Vinatieri smooth in the clutch

`If you want guy making play, Adam is the one'

Pats introduced as team

Patriots 20 : Rams 17

Super Bowl Xxxvi


February 04, 2002|By Jamison Hensley, Brent Jones and Mike Preston | Jamison Hensley, Brent Jones and Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS - Game-winning field goals have become a habit lately for Adam Vinatieri.

Two weeks ago, the New England Patriots kicker hit field goals from 45 and 23 yards in four inches of snow to tie and win an AFC divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. Last night, he won the Super Bowl for the Patriots, converting a 48-yard field goal as time expired.

"We shocked the world," Vinatieri said, "but we didn't shock ourselves."

The field goal with no time left was the latest a Super Bowl game has ever been decided.

It was the 13th game-winning field goal of Vinatieri's six-year career. The Patriots were 4-0 in games decided by three points or less.

"He's the clutchest kicker in the league," quarterback Tom Brady said.

Said coach Bill Belichick: "If you want a guy making the play at the end of the game, Adam is the one."

Vinatieri, who has never missed a field-goal attempt in a dome, felt the game was over immediately.

"Once I kicked it, I knew it was good," he said. "I looked up and it was just time to celebrate. It was unbelievable."

Introducing the team

Going against usual Super Bowl practice, the Patriots were not introduced individually. After the St. Louis Rams had each of their starters on offense announced, the Patriots all ran to the sideline.

"The players wanted to do it that way," Belichick said. "They wanted to come out as a team."

Faulk returns

The Rams had star running back Marshall Faulk returning kickoffs last night, but he only returned one for 1 yard. But one play can turn a game around, even if it means risking a star player.

"I thought he might break it," said Rams coach Mike Martz. "We thought about this all week. He's the greatest running back in football right now. You don't put him back there normally because you risk injury. But this is the Super Bowl ... to win it. That's why we did that."

Faulk said: "I'm always an emergency guy for going back there."

Cheap shots?

Faulk wasn't too happy with the treatment by some of the Patriots, and suggested New England took cheap shots at him.

"They took some shots at me that I thought were unnecessary shots, but within the game of football, that's what happens," said Faulk. "When the ball doesn't come to you and you're walking down the field and you get hit, if that's a clean hit, then that's fine. You don't get protected in this league, but that was their plan. We still moved the ball, though."

No excuses

The Rams weren't making any excuses after the game. There were a number of questions from reporters about the Rams' taking the Patriots too lightly, but most of the Rams said they just got outplayed.

"We knew those guys had a great defensive scheme, and we knew they were capable of coming out, putting pressure on us and making plays," said Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace. "That was the key to their game - they made more plays than we made."

Said Martz, in reference to overlooking the Patriots: "Oh please, that's insulting to me. This is the Super Bowl. How can you overlook somebody in the Super Bowl? I don't understand that question."

Patriots quarterback Brady said it best: "We've got a team full of underdogs. I guess we're the top dog now."

Part of the team

New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe said he was proud to be a part of the Patriots winning the Super Bowl despite not playing in the game. This might have well been his last game in a New England uniform.

"I'm proud to be a part of this team," said Bledsoe. "This whole season has been about playing as a team. I know my role, and I do my part to support my team. I really do understand what my role has been. My hat goes off to Tom Brady and our offensive line. They made the plays that we needed to win the game."

Rams' `D' comes up short

The satisfaction of how well the Rams' defense progressed this season was tempered by the final minute and a half.

That is how long it took Brady to lead his team on a 53-yard drive to set up Vinatieri's winning kick.

Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith received much of the credit for taking a Rams defense that gave up nearly 30 points a game a year ago to finish No. 3 in the league this season with eight different starters. All that was of little consequence afterward.

"Right now, I just know I have a bad feeling in my stomach about a great team that fought all year but came up one game short," Smith said.

"They got turnovers, and we didn't," he added. "That's something we've done a great job of the last couple of games, and [yesterday], we didn't. You have to point that out. We are never satisfied when a team gets 20 points. The majority of the points came when we were on the field. We had a chance to stop them, and we didn't at the critical time."

Faulk makes impact

As usual, Faulk made the biggest play for the Rams.

But this time, it was neither his running nor pass catching that did it. Instead, Faulk drew a holding penalty on Patriots defensive end Willie McGinest on a fourth-and-three with the Rams down 17-3 in the fourth quarter.

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