By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — At this point of the Patriots dynasty, all that’s left are additions. The team — with the duo of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady — has already accomplished so much since 2001 that the lasting legacy is already secure.
But still, as evidenced by the words “Not Done” being plastered all around Gillette Stadium, the team would very much like to add another Lombardi Trophy to the stockpile that’s grown over the years.
And after storming back to stun the Jaguars with a 24-20 win in the AFC title game, the Patriots really have a golden opportunity to stack another accolade on top of their current run.
The game on Sunday marked the Patriots’ seventh consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship Game. No other team has ever appeared in more than five consecutive AFC Championship Games.
It was the team’s 12th appearance in the conference title game in the last 17 years. In that same timespan, no team has appeared in the AFC title game more than six times (Pittsburgh). Indianapolis has appeared in four conference title games since 2001, while the Broncos and Ravens have each appeared in three.
Over in the NFC, the Eagles — coincidentally the Patriots’ opponent in Super Bowl LII — have the most conference title game appearances since 2001 with six, followed by the Packers (four) and four other teams with three.
And by winning on Sunday, the Patriots now advance to their eighth Super Bowl since 2001.
For some perspective, the Steelers, Cowboys and Broncos are all tied for having the second-most Super Bowl appearances with eight in the entire history of their franchise.
The Patriots are on the verge of matching that in a 17-year span.
The San Francisco 49ers — even with their great history with Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and Steve Young — have only appeared in six Super Bowls in franchise history. The Packers have five. So do the Giants, Redskins, Raiders and Dolphins.
The Patriots now have 10.
The Patriots as a franchise already owned the NFL record for most Super Bowl appearances with nine, and a 10th further extends the gap.
More perspective: Brady has played 16 seasons of 12 games or more as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He’ll be playing in his eighth Super Bowl. A 50 percent rate of making the Super Bowl isn’t bad … nor is a 5-2 record in the sport’s biggest game.
One area where the Patriots don’t already own the record is in Super Bowl wins. That honor belongs to the Steelers with six, but the Patriots can match it if they can defeat the Eagles on Feb. 4.
The Patriots also earned their 34th playoff win in franchise history on Sunday, which ranks second behind Pittsburgh (36) for most all time.
If you’re into wins under one owner, the Patriots also have that area covered. With nine Super Bowl appearances during his tenure as owner, Robert Kraft is the all-time leader. Pat Bowlen of the Broncos ranks second with seven.
For Belichick, Super Bowl LII will be his 11th Super Bowl as both a head coach and an assistant coach, which is the most of all time. As a head coach, it’ll be his eight Super Bowl, which is most all time. His five wins as head coach are also more than any other coach in history.
For Brady, he’ll pass former defensive lineman Mike Lodish for most Super Bowls played by any player. He already owned that record among quarterbacks, but now adds the broader title to his name. With a win in Minneapolis he can pass Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins by any player. (Again, Brady owns that record among quarterbacks.)
Brady also inched closer to Adam Vinatieri on the list of most wins all time by any player. Vinatieri has 225, and Brady now has 223.
Here’s a unique one, too: Brady has thrown multiple touchdown passes in 22 consecutive postseason games. That’s by far the longest such streak in history, more than Brett Favre’s 15-game streak, Joe Montana’s 14-game streak, and Aaron Rodgers’ 12-game streak.
Not surprisingly, the coach-quarterback tandem of Belichick and Brady ranks first all time in postseason victories — by a wide margin. With the Patriots, Brady and Belichick have won 27 games. Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw rank second with 14 wins, while Tom Landry and Roger Staubach rank third with 11.
That gap is preposterous.
The two also — again, not surprisingly — rank first all time in Super Bowl appearances for a coach-QB tandem with eight. Noll and Bradshaw had four, with four wins. Landry and Staubach also made four appearances, winning twice. And Jim Kelly and Marv Levy had four appearances with the Bills, though they couldn’t win one. Brady and Belichick have won five … and counting.
In simplest terms, Brady and Belichick basically gave the NFL a 35-year head start on accomplishments. In many ways, they’ve made up all that ground in 17 years.
Some day it will all make sense, but for now the Patriots are moving on to another Super Bowl. In a league where every rule is designed to prevent one team from dominating like this for so long, Brady and Belichick have consistently proven immune.
It’s difficult, at times, to really properly understand the context of a run that’s approaching 20 years. But after Sunday’s unbelievable-yet-totally-believable comeback win over the Jaguars, it’s worth taking a moment to truly try to take in what these two Hall of Famers continue to do on a regular basis with the Patriots.