Super Bowl XLIV is set: The New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, two teams love to hate, will be playing for the NFL championship. For the Patriots it’s a sixth time in 14 years, hoping to win their fourth under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, while Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll are going for their second in a row.
New England Patriots
Past Super Bowl experience: This will be the 8th time in the Super Bowl for the Patriots. In the first two (1985 season vs the Bears, 1996 season vs the Packers) they lost. In the next three, with Bill Belichick as the head coach and Tom Brady as quarterback, they won. Against the Rams with a late field goal, against the Panthers with a late field goal and a year later against the Eagles by being better. They’re the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and also the last team until the Seahawks this season to reach consecutive Super Bowls. They made it since twice more: After their perfect 2007 season and four years later. Both times against the New York Giants with Eli Manning at quarterback. The Patriots lost on both occasions.
The 2015 playoffs: The Patriots were the #1 seed in the AFC, so they got a pass from the wild card round. In the divisional round things didn’t start off too well – Baltimore took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and a 28-14 one early in the third. But Belichick fixed things, Brady stopped making mistakes and the Patriots rallied to a 35-31 victory with a game winning touchdown, 5:13 left on the clock.
A week later and it’s home against the Colts. This wasn’t complicated or difficult. Jumping to a 14-0 lead and after the Colts made noises of coming back, the Patriots scored 31 consecutive points against them to finish it with a humiliating 45-7 win.
What’s more: After week 4, the Patriots were at 2-2. Everyone counted them out. Not just for this season. The talk was this is the end of Brady as their quarterback. The end for Belichick as an elite coach. A few months later, after going 10-1 before letting the Bills beat them in week 16, and they’re in the Super Bowl.
Past Super Bowl experience: The Seahawks are the defending Super Bowl champions, and also the first team since the 2004 New England Patriots to make it into the game two years in a row. They crushed the Broncos 43-8 in one of the more one sided Super Bowls in history. Previously the franchise had just one Super Bowl appearance, following the 2005 season, losing to the Steelers.
The 2015 playoffs: As the #1 seed, the Seahawks got to skip the first set of games. In the divisional round, they hosted the Panthers. Wilson was perfect on third down (8-of-8, three touchdown passes) and the fantastic Seahawks defense held the Panthers scoreless in the second half until deep into garbage time, winning 31-17.
Things were not so smooth in the conference championship game. The Packers jumped to a 16-0 lead while Russell Wilson finished the game with four interceptions. But the fourth quarter was, well, weird. The Seahawks scored a touchdown to put them 14-19 behind and it took them one onside kick and about 40 more seconds to take a 22-19 lead, thanks to a botched catch by Brandon Bostick and lazy defense on the two-point conversion from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The game went into overtime, but Wilson was in a different mode by then, throwing the game winning touchdown to Jermaine Kearse.
More: The Seahawks were 3-3 at some point this season. No one actually counted them out, but things didn’t look good. Percy Harvin was traded, while it looked like the media was having a lot of fun tearing them apart with rumors of disharmony in the dressing room. And then? Winning nine of their last ten games and holding opponents to seven points or less in five of the last six games.