Super Bowl XLIX: The Patriots' Path To Phoenix

Dirty dozen? But Brady has long thrived on adversity
Dirty dozen? But Brady has long thrived on adversity

New England have rebounded in trademark resilient fashion from a slow start, says Romilly Evans. Here are their key moments and pivotal plays...

"Julian Edelman, a former Kent State quarterback, had been waiting eight years for a chance to throw that pass"

Week 4: With a Week 1 loss to lowly Miami, New England made a stuttering start to the campaign and the vultures were circling after two more unimpressive victories which followed. They landed in Week 4, though, picking over the Patriot carcass in the national spotlight on Monday Night Football. Kansas City embarrassed the Pats 41-14 and Tom Brady failed to throw more than one touchdown pass for the fourth consecutive week. Was the Brady-Belichick era over? Stick a fork in them, they looked done.

Week 5: Brady and his bunch finally engaged full thrust in a 43-17 romp over the Cincinnati Bengals. Brady finally managed two TDs and pushed the 300-yard mark for the first time this term against a top-tier opponent.

Totemic tight-end Rob Gronkowski also stirred from his slumber with a touchdown and over 100 receiving yards. Could New England's Dynamic Duo dig them out of a Gotham-sized hole once again?

Week 9: New England had suddenly built up a head of steam but now faced the strongest side in the AFC, under the guidance of the league's regular-season GOAT Peyton Manning. But Brady again proved Manning's nemesis in a game which shifted the momentum away from the stampeding Broncos in the AFC and gave them a crucial tie-breaker advantage for the play-off seedings.

Brady connected for four touchdowns and over 300 yards, leaving Manning to ponder his woeful 5-11 head-to-head against Brady. The 43-21 thrashing sent a message to the rest of the NFL that the Pats were for real after all.

Divisional Game: Having marked the remainder of their season with narrow or landslide wins against lesser opponents, many wondered if the unpredictable Baltimore Ravens could knock the Patriots out cold at formidable Foxborough (as they had done in 2013).

Joe Flacco came out with a hot hand, leading the Ravens to a commanding 14-point advantage, as Brady appeared to wilt with a school-boy interception. However, Brady got his game face on (three TDs), while coach Belichick donned his thinking cap. The result? An outrageous 51-yard gadget touchdown to Danny Amendola from fellow wideout Julian Edelman (a former Kent State quarterback who'd been waiting eight years for a chance to throw again).

The Pats were back on terms, the Ravens were rattled and the subsequent outcome never seemed in doubt. The Super Bowl champagne was set on ice.

As their balls deflate, it seems, so their expectations inflate.

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