For almost two decades, the New England Patriots have been a model of consistency in an NFL that stresses parity. The historical figures are hard to figure.
A ninth trip to the Super Bowl in 18 years. An 11th reservation for Super Sunday. A third straight trip to the “Big Game,” the first team since the Buffalo Bills reached fourth consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-93.
The New England Patriots are back with a chance to win it all against a franchise (Rams) that was their first Super victim during this amazing run. The club’s 37-31 overtime victory at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game was the team’s 36th postseason triumph – tied for the most in NFL history with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even if you only count the team’s playoff record since 2001, a gaudy 29-10, the Pats would actually own the fifth-most postseason victories ever behind the Steelers (36), Dallas Cowboys (35), Green Bay Packers (34) and San Francisco 49ers (30).
Meanwhile, the aforementioned ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2001 is one more than the Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, with eight apiece – all tied for the second-most ever. There have been 18 straight winning campaigns, the second-longest streak in NFL annals. Since ’03, there have been 16 consecutive seasons of 10 or more victories. This year, the Patriots became the first franchise in league history to reach the playoffs for 10 straight seasons. Their 10 consecutive division titles broke a record two years ago.
There are a lot of numbers to take in. There was a somewhat similar dynasty in San Francisco from 1981-98 under head coaches Bill Walsh and George Seifert and quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. Meanwhile, this current New England run has been under the command of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the latter missing some time over this stretch either due to injury (2008) or a controversial suspension (2016). The former has the most postseason wins in NFL history, 29 of his 30 victories with the Pats. The latter basically owns all of the career playoff and Super Bowl career passing numbers.
With a victory on February 3 at Atlanta, the New England Patriots will claim their sixth Lombardi Trophy, again tying the Steelers for the most ever. It was also be postseason win No. 37, a new NFL standard. Of course, the team was in this position a year ago and came up short vs. the Philadelphia Eagles at Minneapolis. It’s been an uneven season so it’s not inconceivable that the Pats could make some more news with an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl loss. In any case, it’s a team that seemingly makes history every time it takes the field during this run.