New England Patriots players reach out to touch the Vince Lumbardi Trophy after they beat the St. Louis Rams 20-17 to win Super Bowl XXXVVI last night, in New Orleans.
By Associated Press
Monday Feb. 4, 2002
NEW ORLEANS - The New England Patriots picked the perfect Super Bowl for one of the biggest upsets ever.
Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal as time expired yesterday gave the Patriots a 20-17 win over the St. Louis Rams for their first Super Bowl victory ever on a day of red, white and blue.
The winning kick came after the Patriots had lost a 17-3 lead in the final 10 minutes. But MVP Tom Brady drove them downfield 53 yards after St. Louis had tied it on an 8-yard pass from Kurt Warner to Ricky Proehl with 1:30 left.
The key play was a pass from Brady to Troy Brown from the New England 41 to the St. Louis 36. Three plays later came the kick by Vinatieri, who had made two field goals in the snow to give New England a playoff win over Oakland.
The Patriots were 5-11 last year and started this season at 0-2, losing quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the process.
Brady, a fourth-stringer as a rookie a year ago, took over and led them to the AFC East title with an 11-5 record. But few expected them to beat the Rams, who at 14-2 had the league's best record and best offense and were trying to win their second Super Bowl in two years.
The Patriots had twice lost in the Super Bowl, both times in New Orleans. And it was the first championship as a head coach for Bill Belichick.
As defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, 11 years ago, he won a ring when Buffalo's Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard attempt in the final seconds.
New England won on a day filled with patriotic themes inside the Superdome and high security outside.
There was plenty of drama, too, especially at the end. No Super Bowl has ever gone to overtime, though this game seemed headed that way when the Rams rallied in the fourth quarter.
Warner's 2-yard sneak with 9:31 left - his first rushing TD this season - pulled St. Louis within 17-10. After holding the Patriots, the Rams got the ball back at their own 45 and needed only 21 seconds to tie it.
Favored by 14 points, the Rams were billed as the ''Greatest Show on Turf.'' But if they expected to breeze, they discovered early that the Patriots wouldn't let them.
The Patriots showed their tenacity early, giving up yards grudgingly and moving from their own 3 to near midfield after being pinned deep on their first possession.
New England stiffened on St. Louis' second possession, limiting the Rams to Jeff Wilkins' 50-yard field goal after they had moved from their own 20.
The Patriots let the Rams reach their 34 early in the second quarter, but this time Wilkins' 54-yard attempt was short.
New England had trouble moving, but it was still the Patriots' pace at this stage of the game. Everything was slow as the Patriots' varying defenses - as many as seven defensive backs on some plays - made Warner and the Rams work for everything.
With 8:49 left in the half, New England got the break it was playing for.
On a first-and-10 from the St. Louis 39, New England linebacker Mike Vrabel broke clear on a blitz. As he was about to hit Warner, the St. Louis quarterback unloaded - right to Ty Law, who raced untouched 47 yards down the sideline to give New England a 7-3 lead.
The second TD came after the Rams got the ball on their own 15 with 1:52 left in the half.
On the third play, Warner found Proehl over the middle. He was hit by Anwan Harris, who scored in the AFC championship game last week on a blocked punt. This time Harris knocked the ball loose and Terrell Buckley picked it up and returned it 15 yards to the St. Louis 40.
Five plays later, it was 14-3 as Brady found David Patten in the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard score. Patten made a leaping catch after turning Dexter McCleon around with a double move.
New England continued to stalemate the Rams through the third quarter - Richard Seymour's sack of Warner ended a drive that reached the Patriots' 41 on the first drive.
The Rams turned to the run to try to get New England out of its nickel and dime defenses as Marshall Faulk ran four times for 30 yards. But on third down came what seemed to be the inevitable turnover - Warner missed Torry Holt and Otis Smith picked it off, returning it 30 yards to the St. Louis 32.
Three plays later, Vinatieiri's 37-yard field goal made it 17-3.
The Rams then put together their first sustained drive, getting inside the New England 32 for the first time. On a fourth-and-goal from the 3, Warner fumbled and Tebucky Jones took it all the way back for what appeared to be the clinching touchdown.
But Willie McGinest was called for holding Faulk - replays showed it was obvious - and the Rams got the ball back at the 1. On the second play, Warner went in for the touchdown to cut it to 17-10 with 9:31 left to cap a 73-yard, 12-play drive.