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Superbowl XXXVIII Notes (Feb 2004)

For the first quarter and a half, Superbowl XXXVIII looked like it would be the most uneventful Superbowl in history and a game only a defensive coordinator could love. By the end, this was one of the most exciting Superbowl games in NFL history. Tom Brady actually led the Patriots on two game-winning drives in the final five minutes of the game. Unfortunately, the defense nullified the first of the two drives leaving it up to Brady and Company to go down the field in the final minute to set up Vinatieri for the game-winner.

Here are some of my favorite statistics from Superbowl XXXVIII:

  • The Panthers put some pressure on Tom Brady but had no sacks despite the fact that the Patriots best offensive lineman, Damien Woody, was out with an injury (how does that crow taste, Warren Sapp?)
  • There were 0 total points in the first 26 minutes of the game, 62 points in the final 34 minutes.
  • All 62 points were scored in the even-numbered quarters.
  • Jake Delhomme began the game 1-for-9 for 1 yard but was 15-for-24 for 322 yards in the final 27 minutes of the game.
  • With the exception of one big run each by Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster, the Panthers rushed for 37 yards on 14 carries (2.6 yards per rush). If you take away the longest runs by Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk, the Patriot backs combined for 102 yards on 30 carries (3.4 yards per rush).
  • The Patriots had 480 total yards of offense and amassed 28 first downs.

There were many similarities between today's game and the Superbowl victory over the Rams in January of 2002. In both games, the Patriots defensive dominated the opponent for three quarters but couldn't stop anyone in the fourth quarter. In both games, Ricky Proehl scored the game-tying touchdown with just over one minute remaining only to have Tom Brady move the ball down the field for an Adam Vinatieri field goal with under ten seconds left in the game.

I hope the Superbowl victory puts an end to the talk that the Patriots are a lucky team. There is no doubt that the Patriots received more than their share of breaks to reach the Superbowl two years ago but this year's team was far and away the best team in football, even with all of the injuries.

I thought that the Superbowl officiating was very solid. The only exception was the non-fumble call on the catch by Mushin Muhammad. I was able to make a sandwich in the time between the catch and the ball coming loose.

Although the comparisons of Tom Brady to Joe Montana are very premature, Brady took a giant step in Montana's direction on Sunday. At 26, Brady's numbers are very impressive: 40-12 as a starter, 6-0 in the Playoffs, 7-0 in overtime, two last minute game-winning drives in the Superbowl, two rings and two Superbowl MVP trophies. Montana won four Superbowls and three Superbowl MVP Awards.

There is no question that in a do-or-die game, I have more confidence in a Patriots team that is losing than a Red Sox team that is ahead. Today's game was stressful, but I remained confident that the Patriots would get it done. Despite his troubles, I felt that Adam Vinatieri would make the game-winning field goal.

Believe it or not, the Patriots could be a better team next season. They have four choices in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft and will hopefully have a healthy Rosevelt Colvin back in the lineup. On the down side, Ty Law could join Lawyer Milloy as a salary cap casualty.

Here is an update of the numbers that I mentioned in the last version of Random Notes:

  • The Patriots are 35-9 since losing to the Rams in Week 11 of the 2001 season.
  • The Pats are 19-3 at home over the same time period.
  • Most incredibly, the Pats are 22-2 after November 16th over the past three seasons.
  • The Patriots became only the second team in NFL history to win 15 consecutive games (including the playoffs) in a single season. The other team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins who were a perfect 17-0.

The Patriots have now won 12 consecutive regular season games. The record for consecutive wins in the regular season is 17, held by the 1933-34 Chicago Bears. The Patriots would break that record with a 6-0 start in 2004. The record for most consecutive wins (playoffs included) is 18, held by four teams: the 1989-90 49ers, the 1972-73 Dolphins, the 1941-42 Bears and the 1933-34 Bears. A 4-0 start next season would give the Patriots that record.

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