Guregian: Pats eager to help lift Belichick and Brady to the top of the heap
HOUSTON — Since Day 1, the mission was clear for the Patriots. It’s been etched in their brains.
The minute they hit training camp in July, they had their eye on the prize. It’s always been about Super Bowl LI.
It’s always been about winning. They want to hoist the Lombardi Trophy one more time. That’s been the Patriots goal and endgame for so many reasons.
But let’s start with the most significant: A victory over the Atlanta Falcons will launch both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick into a stratosphere where no other quarterback and coach have gone during the Super Bowl era.
A win would mark the fifth championship for both men, and further cement their respective legacies as the greatest of all time.
Brady would leap over fellow greats Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with a victory tonight. No other quarterback has five Super Bowl championships. Belichick, meanwhile, would vault over Steelers legend Chuck Noll. So he would also be in that rarefied air, by himself on the pedestal.
During the buildup last week, Brady and Belichick were each asked what that would mean, and naturally, both deflected the question. Brady wanted no part of the legacy discussion, while Belichick conveyed indifference. He was just focused on the game.
The players, however, were the opposite. They seemed well aware of what winning would mean not just for themselves, but in the big picture. They knew what was at stake by claiming Title No.?5.
Safety Duron Harmon couldn’t say enough about how he wanted to get the job done for Brady and Belichick.
“It would be amazing. Those guys, they’ve been so pivotal for me, in my career, helping me become a better player,” Harmon said. “Tom, continually having conversations with me, to help me be better, and Bill Belichick, literally challenging me each and every day to be a better player, never letting me be satisfied. If (I) can do anything to help them reach a different stratosphere when it comes to being great, I would be eager and blessed to be able to do that.”
Safety Patrick Chung also voiced a strong desire to win and make it happen for No.?12. Forget apathy, Chung is one of the biggest cheerleaders for the cause.
“It’s great. No one has that opportunity,” Chung said of a fifth title. “As a team, as his teammates, as his brothers, we have to go out here and make sure that he can go down in history. It’s going to take a lot of effort for everybody, all 53 people. I’m happy for him, but not going to be as happy if we don’t get that for him.”
Brady, in turn, has said he’s motivated to win for his teammates. And you can take that to the bank. But there’s been so much more going on with the Patriots quarterback during the drive for five.
A win not only seals his place in history, but also makes for a forceful response to his Deflategate suspension, which he served over the first four games of the season.
He couldn’t write a better script to close out the Revenge Tour. But listening to Brady last week, legacies and revenge won’t be on his mind when he takes the field tonight.
An emotional Brady spoke about some personal issues that have been weighing on him, as his mother Galynn has been dealing with a serious illness.
The three-time Super Bowl MVP wants to add to his ring collection, for sure, but putting it all into perspective, he’s hoping to do something special for his ailing mother, along with his father today as he strives to win another championship.
“It’s personal with my family and I’m just hoping everyone’s here (tonight) to share in a great experience,” Brady said. “But it’s just been a tough year. Every family goes through different things and my family’s always been a great support system for me and hopefully we can make everyone happy (tonight).”
As for Belichick, it would seem only fitting for him to emerge on the top spot on the ring ladder after one of the best coaching jobs of his career.
He navigated the team through Brady’s four-game suspension, dealt with the aftershocks of trading Jamie Collins as well as benching top defensive player Jabaal Sheard, and saw his team come out stronger.
Newcomer Chris Hogan, brought aboard as a free agent, has been transformed by the Patriots culture created by Belichick. He’s never been in a place where there’s such an expectation of winning, and not being satisfied with anything less.
The wide receiver is quick to credit his head coach. He’s never felt more prepared to play week to week, and that won’t be any different tonight against the Falcons.
“Coach Belichick is great. He is one of the best coaches I have ever been around,” Hogan said. “He does a great job of getting us ready to play every single Sunday and getting us prepared for every situation that we are going to face and making sure we are ready for everything. He does a great job of that every single week.”
Four Super Bowl wins is certainly testament of that, but a fifth would put it off the charts. It would be tough to argue with those results.
And for the players, it would be the culmination of another year of working hard, buying into the program and following the lead of the two men who are bound to go down as the greatest in the game.
“It’s something that we want for everybody, this whole organization,” Harmon said. “This team is different. It’s different than the 2014 team. It’s something that I want for all my brothers, all the coaches, the whole staff because it’s something that we’ve worked so hard for. It’s something that for eight months out of the year we put everything we have into it to be Super Bowl champions.”
So it’s down to one more game.
One more time.