JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — One football team wants to make history. The other wants to bury it.
The New England Patriots are one victory away from winning their third Super Bowl in four seasons and putting Bill Belichick one step beyond Vince Lombardi as the winningest coach in NFL postseason history. The Philadelphia Eagles need a victory to, well, save their city, a place that has gone 43 seasons without a championship football team.
That's plenty to inspire Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was at the helm the last three seasons when Philadelphia went 0 for 3 in NFC championship games. He's ready to start this rumble, which might be billed Royalty vs. Rocky.
"I might just put my helmet on and run out on defense because I'm so fired up," McNabb said. "I might just blitz for no reason and [defensive coordinator] Jim Johnson will put me in on the defensive scheme and I'll be going both sides of the ball."
He was joking, of course, but it just might require that type of intensity and creative thinking to topple the Patriot juggernaut. So far this decade, New England is the same type of dynasty that Pittsburgh was in the 1970s, San Francisco was in the '80s, and Dallas was in the early '90s.
Predictably, the unsmiling Belichick treats dynasty like a nasty word. It chafes him if anyone refers to the Patriots as defending champions, even though they are. He is as cold as a Foxboro morning, as bland as his gray hooded sweatshirt, and now more revered than any coach in the game. He's 9-1 in postseason games, the same record as the legendary Lombardi.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are coached by the huggable Andy Reid, who has been known to crack a smile under that mustache. He seems to relish the fact oddsmakers consider the Patriots seven-point favorites.
"I think that's probably where they should be," Reid said. "You're playing the world champions, and they deserve to be the favorites, I would say. It's important that we come out and prove ourselves that we're worthy of playing. Until you do that, that's a position you're going to have to be in."
That's not to say the Eagles feel overmatched, nor, they say, do they feel satisfied to have gotten this far. They understand what a victory today would mean to their city. The four major Philadelphia teams -- the Eagles, 76ers, Phillies and Flyers -- have gone without a championship since May 1983, when the 76ers swept the Lakers in the NBA Finals. By comparison, New York/New Jersey teams have won 11 titles during that Philly drought, with four by the Yankees, three by the Devils, two by the Giants, and one each by the Mets and Rangers.
"Everybody wants to be Super Bowl champions," Eagle defensive end Hugh Douglas said. "I see friends I played with that were part of Super Bowl champions. Every time I look at those rings I get very jealous.... We didn't just come down here to play in the Super Bowl. Our goal is to win the Super Bowl."
The Patriots are looking to become the eighth team to repeat as Super Bowl champion and the first since Denver did so in the 1997 and '98 seasons. The last team to win three Super Bowls in four seasons was Dallas from 1992 through '95.
All of that is interesting minutiae for the record books, said Patriot linebacker Willie McGinest, but what matters to New England is the here and now.
"Guys are really restless and are ready to get after it," McGinest said. "We've been sitting around now for two weeks. It's the waiting around that they hate the most."
In the week leading up to the game, each team had its restless stars -- particularly New England's Richard Seymour and Philadelphia's Terrell Owens. Both are recovering from injuries that sidelined them for the end of the regular season and the playoffs. And both have said they'll make contributions in today's game. Of the two, Owens has gotten far more media attention.
McNabb, for one, is excited to have him back.
"I think when he's in there, good things are going to happen," the quarterback said. "Everyone is going to be able to see that, and the enjoyable part about it is, when he's out there we'll have all our guys on the offensive side."
We'll know by tonight whether that makes a difference.
"We have a dynasty here too," said McNabb, speaking like a man determined to add a new twist on an old story.
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Some interesting tidbits going into Super Bowl XXXIX:
* Super Bowl teams with fewer turnovers than their opponents are 28-2 (.933)
* Super Bowl teams with more total yards than their opponents are 34-4 (.895)
* Super Bowl teams leading at halftime are 30-7 (.811)
* Super Bowl teams with the most time-consuming scoring drive during the game are 29-9 (.763)
* Super Bowl teams with time of possession advantage are 28-10 (.737)
* Super Bowl teams scoring first are 26-12 (.684)