They say history repeats itself, and based on the similarities between the 2003 Patriots and this year’s team, perhaps that’s accurate.
Seriously, the consistencies are more than just an echo. They’re uncanny.
So both teams enter Super Bowls held in Houston, Texas, with 16-2 records through the regular season and the playoffs.
Neither team had trailed in a game since Week 12 of the respective seasons. For the 2003 Patriots, that was a 23-30 overtime win over the Houston Texans in what would become NRG Stadium. Tom Brady kept the Texans in the game with two interceptions and a lost fumble, but the Patriots pulled off the win thanks to an overtime field goal from then-kicker Adam Vinatieri.
In 2016, the Patriots trailed 17-13 in Week 12 to the New York Jets, but a fourth-quarter field goal and then a late-game touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Malcolm Mitchell got New England the 22-17 win.
The weird resemblance between these two seasons doesn’t end there. Each team also had a shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Bills finished 6-10 in 2003, and this season, Buffalo went 7-9 and fired head coach Rex Ryan before Week 17.
The 16-0 loss to the Bills this year, though, was the final week of a four-game suspension Tom Brady served to start the season for the Deflategate controversy. Rookie Jacoby Brissett got the start with Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined with a shoulder injury.
But perhaps the most surprising coincidence between these Patriots seasons is that both teams entered the Super Bowl with the top-ranked scoring defense in the league. These two seasons mark the only two times in franchise history that the defense has led the league in points allowed.
In 2016, the Patriots allowed just 15.6 points per game. The 2003 team allowed an average of 14.9 points per game.
Now the Patriots head into the Super Bowl to, once again, face an NFC South team. This time, it’s the top-scoring offense in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game this season, which is significantly better than the Panthers did 13 years ago with 20.3 points per game.
The similarities between the 2003 and 2016 Patriots are remarkable, but the Falcons have a shot to keep history from repeating itself in Super Bowl LI, too.