With Super Bowl XLIX on the horizon, we take the time to look back at the New England Patriots' past seven Super Bowls. Today, we continue the series with the Patriots' fifth appearance on the game's biggest stage – Super Bowl XXXIX.
Entering the 2004 NFL season, the Patriots have won 15 consecutive games; among them, Super Bowl XXXVIII. The team would continue its excellence and win the first six games of the season, before losing in Pittsburgh to end its NFL record 21-game winning streak.
Bill Belichick's team did not only lose the game that day, they also lost cornerback Ty Law to a broken foot. Law would become the second starting cornerback – the other being Tyrone Poole – to be placed on injured reserve this season. Asante Samuel, Randall Gay, Earthwind Moreland and even wide receiver Troy Brown, among others, filled in at the cornerback position.
Thus, the Patriots would not be slowed down by the injuries and instead went on to finish the year with a 14-2 record. In the playoffs, the team would go on to beat the league's number one offense (the Indianapolis Colts) and the number one defense (the Pittsburgh Steelers) in back-to-back weeks to reach the Super Bowl for the second year in a row.
Super Bowl XXXIX: New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Date: February 6, 2005
Stadium: Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville FL
New England Patriots 24
Philadelphia Eagles 21
Super Bowl XXXIX saw the Patriots, who stood on the verge of establishing themselves as the first dynasty of the new millennium, square off against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have yet to win a Super Bowl. Similar to the year prior, this one started as a slow, defensive affair.
The first four drives all ended in 3-and-outs, before the Eagles found some offensive momentum. They went on to drive into the Patriots' red zone, but would not move any further. First, Mike Vrabel had a 16-yard sack of quarterback Donovan McNabb, before safety Rodney Harrison intercepted a pass in the end zone.
The Patriots offense went 3-and-out.
The Eagles then turned the ball over again, just three plays into their next drive. Randall Gay forced a fumble, which was recovered by safety Eugene Wilson at the New England 38 yard line.
The Patriots offense went 3-and-out (for the fourth consecutive time).
In the second quarter, Philadelphia was able to re-gain some offensive momentum and drove 81 yards in four and a half minutes to take a 7-0 lead. The Patriots answered with an 83-yard drive but could not come up with any points, as Tom Brady fumbled the ball after faking a hand-off to running back Corey Dillon on 2nd-and-goal from the 4 yard line. The Eagles recovered but went 3-and-out.
After a short punt, the Patriots started their next drive on the Philadelphia 37 yard line. 7 plays and 3 minutes later, Tom Brady found David Givens on the right side of the endzone to tie the game; before the teams headed into the locker rooms.
Coming out of halftime, New England was able to expand the lead on its very first series. The team's 60-yard, nine play scoring drive was all Tom Brady and game MVP Deion Branch. The duo connected four times, before Brady found linebacker Mike Vrabel – he of 10 career receptions and 10 career receiving touchdowns – to give the team a 14-7 lead.
The teams then traded punts before the Eagles tied the game with 3:39 left in the third quarter. The Patriots responded with a touchdown drive of their own, which spanned into the final quarter of the 2004 season. First-year Patriot Corey Dillon finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown-run to give the AFC Champions a 21-14 lead.
This time, the Eagles were unable to answer accordingly and went 3-and-out. Eight plays later, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 22-yard field goal, and the Patriots were up by 10 points. Three plays after the touchdown, Tedy Bruschi, who also had a sack, intercepted McNabb. Unfortunately, New England's offense was unable to capitalize (you guessed it: 3-and-out) and therefore gave the Eagles another chance to come back.
Down by 10, Andy Reid's team, surprisingly, did not hurry up and instead went on a four minute drive to finally get within a field goal. At that point, only 1:55 were left in the game. After recovering the Eagles' onside kick, the Patriots were able to burn another minute via three Kevin Faulk runs (and thus going 3-and-out).
With one last chance to potentially tie the game, McNabb threw his third interception of the day – again to Rodney Harrison. One kneel-down later, the Patriots were officially a dynasty.
In Super Bowl XXXIX, the Patriots displayed their trademark football: they played an efficient, smart and (mostly) mistake-free game on both sides of the ball while cashing in on the opponent's mistakes. Thus, the New England Patriots established themselves as the first and so far only pro football dynasty of the 21st century.
Super Bowl XXXIX Highlights: