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Editor tackles Super Bowl XXXVIII
After two long weeks of waiting, the time had finally come for the clash between the two best teams in the NFL this season, the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers. It was a match-up between two of the toughest defenses in the NFL and two offenses which showcased a punishing running back in Carolina’s Stephen Davis and a GQ quarterback in the Patriots’ Tom Brady, who as of late, has been compared to the great Joe Montana.
The two week layoff meant more time for both teams to prepare and for the game to be built up. “I hated waiting the extra week,” said junior Ryan Wescott. “There was no need for it. The teams were rusty, and you could tell by the way they played in the first quarter.”
The Patriots arrived in Houston with a 14 game win streak, not losing since week four, when they fell to the Washington Redskins in D.C., 16-13. The Pats had not trailed since Thanksgiving, and the defense was bearing resemblances to Pittsburgh’s Steal Curtain of the 1970’s and Baltimore’s punishing defense from the 2000 Super Bowl.
Carolina took the road less traveled to the Super Bowl. Fate seemed to be on their fate though since week one when they defeated Tampa Bay 10-9 and blocked the game tying extra point with no time left. Once in the playoffs, the Panthers showed their heart and resilience by winning on the road three weeks in a row against Dallas, St. Louis and Philadelphia. In each game Carolina was the under dog and the Super Bowl would be no different.
Many projected the game would be one of the most boring in the history of the Super Bowl and the first quarter lived up to this expectation. It was a 0-0 tie at the end of one quarter and it seemed apparent that the only reason some people were watching the game was to see the new beer commercials. “No one gave either team any kind of credit,” said junior Jeff McLean. “There was no reason to expect this game wouldn’t one of the greatest ever.”
After the first quarter, the game mirrored a game between two high powered offenses. The Patriots scored first on a TD reception by Deion Branch from Brady. The Panthers immediately responded thanks to quarterback Jake Delhomme. Under pressure, Delhomme had the presence of mind to throw the ball towards the end zone where wide out Steve Smith had broken away from the coverage and reeled in the 39 yard pass to tie the game at seven apiece.
The Patriots, not known for their quick strike offense, marched down the field in just :49 thanks to a 52 yard Brady to Branch hookup. David Givens later caught a five yard pass off a play action fake in the end zone to put New England back on top 14-7.
After a botched squib kick recovered by Carolina and an explosive 21 yard run by Davis, the Panthers got kicker John Kasay, the only Panther left from the team’s inaugural season, in field goal range and he proceeded to knock down a 50 yard field goal as time expired and the game went to halftime.
The third quarter seemed like a replay of the first quarter as no points were scored and once again the television was close to nodding off.
In comparison, the fourth quarter was a shoot out that could have only ended with a last second play. New England struck first in the forth thanks to a two yard TD run by Antowain Smith. This gave the Patriots a 21-10 lead which seemed insurmountable with the way the Panthers were playing on offense.
Delhomme and Carolina did not lay down though has he engineered three TD drives, including an amazing 33 yard scamper by DeShaun Foster and two strikes through the air to Muhsin Muhammad, 85 yards, and to Super Bowl veteran Ricky Proehl, 12 yards. The Proehl touchdown answered the Patriots score, a pass from Brady to linebacker Mike Vrabel. By this time, the score was knotted at 29 a piece and the world was on the edge of their collective seat.
When Carolina tied it at 29, they left Brady 1:08 to move the ball down the field. With help from Kasay, who kicked the ball out of bounds, the Patriots started at their own 40 yard line and only needed to go 30 yards to get into field goal range. Brady found Troy Brown twice, both 13 yard receptions, and Branch for 17 yards to set clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri with a 41 yard game winning field goal. Vinatieri was in the same position two years ago against St. Louis when he nailed a kick from 48 yards to win the game. As Patriots held its breath, Vinatieri, who had already missed two field goals in the game, set the kick down the middle of the uprights to give the Patriots a 32-29 win, their second championship in three years.
So now that Brady has yet again led a game winning drive, are the comparisons to Montana fair? Since New England has won two Super Bowls in three years, are they a modern day dynasty or just a product of an NFL filled with free agency? And is Adam Vinatieri the best clutch player in any sport, ever? Only time can tell, but for now the Lombardi Trophy will get frosted over in the chilly nights of Foxboro.