Super Bowl XXXIX
February 6, 2005
Eagles vs. Patriots
At Alltel Stadium, Patriots WIN, 24-21
By Scott A. Benson

The Pats got my tongue.

Here it is, nearly 24 hours after the New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 39, and I still can’ find the words to describe what I saw.

I believe I know why that is now. It’s because words are no longer necessary. The NFL record book speaks for itself.

However, as I am certain these reader columns surely have some sort of minimum word count requirement, I must forge ahead.

It hits you like a ton of bricks, all of this taken in the cumulative, up to and including yesterday’s ugly/beautiful, nerve-wracking-to the-last-drop classic. Can this actually be happening to the Patriots? Back to back Super Bowl championships. Three in four seasons, a league record they will now share with Dallas. A 9-0 playoff run, also a league record, this one shared with the man whose name is all over their silver obelisks. I mean, this isn’t any temporary thing, some cheap, tawdry Tampa Bay one-off indiscretion. This is the stuff of legends.

And it’s the freakin Patriots. Holding actual Lombardi Trophies. Mercy. It would explain a lot of things if we all suddenly found out we died and went to heaven three years ago.

I don’t know about you, but that was not the Super Bowl I pre-ordered. These Eagles put up a hell of a stink, particularly their quick and physical defense, completely undermining the theme of my “Super Bowl Blowout” party. I clearly checked the box for the “Just Happy to Be Here and Get Our Brains Beat in by 30 Points” Eagles on the order form. I can’t imagine what happened. Damned Adelphia!

I’ll give it to the Eagles; they had me going for awhile. I wasn’t exactly planning on a scoreless first quarter, for instance. I guess I hadn’t anticipated a Donovan McNabb touchdown pass being the first score of the game, either. I sure didn’t expect that the Patriots and Eagles would play in the first Super Bowl game to be tied after three quarters.

Yet by the time they got around to handing out the free t-shirts, it was the defending champion who was – once again – left standing. Left standing by virtue of grit, cunning, and skill, undeterred by neither man nor myth, just like so many times before.

To any reasonable person, this came as no surprise. Yet I hope I never forget what it’s like to come to expect that sort of thing.

By now you well know that MVP Deion Branch tore the ever loving bejeezus out of the Philly secondary, and after a slightly queezy first quarter, Tom Brady and the offensive line nullified a surprisingly terrifying Eagles front with some nifty screen passes to Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk. You know that Brady’s 2nd quarter touchdown pass to David Givens, which tied the game at 7, was just about the best damned scoring pass the 27 year old (youngest QB ever to win three Super Bowls) has ever thrown. You know Mike “Hands” Vrabel somehow got into the goal line offense without instantly drawing triple coverage. They’ll never learn, and Vrabel’s going to keep getting fat off it. By now you know that Adam Vinatieri won another Super Bowl with his right leg, and that Josh Miller gave a worldwide clinic on directional punting.

Yes, by now you know that Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi raged like lions, kicking up turnovers all over the place (4 in all) and leading a Patriots defense that is sort of like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – no matter how many appendages get severed, they keep coming at you. By now you know that Asante Samuel and Randall Gay bent but never broke, even against a startling comeback by Terrell Owens. By now, the thought has occurred to you that if Owens shut up for five minutes, people might notice what a good football player he really is.

I’m not sure you yet know what the hell Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb were doing with the final moments of that game, but that’s okay, because they don’t either. Maybe the “Casual” approach isnt a good fit when you’re down by 10 with five minutes left to play.

Anyway, by now you know that the Patriots stopped the run and flustered McNabb with a curveball 4-3 defensive alignment that was the final swerve in Romeo Crennel’s brilliant career as New England defensive coordinator. By now, you know that in his final game, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’ unit put up four scores, and as importantly, only one harmless turnover (as it turned out) against one of the league’s best defenses, all on the biggest stage there is.

By now, you’ve realized that if there is anyone you could choose anyone to undertake the daunting task such as filling the shoes of men like these, it would be NFL coaching legend Bill Belichick.

By now, you know all of these things. I don’t need to tell you about them. You lived it. And you’ll never forget it. Nobody will. The history books won’t allow it.

And after you’ve said that, there’s really no need to say any more.

Postscript: With another year of the Rear View in the, well, rear view, I want to say thanks as always to Bruce Allen, for his support and encouragement and mostly for his great web site. Bruce and Rich and Ben are on the side of the angels with their daily blog, and I’m proud to share the page with them. Thanks also to all the friends who have been with me over the last couple of years, for the ever-present Monday morning high signs and for making these the two most enjoyable and memorable seasons I’ve ever experienced as a Patriots fan. What’s next? Three in a row, that’s what. See you in the fall.