The New England Patriots weren’t supposed to beat younger, more talented teams to win their sixth Super Bowl.
So how did they do it? What made the difference as the Patriots eked out improbable playoff victories? First, an overtime win in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs, with their MVP quarterback. And again, two weeks later in Super Bowl 53 against the Los Angeles Rams.
What factor helped them not only make it to the playoffs but win the Super Bowl?
Keep in mind: For Tom Brady, age 41, this year’s regular season was forgettable, and the Patriots struggled as they finished with one of their worst records since Brady joined the team in 2001. Plus, they had come off an upset 41-33 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl, marked by stories of acrimony between Brady and Coach Bill Belichick. There was a growing consensus that Brady was too old, that the Patriots didn’t have enough talent, that Belichick was ready to retire, and the dynasty was over.
So how is it possible that the 11-5 Patriots beat the Rams, whose 13-3 record this year was tied for the NFL’s best? Especially considering that the Rams beat the other 13-3 team, the New Orleans Saints, in the NFC division championship to reach the Super Bowl.
What’s the answer? It wasn’t necessarily having the winningest quarterback-and-coach combo in NFL history because they still lost in Super Bowl 52.
The answer: my lucky Red Sox baseball shirt, the one I bought in Cooperstown in 2014 (after the Red Sox had won the 2013 World Series). The gray cotton shirt with a big Boston Red Sox logo in front and a stylized B on the left arm seems to be a very lucky shirt. During the 2018 World Series, each time I wore it, the Red Sox won, even if they had been losing until I (watching at home) put it on. The one game I didn’t wear it, Game 3’s 18-inning marathon, the Dodgers won. It was the Red Sox’s only loss during last year’s World Series, and I still blame myself.
By contrast, when I wore the shirt during Games 2 and 5, the Red Sox came from behind and won. Please note: the Red Sox were losing each of those games; they started winning only after I put on my lucky shirt. As detailed here, “Shirt Tales: How My Lucky Shirt Helped the Red Sox Win,” the Red Sox won 100 percent of the games when I wore the lucky shirt during the World Series, and were 2-1 when I didn’t. Clearly wearing the shirt made a big statistical difference, even if I’m only one fan watching on TV, far away from the actual games.
So back to the Patriots.
Super Bowl 53 was tied, 0-0, at the end of the first quarter, when I wore a different shirt. The Patriots took a slim lead, 3-0, before halftime. But things didn’t look good, and I realized I had a decision to make.
On one hand, after halftime, it would be do-or-die time, and Patriots could use all the luck they could get. On the other hand, despite its winning World Series record, I wondered, “Could a Red Sox shirt purchased in Cooperstown, contain enough magic to help the Patriots win a Super Bowl?”
I realized I had no choice. New England was counting on something to make a difference, and that something certainly seemed like my shirt. I couldn’t let down an entire region.
That’s when I made my move. I put on my lucky shirt – waiting until after the Maroon 5 halftime show to be over. (It may be magic but my shirt couldn’t save that, something even Adam Levine realized or why else would he have removed his own shirt mid-performance?)
At first, things didn’t look good for the Patriots – or my shirt.
In the third quarter, the Rams scored a field goal, tying the game, 3-3. But as those who hung in to watch the lowest-scoring Super Bowl realized, the magic eventually worked. With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Pats scored a touchdown. Three minutes later, the Rams threatened to score a touchdown until Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore intercepted a Jared Goff pass on the Patriot’s four-yard line. The Patriots went on to score another field goal, and won, 13-3.
Of course, I don’t want to take all the credit, and I’m not implying the Patriots rode on my shirt’s coattails. My shirt and I couldn’t have done it by ourselves. The Patriots contributed some clutch plays and coaching.
But for those keeping score, my Red Sox shirt is 2-0 during the 2018-19 season when New England is playing Los Angeles for the world championship. So if the Boston Bruins or Celtics make it to the finals, we could turn this into a hat trick!