Patriots repeat in Super Bowl
Lightning apparently can strike twice in football. For the second time in three years, New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a game-winning field goal to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory.
Vinatieri's 41-yard kick, with seconds left in the game, gave New England the victory by the score of 32-29. The kick was set up by a fast drive down the field engineered by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the MVP of the game. Brady ended up completing 32-of-48 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
Just moments before, the two teams had traded touchdowns, resulting in a tie. First, Brady threw a one-yard touchdown pass to linebacker Mike Vrabel, who surprisingly lined up on offense for the play, and Kevin Faulk ran in for a two-point conversion to put New England up 29-22. Then, with 1:08 left, Panthers Quarterback Jake Delhomme hit Ricky Proehl with a 12-yard touchdown pass to tie it at 29.
Down 21-10 with a quarter to go, Carolina made some big plays down the stretch to get back in the game. First, DeShaun Foster broke for a 33-yard touchdown run with 12 minutes remaining. Then, after Reggie Howard intercepted Tom Brady's pass in the end zone, Delhomme connected with Muhsin Muhammed for an 85-yard touchdown pass, the longest in Super Bowl history.
However, after both Carolina touchdowns, head coach John Fox elected to go for two, rather than kick an extra point. They missed both two-point conversion attempts, which clearly came back to burn them in the end.
Carolina's biggest strength coming into the game was expected to be its run offense. However, aside from a few big plays, Panthers backs Foster and Stephen Davis had trouble gaining yardage against New England's aggressive defense. Fortunately for the Panthers, Delhomme stepped up, posting 323 yards and three touchdowns. Despite expectations of a defensive battle, the game became a shootout between Brady and Delhomme in the end.
The Patriots took a 14-10 lead into halftime, after an exciting end to a boring first half. New England parlayed a fumble recovery into the first score of the game with just under four minutes left in the half, a touchdown pass from Brady to Deion Branch. The Panthers responded immediately, driving 95 yards in less than two minutes, capped by a graceful 39-yard touchdown pass by Delhomme to Steve Smith.
With just over a minute remaining until halftime, Brady struck quickly, hitting Branch across the middle of the field for 52 yards to set up a touchdown to David Givens. However, the Patriots elected to squib the kickoff, and Carolina recovered with good field position. Stephen Davis broke for a 21-yard run from scrimmage, to set up a 50-yard field goal by John Kasay as time expired in the half.
That explosion of offense came as a surprise, as most of the first half featured strong defense and slow offense. Carolina's first five possessions resulted in punts, and its only first down in those possessions came as a result of a penalty. Meanwhile, New England put together some offense, but was unable to find the end zone. Vinatieri missed two short field goals early, one of which was blocked.