Tom Brady has played ten full seasons as the Patriots starting quarterback. This will be his sixth AFC title game.
If Brady can push his record in the conference championship game to 5-1, he will make a little history along with his coach Bill Belichick. ESPN’s Mike Reiss points out no other coach-quarterback combination has been to five Super Bowls together.
The Patriots know what a great opportunity they have. They don’t have to win in a dome, like they did against the Colts after the 2006 season. They are relatively healthy. They don’t have to face an elite quarterback, which figured to be the worst possible scenario for a defense full of holes.
Sometimes Super Bowl runs come from timing. The Patriots put themselves in position each year, and things have just set up well for them this time around. They only had to beat a mediocre Broncos team in the divisional round. Matt Schaub’s injury sunk a balanced Texans team. Quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers are out.
That doesn’t make Sunday’s challenge against a very strong Ravens team any easier. Baltimore would be the best team New England has beaten all year. Their defense poses a lot of problems. Of course an AFC title game is going to be difficult.
For most Patriots, this isn’t about setting records. It’s about players like Brian Waters and Rob Gronkowski trying to get to the Super Bowl for the first time. Only eight Patriots on this team were even active for the undefeated 2007 regular season. Three remain from the 2001 team: Brady, Matt Light, and Kevin Faulk.
This is Brady and Belichick’s chance to win with almost entirely new group of Patriots. Pull it off, and the duo will have a chance in two weeks to really make some history.