JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nothing much novel transpired in the NFL this season. The New England Patriots went 17-2, and won the Super Bowl by three points.
So what else is new?
You can call the Patriots boring and predictable if you'd like, but then, they've never really wowed us before, even in their moments of ultimate triumph. The secret of New England's success is that the Patriots always value substance over style, and settle for production over pretty.
Perfectly true to form, there was nothing particularly special or memorable about their gritty 24-21 Super Bowl XXXIX win Sunday night over the plucky Philadelphia Eagles at Alltel Stadium.
New England's methodical, wear-them-down conquest of the underdog Eagles didn't make for great football watching. But it did make them league champions for the second consecutive season, and third time in four years, and that accomplishment sets them apart as one of the great teams in recent NFL history.
Dynasty? It's debatable depending on your definition of the word. But must we quibble about history with these Patriots? Let's just appreciate the fact they're the reigning superpower in the NFL right now and give them their due. All that needs to be said is that New England is a modern-day winning machine: 34-4 over the past two years, and a mind-blowing 32-2 (.941) since they were 2-2 at the end of the first month of the 2003 season.
"This one establishes our dominance, to tell you the truth. That's what this win does,'' Patriots inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi said, moments after New England won its third Super Bowl by the slender margin of a field goal. "When you talk about some of the other great teams, like the Dallas Cowboys (who won three Super Bowls from 1992-95), you can put us in that company now. We've done what it takes to be mentioned with them.
"I feel honored to be in that company, because I feel we're that good. Of the three Super Bowl wins, perhaps this one is more special, because this shows what kind of team we are, and the dominance we've had. This is the exclamation point. It says we've got to start talking about these guys as one of the best teams of all time.''
It is indeed time to make sure these Patriots are on the short list of NFL history's best teams. Consider what they just accomplished this season. They beat the league's top scoring offense (Indianapolis) 20-3 in the divisional round. They beat the league's top defense (Pittsburgh) 41-27 in the AFC title game. And they beat the class of the NFC, Philadelphia, in the Super Bowl. Combined, the Patriots' three playoff opponents went 40-8 this season, an .833 winning percentage. But they were no match for the Patriots, who now have tied 1961-67 Green Bay Packers' league record of nine consecutive playoff wins.
"And I don't think we're necessarily done,'' said versatile New England linebacker Mike Vrabel, who for the second consecutive Super Bowl chipped in with a touchdown reception (a third-quarter 2-yard score). "This team is set up for championships. I don't think we're necessarily finished. It's just that we've done all we can do this year.''