If the Rams win the Super Bowl in Atlanta today, it could very well be the beginning of a dynasty. And even if it's not, it'll be at least sweet revenge to get a title against the team that launched their own dynasty with a win over the same franchise.
Is the dynasty talk premature? Sure. But even Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were at one time just two guys looking for the their first Super Bowl win. That time was February 2002, when the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams as massive underdogs in the Super Bowl and began what would become the greatest dynasty in the modern era of sports. Seventeen years later, the Patriots will be competing in their ninth Super Bowl (stream it right here on CBSSports.com) in 18 years on Sunday facing the Rams once again.
Back in the 2001 season, Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe during the second game of the regular season, led the Pats to an 11-3 record in 14 starts then led the team to three consecutive playoff victories (with a little help from Bledsoe in the AFC title game) to capture the Patriots' first Super Bowl title.
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The opponent in that incredible 2002 Super Bowl victory was the Rams, who boasted an offense that was better than any in the league. Kurt Warner. Marshall Faulk. Isaac Bruce. Torry Holt. They were damn near unstoppable. They were the Greatest Show on Turf. And the Patriots beat them, 20-17, on a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
In the ensuing years, the Patriots have become the greatest dynasty in football history. Since 2001, the Patriots have won 220 regular-season games -- 32 more than any other team in the league. They have outscored their regular season opponents by 2,645 points -- nearly twice as many as the next-closest team. They have won the AFC East an incredible 16 times, including a completely preposterous (and still active) streak of 10 in a row.
They have also had unparalleled playoff success during that time. New England is 29-10 in playoff games since 2001, which is the equivalent of being a 12-win team while playing another playoff team every single week of the season. They have almost twice as many playoff wins as the next closest team (the Steelers, at 15). The Patriots have won five Super Bowls during the Brady-Belichick era, the most recent of them just two years ago. They've lost three. No other team has even been to the Super Bowl more than three times during the same stretch since 2001.
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On Feb. 3 in Atlanta, the Patriots will try once again for ring No. 6. And they'll do it against the team that started the run in the first place: the Rams. They've moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles and not a single player or coach is left in the organization from the first time around, but it feels perfect to have Brady and Belichick still at the top of their respective games and taking on the same team that sent them on this ride in the first place.
They have to deal with a different, but still potent, Rams offense this time around. It's once again led by a genius offensive coach, with Sean McVay now playing the role of Mike Martz. It once again features an incredibly talented running back (or two), with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson stepping in for Marshall Faulk. They have terrific receivers like Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods filling the roles of Bruce and Holt. And they have stars on defense like Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and more.
This one should be a whole lot of fun.