Warner's mistakes stall Rams' formidable attack

His 2 INTs allow Pats to take control early

Patriots 20 : Rams 17

Super Bowl Xxxvi

February 04, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS -- St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner spoke of turnovers, mistakes and penalties as the reasons his team lost, 20-17, to the New England Patriots last night.

He also blamed himself for allowing the Patriots to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

"You get this far, you never like to lose because of the things that you do and the mistakes that you make," Warner said. "But I got to give the Patriots credit. Every mistake we made, they capitalized on it."

And there were a disturbingly high number of miscues by Warner and the Rams' offense.

Heading into the fourth quarter down 17-3, Warner looked frustrated and rattled, adjectives not normally associated with the league's Most Valuable Player, who had thrown for the second-most yards in NFL history this season.

But after three quarters, Warner had a 53.4 quarterback rating, was sacked twice, tossed two interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and looked confused countless other times.

At what looked to be one of his low points of a remarkable three-year NFL career, Warner did come back to lead his team on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 77 and 55 yards to tie the game at 17 with less than two minutes left. The transformation, though, came a little too late as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady marched his team on a 53-yard drive in 1:30 for a game-winning Adam Vinatieri 48-yard field goal.

"We made too many mistakes," Warner said. "And that is the frustrating part. We fought back and put ourselves in a position where we had a chance to win. Our defense played well enough to win a world championship. But our offense turned the ball over and gave them 17 points. And that is hard to swallow."

Never was that more evident than with the Rams up 3-0 in the second quarter. After back-to-back runs by Marshall Faulk for a total of 20 yards to the St. Louis 39, the Patriots stacked their defense with five down linemen. They brought all five on a blitz that allowed linebacker Mike Vrabel to come in untouched in the face of Warner. Warner threw the ball behind Isaac Bruce and into the hands of cornerback Ty Law, who promptly returned it for a 47-yard touchdown.

"He was in my face so I tried to anticipate where Isaac might be coming out of his break, and he came out a little quicker than I thought," Warner said. "Obviously, I threw behind and Ty made the pick. And that hurt."

From that point until the fourth-quarter comeback, the Rams' offense, which had played so flawlessly at times this season, was besieged by penalties and turnovers. St. Louis punted on its next possession following Law's interception, then receiver Ricky Proehl fumbled away the next chance at the Rams' 45, which led to a Brady touchdown pass to David Patten and a 14-3 halftime lead.

The Rams punted again on their first possession of the second half before Warner threw his second interception, this time to Otis Smith on a pass intended for Torry Holt. "Torry just kind of got grabbed or stumbled coming out of his cut, and I threw it where he would have been if he hadn't stumbled, and the DB was right there to make the catch," Warner said. "It's unfortunate because a couple of mistakes hurt the team and cost us a world championship."

"We had a couple of protection breakdowns," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "Obviously, you can't make those kind of errors against a team like this. `That's not to take anything away from what they did. They won the championship."

Warner rebounded in the fourth quarter and finished with his usual impressive numbers -- completing 28 of 44 passes for 365 yards and a touchdown. But for a rare time, Warner's numbers were more impressive than his overall play.

"The way we score points and how effective we've been, you never think you are going to have three points [heading into the fourth quarter]," Warner said. "But we made too many mistakes. And you can't do that against a good football team."

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