MINNEAPOLIS: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will have a slew of records in their sights on Sunday (Monday in Manila) as they aim to defend their Super Bowl crown against a Philadelphia Eagles team chasing a first ever win.
Brady, 40, will become the oldest quarterback in history to win the Lombardi Trophy if he successfully leads the Patriots to a record-equalling sixth title.
A sixth title for Brady would also give him more Super Bowl rings than any other player in history.
Win or lose, Brady will become the oldest non-kicker to play in the showpiece on Sunday, 16 years after guiding the Patriots to his first Super Bowl crown in 2002.
More than 100 million households in the United States are expected to tune in for Brady’s latest tilt with Father Time, ending a tumultuous NFL season rocked by player protests and a feud with President Donald Trump.
Trump triggered a furious backlash across the NFL last September after disparaging mostly African-American players who refused to stand for the national anthem in a protest against social injustices.
Advertisers are expected to steer clear of politically-charged TV ads, in contrast to last year, when issues such as immigration and women’s rights were tackled.
Pop star Justin Timberlake, who headlines the halftime show, will also aim to avoid controversy, 14 years after the TV-watching nation were scandalized by Janet Jackson in the “Nipplegate” furore.
A crowd of around 66,500 will huddle under the covered roof of the US Bank Stadium, while Minneapolis shivers in the forecasted sub-zero temperatures.
Temperatures at kick-off, at 5.30pm local time (2330 GMT), are expected to be three degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius) – the coldest Super Bowl in history.
Brady looks to future
Sunday’s finale comes one year after Brady inspired New England to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, when the Patriots overturned a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime. Since then the veteran quarterback has shown no signs of being on the wane.
On Saturday, he became the oldest recipient of the NFL’s Player of the Year award, the third time he has won the honour. It follows a season in which Brady threw for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
Brady, who will be playing in his eighth Super Bowl, has shown no interest in savouring the accolades or reflecting on his place at the very top of the NFL’s pantheon.
“I don’t think much about legacy, I never have,” he told reporters. “My motivation comes from just trying to be the best I can be for this team. What’s happened in the past is great, but it’s not going to win us anything this weekend.”
Underdogs to bite?
Lying in wait for Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are an Eagles team who powered into the Super Bowl with a 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings.
The Eagles sealed their place thanks to a dazzling display from quarterback Nick Foles, the back-up who was thrust into the starting position after an injury ended Carson Wentz’s season in December.
Foles, 29, was only 16 when Brady was winning his third Super Bowl ring, against the Eagles in 2005.
If there is a gulf in experience between Brady and Foles, a chasm separates Belichick and Eagles counterpart Doug Pederson.
Belichick 65, has won seven Super Bowl rings, two as an assistant with the New York Giants and five as head coach with the Patriots, in a career spanning five decades.
Pederson, 50 and only two years into his first head coaching job, was coaching a high school team in Louisiana when Belichick won his fifth Super Bowl in 2005.
Pederson, however, says the Eagles are embracing the role of underdogs. Some of his players have even taken to wearing latex dog masks during their postseason.
“I’ve been an underdog my whole career, my whole life,” Pederson said. “I think that’s the mentality of our football team. I think that’s the mentality of our city, and I’m OK with that.”