LONDON - Every goose bump that February 3, 2002 raised on your arms, every hair that stood up on your neck, is still matched bump-for-bump, hair-for-hair by Tom Brady.
There is zero carryover between the 2012 Rams and the team the Patriots will play Sunday evening at Wembley. Even the Rams uniforms are different now.
But the specter of lining up across from the Rams once again prompted a question Friday morning about what Tom Brady remembered from Super Bowl XXXVI, the night when the Patriots dynasty was born.
"We played one of the best teams that Ive ever played against," Brady said of that Rams team, which won 14 regular-season games (including a 24-17 decision in Foxboro). "I think thats really where Patriots football and team football really kind of started for us in New England. It took a team effort to win that game."
The Patriots were generally regarded as the worst team in football after starting the season 0-2. But as the year wore on, the Patriots defense became a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. Meanwhile, Brady was emerging as a clutch, precise quarterback with command of his job.
What happened that night ushered in a period of excellence that the Patriots have continued. That game, and the two subsequent Super Bowl wins in 2003 and 2004, set a standard for Patriots football that has made it hard for people to keep from regarding any season that doesn't end with the Patriots hoisting a Lombardi Trophy as a failure. It was a blessing. It is sometimes a burden.
But it's one the team -- and Brady -- seem willing to carry.
"It doesnt seem like long ago, but at times it does seem like it was a long time ago," said Brady. "How do I feel about that experience? That was a long time ago, a lot of hits ago. You win a Super Bowl, it was my second year in the league, you never forget that. Its something embedded in your mind and heart for the rest of your life. There were so many great teammates that were a part of that, and guys that Im still friends with."
The Patriots were Cinderella then. Now, they are far closer to the 2001 Rams -- stocked with talent, trying to pull the right levers to find the right combinations to succeed.
"It was an exceptional team we faced," said Brady. "They had some Hall of Famers on that team, some guys that were playing at the height of their career, and we found a way to beat them. We lost to them earlier that season, so it was a very memorable night and certainly since then, its been more than I could ever ask for as a person and a player. Im sure a lot of my teammates feel the same way.
It was a seminal moment in New England sports history. Fans of a certain age and persuasion will always look at the Red Sox Impossible Dream season in 1967 as being the highlight of their lives as fans.
But for many others born long after that baseball season, the Impossible Team of 2001 is every bit as special.