his eighth Super Bowl, has no interest in savouring the accolades or reflecting on his place at the very top of the NFL's pantheon.

“I don't think much about legacy, I never have,” he told reporters. “My motivation comes from just trying to be the best I can be for this team. What's happened in the past is great, but it's not going to win us anything this weekend.”

Yet there are undeniable clouds on the horizon for the Patriots machine, the so-called Evil Empire who remain the team that America loves to hate.

Two of head coach Bill Belichick's most trusted lieutenants, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive counterpart Matt Patricia, are expected to depart at the end of the season to pursue opportunities as head coaches.

And the Boston franchise's campaign has also been jolted by a reported rift — denied — between Belichick, Brady and team owner Robert Kraft, sparked by the shock trade of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in October.

Lying in wait for Brady and Belichick are an Eagles team who powered into the Super Bowl with a 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Eagles sealed their place thanks to a dazzling display from quarterback Nick Foles, the back-up who was thrust into the starting position after an injury ended Carson Wentz's season in December.

Foles, 29, was only 16 when Brady was winning his third Super Bowl ring, against the Eagles in 2005.

If there is a gulf in experience between Brady and Foles, a chasm separates Belichick and Eagles counterpart Doug Pederson.

Belichick, 65, has won seven Super Bowl rings, two as an assistant with the New York Giants and five as head coach with the Patriots, in a career spanning five decades.

Pederson, 50 and only two years into his first job as head coach, was coaching a high school team in Louisiana when Belichick won his fifth Super Bowl in 2005.

Pederson, however, says the Eagles are embracing the role of underdogs. Some of his players have even taken to wearing latex dog masks during their post-season.

“I've been an underdog my whole career, my whole life,” Pederson said. “I think that's the mentality of our football team,” Pederson said. “I think that's the mentality of our city, and I'm OK with that.”

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