New England Patriots

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

They really have nothing left to prove, we say. And they really have nothing left to accomplish. And yet, as Bill Belichick and the Patriots venture into Kansas City on Sunday, they are on the verge of accomplishing something relatively historic by NFL standards and that has, somewhat incredibly, flown under the radar.

So what is it?

Getting back to the Super Bowl immediately after losing it.

And then, perhaps, winning it.

Rest assured that Bill Belichick knows this, because Bill knows everything about everything, at least when it comes to football and the NFL. The Buffalo Bills were the last team to lose a Super Bowl and return to the big game the following season, having gone to four straight big games from the fall of 1990 to the winter of 1994. The Bills lost them all, of course, but their resilience did not go unnoticed.

Since then, no team in the NFL has lost the Super Bowl and bounced back the following season to make it back there. Not one. And the Patriots are now one victory from doing so, a rather startling achievement given where they were nearly a year ago at this time.

Don’t you remember? We were already in the midst of Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick, the more familiarly known palace coup, which exploded into a multitude of tentacles. Alex Guerrero. Rob Gronkowski. Malcolm Butler. Even Josh McDaniels. The Patriots looked and felt like a dynasty crumbling, and many of us wondered whether Belichick and Brady had played in their last Super Bowl together.

Now they are one win from getting back there in the very next season.

Say what you will about BB, but give him this: if he takes this Patriots team back to the Super Bowl – let alone wins it – it will go down as one of the greatest coaching achievements of his career, perhaps in NFL history, right behind the Patriots victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. (Sorry, but that will forever be No. 1.) To this point, Belichick’s second-greatest coaching job might very well be the 11-5 season with Matt Cassel at quarterback after Brady blew out his knee in the first quarter of Week 1 of the 2008 season.

This would be better. Especially given the history. Especially given all of the drama that has surrounded the Patriots for more than a year now.

Now, if the Patriots somehow manage to go on and win the Super Bowl this season, the achievement becomes even greater. The last team to lose the Super Bowl one year only to win it the very next was none other than the 1972 Miami Dolphins, a team that lives on forever. The Dolphins finished the season 17-0 that year. No team has ever gone undefeated before or since.

The 2007 Patriots missed their chance to unseat those Dolphins in February 2008 – we certainly don’t need to relive it – but by winning Sunday, well, Belichick and the Patriots will have a chance to unseat them now.

Would it be as good as going 19-0?

No, it wouldn’t.

But given everything that has surrounded this team in the last 16 months, it would still be one hell of an achievement.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.