With the Super Bowl only nine days ahead, the Pats Pulpit staff is traveling down memory lane to share it most cherished memories of the New England Patriots’ previous 10 title games. Today, we’ll continue the series with Alec Shane’s favorite moment: New England’s victory in Super Bowl 36.
February 3rd, 2002 saw me in the lounge of an overcrowded fraternity house in Providence, Rhode Island, my beloved Patriots miraculously in the Super Bowl, two touchdown underdogs against an offense so prolific they had been deemed The Greatest Show on Turf. The 2001 season had been a wild ride, darkened by one of the greatest tragedies to ever occur on American soil, and I was just so surprised that the Pats were even in the game that I wasn’t even nervous; just looking forward to watching my team play and hoping for an upset.
The 2001 Patriots hung their hat on their strong, scrappy defense. Their offense consisted of a group of middling skill players helmed by some skinny nobody named Tom Brady that few people outside of the AFC East had even heard of at that point. Brady was starting over a now healthy Drew Bledsoe, who had come into the AFC Championship in relief duty and led the team to a win. There were questions as to whether Bill Belichick had made the right decision starting the young signal caller over the seasoned veteran.
That young signal caller wasn’t transcendent in that game, but he didn’t need to be - New England’s defense was stifling and violent. Kurt Warner was running for his life. Marshall Faulk couldn’t take two steps without taking a huge hit. Ty Law took an interception to the house. Tom Brady passed for 145 yards and a score. And of those 145 yards, 53 of them came in the final two minutes, hitting JR Redmond, JR Redmond, JR Redmond... and then a streaking Troy Brown across the middle of the field for 23 yards, out of bounds with 21 seconds to play. A quick out to Jermaine Wiggins, a spike to stop the clock. On comes Adam Vinatieri.
Right down the pipe.
That 48 yard field goal sent me to my knees, face buried in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably as Patriots players stormed the field, World Champions - a highlight I wouldn’t see until weeks later. I would eventually find my friend Mike, who was also crying, and as we hugged, laughed, cried, and hugged some more, the open windows of that frat house lounge played the song of an entire city erupting around us.
Mike would go on to become one of my closest friends in the world, a groomsman in my wedding. The Patriots would go on to win four more Super Bowls, three of them in spectacular fashion. Tom Brady would go on to become the greatest quarterback of all time. And I would go on to still, even all these years later, look back on that night, that exact moment when that ball sailed through, as the single greatest experience I have ever had, or will ever have, as a sports fan.