The defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, have descended into Minneapolis, the location of Super Bowl 52. But the lore of the Pats and the biggest game in American sports has been slightly upstaged by the blockbuster trade Tuesday that sends Kansas City Chiefs’ starting quarterback, Alex Smith, to Washington, D.C.
The interruption, brief for now, and quite unexpected, with emphasis solely on the Patriots arrival in “Prince” country, the removal of stitches in their quarterback Tom Brady’s throwing hand and Rob Gronkowski, their star receiver being removed from concussion protocol.
New England departed for Minneapolis Monday, with a crowd of fans chanting, “We’re not done,” as the team entered their tastefully tricked-out, quite fly, private jet wrapped in Patriot colors, their name, “New England Patriots,” written huge along the side.
“We’re going out there to try to win it for you guys,” said Brady.
Sunday will be the Patriots eighth appearance at the Super Bowl with Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Together, they’ve won five, lost two. The Philadelphia Eagles, their opponent Sunday, is a re-match of their third Super Bowl win in February 2005. Before that, New England defeated the St. Louis Rams in 2002 and the Carolina Panthers in 2004. They resumed winning Bowl chips in 2015 against the Seattle Seahawks, and the Atlanta Falcons last year, 2017.
The New York Giants are the only team to have beaten New England and tarnished their Super Bowl appearance record. The first time was in 2008 and the second time was in 2012, during the 10-year drought between their Super Bowl wins, 2005 and 2015.
Sunday’s Super Bowl in Minnesota is the first one held there since Super Bowl XXVI in January 1992, when the Washington Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-24, the third of four of Buffalo’s four consecutive Super Bowl losses.
US Bank Stadium was chosen by the NFL in 2014 to host this season’s game. It’s the new home of the Minnesota Vikings, who have played there since 2016 when it was completed in July of that year. It seats more than 66,000 and expands to 73,000.
New England and Philadelphia were both 13-3 during the regular season. The teams didn’t play each other during the regular season, but New England has been designated the home team. The designation is rotated each year between the conferences—AFC teams in even years and NFC teams in odd years.
New England uses the Vikings’ practice facility and will have use of their locker room on game day. Philadelphia uses the football facilities of the University of Minnesota and the visiting team’s lockers. As the designated home team, the Patriots elected to wear their road white jerseys with navy blue pants as they did last year, a come from behind, 34-28 win against the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles will wear their midnight green jerseys with white pants, their home uniform.
The game begins at 6:30 p.m., EST. Pink will sing the national anthem. Justin Timberlake will provide halftime entertainment, his second Super Bowl appearance. He first appeared with Janet Jackson, and was complicit, if not solely responsible for her right breast being exposed on national television, Super Bowl Sunday, 2004.
Very controversial at the time, the incident been referred to as Nipplegate and described as a “wardrobe malfunction.” CBS, which aired the game was fined $550,000 by the FCC. It was also the second Super Bowl win of the Brady-Belichick era, 32-29 over the Carolina Panthers.