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Super Bowl XXXIX Recap

Patriots Reign Again

By

Updated February 08, 2005
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell offered the first verbal shot leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX, saying he had “something” for New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison. But it was Harrison who proved to have even more, intercepting two Donovan McNabb passes, including one in the final seconds of the contest as the Eagles desperately attempted to get out of the shadow of their goal post and into range for a game-tying field goal attempt. However, Harrison’s pick stopped the Eagles deep in their own territory and locked up a 24-21 victory, while Mitchell did a disappearing act and was held to just one catch for 11 yards.

Mitchell, a starter throughout the playoffs only because All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens was hurt, apparently felt a need to fill in for the controversial wideout in press conferences and was the focus of the media for much of the week leading up to the big game. But he had little impact on the game itself as Owens near-miraculous return shifted the spotlight back. And perhaps no one but Owens himself anticipated the production he would add to the Eagles’ passing game. Basically playing on one leg just weeks after having two screws and a metal plate inserted in his ankle, he caught nine balls for 122 yards.

However, Owens’ heroic return wasn’t enough to spark the Eagles to victory, and it was another receiver that stole the show. New England’s Deion Branch, who collected Super Bowl MVP honors for his performance, tied a Super Bowl record with 11 catches for 133 yards and played a big role in all four of the Patriots’ scoring drives. But the biggest reason the Patriots eventually proved victorious was because of two keys; they ran the ball better and they stopped the run better. Throughout the second half especially, New England’s offensive and defensive lines controlled play at the point of attack and wore down the Eagles.

Early mistakes, including an interception at New England’s four-yard line, cost Philadelphia the chance to put points on the board in the first quarter. But they finally got the scoring started early in the second quarter with an 81-yard touchdown drive, keyed by a 40-yard pass from McNabb to wideout Todd Pinkston and capped by a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end L.J. Smith. And it appeared things were really bouncing their way on the Pats’ ensuing drive, when game officials ruled receiver David Givens had fumbled the ball after a 13-yard reception. But what looked like an Eagles’ recovery was overturned when replay clearly showed Givens knee hitting the ground before the ball was stripped.

The Patriots drove from their own 14-yard line to the Philadelphia’s four, where New England seemed poised to tie the score, but the Eagles really took the ball away this time when quarterback Tom Brady fumbled an attempted handoff and defensive tackle Darwin Walker fell on it at the 13-yard line. The Eagles failed to capitalize, and after a 29-yard punt by Dirk Johnson, New England drove 37 yards to tie the game on a four yard TD pass from Brady to Givens.

The Pats took a seven-point lead on their first possession of the second half when, after a 69-yard drive sparked by 50 receiving yards by Branch, Brady connected with Mike Vrabel, normally a linebacker, for a two-yard TD reception.

But the Eagles drew even again before the third period came to a close. In just over four minutes, McNabb worked the Eagles down to the Patriots’ 10-yard line, where he connected with running back Brian Westbrook for the tying score.

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