True Patriots

Field goal is straight with no time left to cap huge upset of Rams

New England's first NFL crown

14 down, St. Louis ties, but Patriots complete revolution on last drive

Patriots 20 : Rams 17

Super Bowl Xxxvi

February 04, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS - Resilient to the end of their miracle playoff run, the New England Patriots upstaged the St. Louis Rams, 20-17, last night when Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal as time expired to win the 36th Super Bowl before 72,922 at the Superdome.

The Patriots watched a 14-point lead dissipate in a fourth-quarter Rams' rally, then won the world championship with a nine-play, 53-yard drive to history.

In the end, it wasn't MVP quarterback Kurt Warner who seized the moment, but second-year starter Tom Brady who capped a Super Bowl extravaganza of patriotic fervor, giving New England its first Super Bowl title in three tries.

The Rams turned a 17-3 deficit into a 17-17 tie with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Warner scored the first on a 2-yard run with 9:31 to play. Then wide receiver Ricky Proehl turned a pick play into a 26-yard touchdown pass with 1:30 left.

Proehl cut outside behind Isaac Bruce, who ran an in-route. Once he had the ball, Proehl cut back inside Tebucky Jones and beat Terrance Shaw to the goal line with a dive.

Troy Brown's 15-yard kickoff return gave the Patriots (14-5) the ball at their own 17 with 1:21 left. Rather than run out the clock and play for overtime, the Patriots went for the jugular.

Throwing from the shotgun formation, Brady hit J.R. Remond with three completions for a total of 24 yards. That put New England on its 41 with 33 seconds left.

Under pressure from a St. Louis blitz, Brady threw his next pass away, but came back to hit Brown for a 23-yard pass that carried to the Rams' 36.

A 6-yard toss to tight end Jermaine Wiggins got the Patriots to the 30, and Brady quickly spiked the ball with seven seconds left.

That left it up to Vinatieri, who had hit a clutch 45-yarder in the snow to help New England beat Oakland in its first playoff game.

The Patriots, who lost to the Rams in the regular season, switched their defensive philosophy for this game and it worked to near-perfection. Instead of blitzing Warner, the Patriots dropped seven and eight men into coverage, going with seven defensive backs on third down often.

"They did such a great job picking up the blitz in the first game, so we covered a little more this game." coach Bill Belichick said. "I thought we had to cover more than rush because he [Warner] gets it out there so quick."

The Rams' prolific offense produced a lot of yardage, but no touchdowns until the fourth quarter. The Rams outgained the Patriots, 427-267, and Warner passed for 365 yards, completing 28 of 44 passes.

But three Rams turnovers led to their undoing. Cornerback Ty Law intercepted Warner in the second quarter and returned the pass 47 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.

A fumble by Proehl, also in the second quarter, led to a 40-yard touchdown drive for the Patriots, ending with an 8-yard pass from Brady to David Patten.

Cornerback Otis Smith intercepted Warner in the third quar ter to set up a 37-yard Vinatieri field goal.

"If we're playing next week, we're probably [still] under dogs." Belichick siad.

"There's not a lot of people who believed in these players, but they believed in themselves."

The Patriots finished with nine straight wins and broke the Rams' eight-game win streak.

The Patriots stretched their lead to 17-3 in the third quarter when they capitalized on the Rams' third turnover.

Wide receiver Torry Holt slipped to one knee making a cut on a third-down pass play, and Smith intercepted Warner's throw. His 30-yard return carried to the St. Louis 33.

Facing third-and-14 at the 26, the Patriots called a direct snap to Kevin Faulk with Brady in the shotgun formation. Faulk gained 7 yards to the 19, where Vinatieri kicked a 37-yard field goal.

Kept out of the end zone for three-plus quarters, the Rams finally broke through on their next possession. They went 77 yards in 12 plays, but needed a critical holding penalty to erase a goal-line Warner fumble that was returned for an apparent touchdown by Law.

The apparent game-turning play came on fourth-and-goal from the 3 after Warner's third-down pass for Bruce was nearly intercepted in the corner of the end zone by Law.

On fourth down, finding his receivers covered, Warner rolled right, reluctantly at first. He was tackled by linebacker Roman Phifer at the 2 and the ball came out. Law, who earlier had re turned an interception 47 yards for a score, went untouched for what seemed a clinching touchdown.

But linebacker Willie McGinest was flagged for holding running back Marshall Faulk, running left on a pass pattern. That penalty gave the Rams an automatic first down at the 1.

After Faulk was stopped for a 1-yard loss and a New England timeout, Warner kept the ball and ran behind center Andy McCollum for a 2-yard touchdown. With 9:31 left, the Rams had pulled within 17-10.

They tied it on Proehl's catch and run with 1:30 left.

New England's opportunistic defense created two big turnovers in the first half and stunned the 14-point favorites for a 14-3 lead.

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