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Pats among all-time greats


The New England Patriots are officially a dynasty. At Alltel Stadium on Sunday night, the Patriots did a lot more than win another Super Bowl. They achieved immortality.

They joined the Dallas Cowboys as the only teams to have won three Super Bowls in four years. Those Cowboys, however, were built in the years just prior to the league's adoption of the salary cap.

The Patriots team that defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, 24-21, became the first truly great team of the salary cap era. All of their players are salary cap born and bred, beginning, of course, with star quarterback Tom Brady. Brady won his third Super Bowl title in just his fifth season, making him the first quarterback in history achieve that milestones that quickly in his career.

How do they do it? How have the Patriots become a dynasty at a time when all of the rules are designed to discourage such dominance?

They remain the questions to which every other team in the league would like to know the answers.

We know, of course, that all of the Patriots' success begins and ends with Brady. He was sensational, again, in leading the Patriots through the postseason. He whipped record-setting Peyton Manning, dealt Ben Roethlisberger the only loss of his rookie season, and out-played Donovan McNabb in beating the Eagles.

Brady completed 23 of 33 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. At times, he made spectacular throws. Most of the time, he was efficient, workmanlike. Most impressively, Brady played his best and took control of the game with the score tied, 14-14, early in the fourth quarter.

He is the ultimate in a crunch-time quarterback. He gets it done in big games, at big moments.

"What a game," Brady said as he was being interviewed by Terry Bradshaw in the postgame celebration. Bradshaw, of course, won four Super Bowls in six years as quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970's.

"To me, this trophy belongs to the players. These players have played their best in the big games and they really deserve it," head coach Bill Belichick said.

Belichick's third Super Bowl victory put him in elite company. Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs have also each won three Super Bowls, while Chuck Noll has four to his credit.

"I'm proud we were able to win this Super Bowl championship stressing team and not individual accomplishment," Patriots owner Bob Kraft said.

Those words reflect the Patriots' trademark team concept. Belichick preaches it, demands it and has, obviously, sold it.

Now, we have to ask ourselves how many will these Patriots win? How long will this dynasty last?

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