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
Final score: 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. Similar to the last Super Bowl, 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 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. Seven plays and three 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 world champions for a third time in four years; and officially an NFL dynasty.
Super Bowl XXXIX saw the Patriots play their trademark football: The team was efficient, smart and able to keep mistakes at a minimum on both sides of the ball while simultaneously cashing in on the opponent’s miscues. In order to add to the dynasty when the Patriots and Eagles square off again later this week, the team needs to play the same brand of football.