BOSTON (CBS) — Many pundits are comparing Super Bowl LI to Super Bowl XXXVI, when the underdog Patriots upset the heavily favored St. Louis Rams.
Of course this time around, the script has been flipped on New England. They’re looking to claim their second Super Bowl in three years (much like the Rams were back in 2002), and many aren’t giving the Falcons much of a chance. The Patriots are only three-point favorites, while the Rams were favored to win by two touchdowns, but people are having a tough time saying the Falcons will pull off the upset on Sunday.
But the Patriots weren’t given much of a chance in New Orleans 15 years ago, and that victory kicked off what has become on of the NFL’s greatest dynasties that may never be repeated. Patriots owner Robert Kraft is a confident man when it comes to his team winning another title on Sunday, and he too sees similarities to the 2001-02 New England Patriots with this year’s squad.
“Fifteen years ago, we were the Atlanta Falcons. In our regime we had been to one Super Bowl, had never won and were trying to build a new stadium, trying to build an identity,” Kraft told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche in an interview for Patriots GameDay. “[The 2001-02 championship team] was a lot like this team; a lot of guys who, they weren’t no-names but [they weren’t] big established guys. But we have great guys performing their role. We have a good blend of young role players and a few really great, seasoned veterans.”
This Patriots team is much more talented than the one that hoisted the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy, but Kraft sees some very similar characteristics in their makeup. He said even with four other Super Bowl banners hanging in Gillette Stadium, this group is not going to take their own shot at greatness for granted.
“What’s nice is you see a guy like Chris Long come here, who has been in the league for eight years, he was the [second overall] pick in . He spoke to the team as we were entering the playoffs and said, ‘You guys don’t understand how lucky you are. I was in this league eight years and never went to a playoff game.’ I think just that kept reinforcing that the veterans that we have come in here also buy into the system and understand what a special place it is. Combine that with the young kids, no fancy names or high draft picks, it’s sort of like our 2001 team.
“The team sort of came together in a special way around Thanksgiving,” added Kraft. “I get a good feel of the locker room, I can tell day-of-game what type of team it is, and when I walk through this locker room, I’ve never see such consistency of being upbeat. That’s pretty cool.”
Of course, this all starts with the leadership of quarterback Tom Brady. It’s been a tough year for the three-time Super Bowl MVP, with his four-game DeflateGate suspension to start the season in addition to his mother dealing with a health issue. But Kraft says through it all, Brady continues to be a spectacular example for players young and old.
“He’s an amazing guy and we have a corporate philosophy in everything we do: You take negative situations and you try to turn them into positives. In a weird kind of way, I think what has gone on with Tommy has generated greater fan support. It’s also helped this whole organization band together in a unique way,” said Kraft.
“All these young kids, they come in and they see this Tom Brady, who they were six or seven years old when they watched him on TV and now they’re in the locker room with him. And this guy is working harder than any of them, staying late, watching tape, staying after practice. He set a great example,” he said.
Kraft also had some wonderful things to say about Patriots fans:
Following Sunday’s Super Bowl, tune in to WBZ-TV for all the reaction and analysis (and celebration, hopefully) on Patriots 5th Quarter!