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.
In a miraculous, improbable, and all together insane season, the Patriots pulled off an upset that only the Jets in '69 and the Giants in '08 against the Pats themselves would equal. As 14 point underdogs, not many were giving a team with a team full of no-names with a first-year QB a chance against the league's MVP at quarterback and the "Greatest Show on Turf". That's why they playing and that's when it was the time for a New Era Born in New Orleans.
New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17
Semi-Lame Nickname: "Patriot's Day"
Historical Significance- 4: There had not been an underdog of New England's stature to pull the upset in the modern era. The Rams were striving to become known as one of the elite teams in league history. The offense is considered by many as among the best of all time, and they had improved on defense, which had cost them an early playoff exit the year before.
Game Enjoyment By the Fans- 5: Months after the attacks of 9/11, sports became an outlet for the country to enjoy common bonds of life. The World Series of November had been spectacular, so too was the Super Bowl.
High Profile Element-4: The Rams offense was well known by this point. Warner, Faulk, Bruce, Holt. The defense was led on the line by Leonard Little(get off the road) and Grant Wistrom. London Fletcher led the way on at linebacker and Aeneas Williams, Dexter McClendon, and Dre Bly were a formidable secondary.
The Patriots season and history was forever changed on September 23, 2001. Jets linebacker Mo Lewis sheered a blood vessel in Drew Bledsoe's chest, leading the Pats to turn to their backup Tom Brady, a 6th round draft pick in 2000. Brady lost that game to New York, but he lead them to a divisional title. In the playoffs, the Patriots tucked their way passed the Raiders in the Snow Bowl(by the rules, pick up a rulebook Al Davis!) and then beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. In that AFC Championship game, Brady went down with an ankle injury and Drew Bledsoe came in and led the Patriots to victory. While Brady got to play in the Super Bowl, Bledsoe will always have that piece of the championship.
Venue/Atmosphere- 5: Since 9/11 many different feeling,thoughts, and reflections have been made. The country was still as united as it has or had been for those few months. It made for quite a scene in the pre-game ceremonies. Mariah Carey sang the anthem and U2 performed at halftime. This was also the last game that Pat Summerall and John Madden announced together.
Personal Enjoyment- 5: The Patriots came out with a gameplan that was not forged in any secret video tape. The Patriots had played and lost to the Rams during the regular season which provided a firsthand for Bill Belichick. With his gameplan for Super Bowl 25 in the Hall of Fame, Belichick would again have to develop a tactic to slow down the league's most prolific offense. While many tried to stop the Rams with pressure on Kurt Warner, Belichick provided many DBs, sometimes up to 7, on the field to stop the Rams. He keyed in on hitting their speedy players hard and often. The plan worked until the 4th quarter when the Rams caught fire, but by then they only need one drive to win the game and Brady gave it to them.
Cleet's Rating Index: 23
Where I Was: I went to an apartment belonging to a few of my teammates to watch the game. Everyone treated it as a party, but for me and my fellow Patriot fan roommate, it was serious business. We parked ourselves in front of the TV and did not move until the game was over.
What Happened in the World: Sixteen days after the game NASA's Odyssey probe began mapping the surface of Mars. It eventually found 7 Wal-Marts.
Record of Note: Adam Vinatieri's FG to win the game was the first time the game was won by a score on the final play.
Game MVP: Tom Brady had game manager numbers as MVP(145 pass yards, 1 TD, no picks, and a game winning drive), but it got the job done in what was essentially his rookie year at QB.
LVP: Rams' turnover margin. Warner threw two picks and the Rams lost a fumble. The Patriots converted those picks into 17 points.
Most Memorable Play: This occurred before the game. Before this game, teams introduced their offensive or defensive starters as the game started. When the league asked Belichick which side of the ball he wanted announced, he said he wanted the whole team announced as one. At first the league refused, but eventually relented when Belichick would not budge. The Rams were the visitors and were announced their offense first. Then Pat Summerall, who was doing the public address announcing, stated, "And now ladies and gentlemen, choosing to be announced as a team the American Football Conference Champions, the New England Patriots." You can see the video here, with the Pats intro at 4:45.
NFL Fallout: The two franchises drifted in opposite directions; the Rams replaced Warner and the pieces dropped off while the Patriots began their rise to the top of the NFL throughout the decade.