Best Super Bowls of all-time – #8 – Super Bowl XXXVIII – Carolina Panthers vrs. New England Patriots

The Patriots were in the midst of starting a dynasty.  They had just won their first ever Super Bowl two years prior and finished the 2003 regular season with a record of 14-2, the best in franchise history.  Meanwhile the Carolina Panthers were 1-15 just two years prior and new head coach John Fox had turned things around in Carolina.  They won the NFC South in 2003 with an 11-5 record and then embarked on an improbable playoff run to face the Patriots in the Super Bowl.  The Pats were heavy favorites but the Panthers weren’t about to back down.  It made for an entertaining game.

Super Bowl XXXVIII – Carolina Panthers vrs. New England Patriots – February 1, 2004, broadcast on CBS, announced by Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms

Brady was starting his 2nd Super Bowl for the Pats

The first half was mostly a defensive struggle between the two teams.  Troy Brown tried to help the Pats early by returning a punt after the Panthers opening drive into Carolina territory.  The Pats made it all the way down to the Panthers’ 9 yard line but the Carolina D stood up and Adam Vinatieri missed a 31 yard field goal attempt.  Carolina went 3-and-out on their next possession and once again the Pats got the ball off the punt in Carolina territory.  They made it down to the Carolina 31 yard line but Carolina linebacker Will Weatherspoon made a great play when he tackled Brown for a 10 yard loss on an end-around on 3rd down.  Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was stymied by the Pats defense in the 1st quarter.  He had hit on only one of his first nine passes and he had been sacked three times.

The 2nd quarter played a lot like the 1st quarter in the beginning.  Delhomme could do nothing and the Panthers defense played bend but don’t break.  The Pats moved the ball down the field and once again Adam Vinatieri was set up with a 36 yard field goal attempt but this time his kick was blocked by Carolina defensive end Shane Burton.  Late in the 2nd quarter Delhomme was sacked by linebacker Mike Vrabel and fumbled deep in Carolina territory.  The Pats recovered at the Panthers’ 20 yard line.  3 plays later quarterback Tom Brady found receiver Deion Branch for a 5 yard TD throw and gave the Pats the first score of the game and a 7-0 lead.  At this point the Panthers had a net of -9 offensive yards so far in the game and a holding penalty would cause them to start their next drive on their own 5.  The Carolina offense finally came alive and on the 8th play of the drive Delhomme found receiver Steve Smith on a 39 yard TD strike to tie the game at 7-7 with 1:07 left in the half.  The Pats got the ball back and on the 3rd play of the drive Brady found Branch for a 52 yard gain to set up the Pats deep in Carolina territory.  3 plays later Brady found receiver David Givens from 5 yards out to give the Pats a 14-7 lead with :18 left in the half.  The Pats tried to play it safe and squib kick it to the Panthers but up man Kris Mangum picked the ball up and returned it to the Carolina 47.  Then on a nice play call the Panthers ran a draw to running back Stephen Davis who picked up 21 yards to set up a 50 yard John Kasay field goal as time expired in the half with a score of 14-10 New England.  After putting up no points for the first 26:55 of the first half the two teams combined for 24 points in the last 3:05.

Panthers WR Muhsin Muhammad looks the record breaking 85 yard TD throw into his hands

Defense returned for the 3rd quarter and both teams were held scoreless in the 3rd, much like they were in the 1st.  Brady started to lead the Pats down the field towards the end of the 3rd quarter.  He took the Pats down the field on an 8 play, 71 yard drive that ended on the 2nd play of the 4th quarter when Pats running back Antowain Smith brought it in from 2 yards out to stretch the lead to 21-10 Pats.

Vinatieri does it again

Once again the Panthers responded with offense after a Patriots score.  Delhomme brought the Panthers down the field on just 4 plays, the last being a 33 yard TD run by Carolina running back DeShaun Foster.  The Panthers went for 2 and failed, making the score 21-16.  Brady took it right back down the field for the Pats and settled at the Carolina 9 yard line but a 3rd down Brady pass was intercepted by cornerback Reggie Howard in the end zone.  3 plays later, on 3rd and 15 from their own 15 Delhomme hit receiver Muhsin Muhammad with an 85 yard TD pass to give the Panthers their first lead of the game.  It was also the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history.  Another 2 point conversion failed but the Panthers led 22-21.  The Pats once again took it down the field and Brady again settled deep in Panthers territory.  This time he hit his 3rd and goal pass when he found linebacker Mike Vrabel, playing tight end, in the end zone for a 1 yard TD.  Running back Kevin Faulk ran in the two point conversion to give the Pats a 29-22 lead.  The Panthers went down the field yet again and the drive was capped off by a 12 yard TD pass from Delhomme to wide receiver Ricky Proehl.  Two years prior Proehl had caught the game tying TD in the Super Bowl against the Patriots as a Rams receiver and watched the Pats go down the field to set up an Adam Vinatieri field goal.  Kasay kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds and gave the Pats the ball at their own 40 yard line.  Brady once again maneuvered the Pats into field goal range, thanks in large part to a 17 yard completion to Branch on 3rd down and 3.  Vinatieri nailed the 41 yard field goal to give the Pats their 2nd Super Bowl victory in 3 years, both on last second field goals by Vinatieri.

Final Score: New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29

After combining for 24 points in the final 3:05 of the first half the two teams broke a record by combining for 37 points in the 4th quarter of this game.  The Panthers held their own and despite being heavy underdogs matched the Pattriots play for play but in the end it was Brady and then Vinatieri, a familiar combo, that led the Pats to another Super Bowl victory.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

One Response to Best Super Bowls of all-time – #8 – Super Bowl XXXVIII – Carolina Panthers vrs. New England Patriots

  1. Pingback: The 15 Longest Plays in Super Bowl History (Pass or Run) | SPORTS LIST OF THE DAY

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