Patriots

5 things Patriots fans can take away from the Super Bowl matchup

Nick Wass
Former Patriots running back Sony Michel is heading to his second Super Bowl in four seasons, this time with the Rams.


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Five Super Bowl-themed takeaways from conference championship weekend, as viewed through a Patriots prism:

1. The biggest takeaway when it comes to the Bengals could be the fact that a slow build with multiple draft picks paid off with a rapid ascent over the last 18 months. Granted, Joe Burrow’s injury sidelined him for a sizable portion of last year, but Cincinnati finished 4-11-1 in 2020. For a team like New England that was 10-7 with rookie Mac Jones in 2021, it’s easy to point to Burrow and the Bengals as inspiration. If you hit on multiple picks, add the right pieces and find a young quarterback, the idea of making that leap from a sub-.500 season to the Super Bowl isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds.

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2. That said, Burrow’s supporting cast — particularly wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and running back Joe Mixon — are difference-makers. Chase, who should beat out Jones for Offensive Rookie of the Year, is the sort of option that allows Burrow to thrive. The Patriots have to find Jones his No. 1, the sort of terrifying offensive option that can open up the rest of the field for the rest of the offense. I’m not suggesting guys like Chase grow on trees, but it’s clear the Bengals prioritized finding a target who could grow with Burrow, and they succeeded when they landed on his former college teammate. The Patriots have to do the same for Jones this offseason. (Maybe start Googling “Alabama wide receivers”?)

3. It’s hard not to root for someone like Sony Michel, who was dealt to the Rams from New England prior to the start of the year and is now set for his second Super Bowl appearance in four seasons. The other player on the Los Angeles roster with New England ties is wide receiver Van Jefferson (50 catches, 802 yards, six touchdowns this season), the son of Shawn Jefferson, who had 178 catches for 3,081 yards and 14 touchdowns in four seasons (1996-99) for the Patriots.

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4. The personnel connections between the Patriots and the respective conference champions are thin, but there are a pair of Massachusetts ties when it comes to each coaching staff. The Rams assistant strength & conditioning coach is John Griffin, who was a running back at Northeastern and UMass. (With the Huskies, Griffin was a 2009 first team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection and led the CAA in rushing.) The Bengals have senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner, who made his bones as the head coach at Holy Cross from 1986 to 1991 where his teams went 60-5-1.

5. The elimination of the Chiefs means the 2018 Patriots remain as one of the few teams to beat the curse of the Super Bowl loser. Including this year’s Kansas City team, of the last nine teams who lost the Super Bowl, only one — the ‘18 Patriots, who won it all — got back to the Super Bowl the following year. Three of those teams didn’t even reach the postseason. (Before that, in the nine years between 1998 and 2006, only two of those teams even made it back to the playoffs the following year, and only three of those teams had winning records.) While there are always exceptions to the rule, the team who loses on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium should take heed.

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