Super Bowl Experience in Patriots' Corner

<p>Will the combined experience in previous Superbowls have any relevance in the outcome of this Superbowl? Some say it might. They worry that when the game is on the line, coaches or players who haven't been on this stage before may just make a mistake. The kind of mistake that loses a game.</p> <p>Site contributor Darren Kelly takes a look at the experience factor in this look at what might be a key factor on Sunday.</p>

PHOTO: New England Patriots place kicker Adam Vinatieri runs through kick off drills during practice in Jacksonville, Fla., Friday afternoon, Feb. 4, 2005. In their second straight Super Bowl appearance the Patriots will face the Philadelphia Eagles in Jacksonville, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) [note: #2 is the jersey number of David Akers on the Eagles]

Super Bowl Experience in Patriots' Corner
By Darren Kelly, Site Contributor

When your franchise makes it to three Super Bowls in four years, it's a pretty good bet that your team will have Big Game experience. So it's no surprise that Patriots starters have combined to play in a cumulative 38 Super Bowls, with 32 active players returning from last year's Super Bowl win over Carolina.

The Eagles, on the other hand, have just three starters with Super Bowl experience (Dorsey Levens, Jevon Kearse, and Jon Runyan, who have played in a combined five Super Bowls).

So does all of this experience give the Patriots an advantage? Head Coach Bill Belichick doesn't think so. "I think what this game comes down to is what team is able to prepare the best and then perform the best on Sunday," Belichick said. "We were here a few years ago at this game against the Rams. They had been a couple years earlier, and won a couple years earlier, and I don't think experience had anything to do with that game."

But if there is an edge for experience, the Patriots have it over the Eagles by a wide margin. And not just because they've made it three times in the last four years. They also have six players who are making their 4th trip to the Super Bowl, all with the Patriots.

The 4-Timers Club

Only 13 players in NFL history have more Super Bowl experience than linebackers Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, and Willie McGinest, corner Ty Law, receiver Troy Brown, and kicker Adam Vinatieri, who are all about to participate in their 4th Super Bowl. (Mike Lodish holds the record for most Super Bowl appearances with six, four as a Bill and two as a Bronco.)

"We call ourselves the 'four-timers' because we sort of have a special fraternity amongst ourselves in knowing that we have been here through various coaching staffs and we have been able to go to a Super Bowl and succeed and then reach rock bottom and then dig ourselves out," said Bruschi. "I think we have been able to welcome guys in and show them how things are supposed to be done here."

Ted Johnson added, "it's mind-boggling to think about that and all that's happened and all we've done here. I've been in the league nine years and four of them I've gone to a Super Bowl. It never gets old. It's always exciting. It's so difficult after you leave one season to think you can make it all the way back to the Super Bowl the next year."

And yet that's just what New England has done. The Patriots are trying to duplicate a feat that only the Dallas Cowboys of the '90s accomplished: winning three Super Bowls in four years. This, of course, has led to the discussion of whether or not this Patriots team represents an NFL "Dynasty".

In addition, with their 4th appearance in the Super Bowl in 9 years, they join just a handful of franchises that have accomplished that feat (along with the Bills, Cowboys, 49ers, Steelers, and Vikings). But a look at that list of teams proves that success is not always guaranteed.

Records Within Reach

In addition to the dynasty discussion that now swirls around the Patriots, New England's success is threatening the Super Bowl record book:

  • Adam Vinatieri needs to attempt just one field goal to tie the record for career attempts in the Super Bowl (six), a mark shared by Jim Turner, Roy Gerela, Rich Karlis, and Jeff Wilkins. He needs to make two field goals to tie Ray Wersching for the most made at five. Vinatieri is also two PATs away from setting the career record with ten (Mike Cofer currently leads with nine).

  • Troy Brown needs two punt returns to break the career record for the Super Bowl (six), which is shared by eight players.

  • Willie McGinest is two sacks away from having the most career sacks in the Super Bowl. The record is 4 1/2 by Charles Haley (who played in, and won, a record five Super Bowls).

  • If Tom Brady wins the MVP again, he would tie Joe Montana for the all-time high of three, and he would be only the third player to win back-to-back (along with Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr). Brady is also currently 4th all-time in career interception percentage, at 1.33 (just 1 interception on 75 pass attempts). He could move ahead of Troy Aikman into 3rd with at least six pass attempts and no interceptions (Joe Montana and Jim Plunkett are forever tied for 1st with no interceptions thrown in their Super Bowl careers).

And if the Patriots should win on Sunday, the next item on the agenda would be to try and pull off something that has never been done: win 3 straight Super Bowls.

Darren is a regular contributor to the Patriots Insider. You can find him in the forums under the name: DestinationSuperBowl. You can also find archives of his columns on the Insiders by searching for "Darren Kelly"

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