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51 for LI: Super Bowl XXXVI, Birth of a Dynasty

[lead align=”default”]Just 36 days remain until the big game in Houston this year. Today, we reflect on Super Bowl XXXVI and the ramifications that game had.[/lead]

If you are not a fan of the New England Patriots, you probably rue the day the Pats won this game. You might also have ill feelings towards Drew Bledsoe for getting hurt in the first place. Whatever your feelings, it happened, and the history of the National Football League changed forever.

The Patriots Before Super Bowl XXXVI

Prior to their first NFL championship, the New England Patriots were one of those also-ran franchises. Not a bad one, but not a great one, either. They made two prior Super Bowls, losing both of them. Their only claims to fame were getting thoroughly beaten by the Bears and Packers, respectively. Oh sure, they had some playoff appearances, but also had 18 losing seasons between founding in 1960 and 2000.

In playoff games before and after the merger, the Pats were 7-10 entering the 2001 season.

Super Bowl XXXVI: The Game

The first Super Bowl following September 11, this game had a decidedly patriotic feel, no pun intended. As a matter of fact, the game was pushed back a week because of a halt to the season.

The St. Louis Rams, champions from a few seasons earlier, returned with the “Greatest Show On Turf.” They met the Pats, in the Super Bowl for the third time, after having gotten through the AFC. Notably, the “Tuck Rule Game” against Oakland in the divisional round helped initiate a decade and a half of lore to come. The Rams were two-touchdown favorites entering this game.

Pat Summerall and John Madden called the action in their last game together, which opened on a St. Louis field goal. The Pats took the lead in the second quarter, thanks to a Ty Law pick-six off of Kurt Warner. New England padded their lead to 14-3 at halftime after a Tom Brady touchdown pass to David Patten.

The Pats notched the only score of the third quarter on an Adam Vinatieri 37-yard field goal. Entering the fourth quarter, New England led 17-3 and looked primed for their first-ever championship.

But the Greatest Show on Turf wasn’t ready to close curtains just yet. Kurt Warner capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive on a quarterback run to make it a 17-10 game with 9:31 to go. Getting the ball back after the two-minute warning, the Rams struck again, going 55 yards in 21 seconds. The game-tying score was a 26-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Ricky Proehl.

At 17-17, some thought Patriots coach Bill Belichick would play for overtime. He didn’t: with 90 seconds left, the Pats drove for field goal range and the win. Brady got them to a 48-yard field goal attempt by Vinatieri, and when it sailed through the uprights, time expired. The Patriots were champions for the first time.

The Patriots After Super Bowl XXXVI

The 2001 season completely altered the fortunes of the franchise. New England went from an okay-not-great team to one of the most dominant forces in North American professional sports.

Including the 2001 season, and not including the as yet unknown outcome of 2016, the Pats have had 15 consecutive winning seasons while going 22-9 in the postseason. This includes four Super Bowl championships and six appearances. The Brady-Belichick combination has made the playoffs 14 times including this season. All 14 of those were division championships.

They may yet add more to the totals before they both leave Foxboro.

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