INSIDE SLANT: NFL team report on the Patriots

Though the theory will be tested by the two weeks between Sunday's conference championship games and Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz., there would appear to be endless intriguing storylines as the New England Patriots and Seattle Seah...

Though the theory will be tested by the two weeks between Sunday's conference championship games and Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz., there would appear to be endless intriguing storylines as the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks prepare to do battle in the desert.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will start his record sixth Super Bowl, going head-to-head with youngster Russell Wilson as the Seattle passer looks to win his second ring in just his third NFL season - it took Brady four years to accomplish the same feat.

It's a battle of the only two coaches Patriots owner Robert Kraft has hired in his tenure in New England, Pete Carroll having failed in Foxborough before finding success at Southern Cal and now seeking his second title with the Seahawks.

Seattle will look to become the first NFL team to repeat as Super Bowl Champions since Bill Belichick's Patriots accomplished the feat in 2003-04.

New England once again has a shot at that elusive fourth Lombardi Trophy that has been just out of reach for a decade now. For Brady, it would be that fourth ring that would tie him with boyhood idol Joe Montana and Steelers great Terry Bradshaw, and in the eyes of many potentially push Brady into the top spot for the mythical title as the greatest passer ever.


Those are among the storylines that will play out some during this bye week and then heat up once the two teams arrive in Arizona next week.

Right now it's early in the process of trying to gauge what kind of game might unfold between the two vastly different teams.

The No. 1 seeds from their respective conferences, Seattle reached the big game with an epic comeback win over the Packers.

Things went a bit easier for Brady's bunch. A week after needing its own pair of 14-point comebacks to beat Baltimore, New England cruised to the Super Bowl with a 45-7 blowout of Andrew Luck's upstart Indianapolis Colts. A week after barely even trying to run the ball, LeGarrette Blount was churning out a franchise postseason record 30 attempts en route to 148 yards and three ground scores against Indy.

With slight room for argument, Super Bowl XLIX puts the two best teams from this season together. It's the defending champ and the team that has been consistently in the title hunt for more than a decade.

There is no doubt that even for an organization that has been to six Super Bowls since 2001, winning three of those, the two most recent losses to the Giants (2007 and 2011) have put a certain amount of anticipation and maybe even anxiety into the upcoming trip.

That goes from the top of the organization, right on down.

"It's pretty exciting. Now we have to close the order," Kraft said, admitting that he "wasn't optimistic" his team would reach this point back in in Week 4 when it was getting blown out 41-14 on Monday Night Football in Kansas City.


From the early-season struggles to the midseason seven-game streak of domination to two very different home playoff games, New England took an interesting road to this point.

"Thirty-two teams start at the same position. You start at the bottom and you kind of climb yourself up the ladder and being AFC champs, that says a lot. We put so much work this year, we grind, I mean there were times where things didn't go so well. There were times where we played great football. It's a rollercoaster," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "But just to see everything that we did up to this point, and to for it all to come down to one game, the one game you all play for. Everybody plays for this game. To have a chance to win the Super Bowl, and now it's here."

And while Brady and Belichick have had the experience - both successfully and unsuccessfully of defending their own Super Bowl titles - Wilfork likes the idea of trying to knock off the reigning champion.

"We got the Seahawks. To be a champ, you got to beat the champs, and they're sitting right there waiting for us," Wilfork said. "So it's going to be a good game. They played some great football. They're champs, they are the champs. They are the defending champs, and they're coming. They're going to try and protect that, and our job is to go and try and take it away from them. I think you've got the best two teams playing in this game."

Back when the Patriots were blown out by the Chiefs, Belichick emphasized that his team was, "On to Cincinnati." That led to a blowout of the Bengals at home that kick-started the midseason run to dominance, helped earn the Patriots the No. 1 seed and set up the path to the Super Bowl.

So it was fitting that while Belichick was being handed the Lamar Hunt Trophy after his team won the AFC crown, the coach of very few words stuck to the phrase that has worked well all year.

"I only have one thing to say. We're on to Seattle," Belichick said.

On to Seattle. On to Arizona. On to a chance to add more another Lombardi Trophy, more rings and more incredible postseason success to New England's already stellar legacy.


All that stands in the way is Wilson, Carroll, Marshawn Lynch, the Legion of Boom secondary and the defending champs.

Strap 'em up, the next two weeks should be fun.

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