|Free agents need 1 win to get championship that drew them to Patriots|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 25 January 2008 15:15|
They came to New England to find it: an NFL championship.
A week from Sunday, two of the best players at their positions during the past two decades, perhaps of all time, could get it if the Patriots beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
``This is a long journey,'' said Seau, still an outstanding linebacker at age 39. ``When I first came here, my decision was based on going to an organization where you have a chance.''
He signed with the Patriots as a free agent before the 2006 season, but missed the playoffs with a broken arm. Instead of playing in the AFC championship game, a 38-34 loss at Indianapolis, he went surfing in San Diego.
Moss ended last season out of the playoffs and anxious to leave after two subpar seasons in Oakland. The Patriots provided a cross-country escape hatch, and he willingly took a pay cut for a chance to play with quarterback Tom Brady and the three-time NFL champions.
``They have a massive reputation of what they stand for, and that's winning,'' Moss said. ``Through the course of my career, or just the course of my life of playing sports, I've always tried to be a winner.''
Moss is a major reason the Patriots are 18-0. He set the NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions in a season, breaking Jerry Rice's mark by one. And he finished tied for eighth in the league with 98 catches and second with 1,493 yards receiving.
Another newcomer, linebacker Adalius Thomas, was just a rookie on the Baltimore Ravens when they won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season. He played in just three regular-season games and one playoff game, the AFC championship victory over Oakland.
He went on to play in two Pro Bowls and now he's back in the NFL's biggest game as a major contributor at outside linebacker.
The thought of returning to the Super Bowl drew him to the Patriots.
``I knew it gave me a great chance,'' Thomas said. ``Did I think it would be the first year? I really didn't know, but I knew you had a great chance of being there. That's all you can really ask for in this game, is to have a chance to play, to get an opportunity to get to the playoffs and play for a championship and go on to the stage that we're on now.
``So that definitely was a big part of why I signed here.''
Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth also joined the Patriots as a free agent this season. He was with Philadelphia when the Eagles lost in the NFC divisional playoff after the 2006 season.
He, too, came to the Patriots with an eye toward fulfilling a long-held desire: to be a champion.
``This is it,'' he said. ``This is the biggest game of the best sport in the world and this is what you fantasize about growing up as a little kid, playing in your backyard and things like that. This is it.''
But Seau said those free agents don't talk much about their common desire that brought them here.
``There are some things you don't even have to talk about,'' he said. ``It's understood.''
They still have to beat the Giants to be able to pass around the Lombardi Trophy after it's awarded to the winning team.
A loss would be more painful than simply missing out on the championship. It also would ruin their quest for a 19-0 season that would make them the only team other than the Miami Dolphins, who went 17-0 in 1972, to finished a season undefeated.
The Patriots may seem like a special team, but Seau isn't convinced yet.
``It's only special if we can finish it. The 18-0 record is nothing without finishing,'' he said. ``The end isn't here. We're about eight days away.''
And when that day comes?
``This game is the reason why we all are here, just for a chance to go out there and, hopefully, win,'' Seau said. ``And when you win often, it leads to great things. So here we are.''