ATLANTA, United States (AFP) — Tom Brady chases 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.
Brady, 41, will become the only player in history to win six Super Bowls if he leads the Patriots to victory, 17 years after he clinched his first title in 2002.
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.
On the field, Brady is bidding to lead the Patriots to the Vince Lombardi Trophy almost claiming his maiden win nearly two decades earlier.
“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.
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.”
The Rams also boast Aaron Donald, named as the NFL’s defensive player of the year on Saturday, after a league-leading 20.5 quarterback sacks in 2018.
Donald is determined to knock Brady out of his comfort zone.
“He’s a great quarterback, but you can pressure him, just like anybody else,” Donald said of Brady. “If we do our job, we can get to him.”
History shows, however, that stopping the Patriots offense is easier said than done.
In their past two Super Bowl appearances, in 2017 and 2018, the Patriots have averaged over 33 points, while Brady amassed a staggering 971 passing yards across the two games.
Nevertheless, the Rams remain confident of pulling off an upset which could conceivably mark the dawn of a new dynasty given the relative youth of their roster.
The Rams received a timely boost on Friday when star kicker Greg Zuerlein was declared fully recovered from a foot strain.
Meanwhile, the Super Bowl will take place under the protection of blanket security, with around 5,000 law enforcement on duty throughout the day.
Another Super Bowl first will occur on the sidelines, with the Rams including two male cheerleaders in their troupe.
Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies are the first male cheerleaders to take part in a Super Bowl after joining the team in March.
© Agence France-Presse