The only way to really “avenge” Super Bowl XLII? A miracle comeback on Sunday — in other words, exchanging 2008’s Stomach Punch loss for a 2012 Stomach Punch win. But even that wouldn’t totally avenge 2008, because it wasn’t just the championship at stake that day — the 19-victory season represented invincibility, superiority and immortality. It placed that Patriots team on any “Greatest Teams Ever” list that any human being would ever make. They’d have to be mentioned. Always. Every time. Now, 18-1 is the first thing anyone mentions about the Belichick-Brady era — ahead of the incredible Rams upset, three titles in four years, the Snow Game, 26 straight wins, Brady starting five Super Bowls or even some of the quirky innovations Belichick unearthed over that time. It’s a little unfair, but it’s sports, and that’s just the way these things work.
But let’s say the Patriots win a fourth Super Bowl on Sunday. That would put them one away from a chance at five titles (no coach/quarterback combo ever pulled that off) and six Brady Super Bowl starts (a record for QBs). They would have to be mentioned in any “greatest NFL runs ever” discussion, which wouldn’t be as sexy as “19-0” from an immortality standpoint but packs a similar punch. Especially if they beat the Giants (who broke their hearts) on Sunday in Indianapolis (their most hated rivals) in a stadium filled with Giants and Colts fans. Has any Super Bowl team ever had FEWER fans rooting for them at a Super Bowl? Has any team ever played the big game under legitimately hostile conditions? The Patriots may as well be playing the Cowboys in Dallas while wearing “Obama 2012” jerseys. Beating the Giants on Sunday would be a tougher victory than you think. You know, if it happens.