History’s Team: the New England Patriots

With two weeks between the AFC/NFC Championship games and Super Bowl XLII, MattHubert.com is taking an individual look at both the Patriots and the Giants before presenting its Super Bowl prediction column. Click here to read about the Giants.

The Patriots toughest opponent on Super Bowl Sunday will be history. They can beat the Giants. They should beat the Giants. And everyone thinks they will beat the Giants (with the exception of the Giants).

With a win, the Patriots etch their names in stone by completing the greatest season the NFL has ever seen. With a win, the Patriots record improves to 19-0. Nineteen and oh!

Perfection. It’s a word that doesn’t often have a place in professional sports, especially team sports, where a collection of talented individuals does not necessarily result in success. Perfection is often done in by competition. After all, even the worst pro team is made up of players who starred in high school and college.

Perfection requires chemistry, cohesion and a bit of luck. Perfection requires attention to detail. And in a day and age where everything in sports is instantaneously digested – scores are updated in real time, recaps are posted online immediately following the game, and sportswriters, radio hosts and TV personalities discuss the biggest topics all day long – it’s hard to imagine staying focused on any one task. Perfection entails exactly that. Focus on one task. Accomplish it. Move on. And that’s what the Patriots have done.

Love them or hate them – there are few fans with feelings in between – the Patriots have faced the NFL’s best and won every single time. From SpyGate to the AFC Championship, the Patriots have won. In blowouts and close games, the Patriots won. Leading wire-to-wire and coming from behind late, the Patriots won. With a record setting offense and a stingy veteran defense, the Patriots won.

They beat the defending champion Colts on the road. They beat seven playoff teams, including San Diego twice. They swept the NFC East, which sent three of its four teams to the postseason, by a combined margin 169-97. And now they are one win away from winning the big one without losing any one.

Patriots in pursuit of perfection

With an undefeated season one win away, it’s worth asking. If the Patriots win to go 19-0, are they, in fact, perfect?

The oldest definition of the word “perfection,” comes from Aristotle. In Book Delta of the Metaphysics, Aristotle lists three qualifying statements of perfection.

1. That is perfect which is complete (contains all the requisite parts)
The Patriots may not be “complete.” They’re playing without some key players who were placed on injured reserve such as linebacker Rosevelt Colvin and running back Sammy Morris.

2. That is perfect which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better
The Patriots may not be “so good that nothing of the kind could be better.” Stephen Gostkowski missed three field goals. That leaves room for improvement. The defense didn’t record a single shutout this season. Clearly that could be bettered.

3. That is perfect which has attained its purpose.
It’s possible to argue the first two points, but if the Patriots beat the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, it’s going to be impossible to argue with point number three because winning the Super Bowl has undoubtedly been the Patriots’ primary purpose since they left the field as losers last January in Indianapolis.

Speaking of perfection, a win would give the Brady/Belichick combination a perfect 4-0 record in the Super Bowl. Only one other combination has as many rings, Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s.

The Patriots franchise is already in elite company. Only the Cowboys, who have appeared eight times, have made more Super Bowl appearances. With a win, the Patriots will trail only the 49ers, Cowboys and Steelers in total Super Bowl wins.

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