Every football team's season is unique in its own way, created independently of all other football teams, the special snowflake created by the football gods. The 2016 Atlanta Falcons have the same coach and quarterback but aren't anything like last season's team. The same goes for the 2016 New England Patriots.
But, it is worth noting that the Patriots team headed to Super Bowl LI in Houston is eerily similar to the Patriots team that played in the last Super Bowl in Houston.
The year was 2004 (after the 2003 season) and the Patriots were up against the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII (as good a Super Bowl to argue against the usage of Roman numerals as there ever has been, and also, according to yours truly, the ninth-greatest Super Bowl of all time).
Let's look at some of them.
In both cases, the game was in Houston, the Patriots were 16-2 (including the playoffs), they were shut out by the Bills during the season (in both cases that was the first loss of the season, too) and in both cases they hadn't won a Super Bowl in two whole years.
|2003 Patriots||2016 Patriots|
|W-L (including playoffs)||16-2||16-2|
|Super Bowl location||Houston||Houston|
|Last trailed||Week 12||Week 12|
|Points allowed rank||1st||1st|
|Previous SB Win||2 years prior||2 year prior|
|1st loss of season||Shut out by Bills||Shut out by Bills|
Not included in that chart? The Patriots are also up against an NFC South team (then the Panthers, now the Falcons). The Patriots beat franchises with Houston ties in the divisional round, the Titans (formerly the Oilers) and the Texans, to get to the Super Bowl.
Football fans will recall that game was really one of the most exciting Super Bowls over the past 20 years. It was the Panthers' first appearance in the game, and the Patriots' second since Bill Belichick took over.
New England took a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers went no-huddle to keep the Patriots from substituting (hello, irony) and managed to score twice quickly -- thanks to a rare Tom Brady interception in the red zone -- to take a 22-21 lead after missing a pair of two-point conversions.
The Patriots would answer with a touchdown of their own and a conversion, making it 29-22. Carolina answered with a touchdown to tie it up at 29-29, but on the ensuing kickoff, with 1:13 remaining, John Kasay booted the ball out of bounds.
Brady would do Brady things, setting up Adam Vinatieri to do Adam Vinatieri stuff. Brady remained undefeated in the playoffs and the Patriots won their second Super Bowl on a 41-yard field goal.
Relive it all here, unless you're a Panthers fan. Then don't do it.
And if you're a Falcons fan, be very afraid.
If you like crazy football, get ready for a roller-coaster ride in Houston.