The New England Patriots didn’t start the season like a Super Bowl team. After four games they were a distinctly average 2-2 and had many writing them off as a spent force in the NFL.
A shock opening-week loss to the Miami Dolphins was followed with a calamitous trip to Kansas City, which ended with a 41-14 loss and questions over the future of Tom Brady, who managed just 159 yards with two interceptions.
Boy did they respond from there though. Seven straight wins were reeled off by the Patriots, including an NFL-record three consecutive victories by 20 points or more.
Over the final 10 games of the season New England won 10, averaging 29.5 points a game and climbing to the number one seed in the AFC.
Without the ball, a re-jigged defense allowed the eighth-fewest points per game over the course of the season thanks to the additions of Darrelle Revis and former Seahawk Brandon Browner.
The Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 2004/05 season, but they’ve played extremely well to give themselves a chance of correcting that.
The Seahawks’ season started with an impressive victory over the well-fancied Green Bay Packers and was extended when the defending champions beat that same team to book a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.
It wasn’t a smooth ride to Arizona though, as Seattle lost three times over six games before winning their last half a dozen to seal the NFC’s top spot.
Perhaps the season’s biggest rhetoric involved personnel moves though, rather than on-field performance.
Key defensive cogs, like Browner, left in the offseason, while two prominent wide receivers, Percy Harvin and Golden Tate also departed. For a club not known for their prowess through the air, the latter decision looked particularly curious.
In the end the moves were inspired as the defense stepped up to carry the club through. The renowned unit allowed on average just 6.5 points a game over their six-match winning streak, recording 24 sacks in the process.
Such resilience was on display again in the Championship game against the Packers. Trailing 16-0 midway through the third quarter, then 19-7 with little over two minutes to go in the game the Seahawks scored 15 points in 44 seconds before ending things in overtime with a 35-yard touchdown.
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