Top 10 playoff games of the Brady/Belichick era (Part 2)
By Mike Caliri
2. Super Bowl XXXVI vs. St. Louis Rams
February 3, 2002
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Vegas Odds: Rams -14.0
The Patriots’ first Super Bowl appearance under Bill Belichick came in 2001 against “The Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams, who boasted an impressive 14-2 record and the best offense in the NFL.
The Patriots were unanimously considered the underdog coming into this game. They had a first-year starter in Tom Brady and went 11-5 in the regular season, while the Rams were widely viewed as the best team in the league.
Using the underdog role as motivation and putting an emphasis on “team” proved to be just what the Patriots needed. The Patriots decided to break Super Bowl tradition and get introduced as a team, rather than individually, during the opening ceremony.
A Ty Law pick-six gave the Patriots their first points during the game, and later a fumble recovery helped set up Tom Brady’s first ever Super Bowl touchdown pass: a rifle to the back of the end zone that was caught by receiver David Patten.
To the surprise of most, the Patriots had a commanding 14-3 lead at halftime. A field goal added to that lead, which they carried into the fourth quarter, but it was only a matter of time until the prolific Rams offense would come to life.
Back-to-back touchdowns by the Rams, the second one coming with just 1:30 left to play, would tie the game at 17, setting up Tom Brady to execute one of the first of many game-winning drives in his lengthy Super Bowl career.
With no timeouts and the ball at their own 17, the Patriots executed a drive in which Brady went 5 for 7 for 53 yards before the famous spike in which Brady catches the ball.
That drive set up a 48 yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri to put the Patriots up 20-17 as time expired, and the Patriots “shocked the world,” becoming Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history.
Before the game, Rams wide receiver Ricky Proehl said to a camera, “Tonight, a dynasty is born.” Well, it may not have been what he meant, but he was definitely right.