This week, the primary focus for everyone is on the upcoming Super Bowl LVII matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs. As it should be, of course. Throughout the 2022 NFL season, these have been two of the best teams in the league. They had the number one seeds in both of their respective conferences. The matchup between these two NFL heavyweights deserves all of the hype.
However, Super Bowl week is also a chance to reflect on past games. To appreciate the event itself and all the great contests that have gotten us to this point.
For me, there is one Super Bowl that stands out as being the best I’ve ever watched, and one that I think back to each year during the week leading up to the big game.
Super Bowl XXXVI was between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Patriots won the game 20-17 in an instant classic. For these three reasons, I still believe it is one of, if not the, best Super Bowl ever played.
Super Bowl XXXVI Was One of the Greatest
David vs. Goliath
This game was a textbook matchup of David versus Goliath as the Patriots entered the game 14-point underdogs to the St. Louis Rams.
The spread was merited. The Rams finished the season with a record of 14-2 with their only two losses coming by a combined 10 points. Led by the “Greatest Show on Turf”, the Rams had the best offense in the league by just about every statistical measure.
Quarterbacked by league MVP Kurt Warner, the Rams had weapons at every skill position. Including league offensive player of the year, Marshall Faulk, and wide receivers Torry Holt, and Isaac Bruce.
What elevated the Rams was the overhaul that took place on the defensive side of the football. In the 2000 season, the Rams still had one of the league’s best offenses but it was paired with the league’s worst defense. Armed with three first-round draft picks, the Rams used all of them on defensive players, including strong safety Adam Archuleta who ended up being a key contributor the following season.
The Patriots, on the other hand, were 11-5 and didn’t have much success in the years leading up to their run to the Super Bowl. Their starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, had been knocked out of the season after Week 3, handing over the reins to Tom Brady.
One of the best endings
Despite being heavy underdogs, the Patriots would end up winning the game on a field goal as time expired.
The game was great throughout. The Rams took an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter and left many fans thinking the Patriots were lucky to only be down three after one quarter of play.
Then in the second quarter, Patriots cornerback Ty Law intercepted Kurt Warner and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. All of a sudden, the Patriots were not only still in the game but had the lead on the powerful Rams.
Another touchdown at the end of the first half would put the Patriots up 14-3, a huge surprise to see the underdog up by double digits at the half.
In the third quarter, the Patriots added to their lead with a 37-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri bringing the score to 17-3 in favor of the Patriots.
While no one expected the Patriots to be up by 14 entering the fourth quarter, there was still a feeling that the Rams were going to make a comeback. There was no way the NFL’s best team all regular season wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
And the fight they did with two touchdowns scored in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17 with 1:37 remaining. The Rams would then kick off to Tom Brady and the Patriots for one last try before potentially going to overtime.
Starting on their own 17-yard line, Tom Brady would drive the Patriots 53 yards down the field to the Rams 30-yard line for one final try to win the game in regulation.
Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, who would go on to be one of the best clutch kickers in the game, won it on a 48-yard field goal as time expired. Shocking the Rams and the football world.
Trophy No. 1 🏆
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) February 3, 2023
Start of a Dynasty
When the Patriots won the game, no one could have imagined that it would be the first of six Super Bowls that the organization would win with Brady under center.
Thought to be more of an underdog team and story, the Patriots would go on to be one of the best dynasties in the history of team sports. Winning six Super Bowls in a span of fewer than 20 years is something that the league will likely never see again.
With each win that passed, though, the Patriots went from being a fun underdog story to an “evil empire” and one of the most hated teams in the NFL.
In many ways that reputation was earned with scandals such as “Deflategate” and “Spygate,” the Patriots no longer played the underdog card well.
Regardless, this Super Bowl will always be remembered as the start of that run, the birth of a legend, and the emergence of one of the best dynasties in sports. Ultimately putting it among the best games in Super Bowl history.
Main Image: RVR Photos-USA TODAY