Super Bowl scene-setting from Houston: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick look to make Super Bowl history

Mike Petraglia
February 05, 2017 - 10:11 am
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[caption id="attachment_116928" align="alignright" width="400"] The scene inside NRG Stadium, hours before kickoff for Super Bowl LI. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)[/caption] HOUSTON -- The moment is finally here for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady - and the New England Patriots. Their shot at Super Bowl history comes this afternoon on the turf of NRG Stadium in Houston where the Patriots aim for their fifth Super Bowl title in franchise history against the upstart NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. On a warm, humid day in Houston, conditions inside the 71,000-seat retractable-roof facility will be ideal as the Patriots look to join the 49ers and Cowboys for the second-most Vince Lombardi trophies. Pittsburgh sits atop the mountain with six in the Super Bowl era. The 49ers won their five in 14 seasons from 1981-94. With a win, the Patriots would claim their fifth in 16 seasons from 2001-16. Belichick would surpass Chuck Noll for the most Super Bowl wins with his fifth while Brady would break a tie with his childhood hero Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. All three quarterbacks own four Super Bowl rings. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Sunday morning that the Patriots believe Brady when he says he has a desire to play 3-5 more seasons, and at a high level. Rapoport reported that the team would pursue a contract extension after the 2017 season, making it more likely they trade backup Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason. Garoppolo has been rumored to be atop the wish list of the Cleveland Browns this offseason. Another story that broke Sunday morning was the news that the Patriots wanted to trade Jamie Collins to the Texans for DeAndre Hopkins in October before settling on the deal that landed the former Patriots star linebacker in Cleveland. There are injuries on both side of the ball worth monitoring early on. The more serious appears to be with the Falcons. Starting Pro Bowl center Alex Mack is dealing with a chip fracture of the fibula in his left leg. The Falcons believe he can start and play effectively but head coach Dan Quinn admitted Thursday that there is a good level of concern about how it would hold up. Likely, it will come down to pain threshold. Julio Jones is battling a toe injury but said this week he expects to be full go for the game. Both players were limited all week but will start in the game. For the Patriots, Alan Branch had his toe stepped on in the first practice of the week on Wednesday. A day later Branch said the toe was "a little sore" but that he was feeling good and should be fine in the game. Another defensive lineman could be more of a concern as rookie Vincent Valentine had back pain on Thursday and was limited the last two practices. Valentine also had back issues early in the season. He is expected to be available. Then there's Martellus Bennett. Like Alex Mack, the Patriots tight end has been dealing with a bone chips in his right ankle since suffering the injury against the Browns on Oct. 9. He will likely have a procedure once the season is over. As he has been throughout the playoffs, he will play through the pain for the Super Bowl. Chris Price has the complete scouting report and breakdown of Super Bowl LI while Ryan Hannable has 51 fun facts to consider going into the game.