ATLANTA (AFP) – Tom Brady will chase an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl crown here Sunday as the New England Patriots face the Los Angeles Rams in a clash of the generations set to rewrite the NFL record books.
Patriots star Brady, 41, will become the oldest quarterback ever to lift the title if he masterminds yet another championship in the latest milestone of a career that has shown no signs of flagging.
A win would see Brady become the only player in history to win six Super Bowls, an achievement which may never been beaten in an era of ever shorter NFL careers.
A capacity crowd of 75,324 will pack Atlanta’s futuristic Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the NFL spectacular, the biggest annual event on the US sporting calendar, which kicks off at 6.30pm (2330 GMT).
Grammy Award-winning band Maroon 5 will headline the traditional half-time concert, which comes after several performers reportedly turned down the opportunity to participate in protest at the NFL’s treatment of activist former San Francisco quarter-back Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick has been effectively frozen out of the NFL after his ‘’take a knee’’ protests which led to a political firestorm in 2017.
On the field, Brady is bidding to lead the Patriots to the Vince Lombardi Trophy fully 17 years after orchestrating the team’s first triumph back in 2002.
‘’When you’ve been in the position I’ve been in, you just count your blessings every day,’’ Brady said, who will be playing in a record ninth Super Bowl.
Records are also set to tumble in the event of a win by a youthful Rams team led by 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff and coaching prodigy Sean McVay.
McVay, only 33, will become the youngest head coach ever to win the Super Bowl if he manages to outwit Patriots counterpart Bill Belichick, who at 66 is twice McVay’s age.
Belichick, who has won five Super Bowls as head coach and two as an assistant, would become the oldest head coach to take the Lombardi Trophy with a win.
Belichick was in relaxed mood on Saturday as the Patriots players were given a day off training to visit the venue for Sunday’s game with family and friends.
Belichick said there were no special plans for his eve-of-game team talk.
‘’Just us circling the wagons and playing for each other,’’ he said. ‘’We are playing a good team, and we are going to have to play our best game of the year.’’
The generational chasm that exists between Sunday’s principal protagonists is highlighted by a cursory comparison of their respective biographies.
When Brady inspired the Patriots to their first Super Bowl, Goff was seven years old.
Similarly, McVay was playing at quarterback for his high school football team when Belichick was in charge for New England’s 2002 win.
The vast differences in experience between the rivals have prompted bookmakers to install the Patriots as favorites to win a sixth title, putting them level with the Pittsburgh Steelers as the most successful franchise in Super Bowl history.
Despite the experience gap, the Rams have drawn confidence from a free-scoring campaign that saw them emerge as one of the most exciting offenses in the league.
The Rams also point to their victory in the NFC title game against New Orleans, where they battled through an ear-splitting maelstrom in the Superdome, as evidence of their maturity.
‘’Obviously they’ve played in a bunch of big games,’’ Goff said of the Patriots. ‘’But we were inexperienced against New Orleans and we put that one away.’’