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Super Bowl-bound Patriots simply refuse to die

Updated January 29, 2019 - 8:46 pm

ATLANTA

It’s like trying to convince yourself that Tom Hanks can’t act. Or that Steph Curry can’t shoot. Or that Lady Gaga can’t sing.

They are exercises in futility, a hopeless undertaking sure to end in disappointment.

Have fans of the sporting world — excluding a certain six northeastern states and Mark Wahlberg — ever wanted a team to die as much as the Patriots?

Folks have, for some time now, annually pressed their finest funeral attire, assured the next NFL season will conclude with the administering of last rites and a ceremony that would ban Tom Brady to a full-time fantasy life of water electrolytes and exile Bill Belichick to some faraway pasture of hoodie-wearing curmudgeons.

Hold that eulogy.

They’re back in the Super Bowl.

“What do we do about the haters? We love ’em,” said Brady. “We love them back, because we don’t hate back. We appreciate it, we love them, and we wish them the best in their life.”

Nobody does sarcasm like the team most want dead.

New England will make its 11th appearance in a season’s final game Sunday, when it meets the Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and yet it’s really only the last nine trips that seem to stick in those collective craws of jealousy.

Nobody seemed all that bothered about the teams of Raymond Berry and Bill Parcells making it, both of which lost.

Did you know a cockroach has the effect of releasing nitrogen into the soil to be used by plants? In other words, extinction of the insect would have a huge affect on forest health and therefore indirectly on all the species that live there.

I’m thinking 31 other NFL teams would be OK trying to survive and prosper should Brady and Belichick suddenly crawl down a drain for good.

“We’re all on the same playing field,” said Falcons owner Arthur Blank when asked about the Patriots’ dominance in attempting to win a sixth Lombardi Trophy this week. “They have an exceptional coach. They have an exceptional quarterback. It’s the envy of every other NFL team to produce those kinds of results over a long period of time.

“I suppose the worst news of all is that Brady is 41 and has said he will play until he’s 45, so I guess we’ll have to deal with him for at least another four years.”

It was going to be different this season. The funeral attire was hung and ready. Losses to Detroit and Jacksonville and Miami and Tennessee and Pittsburgh — not a playoff team among the bunch — supposedly meant the Patriots would lack their usual mystique come the postseason.

They even went 3-5 on the road before the playoffs, and Brady at times made throws a high school quarterback would regret.

The Patriots were aging and undisciplined and let the Dolphins beat them on a play that was missing only the Stanford band for its craziness.

And then, suddenly, they weren’t any of that.

Seeing with one’s heart

The easy explanation is that they began blocking and running the ball better, that they went big with two tight ends and a fullback and a whole lot of toughness. They were running out of time, so they just, well, ran.

Another reason is one that is most difficult for fans to accept, that when it comes to any perceived slippage in the play of Brady or his teammates, it’s not nearly as significant as most believe. When it comes to the Patriots losing a step, people tend to evaluate things with their heart and not their brain.

They want it to be true more than anything, so they think it is.

But whatever decline New England has suffered, whether this really is Brady’s weakest supporting cast of any previous trip to the Super Bowl, it wasn’t enough to keep it from beating the Chargers and Chiefs to secure its place here.

This current version might not be vintage Patriots, but it’s somehow good enough that it joined Miami and Buffalo as the only organizations in history to lose a Super Bowl one year and return the following one.

“We earned our way here,” said Belichick. “We had a lot of ups and downs, but we also put in a lot of hard work. It’s a special week, a special moment, a special game. And we earned it.”

No one knows when the end for Brady and Belichick will come and the eulogy read, only that’s it not now.

Do you remember when the Chiefs beat New England 41-14 in 2014, sending the Patriots to a 2-2 start for the season and causing so many across the country to celebrate what they perceived a finality to the dreaded dynasty?

On Sunday, the Patriots will play in their fourth Super Bowl since that drubbing.

I’m telling you, these guys just won’t die.

You have a better chance convincing yourself Gaga can’t carry a tune.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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