Vinatieri smooth in the clutch

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

Patriots 20 : Rams 17

Super Bowl Xxxvi

Notebook

February 04, 2002|By Jamison Hensley and Mike Preston | Jamison Hensley 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."

It was the 13th game-winning field goal of Vinatieri's six-year career.

"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."

No security problems

The Super Bowl had its most stringent security of its history and reported no problems.

"Everything went well and according to plan," said Milt Ahlerich, the league's vice president of security. "Fans were very cooperative and patient."

Introducing the team

Going against usual Super Bowl practice, the Patriots were not introduced individually. After the Rams had their starters on offense each announced, the New England 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 less than 10 yards. 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 some of the treatment by the Patriots, and suggested New England took some cheap shots at him.

"They took some shots at me that I thought were unnecceary 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."

"Oh please, that's insulting to me," said Martz in reference to overlooking the Patriots. "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'll, we've got a whole team full of underdogs, and now we're the top dogs."

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."

Fletcher's regrets

"I always thought we were going to come back and win," Rams linebacker London Fletcher said, but that was before he Adam Vinatieri jogged onto the field with 7 seconds left.

Fletcher had seen Vinatieri drill a 59-yard field goal before the game and now all he needed was 48 yards.

Fletcher seemed numb after the game.

"When I get home and I'm with family," said Fletcher, "that's when it'll hit me. That's when I'll get sad, when I'll realize we missed a chance to win the Super Bowl for the second time in three years."

Miscellaneous

Patriots punter Ken Walter, who averaged 43.1 yards on eight kicks, was a ball boy for the Ravens in the 1996 season. ... Super Bowl champions are 28-7 when leading at the half. ... Brady's touchdown pass to receiver David Patten in the second quarter was his first touchdown in 83 throws.

Wire services contributed to this article.

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