Before Tom Brady replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe early in the 2001 season, the New England Patriots had never won a Super Bowl. Barely three years later, the team has two and a shot at a third this weekend. In The Boston Globe, John Powers highlights Brady's tremendous work ethic, a drive that represents Brady's tremendous success.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant contends Brady has the whole world at his fingertips, citing his endearing demeanor as a likely catalyst to a job in politics or anywhere he wants.
Nancy Marapese-Burrell of the Globe features tight end Christian Fauria, whose quiet hard-work is emblematic of the Patriots team mentality.
Tom Curran of The Providence Journal looks at the wide receivers, a group that also toils in relative anonymity. Because the group has a handful of productive players, not each wideout can get his touches each game. Nonetheless, the group has shown remarkable discipline and understanding, taking just as much pride in laying a springing block as they would a touchdown catch.
Also in the Journal, Shalize Manza Young presents the six Patriots veteran that will don the New England uniform in a Super Bowl for the fourth time tomorrow.
One of those six is Willie McGinest, whom Mike Reiss spotlights in today's MetroWest Daily News. Reiss looks back at the day in 2002, when McGinest was left unprotected in the expansion draft to form the Houston Texans. Since then, big Willie has thrived, making a Pro Bowl and winning a title, while making more than his share of the team's biggest plays.
The Patriots defensive unit has arguably been the most significant key to the team's recent success, and Tom Pedulla of USA Today reviews the old adage that says defense wins championships.
Behind McGinest's gang of linebackers, veteran safety Rodney Harrison has held together a group of unknown, inexperienced defensive backs who have been thrown to the fire in the wake of key injuries. Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call gives insight to Harrison's ability to lead.
The single most costly injury was the loss of Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law, who broke his foot against the Steelers in October and was lost for the year. Parente reports Law is set to return next season, though his future in New England remains in doubt due to his high salary for 2005.
One player who has certainly stepped up to help make up for the loss of Law is undrafted rookie free agent Randall Gay. Gay, who played last year at LSU, was thrust into a starting role and, after a few early miscues, has blossomed into a very solid cover guy. Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com has more in Gay's roller coaster year.
Karen Guregian of The Boston Herald contends the special teams units will factor in tomorrow's game. Both teams feature Pro Bowl special teammers, and a big play in the special teams can turn a game around in an instant. As part of the Herald's examination of the major players on special teams, Kevin Mannix looks at Patriots special teams demon Larry Izzo, while Rich Thompson features his Philly counterpart Ike Reese. Thompson also has an article on Philly long-snapper and former Patriots Mike Bartrum. Stephen Harris has information on Eagles Pro-Bowl kicker David Akers, who is thus far flying under the radar in the Super Bowl shadow of Adam Vinatieri. Dan Ventura has the punters who, as always, could change the game's complexion with one considerable shank. Finally, Mannix introduces Pats special teams coach Brad Seely.
In a notable move yesterday, Bill Belichick declined to take part in the traditional posing of Super Bowl coaches with the Lombardi trophy. While Belichick posed with the trophy during each of the team's previous two trips, Belichick deliberately blew right past it at the conclusion of his press conference. Michael Felger of the Herald has more.
Also in the Herald, Ventura recounts commissioner Paul Tagliabue's state of the league address from yesterday, in which he defended the Super Bowl placement in Jacksonville. Tagliabue contended that Jacksonville is emblematic of the small cities that have held the league together for so many years.
Tom Mooney of the Journal has advice for those trying to get themselves to, and into, the big game.
ESPN.com compares the two running backs in tomorrow's tilt, with Michael Smith discussing Corey Dillon's seemless integration to the Pats offense, and Greg Garber has the overshadowed, but ever-dangerous, Brian Westbrook.
That's it for The Blitz this weekend. After tomorrow's game and Monday's travel day, we'll be back on Tuesday. Enjoy Super Bowl XXXIX!