Patriots, Falcons hit Super Bowl LI as different (yet similar) teams

An entire generation of football fans in the Bay State and beyond has come of age having never known anything but metronomic victory, as reliable and anticipated in New England as the change of leaves and the spring thaw. An entire generation of fans in the South’s capital has grown up knowing nothing of the sort, buffeted by the peaks and valleys of scandal and success, tragedy and triumph.

But the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons arrive at Super Bowl LI looking remarkably similar, with golden-armed quarterbacks so familiar with each other Tom Brady said he regularly texts Matt Ryan and a stable of young talent arrayed around them. While the franchises have traveled wildly divergent paths, their starting points to this peak were nearly synchronized games that included disarray — with fallout that’ll still be felt this Sunday.

Twenty years ago, the Patriots were in another Super Bowl, the franchise’s second, and they were smashed by the Green Bay Packers, 35-21. It would be Brett Favre’s only championship, but it stands out in Patriots lore for a bizarre subtopic that would set in motion the events that, ultimately,

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