When the Patriots take to the turf on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, it’ll be a rematch of the last two Super Bowl winners.
New England captured Super Bowl LIII in February, while the Philadelphia Eagles, of course, bested the Patriots in Super Bowl LII following the 2017 season.
Tom Brady, who threw for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards in the 41-33 loss – one year after throwing for a then-record 466 yards, mind you – doesn’t appear to be fully over the carnage of his third loss in the big game.
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“That’s a lot of mental scar tissue from that year,” Brady told Greg Hill on WEEI earlier this week. “That was a tough game.”
By beating the Rams last season, Patriots fans, if nothing else, have been made whole. Brady also acknowledged that the loss to the Eagles served as motivation for what transpired in 2018.
“I think in a lot of ways we learned from that year and we came back stronger the next year,” Brady told Hill.
In many ways, the suspense from Sunday’s game is tempered because of New England’s most recent Super Bowl win.
That’s in stark contrast to the circumstances when the Patriots first faced the New York Giants after losing Super Bowl XLII, a rematch which didn’t occur until nearly four years after the fact.
Super Bowl XLII was the beginning of a three-game postseason losing streak for New England, which missed the playoffs entirely in 2008 and went one-and-done in both 2009 and 2010. When the Giants finally appeared back on the schedule, the Patriots were on the verge of making another run to the Super Bowl against those very same Giants…and lost the initial rematch, 24-20, on an Eli Manning touchdown pass to Jake Ballard with 0:15 left in the fourth quarter.
But by the time New England faced New York in the regular season again, it had finally won an elusive fourth title, doing so in dramatic fashion months earlier against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
It has to be easier facing a team that’s beaten you on the grandest of stages if you’ve gotten back and won another Super Bowl in the meantime, right?
Brady was less candid speaking to the media during his usual spot on Friday, downplaying the rematch angle and keeping the focus on the current Patriots team, which is 8-1 but needs to rack up more wins to hold off the Baltimore Ravens for the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.
“It’s a different team,” Brady said. “It’s a big challenge for us to go in there and play a great football team, so there’s nothing about that game that’s going to – you know, that’s not going to impact the outcome of this one. We want to win; they want to win. It’s a big game, it’s a tough game.”
Bill Belichick, ever the historian, said that he remembers games he lost well before Super Bowl LII and then shifted his focus back to the task at hand: a 5-4 Eagles team that desperately needs a win to keep pace with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.
“I remember games I lost in high school, I remember games I lost in peewee football, I remember games I lost at the Giants and Cleveland,” he said. “And I mean, yeah, those games – sure, they stick with you. I mean, you remember some of the wins, but I think the losses stick with you more. But, that’s all in the past and that’s water under the bridge right now. So, we’ll focus on this week and see how this one comes out.”
The Patriots are 4-3 in their first game against a previous Super Bowl opponent under Brady and Bill Belichick. They beat the St. Louis Rams in 2004, three years after Super Bowl XXXVI, a game in which Adam Vinatieri threw a touchdown pass to Troy Brown, before losing to the Carolina Panthers in 2005 following Super Bowl XXXVIII two years prior.
When the Patriots and Eagles met for the first time following Super Bowl XXXIX in 2007, New England was favored by 24.5 – the second-largest spread in NFL history, per Pro Football Reference. The Patriots won, but only 31-28 to improve to 11-0 on the season.
New England lost that 2011 game vs. the Giants but beat them in 2015 following the Super Bowl XLVI defeat on the strength of a Stephen Gostkowski 54-yard field goal in the waning seconds.
The Seahawks knocked off the Patriots in 2016, two years after Super Bowl XLIX, the only game Brady would lose that season.
And lastly, the Atlanta Falcons couldn’t escape the ghosts of 28-3 – literally, some might say, as a thick fog overtook Gillette Stadium in a Patriots victory in 2017, barely eight months after Super Bowl LI. New England faces the now-Los Angeles Rams for the first time since Super Bowl LIII next season in California.