Best Super Bowls of all-time – #3 – Super Bowl XXXVI – St. Louis Rams vrs. New England Patriots

The New England Patriots came out of nowhere during the 2001 season.  It was coach Bill Belichick’s 2nd year with the team and they had finished 5-11 in his 1st.  Longtime quarterback Drew Bledsoe was badly injured during the second week of the season and the Pats started off 0-2.  In came Tom Brady to save the day and help turn the Patriots’ franchise around, as Bledsoe had done a decade earlier when he took the reigns.  They made the Super Bowl and had to contend with the Greatest Show on Turf, the St. Louis Rams who won the Super Bowl just two years prior.

Super Bowl XXXVI – St. Louis Rams vrs. New England Patriots – February 3, 2002, broadcast on FOX, announced by Pat Summerall and John Madden

Ty Law scored the first TD of the game on a pick-6

After a defensive start to the game the Rams struck first midway through the 1st quarter.  Quarterback Kurt Warner went 6 of 7 for 43 yards on the 10 play, 48 yard drive and the Rams settled for a 50 yard field goal from kicker Jeff Wilkins.  That was all of the scoring in the 1st quarter.  Warner led the Rams down again at the start of the 2nd quarter but once again the Patriots’ defense stiffened up and forced another long field goal attempt, this one from 52 yards out.  Wilkins couldn’t convert and the score remained 3-0 St. Louis.  The Patriots continued to strugle offensively and Warner got the ball back but the Pats defense stepped up to make a play when cornerback Ty Law intercepted a Warner pass and dashed 47 yards for the first touchdown of the game and gave the Pats a 7-3 lead.  The Rams got the ball moving again but this time receiver Ricky Proehl turned the ball over when he fumbled the ball away to Pats cornerback Terrell Buckley at the St. Louis 40 yard line.  Brady took the Pats down the rest of the field and capped off the drive with an 8 yard TD pass to receiver David Patten to give the Pats a 14-3 lead at the half.  It was the largest deficit that the Rams had faced all season long.

Proehl's TD tied the game with a minute and a half left

Both teams started the 2nd half by driving the ball modestly then stalling, resulting in a few punts to start off the 3rd quarter.  The Pats defense came up big once again late in the 3rd quarter when cornerback Otis Smith intercepted a Kurt Warner pass and returned it to the Rams’ 33 yard line.  Brady could not get the Pats in the end zone but kicker Adam Vinatieri came on and connected on a field goal that made the score 17-3 New England.  There was one more quarter of play and the Rams trailed by two full touchdowns.   The Rams responded by finally driving down the field inside the Pats 10 yard line.  On 4th and goal from the 3 the Rams decided to go for it and Warner was tackled and fumbled the ball away and safety Tebucky Jones picked it up and ran it back 97 yards for a touchdown.  During the play however Pats linebacker Willie McGinest was called for holding when he grabbed running abck Marshall Faulk coming out of the back field and the Rams were given 1st and goal and the 1 1/2 yard line.  Warner snuck it in himself two plays later to cut the Patriots’ lead to 17-10.  The teams exchanged punts and the Rams got the ball back at their own 45 yard line with 1:51 left in the game.  Warner hit receiver Az-Zahir Hakim with a 18 yard pass then connected with receiver Yo Murphy for 11 yards.  On just the third play of the drive Warner found Ricky Proehl in the end zone for a touchdown to tie the game at 17-17 with still 1:30 left to go in the game.

Vinatieri celebrates his game winning kick

The Patriots had a minute and a half and timeouts left and despite commentator John Madden saying that the Pats should sit on the ball and play for overtime the Pats attempted to get into field goal range.  Brady hit the first three passes of the drive, all to running back J.R. Redmond, to move the Pats down to their own 41 yard line with :33 left.  After an incompletion Brady connected with Troy Brown for 23 yards and then hit tight end Jermaine Wiggins for 6 yards at the St. Louis 30 yard line.  Brady rushed up and spiked the ball with :07 left on the clock.  Vinatieri, who was the hero of the Snow Bowl three weeks earlier against the Raiders, came on to try the 47 yard field goal attempt to give the Patriots their first ever Super Bowl victory.  Vinatieri hit it right between the uprights and the Pats won their first Lombardi Trophy.

Final Score:  New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

This was the game that started a dynasty for the Patriots as they went on to win two more Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004.  This was probably their most satisfying win, as a heavy underdog (the last time they were underdogs in the Super Bowl) and it put the franchise on the map after years of futility.

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

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