Monday, May 26, 2014

Super Bowl XXXVI: Belichick's Patriots Come of Age

Super Bowl XXXVI Program

Super Bowl XXXVI pitted the Patriots against the Rams.  It was the first NFL championship that followed the September 11 attacks.  Security was heightened and the game was pushed back a week into February.  The Rams had beaten the Patriots, 24–17, in the regular season. It was the kind of challenge that Bill Belichick relishes.

The highly-talented explosive Rams were the favorite coming into the game.  Rams’ QB, Kurt Warner, had a completion percentage of 68.7% for the season and a 101.4 quarterback rating.  The Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady had a completion percentage of 63.9% and a quarterback rating of 86.5.

The Rams scored on a 50-yard field goal to take an early lead, 3–0, but missed a similar attempt early in the second quarter.  Midway through the quarter, Ty Law intercepted a Kurt Warner pass and ran it back 47 yards for a Patriots’ touchdown.  Late in the half, Warner was driving again, but after a 15-yard reception close to midfield, Rams’ receiver Ricky Proehl fumbled on the tackle.  Terrell Buckley grabbed the loose ball and ran it back to the Rams 40-yard line.  A couple of quick Brady strikes gave the Patriots another touchdown and a 14–3 lead at the half. 

The Patriots struggled offensively in the second half and were stuffed by the Rams’ defense for most of it while the Rams’ offense was on the move. However, the Rams were making costly mistakes that the Patriots were avoiding.  A third quarter interception of a Kurt Warner pass helped the Patriots move into field goal range.  The ever-reliable Adam Vinatieri kicked a 37-yard field goal that gave New England a 17–3 lead. 

The Rams followed with a long drive, but Warner almost lost the ball at the Patriots’ 2-yard line on a fumble that was overturned because of a holding call.  Warner scored on a quarterback sneak and the New England lead stood at 17–10.

Late in the game, the Rams got the ball with less than two minutes remaining.  Warner threw three strikes including a 26-yard pass to Proehl for a score.  After the extra point, the score was tied at 17–17.

With just 1:30 remaining in the game, Brady came of age in the NFL.  He moved the ball up the field with three quick passes to running back J. R. Redmond.  Completions to Troy Brown and Jermaine Wiggins gave Vinatieri a 48-yard field goal attempt with 7 seconds remaining on the clock.  Vinatieri made the kick, the Patriots won the game, 20–17, and Brady was named MVP. 

Bill Belichick's Patriots had come of age.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press.
Material taken from Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey, grandson of Papa Bear George Halas.