Experience could be key in Super Bowl outcome
There's no hiding it. One edge the New England Patriots have over the Atlanta Falcons in today's Super Bowl can't be denied - experience.
It's a factor never to be scoffed at when the AFC and NFC champions meet for the league title.
Sure, New England (16-2) have a bunch of young players - 16 with four years or less in the NFL - and the Falcons (13-5) actually have four guys who have played in a Super Bowl - Dwight Freeney, Courtney Upshaw, Dashon Goldson and Philip Wheeler. Don't let that mislead you.
When a team has a quarterback and a coach in their seventh Super Bowl together, along with a slew of players who helped it win the championship just two years ago, well, that's the kind of experience that can be key.
Just ask Tom Brady.
"I've got a good regulation of my emotions and I know when I need to get amped up and I know when I need to relax a little bit, and I think you learn those things," said Brady, a three-time Super Bowl MVP who's 4-2 in the game.
"You kind of have to be right on the edge. It's such an emotional game. You don't want to be out of control, but you can't play with no emotion. You strike different chords for different emotions at different times."
The Falcons aren't discounting the edge of having been down this path. Freeney, who won a ring with Indianapolis at the 2007 game, believes the mental approach is critical.
WHOLE DIFFERENT LEVEL
"I was 24 or 25 or whatever I was," he said of playing in the Colts' victory against Chicago. "My body and everything was just on a whole different level, which is to be expected at that age.
Atlanta have never won an NFL crown, are in only their second Super Bowl in 51 seasons of life - a decisive loss to Denver came in 1999 - and rarely have been a contender to get this far.
Since Brady became New England's starter, he ranks first in postseason wins (24), passing attempts (1,263), completions (788), yards (8,628) and touchdowns (61). He has the most multi-touchdown games (19) and most career 300-yard games (11) in NFL playoff history. He will also become the first player to appear in seven Super Bowls, and with a victory would have the most rings, tied with Charles Haley.