The New England Patriots are heading to their ninth Super Bowl in franchise history, including their seventh of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era.
Robert Klemko, however, isn’t ready to call this a dynasty.
“Let’s be careful not to talk about New England like there’s some Raiders-in-the-70s or 49ers-era dynasty,” The MMQB analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Yes, they’ve been to a lot of Super Bowls, but they also haven’t won the majority of Super Bowls that they’ve been to. They do run into a wall here at some point.”
New England has won four of the eight Super Bowls in which it has played. All four victories have come under Brady and Belichick.
Brady was stellar in the AFC Championship on Sunday, shredding the Steelers to the tune of 384 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-17 win. Chris Hogan did much of the damage, finishing with game-highs in catches (nine), yards (180) and touchdowns (two).
“They played a Steelers defense that’s really young in their secondary, and you could tell that when they started going hurry-up early in the first quarter,” Klemko said. “They felt like they were catching these guys out of position and out of sorts. I think they recognized that they were playing a team that, when it became crunch time, wasn’t necessarily experienced or prepared enough to handle big adjustments, and they took advantage of that and went fast.”
Julian Edelman had eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, while Martellus Bennett had five catches for 32 yards. LeGarrette Blount, meanwhile, was quiet overall but had solid runs in the red zone, finishing with 16 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown.
“I don’t think there’s anything spectacular about any of the skill-position players on this team except Gronkowski, who’s out, and obviously Tom Brady,” Klemko said. “But the thing that just really impressed me is that Belichick knows exactly how to push the buttons of a defense.”
So do Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan. The Falcons put a beat down on Green Bay in the NFC Championship, racing out to a 31-0 lead and ultimately winning 44-21. Atlanta, which has now scored 40+ points six times this season, is back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998.
“I think Pete Carroll’s system in Seattle is one that a lot of people thought, ‘Well, that works for Pete Carroll,’” Klemko said. “Having a lot of big-character guys but bringing them all together and having a family atmosphere is very much the opposite of the culture of fear that exists in New England. I think that Dan Quinn was able to put his own little spin on that but still keep a lot of those same practices and philosophies and have relatively immediate success in Atlanta – the kind of success that Gus Bradley wasn’t able to have leaving Seattle and going to Jacksonville. So how much of the Seattle experience was translated to Atlanta? And what were the things that Dan Quinn wanted to change? What were the little nuances that he added?”
Shanahan was a pretty big nuance. Last year, the Falcons were 21st in scoring offense (21.2 points per game). This year, they led the league (33.8).
“I think one of the more underrated things that he did was stress to Matt Ryan that we really have to diversify this offense,” Klemko said. “For so many years, it was an A.J. Green/Andy Dalton situation where you know where the ball is going on third down. I think that that’s changed this year for Atlanta in the sense that you have all these options now. Two running backs – Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman – instead of tossing some scat back out there and asking him to carry the ball 25 times a game. Five wide receivers who are viable options on third down as opposed to two. So I think that will be Shanahan’s legacy if and when he takes a job after this game here and I’m just really interested in kind of learning about the dynamic of how all this was put together. This was a team that didn’t get a lot of national media coverage for most of the season. How many times did these guys have a night game in prime time? I don’t think it was more than once or twice?”
They’ll make up for it in two weeks. Super LI kicks off from Houston at 6:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 5.