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Superbowl XXXIX Notes (Feb 2005)

What a team! The New England Patriots became the seventh NFL franchise to win back to back Superbowl championships and only the second to win three Superbowls in a four year span (the Dallas Cowboys accomplished the same feat in the early 1990s). This championship was a greater accomplishment than the previous two for a couple of reasons:

  1. The Pats won the Superbowl in spite of injuries to several key players. They played the entire second half of the season without either of their starting cornerbacks. They were forced to play the second half of the Superbowl without three starting defense backs. Their best defender missed both AFC playoff games and their best receiver missed nearly half of the season. Bethel Johnson, Kevin Faulk and the offensive line also missed multiple games. Also, let's not forget that Rosevelt Colvin has not come close to regaining his pre-injury form.

  2. The Patriots knocked off all of the NFL's best teams on their way to the championship. The Colts, Steelers and Eagles lost a combined eight games before running into the Patriots in this year's playoffs. The Pats won at home, on the road and on a neutral field.

For me, this year's Superbowl title meant more than last year's victory but not as much as the first one. Nothing could match the elation of seeing the Patriots finally win the Superbowl after 20-plus as a Patriots fan. Yesterday's win meant a little more than #2 because it placed the Patriots in the same category as the best five or six teams of the past 50 years. It also means that the media can no longer marginalize the Patriots accomplishments.

My mindset has also evolved over the past four seasons. When the clock was winding down in Superbowl XXXVI, I fully expected the Patriots to find a way to lose to the Rams. Last year when the Pats and Panthers were heading down to the wire, I was confident but not comfortable. Yesterday, I never doubted that the Patriots would win the game. Nothing builds confidence better than going 32-2.

Have there been any big games over the past two years where neither McGinest nor Bruschi has made a huge game-changing or game-clinching play?

Speaking of big plays, I don't think any play typifies what the Patriots are all about more than the 19-yard third down strike from Brady to Branch early in the fourth quarter. Brady threaded the needle through tight coverage and Branch won the struggle with the defender and came down with the ball. Those are the type of throws that separate the champions from the rest.

One of the only disappointing moments in yesterday's game was Freddie Mitchell's one reception. It took him 57 minutes to catch that pass and his final line was 1 reception, 11 yards, 0 TDs. Rodney Harrison's line: 7 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack. So much for Freddie's mouth. I know it's only February but Mitchell is already the frontrunner to win the Chump of the Year Award that Alex Rodriguez won in 2004.

Next year's big game, Superbowl XL, will be held at Detroit's Ford Field on February 5th. Apparently, XL is Roman for "lousy Superbowl destination."

Perhaps the most amazing moment of yesterday's game was Philadelphia's clock management late in the fourth quarter. Down by 10 points with under four minutes left in the game, Philadelphia was lollygagging back to line of scrimmage and even going into a huddle. It was astounding. I don't think I have ever seen that in a regular season college game much less the Superbowl. Had the Eagles displayed even a tiny bit of urgency, they could have scored prior to the two minute warning enabling them to kick the ball deep rather than going for the onside kick (they probably should have kicked deep anyway but that's another story). The Eagles prevented the Patriots from getting a first down but began their final drive inside their own five yard line with about a minute left. With decent clock management, they may have started near midfield with more than 1:30 left on the clock. Was Andy Reid playing to cover the seven? Eagle fans are understandably livid.

Prior to the Patriots, seven teams (six franchises) had won back to back Superbowls. Of those seven, three failed to make the playoffs the next season and none returned to the Superbowl the following year. Here's how the previous seven fared the year after their second consecutive Superbowl championship:

  • '68 Packers: 6-7-1, Failed to make the playoffs
  • '74 Dolphins: 11-3, Lost in the first round of the playoffs
  • '76 Steelers: 10-4, Lost in the AFC Championship game
  • '80 Steelers: 9-7, Failed to make the playoffs
  • '90 49ers: 14-2, Lost in the NFC Championship game
  • '94 Cowboys: 12-4, Lost in the NFC Championship game
  • '99 Broncos: 6-10, Failed to make the playoffs

Deion Branch, Tom Brady and Rodney Harrison received most of the publicity yesterday but New England's ability to win the battle at the line of scrimmage was a huge key to victory. Kevin Faulk and Corey Dillon combined for 113 yards on 26 carries (4.3 yards per carry). Brian Westbrook and Dorsey Levens, meanwhile, rushed for just 45 yards on 16 carries. If you take away Westbrook's 22 yard run on the last play of the first half (one the Patriots gave up willingly), Philly's duo of backs rushed for a scant 23 yards on 15 carries (1.3 yards per rush). Donovan McNabb carried once for no gain.

My favorite Superbowl commercials:

  1. Troops in the Airport (Budweiser) - I wonder if that commercial caused Michael Moore to lose his appetite? Just kidding. It's obvious that Michael Moore never loses his appetite.
  2. Handfree Cellphone Guy Gets Tasered - Does it get any better than seeing a hands-free cellphone user get maced, tasered and beaten?
  3. Mr. Peanut, Pillsbury Doughboy, Mr. Clean and the other Ad Characters - a very cool idea.
  4. Gwen for Pepsi - Gwen Stefani ... Nuff said.

The worst non-McDonald's commerical out there is the one for Nike Pro Apparel. What is the deal with these athletes in the creepy masks? It's hard to tell if they are appearing in a Nike ad or a preview for Eyes Wide Shut 2.

Superbowl Halftime CLASS-O-METER:

In other NFL news, the Raiders and Ravens are among the teams reportedly interested in trading for Randy Moss. This is of course no surprise because the Raiders never pass on a name player that no one else wants and the Ravens are on their way to having more defendants than defenders. The Ravens are one player away from being able to move to Portland and change their nickname to the Trail Blazers.

How much would you pay to see Bill Belichick wearing this hat on the sideline? I'll start the bidding at $100.

I think I know what the CBS execs were thinking while watching the Superbowl. That's right, CSI: Jacksonville.

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Superbowl XXXIX
Superbowl XXXVIII
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