By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots are heading to the Super Bowl. Again.

If it feels like overkill, that’s because this type of sustained success is just unprecedented. It’s a run of success that’s now in its 18th year, and it’s the type of winning that has never been replicated.

Not over the past 18 years. And not ever.

For some perspective on the absurdity of this 18-year stretch, consider the following.

Two weeks from now, the Patriots will be playing in their ninth Super Bowl since 2001.

No other NFL franchise played in more than eight Super Bowls. Ever.

Worded differently, from 1967-2018, only one franchise has been able to reach more than eight Super Bowls. That team is the Patriots, and they’ve done it nine times in just an 18-year span.

In total, the Patriots will be playing in their 11th Super Bowl, which of course ranks as the most of all time. They entered this millennium with just two appearances, but they’ve made up ground on the historically successful franchises in the league and passed them all.

MOST SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES, ALL TIME
1. New England Patriots, 11
T-2. Dallas Cowboys, 8
T-2. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8
T-2. Denver Broncos, 8
5. San Francisco 49ers, 6

In this current run from 2001-18, during which the Patriots have reached nine Super Bowls, no other team has reached more than three (Pittsburgh, Seattle).

Obviously, winning Super Bowls matters a lot more than making Super Bowls. And that’s what’ll be on the line in Atlanta, as the Patriots need one more championship to tie Pittsburgh for the most titles of all time.

The fact that this has all been done with the same three chief players — quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft — is just the rarest of rare accomplishments in sports, and especially in the NFL.

Belichick will be coaching in his ninth Super Bowl as a head coach. Nobody else has coached in more than six.

Brady will be playing in his ninth Super Bowl. No other quarterback has ever played in more than five. No player has ever played in more than six.

Kraft, despite not owning the team until 1994, is now the owner with the most Super Bowl appearances. No other ownership group has more than seven.

This is not normal. It will end one day. But that day has not yet arrived. The Patriots, as they’ve been eager to remind everyone over these past few weeks, are still here.

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