3. Super Bowl XXXVIII vs Carolina Panthers
Perhaps the most underrated of all Patriots Super Bowls, Super Bowl 38 was actually a very entertaining game. Most people remember the other two games better in the early 2000s, simply because of the significance of their first win (against the “Greatest Show on Turf,” too) and because of how high-profile the opposition was in Super Bowl 39 (Reid, McNabb, and Owens).
Super Bowl 38 pitted the Patriots against John Fox’s Carolina Panthers, who were quarterbacked by Jake Delhomme at the time. History hasn’t judged that squad as being particularly heavy on the star power. The fact that the Panthers have only made it back to the big game once since then (where they were absolutely suffocated by Von Miller’s Broncos), combined with their lack of a long storied history as one of the newer franchises in the NFL, makes it easy to forget just how good a team the 2003-2004 Panthers really were.
This Super Bowl started out as a real snoozefest. Similar to this year’s Super Bowl, neither offense could get much of anything going to start the game, with both teams being held scoreless in the first quarter. There was a flurry of points scored towards the end of the first half, and then once again, the two teams were in a defensive showdown in the third quarter.
Entering the fourth quarter, the scoreboard read 14-10, Patriots. And that’s when this game absolutely exploded.
In less than 15 minutes, the two teams combined for 37 points. Carolina had three touchdowns (to go along with two failed two-point conversions and one successful PAT), and New England had two touchdowns and one field goal (along with one successful two-point conversion and one successful PAT).
It was the second straight Super Bowl the Patriots would win on a field goal, with Vinatieri connecting from 41 yards out as time expired. Based on the fourth quarter theatrics alone, this game tops the list of all the Patriots’ early-dynasty title wins in pure adrenaline.