The amazing run continues. The New England Patriots are world champions with its 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
It came down to a last ditch effort by a game Eagles team whose defense held New England to seven points in the first half but lost a little of its edge in the second and New England took advantage scoring 17 to Philly's 14.
]()Deion Branch -- the game MVP -- had a monster game with 11 catches for 133 yards while Tom Brady was 23 of 33 for 236 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Eagles, T.O. played and played well with 9 catches for 122 yards but no scores. McNabb was 30 of 51 for 357 yards, three touchdowns and three picks.
What started as a defensive struggle turned into a game of attrition.
The Eagles came a knee away from turning the ball over on their first series of the game. On third and three from his own 46, McNabb dropped back and Bruschi came in clean. It seemed McNabb broke the tackle and then was sacked by McGinest and fumbled with Bruschi recovering. That was the call on the field but the replay clearly showed McNabb's knee touched on the Bruschi tackle attempt.
Philly challenged the call and kept the ball but was forced to punt after losing 10 yards on the Bruschi sack.
Brady started off with a nice 16-yard completion to Branch but not much followed after Matt Light was flagged for a false start. The Patriots punted after five plays but Josh Miller's kick was a great one, angled to the sideline and out of bounds at the Philly 7.
The Patriots followed that field position advantage by holding the Eagles offense to 9 yards on the series sparked by Richard Seymour's takedown of Westbrook for a two-yard loss on first down.
A couple of big plays nearly led to the first points of the game. On the Eagles third possession, McNabb hit Owens over the middle for 30 yards but a personal foul after the play on Rosevelt Colvin put the ball on the Patriots 8 yard line. It looked like a Vrabel sack for 16 yards followed by an interception by Samuel in the end zone would bail out New England but on the play, Roman Phifer was called for illegal contact.
That gave Philly a first down on the Patriots 19 instead of a turnover. On the next play, however, McNabb looked left near the end zone to Westbrook but Harrison stepped in the way and picked him off at the 3-yard line. It was a huge play.
Harrison was shaken up but walked off.
Had the New England offense been able to move the ball, the turnover would have meant that much more but after three plays, Miller was punting for the third time and the Eagles returned it to the Patriots 45.
Once again the Patriots defense rose up. This time, Harrison sacked McNabb for a 1-yard loss on second down. On third, McNabb looked to pass and connected with L.J. Smith. Wilson and Gay teamed up on the tackle and Gay stripped the ball loose. Wilson recovered and the Patriots took over.
Meanwhile, the Eagles defense was giving the Patriots fits. Its secondary was blanketing everything beyond 10 yards and minimizing Dillon runs.
Philly broke the scoreless tie with 9:55 left in the first half on a 6-yard McNabb to Smith pass. They got there on a 40 yard completion to Owens with Gay in coverage. The Eagles fans were flying.
The Patriots offense desperately needed to get in a groove and give its defense a breather. It was doing just that until David Givens fumbled after his team drove from its own 13 to the Eagles 45 on mostly screen passes. On the fumble, the Patriots challenged that Givens was down before the ball came loose.
Both offenses stayed on the field anticipating the call going their way. For the second time in the game, the field judge was overruled and New England's offense stayed in business, first and 10 at the Philly 32.
]()Dillon then changed direction on a nice run down to the Eagles 7, but Brady lost the handle two plays later and Philly recovered in a wild pig pile.
Three straight McNabb misfires gave New England the ball back at the Eagles 37 after Troy Brown fielded the punt. On this series, Brady began to click on more than screens, completing passes to Graham and Branch to the Eagles 19. He then hit Brown over the middle for 12 to the 7-yard line at the two-minute warning.
After a Dillon run for 3, Brady dropped back, had time and found Givens in the right corner of the end zone for six. Vinatieri tied the game at 7-7 with the point after.
That was the good news. The bad news was that on the ensuing kickoff, Wilson was taken to the lockerroom for x-rays with an arm injury. Both teams followed shortly after with score still tied at 7.
The Patriots took the second half kickoff and the lead with a nine play drive ending in a touchdown. Branch was the big man with four catches for 70 yards but the score went to linebacker/tight end Mike Vrabel who made a great grab from 3 yards out while being held.
The Patriots defense came back on the field in the second half without Eugene Wilson and later in the third quarter, it was the Eagles turn to drive down the field. McNabb looked sharp on the 10-play drive hitting Owens twice for 15 and really working Westbrook in the passing game. The slash back caught three balls, the last a score from 10 yards out to tie the game at 14.
The third quarter ran out with the Patriots second and two on the Eagles 28. Faulk was playing a big part in the drive with a catch for 13 and a run for 8. Branch caught his 10th pass (114 yards) and New England was in position to regain the lead.
Faulk continued his contributions as the fourth quarter opened with a run of 12 off right tackle and a screen for 14. That moved the ball to the Eagles 2 where Dillon ran it in over left tackle.
With 13:44 left in the game, the Patriots were up 21-14.
Colvin tackled Westbrook 6 yards in the backfield on the Eagles next try and Philly went three and out. The momentum was shifting firmly in New England's favor as the offense took over and started moving again.
Starting at the Philly 47 Brady hit Branch for the 11th time (tying a Super Bowl record), good for 19 yards. Another 15 was added for a Corey Simon roughing of Brady penalty. Now at the 16, Dillon ran twice for 12 yards but that was the extent of the drive. Vinatieri was good on a 22-yard field goal for a 10-point Patriots lead.
The Eagles wings looked like they might have some flap left in them when Owens broke a tackle and gained 36 yards to the Patriots 28 on the next series. Maybe feeling it a little too much, McNabb then made a critical error. On the next play he badly overthrew Owens and Bruschi dove for the interception in the middle of the field.
Despite the Patriots going three and out after taking over, the turnover forced the Eagles to start from scratch at their own 21 with only 5:40 left to play.
By the time of the two minute warning, Philly was making its move. They were forst and 10 at the Patriots 30 but needing two scores, the drive was taking too much time. Still, McNabb connected with Greg Lewis from 30 yards out for the score to close hs team within three at 24-21.
Now there was 1:48 left. The Eagles had two timeouts remaining which meant the Patriots had to get a couple first downs to close out the game. It was up to Eagle defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and his men to stop them if Philly couldn't recover the onside kick.
They didn't. Christian Fauria came up with the ball at the Eagles 41 and dropped to the ground with 1:47 left.
The Eagles stopped New England on three plays as Charlie Weis played it safe running Faulk while Dillon sat out the series (he was seen shaking out his right leg). On fourth and 5 from the Eagles 36 Miller punted with :55 left and he couldn't have done it any better as Dexter Reid downed the ball at the 4-yard line.
Philly had 46 seconds and no timeouts to try and tie or win the game.
That was too much to ask against this Patriots team. Super Bowl XXXIX is in the books. Once again, the Patriots are world champions, the third time in four years.