Sometimes history repeats itself. We like to think that the march of progress and the march of time move relentlessly forward, but the truth is that sometimes we cover familiar ground, whether we want to or not.
Enter the upcoming Super Bowl. The 2001 Super Bowl paired the juggernaut Rams against the upstart Patriots, a team with a seasoned veteran quarterback destined for the Hall of Fame against a young player on the cusp of unexpected greatness. Nearly two decades later, these two teams will meet again with the situation neatly reversed.
The two franchises have taken very different roads here. The Rams would make it to the Divisional Round in 2003 and 2004 and then proceed to miss the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons, with their drought finally ending with a 2017 playoff berth swiftly ended by the Falcons. Now they’re in the Super Bowl again with one of the league’s most celebrated young coaches, with a young quarterback at the helm, and with one of the best offenses in the league yet again.
The Patriots are no longer young, though they continue to have young talent worth mentioning. Tom Brady is not a rookie and is almost certainly winding down a Hall of Fame career, but the Patriots left 2001 and went on to become perhaps the most successful dynasty in NFL history, single-handedly dominating the AFC for nearly two straight decades. Annoyingly, this likely won’t be the final year for Brady and Belichick and this franchise, but we are looking at the end of this particular epoch of Patriots football. It would seem fitting if the same team that helped kick off the dynasty with a loss ended it by winning, wouldn’t it?
History may repeat itself, but it is rarely so neat. The Rams got embroiled in an ugly slugfest with the Saints, and whatever you thought of the four-plus missed penalties on New Orleans and the awful missed call late that got Los Angeles off the hook, that’s not the kind of game they’re likely to win against the Patriots. But the Rams are so frighteningly capable of scoring from just about anywhere—not to mention capable of stretches of dominance on defense—that no one will take a Patriots win for granted.
And hell, I’m rooting for them. The Rams could become an insufferable team in no time flat, because Sean McVay is everyone’s boy darling and teams are trying desperately to copy them, but the Patriots have been insufferable for the better part of 15 years. It would be nice to see their stranglehold over the AFC come to an end, starting with back-to-back Super Bowl losses, and to see a team that hasn’t been there in a long time walk away with a title. It may also spur a host of teams to rush into ill-advised hires trying to find the next McVay, and that never hurts.
Here’s what you’ll need to know to watch this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, if you’re so inclined.
Who: Los Angeles Rams vs. New England Patriots
Time: Sunday, February 3, 6:30 p.m. EST
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Will Chik-fil-A be open? No, but we’ve heard replacement Fries Up is great and Darren Rovell should be quiet