|Patriots Pull Off Super Bowl Upset|
Dateline: February 3, 2002
That's the only way to describe the Patriots upset victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. A 14-point underdog entering the game, New England and was expected to roll over sometime around halfway through the first quarter. Most football experts considered St. Louis the superior team, and many thought maybe the Rams would put a 30 on the scoreboard by halftime. Yet the Pats managed to take advantage of a lot of key turnovers and several clutch plays to claim a 20-17 victory.
The Patriots' defense deserves a lot of credit for keeping Kurt Warner and the Rams' offense out of sync most of the game. The Rams' quarterback never seemed to get comfortable against the hard-hitting New England defense, and the Patriots spent a good portion of the day in Warner's face while the secondary was punishing the Rams' receivers with each reception.
The Rams discovered early in the game that big plays and points were going to be tough to come by. The Patriots seemed to dictate the tempo of the game most of the first half, playing their style of game, although they did allow the Rams to take a first quarter lead on a Jeff Wilkins 50-yard field goal. For the rest of the second quarter, each Ram drive was stopped short, including one that ended in a missed 54-yard field goal attempt by Wilkins.
With just under nine minutes remaining in the first half, the Patriots capitalized on the Rams first big mistake. From the St. Louis 39, Mike Vrabel came untouched through the line on a blitz. Warner, forced into getting rid of the ball in a big hurry, put it in the hands of New England's Ty Law, who took it 47 yards in the opposite direction for a touchdown.
The Patriots took advantage of another Rams' miscue with less than two minutes left in the first half when Ricky Proehl fumbled after catching a pass over the middle. Anwan Harris, who delivered the hit to knock the ball free, picked it up and returned it to the Rams' 40-yard line.
Five plays later, New England quarterback Tom Brady found David Patten in the endzone for a touchdown. The extra point gave the Patriots a surprising 14-3 halftime lead.
The Rams' misfortunes continued in the third quarter, as a 37-yard Adam Vinatieiri field goal was set up by an Otis Smith interception. But then the Rams finally started to put things together.
They put together their first sustained drive, marching all the way down to the Patriots' three-yard line before Warner fumbled and Tebucky Jones ran it all the way back for what appeared to be a touchdown. But the Patriots' Willie McGinnest was called for holding, nullifying the play, and two plays later, Warner took it in for the touchdown.
After holding the Patriots on their ensuing drive, the Rams got the ball back at their own 45. Kurt Warner needed just 21 seconds to move down the field and hit Proel for the game-tying touchdown.
The Rams jubilation lasted just moments, as Brady and the Patriots put together a 53-yard drive in the final 1:21, putting Vinatieiri in position to win the game.
Vinatieiri's 48-yard kick as time expired had plenty of distance and was nearly dead center, sealing the victory and giving the New England Patriots their first Super Bowl Championship!