Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Patriots and Seahawks Eye History in Super Bowl XLIX

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Fellow editor Jeremy Conlin and I will get to our in-depth preview of Sunday's big game a little later, but right now let's just focus on the fact that there is a ton of history to be made, by both teams, in Super Bowl XLIX.

The Patriots come in looking to win their fourth Super Bowl on a record-tying eighth appearance, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick both have the chance to join very rare company in the respective fields of quarterbacking and coaching.

Meanwhile, Seattle's defense and young quarterback have the chance to carve out a unique place in pro football lore for themselves as well.

Here's what is on the line for both teams this Super Sunday, as well as a few nuggets that make the match up historic in itself.

New England Patriots

The Patriots will tie Pittsburgh and Dallas for the most Super Bowl appearances all time Sunday with eight. The Patriots can't catch the Steelers (6-2) or Cowboys (5-3) on the Super Bowl wins list, but a loss would give New England it's fifth Super Bowl defeat, tying them with the Denver Broncos for that backhanded-compliment of a record. New England is currently tied with Buffalo and Minnesota for second place on the all-time Super Bowl loss list with four.

Since Robert Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994, no team has been more successful. The Pats have appeared in seven Super Bowls since then (counting Sunday), winning three. The closest franchises in Super Bowl appearances since that time? Green Bay, Pittsburgh, the New York Giants and Denver are all tied with three appearances, and those same teams are all lagging behind in wins with two.

If New England can win Sunday, it will be another feather in the cap of the Krafts, who have been the NFL's top owners since purchasing the franchise.

Bill Belichick

The Hoodie will become the first head coach to ever coach six Super Bowl games Sunday, and will look to join Steelers legend Chuck Noll as just the second coach ever to win four Super Bowl championships.

Belichick will also make his mark as the most experienced man in Super Bowl history, appearing in his 9th big game overall. Along with his six Super Bowls as head coach of the Patriots, Belichick has also appeared in the game twice as an assistant to Bill Parcells with the Giants, and once as a Parcells assistant in New England. Sunday he will tie Dan Reeves, who appeared in two Super Bowls as a player, three as an assistant and four as a head coach.

A win Sunday would likely solidify Belichick as the greatest coach in NFL history, as he would own the Super Bowl appearance record, tie the Super Bowl wins record and own the playoff wins record. He would also join Joe Gibbs, George Seifert and Tom Coughlin as the only coaches to win Super Bowls in multiple decades, and become the first coach to ever win Super Bowls a decade apart.

Tom Brady

Tom Terrific will make history just by playing in the game, as he will break John Elway's record for Super Bowl starts. Sunday will be Brady's sixth starting appearance in the big game, breaking the record of five he shared with the former Broncos great.

But, should the Patriots come out on top, Brady will also tie Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the most Super Bowls won by a starting quarterback with four.

Brady already owns the records for most completions and passing yards in Super Bowl history, but he'll have a chance to grab another record Sunday. If he can throw two touchdown passes against Seattle, Brady will tie Joe Montana for the all-time Super Bowl record with 11. Obviously, three touchdown passes would give him the record outright.

Of course, he will have done it in two extra appearances, but getting there is half the battle, right? Should Brady win on Super Sunday, it will be hard to come up with an argument for him NOT being the greatest quarterback of all time. With well-documented regular season and postseason numbers, not to mention a historic winning percentage, Brady would tie Bradshaw and Montana for the most Super Bowl wins, and have two more appearances than both of them.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle is looking to become the eighth team in Super Bowl history to repeat as champion (it's happened eight times already, but the Steelers did it twice in the 70s), and the first to do it since the Patriots went back-to-back in 2003 and 2004.

A win would mean a lot to Seattle's defense and quarterback Russell Wilson, which I'll get to right about now…

The Legion of Boom

Seattle's soon-to-be legendary defense is built around the "Legion of Boom" secondary, and the D as a whole is looking to become only the second team to lead the league in scoring defense in back-to-back championship seasons.

The only other defense to ever do it was Miami's "No-Name" unit in the early 70s, which included an undefeated run in 1972 and repeat in 1973.

The closest any team has come since was actually the 2003-2004 Patriots, who won back-to-back titles while leading the league in scoring defense in '03, then coming in second in '04.

A win Sunday would put the Seahawks in truly elite company, and place them among the very best defensive units in league history. Win or lose, years down the road the "Legion of Boom" will likely evoke the same respect that the "Steel Curtain," "Fearsome Foursome," "Purple People Eaters," "No-Name Defense" and '85 Bears do today.

As a bonus, star cornerback Richard Sherman seems to have finally erased the Madden cover jinx, becoming the first player to ever appear on the cover of the popular video game series, then go on to make the Super Bowl in the same season. I mean, he may be playing with an injury, but we'll still call the year a win for him.

Russell Wilson

The 26-year old Wilson has the chance to become the first quarterback to ever win two Super Bowls in his first three seasons (Tom Brady took four years in the league to win multiple titles), and he can also become the youngest quarterback ever with multiple Super Bowl rings, again besting a mark held by Brady.

Like Brady, Wilson will make history just by starting the game, as he will replace Brady as the youngest quarterback to ever start multiple Super Bowls.

Another odd fact: Russell Wilson is an absurd 10-0 in starts against quarterbacks that have won a Super Bowl. Not that there's an official record for that, but if Wilson gets to 11-0, with wins on Super Sunday against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, that's a pretty darn good early career resume.

A Historic Match Up

A Battle of Top Seeds

Sunday's game will mark just the fifth time since the league expanded its playoff format in 1990 that the top seeds from each conference will face each other. The most recent previous time was last year when Seattle thrashed Denver.

A Historic Quarterback Duel 

Sunday will also mark just the third time this century that the Super Bowl will feature a pair of quarterbacks that have each previously won the big game. The other two match ups were Ben Roethlisberger vs Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XLIII and Tom Brady vs Eli Manning is Super Bowl XLI.

Previously, Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach had faced off, each already with Super Bowl rings, in Super Bowls X and XIII, while Jim Plunkett and Joe Theismann did the same in Super Bowl XVIII.

That means Sunday's match up of three-time champion Brady and reigning champion Wilson will be just the sixth such occurrence in league history, and the second to feature Brady. With a combined four Super Bowl wins between them coming in, Sunday's game will tie Bradshaw and Staubach's second battle and Brady v. Manning II for the most combined championships between starting quarterbacks.

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