In thrilling fashion, the New England Patriots won their third Super Bowl in the last four years with a hard-earned 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. In a game that was surprised after the first, second, and third quarters, the Patriots wore down the NFC Champs with a combination of mistake-free offense and opportunistic defense. Comprehensive game reviews are provided by Dan Shaughnesseyof The Boston Globe, Michael Felgerof The Boston Herald, Larry Weismanof USA Today, Tom Curranof The Providence Journal, and Alan Greenbergof The Hartford Courant.
The story of Sunday night's game was the play of third-year wide receiver Deion Branch. After a sensational performance in last year's Super Bowl, in which he caught ten passes for 143 yards, Branch did himself one better, tying the Super Bowl record with 11 passes for 132 yards. Branch became only the third wide receiver in Super Bowl history to earn MVP honors. Detailing the wideout's performance are John Powersof the Globe, Rich Thompsonof the Herald, Tom Pedullaof USA Today, Shalize Manza Youngof the Journal, and Alan Greenberg.
Branch's MVP honors is not to say two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady did not have an excellent game. Brady was 23-33 for 236 passing yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. His only miscue was a second-quarter red zone fumble that likely cost the team points. Brady is now an incredible 9-0 in his postseason career. Jackie MacMullenof the Globe, Kevin Mannixof the Herald and Jim Donaldsonof the Journal review the QB's Super Sunday.
Perhaps the biggest storyline heading into the big game was the health of Eagles star receiver Terrell Owens. Owens broke his leg seven weeks before the Super Bowl, and took the field against doctor's orders to play in Sunday's game. Owens, who proclaimed he would be healthy enough to be a factor, was just that. Owens made the Eagles first two catches, once trampling Pats cover man Randall Gay after a stiff-arm, on his way to a nine-catch, 122-yard evening. Dan Venturaof the Herald and Skip Woodof USA Today have more on the Philly performer.
Another laudable performance came once again from Patriots linebacker/tight end Mike Vrabel. Vrabel, who had a key sack of Donovan McNabb in the first quarter, broke loose from a Jevon Kearse hold to make a two-yard touchdown catch on the Patriots first drive of the second half. Vrabel, who also scored a touchdown in last year's Super Bowl, now has five career receptions for five touchdowns. Bob Holherof the Globe, Steve Conroy of the Herald, and Gary Mihocesof USA Today praise Vrabel for his ability to perform on the biggest of stages.
The Patriots received a major contribution Sunday from their Pro-Bowl running back Corey Dillon. Dillon rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown, adding three catches for 31 yards, in his first-ever Super Bowl. After the game Dillon, who never reached the postseason before this year, handled the accolades with the class the team saw in him when they controversially brought him to Foxboro. Jim McCabeof the Globe and Dan Venturaof the Herald have more.
The Patriots secondary was considered the team's defensive weakness for much of the season. The team lost starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole during the season, and replaced them with second-year Asante Samuel and rookie free agent Randall Gay. As Tom Curran points out, veteran safety Rodney Harrison held the unit together once again this weekend, while Kevin Paul Dupontof the Globe and John Altavillaof the Courant praise the group for sticking together even after losing Eugene Wilson to a broken wrist at the end of the first half.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb did not have his best game in his first time on the big stage. His three touchdowns and 357 passing yards represent good numbers, but his three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter while Philadelphia was attempting a furious comeback, were very costly turnovers. The first interception, from the Patriots 19-yard line, was McNabb's first redzone interception all season. Frank Dell'Apaof the Globe reports that McNabb takes the blame for Philly's loss, and Jeff Jacobsof the Courant has more.
Greg Gatlin of the Globe features the play of Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who had another solid playoff performance with a sack, an interception, and seven tackles.
Bob Ryan of the Globe looks at this season's playoff run, showing that the Patriots proved their worth by defeating the league's best offense in Indianapolis, the league's best defense in Pittsburgh, and the NFC Champion Eagles.
Nick Cafardo of the Globe confirms one of the worst-kept secrets in recent memory by detailing the agreement made between the Cleveland Browns and Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Cafardo reports Crennel has accepted their head coaching position, and will fly to Cleveland today in an effort to hammer out a long-term contract believed to be for five years in the $10-12 million dollar range.
Karen Guregian of the Herald looks at the Three Amigos, Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, and Crennel. The three, who have worked together for many years, were able to go out as a group at the top of their profession. Belichick will continue on in New England without his two top guys, as Crennel heads for Cleveland and Weis moves on to become the head coach at the University of Notre Dame.
Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News praises Belichick's ingenuity in his defensive scheming. Reiss explains that Belichick chose, quite bravely, to switch from the 3-4 defense used all year to a 2-5-4 defense that utilized the speed of an extra linebacker. It was a gutsy move, and it paid off, as the Pats D was able to keep McNabb from finding much of a rhythm while still containing the Eagles running game.
Steve Conroy of the Herald looks at Richard Seymour, who returned in the Super Bowl from a December knee injury to contribute to the Patriots defensive line.
In today's Globe, Bob Ryan identifies the season's crossroads as November 7th, when the Patriots went to St. Louis, one week after a 34-20 beatdown in Pittsburgh. Having just lost Ty Law the week before, their were major question marks hovering over the team. As Ryan tells us, a Mike Vrabel touchdown catch, Adam Vinatieri TD toss, and the defensive debut of Troy Brown indicated this was a team that simply would not go away during the 2004 season.
Jackie MacMullen credits the dynamic Pats D for disrupting the Philly offense from the getgo.
Also in the Globe, Dan Shaughnessey provides his scrapbook leftovers from his Super Bowl trip.
Scott Van Voorhis of the Herald looks at the Kraft family's place in Boston sports history, now that they have brought a third title home to The Hub. Van Voorhis reports some believe the Kraft's deserve top billing, because unlike the Red Sox owners, who turned a playoff-caliber team into champions, Robert Kraft bought a team that had spen much of his history at the bottom of the standings.
Now that the 2004 season is over, there are many offseason issues the team must begin working on. Michael Felgerof the Herald and Mike Reissof the *MetroWest *delve into the items on the Patriots plate.
Kevin Mannix provides his unit-by unit grades in today's Herald.
Felger discusses Pats defensive backs coach Eric Mangini, who will be a candidate not only for the Patriots defensive coordinator position but, reportedly, for the same post with other franchises.
Felger also reports Troy Brown is less-than enamored with his stint as a D-back, and may ask the team to move him back to offense full-time before next season.
The Journal recounts Tom Brady's Monday night appearance on The David Letterman show.
Tom Curran of the Journal picks up one of the major offseason issues at hand, that being the contract status of Ty Law. Law, despite missing most of the season with injury, is considered one of the league's best shut-down cornerbacks. Unfortunately, he has a high salary cap number for this year, a phenomenon the Patriots do not generally favor. Adding to the difficulty of the issue is Law's seeming refusal to renegotiate his deal.
Bob Hohler of the Globe and Michael Parenteof the Call provide some interesting background information on the Super Bowl MVP. It turns out Branch let a big head in high school cost him his scholarship at Florida, sending him on an inspiring journey of humble redemption that has now culminated with the biggest award in sports' biggest game.
Also, check out Boston.com for extensive coverage of today's rolling victory parade through the streets of Boston.