Maybe New England coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will retire soon.
That appears to be the only hope for the 31 other teams in the NFL. If Belichick, 64, and Brady, 39, walk away soon, the other teams have a chance. If not, the Patriots' reign could last a few more years.
It was evident again Sunday night when New England overcame a 25-point second-half deficit by scoring 19 in the fourth quarter. The Patriots went on to defeat Atlanta, 34-28, in overtime. In case you're keeping track, that's five Super Bowl rings for Brady and Belichick in New England.
There are several teams in the league that don't even have one. New England has the best coach and best quarterback in a league that emphasizes having a pass-happy offense.
It could change if Brady and Belichick evoke their own mercy rule, and depart. Or maybe Father Time starts taking a toll and forces them to leave. Or maybe they become bored and get tired of winning.
The rest of the league just can't keep up with the Patriots. Belichick is brighter than the other head coaches, or he simply waits for them to outthink themselves. Case in point was Atlanta. With five minutes left in the game and still up 28-20, all the Falcons had to do was run the ball three more times from the New England 22-yard line and then send out Pro Bowl kicker Matt Bryant to seal the victory.
Instead, Atlanta lost 1 yard on a running play. On the next play, quarterback Matt Ryan was thrown for a 12-yard loss after dropping back to pass. Any hope for a field goal faded when Atlanta was called for holding. The Falcons had to punt.
After that series you had to wonder if Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was related to Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who made similar play-calling blunders when the Ravens almost lost to Philadelphia late in the regular season.
All that was needed was for Atlanta coach Dan Quinn to come out after the game and say that was the "worst call ever."
Belichick intimidates other coaches. He has done that with Seattle's Pete Carroll, Indianapolis' Chuck Pagano and the Ravens' John Harbaugh. Each week he finds a way to take out the other team's top offensive player or comes up with something new like the quick-paced, no-huddle offense that caught Pittsburgh off guard in the AFC championship two weeks ago.
On Sunday, the Patriots had two excellent two-point conversion plays, and even that final play at the end of regulation where they ran a sweep was neat. The Patriots are so disciplined that they very seldom beat themselves like Atlanta did by trying to return kickoffs five yards deep in the end zone late in the game.
The Patriots' opponents fear Belichick because of the enormous respect they have for him. It was fun watching him Sunday night. As the Patriots were getting smacked around in the first half he was on the sidelines either fussing with his players or cursing officials. He was walking around with photos of formations, talking with and teaching his players, not leaving it up to the position coaches.
By the third quarter, he had improved the scheme as far as protecting Brady and the Patriots started winning individual matchups. Meanwhile, Atlanta made no adjustments defensively and allowed those Smurf-like Patriots receivers to escape clean off the line of scrimmage.
In the end, the Falcons got tired on defense. Brady roasted them for 466 yards and two touchdowns as he completed 43 of 62 passes to win his fourth Super Bowl MVP. He is hated in Baltimore — and that is understandable — but he is an amazing player.
Local fans complain about his whining, but on Sunday night he took a beating in the first half and was tough enough to lead his team to one of the greatest comebacks in league history.
At his age, you have to wonder how much longer Brady can perform at such a high level. Few athletes, much less quarterbacks, have lasted as long. Some of his passes lack the zip from years ago, but he still has that touch, and mentally he appears as sharp as ever. The only teams that have had consistent success against Brady are the ones with physical defenses, such as Seattle and Denver, but the NFL is taking the physical style out of the game. The emphasis and rules favor the offense.
When wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman dropped passes in the game, Brady looked to rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell and running back James White. It's like the offense is a machine and Brady runs it without ever missing a beat.
As the Patriots narrowed the Falcons' lead to 16 points with about 6 minutes left in the game I thought New England was going to win. I had read this script before and seen the play. Some of the actors had changed, but the lead guys were still Belichick and Brady.
I never thought about the final score. I just kept asking myself if these guys were ever going to retire?