During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.
A trip back to the good old days, or the unbearable days depending on where you allegiance lies. Jacksonville got its first Super Bowl bid to tepid reviews. The Eagles had finally taken the step of winning the NFC Championship games after 3 tries. The Patriots captured their 3rd title in 4 years while Philly was left with the bro-drama between McNabb and TO. Joy in Jacksonville is next.
New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21
Semi-Lame Nickname: "Building Bridges"
Historical Significance- 4: By this time the Patriots image had flipped on its side. A gritty once in a while team in the 80s and 90s, the Patriots were now on the mountain top. Add to the fact that the Red Sox had just won their first World Series in 86 years and the hate pointed toward the northeast corner of the nation. The Patriots were smoking though, they won 21 straight games going back to the previous season until they fell to the Steelers on Halloween.
The Eagles fans went crazy for this game. Remember this was before the Phillies won the World Series so the city was starved for a Championship. There were stories of people taking out extra mortgages on their house just to make the trek down to Florida. I'm sure in hindsight that was a bad move considering what happened to the housing market. McNabb and Reid were in the 5th year of their regime and with the late Jim Johnson heading the defense, they were a dominant force in the NFC.
Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 4: The game was competitive throughout, although the Eagles ran out of gas toward the end, they had the ball with :46 left down 3. It is interesting that many don't consider the Super Bowl an all-timer, mostly because of how the Eagles carried themselves in the 4th quarter and the McNabb/TO aftermath. It was rumored that McNabb was spewing chunks instead of running the no huddle but here is his explanation:
High Profile Element-4: This Patriots team did not go undefeated in the regular season, they went 14-2 but this team was more consistently great throughout than the 18-1 Pats of 2007 and of course they won the title. Brady had fully come into his own. The receivers were not has sparkly as the Moss/Welker combo, but with Deion Branch hurt David Givens, Troy Brown and David Patten stepped up and were led by Brady into success. The biggest addition was Corey Dillon though. For the first time the Patriots had a great rushing attack. Dillon went for a team record 1,635 yards.
The defense was more of a patchwork collection of backups that Belichick turned into a viable defense. Ty Law and Tyrone Poole went down at cornerback during the regular season, luckily the Patriots had drafted Asante Samuel the year before. But with Eugene Wilson and Randall Gay also getting hurt the Patriots turned to Troy Brown to play cornerback, where he had 3 picks. Rodney Harrison was able to make it through the season unscathed and provided a great backstop. The Patriots were stronger at linebacker with Bruschi, Vrabel, McGinest, and Ted Johnson. Up front Richard Seymour and rookie Vince Wilfork presented problems for opposing lines.
The Eagles had a good defense themselves that was built on pressure. Lito Sheppard, Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis led one of the best defensive backfields in the league. Their line featured Corey Simon, Jevon Kearse, and Derrick Burgess. It is interesting that some of these names don't seem that great in today's NFL, but 5 years ago they were in their prime.
TO arrived at Philadelphia through an interesting process. Originally San Francisco made a trade with Baltimore to get TO but Owens contested that San Fran no longer held his rights. In the end he was allowed to join the Eagles and had a great season but fractured his fibula against the Cowboys in December and was out for the playoffs. Thanks to modern medicine and a hyperbaric chamber Owens was able to play even with the screws in his leg. Mcnabb had an outstanding season with 31 TDs and only 8 INTs(first QB to throw over 30 and under 10) and led the Eagles to Jacksonville without TO in the playoffs. Brian Westbrook was the leader out of the backfield.
Venue/Atmosphere- 3.5: There were a lot of dissenters about how Jacksonville handled its hosting. There were complaints about the traffic, the crowding, lack of nightlife, and use of cruise ships as hotels. The weather was also colder(59 degrees) than some were used to.
Alicia Keys sang 'America the Beautiful' in a tribute to Ray Charles and the combined choirs of the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy sang the anthem. Awesome.
The halftime show was Paul McCartney in a very toned down performance, the reason was that the prior year Janet Jackson had her nipple displayed by Justin Timberlake so the NFL wanted a can't-miss show. Old guy strumming guitar fit the bill, but if you are going to go with an old guy a Beatle is a good choice.
Personal Enjoyment- 4.5: You may be asking why I would not put a 5 for a game in which my own team won the title, I will explain below. The Pats winning was awesome though.
Cleet Ratings Index: 20
Where I Was: Where did my .5 deduction come from? My ex-girlfriend had invited me up to visit her. She was living in Tampa and I was in Miami. She was in her first year of medical school and spent the game studying while I watched the game on low volume while she sat at her desk studying. You ever been in a relationship that was over yet you were still in it? Yeah it sucks and I was stuck while I should have been going crazy(drunkenly) at my team becoming a dynasty, I was wallowing in self-pity and emasculation. MINUS A HALF A POINT OF ENJOYMENT!!
What Happened in the World: Four days after the game North Korea announced it had nuclear weapons as protection against the US. You think those nukes will save you? We have a lot more than you do commies.
Record of Note: Deion Branch recorded the most catches by a receiver in consecutive Super Bowls with 21. Too bad his head swelled to crazy proportions and he held out from the Patriots and refused a new contract to join the Seahawks in 2006. How did that work out for him? Exactly.
Game MVP: Branch won the MVP through tying Jerry Rice with 11 receptions and gaining 133 yards. He was the third player to win the MVP without scoring a TD.
LVP: Freddie Mitchell. Freddie decided to run his mouth before the game, and then went on to catch one ball for eleven yards. He was not done though, after the game was over he claimed the Eagles would have won if onlythey had found a way to get the ball to Mitchell more.
Most Memorable Play: This actually occurred before the game for me. Tedi Bruschi, who would later that year fall ill with a stroke, was filmed before the game playing with his kids on the field.
NFL Fallout: Owens would go on to famously criticize McNabb for his fatigue in the Super Bowl and would not even finish the next year in Philly. He would move onto the Dallas where at first he showed more love for his quarterback than he did with McNabb, but was still shown the door. The Eagles have pressed on with the McNabb/Reid era, and while they have not made it back to the Super Bowl, they have made the playoffs consistently which is not good enough for Philly fans as we all know.
The Patriots won their last title. After the game Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel both left as coordinators to take head coaching jobs, neither which worked out and resulted in their hiring in Kansas City this offseason. The Pats had the great run in 2007 and made the playoffs in other years but never finished the season like they did this year. It was the last time the Patriots were on top at the end.
Invisible hammer of victory!