The Patriots have three phenomenal episodes of NFL Network's "America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions." The episode which chronicles their 2001 season is narrated and hosted by Tom Brady, former kicker Adam Vinatieri and former Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy. Here they are, reflecting on a particularly meaningful game from the 2001 season.
"I think the pivotal time in that season was the game against the St. Louis Rams, the first time."
"We're 5-4, starting to feel good about ourselves again. But this was 'the greatest show on turf' coming in, this was the team that everybody labeled 'the Super Bowl champions' before the season. All the publications had them winning the Super Bowl."
"I think you're always trying to compare yourself to teams, trying to figure out where you stand. I think that game, even though we lost, gave us some confidence."
"If this is the next Super Bowl champion, hey, they're not that much better than us."
"In the locker room, you would've thought we won the game because they're supposed to be the next Super Bowl champions, what can we be?"
Those are powerful quotes which are still very relevant today.
Generally speaking, teams reach the Super Bowl in one of two ways: They're either playing truly amazing football or they're riding a strong tidal wave of momentum.
The 2011 Giants had both of these things going for them.
As soon as the Giants dismantled the Jets, they went on a rampage. Everything about that team fell right into place at the right time. Heading into the Super Bowl, the Giants were playing their best football and they had a ton of momentum pushing them forward.
The Patriots, however, were not playing their best football when they entered the Super Bowl. Also, they didn't have nearly the same momentum as the Giants.
Top to bottom, the Giants were a more complete team with a wider array of receivers and a more blistering unit of pass rushers. In addition, the Giants were simply more confident. You could detect the swagger in their strut.
The Giants entered the Super Bowl at the peak of their powers. They were playing championship-caliber football. The Patriots entered the Super Bowl by playing just good enough to get there.
But that, in of itself, is amazing. Getting to the Super Bowl when you're not playing your best football is incredible. Getting there, then losing by only four points, is astounding. It's fresh momentum for next season.
This is exactly what Brady, Vinatieri and Milloy were talking about in the documentary. They were trying to find their identity, they were growing as a team and trying to figure themselves out, and they still almost beat the championship-caliber Rams. The Patriots used that momentum to eventually defeat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
The 2011 Patriots lost to a superior team by only four points. Think about what the 2012 Patriots can accomplish.
It's going to be a great year.