January 21, 2015

It's been a decade since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick guided the New England Patriots to back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

Now, the NFL's winningest quarterback-coach tandem tries to prevent the Seattle Seahawks from becoming the next team to accomplish that feat.

In the process, Brady looks to become the third quarterback to win four titles Sunday when the Patriots and Seahawks meet in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium.

''There are 32 teams that started. There are two remaining,'' said Brady, who will become the first quarterback to start six Super Bowls. ''We're trying to be the one that finishes off the season the way you want to.''

The NFL leader with 20 playoff victories and 49 postseason touchdown passes, the 37-year-old Brady knows the difficulty that awaits as he tries to join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only signal-callers to win four titles.

''It's hard to compare, year to year. I think every situation's different,'' he said. ''We've had a lot of good teams in the past. This one is going to have to win a very important game to kind of leave our legacy.''

New England is 3-2 in Super Bowls with Brady, but he was outshined by Eli Manning while losing the last two to the New York Giants following the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

As was the case when "Spygate" overshadowed the Patriots' run the last time the Super Bowl was held in Arizona following the 2007 season, the Patriots again find themselves mired in controversy after a report claimed the NFL found 11 of their 12 allotted game balls were underinflated during the 45-7 rout of Indianapolis in the AFC title game.

Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player or the way it travels through the air.

"Any questions on that you should talk to (the NFL)," said Belichick, who will join Don Shula as the only head coach to appear in six Super Bowls.

Joining Pittsburgh and Dallas as the only teams to reach eight Super Bowls, the bigger concern for New England is its opponent.

Seattle is the 12th team with a chance to repeat - eight have - after its dominant defense stymied Denver's high-powered offense in last year's 43-8 Super Bowl rout. Winners of eight straight, the Seahawks are coming off an improbable 28-22 comeback overtime win over Green Bay in the NFC championship.

"They just wear you down with their relentless effort and I think that's why they're (here)," Belichick said.

It's the teams' first meeting since Russell Wilson threw a go-ahead 46-yard TD pass with 1:18 left in Seattle's 24-23 home win Oct. 14, 2012. Then a rookie, Wilson threw for 293 yards with three TDs to rally the Seahawks from 13 down midway through the fourth quarter, while Brady went 36 of 58 for 395 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman recorded one of those picks and later tweeted a photo of himself taunting Brady with a caption that said, "U Mad Bro?"

An elbow injury isn't expected to keep Sherman from the rematch. His "Legion of Boom" companion Earl Thomas also is likely to play despite a shoulder injury.

A Seahawks team that yielded 39 points in the final six regular-season games before giving up the same in two playoff contests faces a Patriots group that's scored 80 in two postseason games.

After watching his team overcome a 12-point deficit in the final 2:10 against the Packers, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows his team can accomplish just about anything.

''This is a group that has really committed to understanding what it takes from themselves and from the team and they have learned a lot,'' said Carroll, who went 27-21 with the Patriots from 1997-99 during his second stint as an NFL head coach.

Though it's no surprise either team has reached this point, it didn't seem as likely early on.

Seattle allowed an average of 23.5 points while splitting its first six games and dealt with some tension inside the locker room. After internally clearing the air, the Seahawks won nine of 10 to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

"I just continue to believe in our guys," Wilson said. "I'm honored to be on this team."

New England started 2-2 and some wondered if Brady's time as a dominant QB was coming to an end after he averaged just 5.77 yards per attempt and posted a 79.1 passer rating while throwing only four touchdown passes during that stretch.

''You don't want to judge your team after three or four games into the season,'' said Brady, who threw 29 TDs, seven INTs and had a 103.0 rating while helping New England win 10 of its next 11 to earn the AFC's top seed.

Brady's been aided by tight end Rob Gronkowski, who bounced back from a seven-game 2013 season that ended with a knee injury to record 82 receptions, 1,124 yards and 12 TDs.

In his second stint with the Patriots, LeGarrette Blount provided a spark by gaining 281 yards and averaging 4.7 per carry in five regular-season games after being cut by Pittsburgh on Nov. 18. He rushed for 148 yards and three TDs against the Colts.

Seattle hasn't yielded more than 73 yards to any rusher since Kansas City's Jamaal Charles had 159 on Nov. 16 in its most recent defeat.

The Patriots held the Colts to 83 rushing yards, but face a more daunting task against Marshawn Lynch.

The veteran back has few words for the media but spoke volumes while gaining 157 yards on 25 carries and scoring the TD that put Seattle ahead for the first time versus Green Bay.

Wilson, meanwhile, overcame four interceptions to improve to 6-1 in the postseason. He's 10-0 all-time against quarterbacks who own at least one Super Bowl ring.

"He has an instinctiveness; he just knows where people are," Belichick said about Wilson, who threw for 206 yards and two TDs in last year's Super Bowl. "I can't really define it. You can't really coach it."

Wilson completed the conference championship-winning 35-yard TD pass to Jermaine Kearse, who has caught a touchdown in four straight postseason games. He had three receptions for 129 yards and a score against the Broncos.

New England cornerback Brandon Browner will try to help contain his former team, which has averaged 28.5 points in the last four games overall. Suspended late last season for violating the NFL's drug policy, Browner was signed in the offseason by the Patriots just days before they added one of the NFL's top corners in Darrelle Revis.

"I'm looking forward to it," Kearse told the Seahawks' official website about facing his ex-teammate. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

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