The Patriots’ latest Super Bowl challenger is the Rams, in a 2002 Super Bowl rematch
The Patriots dynasty began in 2002, when a plucky team led by a 49-year-old head coach named Bill Belichick and a 24-year-old quarterback named Tom Brady upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Seventeen years later, this rematch between the two teams is seen as a few things. Youth vs. experience. Past vs. future. Brady and Belichick vs. history.
Super Bowl LIII, which is scheduled to kick off at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, is the ninth Super Bowl for Brady, now 41, and Belichick, 66. It’s the first for the youthful duo of Rams head coach Sean McVay — the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history at age 33 — and 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff.
When the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI, McVay was a high school quarterback, while Goff was just 7 years old. There’s a 17-year age gap between Goff and Brady, marking the largest age differential between opposing starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.
“Ready to go,” Goff said. “It’ll be fun. I’m excited. It’s something that you dream about, you work for. You put in all the work since even before this year. You’re constantly thinking about this game and constantly thinking about getting to this game and having a chance to play in this game, and now we have it. Now we have a chance to be world champions and have to prepare our best and get ready to go out there.”
The Rams, in their fourth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, are seeking their second Super Bowl title and first in Los Angeles. Since returning to the West Coast in 2016, the Rams have now reached the playoffs twice — both seasons under McVay. In their 21 seasons in St. Louis, the Rams reached two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta at the now-demolished Georgia Dome.
“It’s been outstanding (this week),” McVay said. “We couldn’t ask for much more. You appreciate the magnitude of this game and it’s a blessing to be here. Our players and coaches have earned the right to be here.”
The Patriots join the Buffalo Bills (1990-1993) and Miami Dolphins (1971-1973) as the third team to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls. They also extended their NFL record for Super Bowl appearances to 11.
In their illustrious careers, Brady and Belichick are each aiming for yet another milestone. Belichick has won five Super Bowls as a head coach, the most Super Bowl wins by a head coach in NFL history. Should he win a sixth, he would join George Halas and Curly Lambeau as the only NFL coaches with six championships since the league began postseason play in 1933. He also would be the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl.
“The players are playing the biggest game of the year, the biggest game of their life, coaching the biggest game of your life,” Belichick said. “It’s a great opportunity to put everything you have into it and do the best you can.”
As for Brady, a win would make him the only NFL player with six Super Bowl titles, which would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Haley (five) for the most of any player.
“Playing in this game, you have the two best teams, and you fight it out and just one team wins,” Brady said. “There’s no do overs, there isn’t any retakes or Hollywood scripts. It’s live bullets, and we got to go out there and get the job done under pressure, and I’m looking forward to it.”
New England enters the game as a slight favorite. The Patriots earned a trip to the Super Bowl with a 37-31 overtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game, while Los Angeles defeated the New Orleans Saints in an NFC title game marred by a controversial no-call from officials for pass interference that led to the Rams wining 26-23 in overtime.