FOXBORO, Mass. -- Thousands of cheering, banner-waving fans
sent the New England Patriots to their third Super Bowl in four
years on Sunday, as the team prepared to face the Philadelphia
Eagles in Jacksonville, Fla., on Feb. 6.
"This is the reason we've been undefeated at home for the last
two years. We've got the best fans in the league, we've got the
best stadium in the league, and you guys got the best team in the
league," quarterback Tom Brady told the screaming crowd.
Fan had begun arriving at the send-off site in the stadium
parking lot early Sunday morning, with some boarding free trains en
masse from Boston and Providence in red and blue Patriots gear.
Before the festivities got under way, fans sipped free coffee.
"Hopefully, we got one more left in us. If we go out and play
the way we're capable of, we'll see you all at the parade in a
week," Brady said.
Fans lining the parking lot exit cheered and waved as the
players afterward departed on buses to Logan International Airport,
where the team would take off for Florida.
The event was a stark contrast to last year, when fans gathered
behind barricades in bitterly cold weather just to watch the team
walk to the buses without ceremony.
This time, a stage was erected with a 20-foot-high screen above.
The Patriots cheerleaders danced to loud rock music, the team lined
up in suits and ties, and politicians and team officials got up to
wave to fans.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was among the politicians to send
the team on its way, calling coach Bill Belichick "the greatest
coach in football," and praising owner Robert Kraft. Rhode Island
Gov. Don Carcieri and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch were also
"We know we're going to have to play our best game of the year,
and that's what we're going to work on for the next week,"
Belichick in his brief comments.
Gary Vanderwater, a 46-year-old season ticket holder from
Norwell, smoked a cigar and carried a sign to the rally reading
"Nobody Beats the Pats." He made a boastful prediction about a
"We're going to win, probably the next three Super Bowls," he
said. "The organization is the best there is, and the players have
their heads on straight."