In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The New England Patriots win their third Lombardi Trophy in four years, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville. Deion Branch is named the game’s MVP with 11 receptions for 133 yards. Terrell Owens making a heroic comeback from a broken leg, makes nine catches for 122 yards, but the Eagles’ rally falls just short as Donovan McNabb overcome by dehydration throws up on the field.
There was no denying that the New England Patriots coached by Bill Belichick were a dynasty anymore. They had been a surprise winner of Super Bowl XXXVI. After missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 2002, the Patriots bounced back and finished 14-2, winning Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2003. Along the way, they won their last 12 regular-season games. Following three playoff wins and a 6-0 start in 2004, the Patriots had the longest winning streak in NFL history at 21 straight games. The Patriots would again finish the season with a record of 14-2. In the playoffs, the Patriots knocked off the Indianapolis Colts 20-3 and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 41-27 in the AFC Championship Game.
The Philadelphia Eagles coached by Andy Reid were just as much of a juggernaut in the regular season. They had played in three straight NFC Championship Games but came away disappointed each time, losing to the St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers. Looking to get over the hump, the Eagles acquired Terrell Owens in the off-season and got off to a 13-1 start, before a broken fibula threatened to end his season. The Eagles lost the last two games of the regular season but rebounded to beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-14 in the Divisional Round, and the Atlanta Falcons 27-10 in the NFC Championship to finally reach the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville had a rough week, as the limited hotel space, had many guests staying on docked cruise ships. The city was the smallest market ever to host the Super Bowl, which created a week of travel headaches as accommodations for fans became a significant story. The Super Bowl halftime show was set to be the safe choice of Paul McCartney after the controversy surrounding Janet Jackson. Another major story was the return of Terrell Owens, who, against doctor’s orders, was returning to play two months after breaking his fibula on a horse-collar tackle.
The Patriots came into Super Bowl XXXIX, a seven-point favorite, as the health of Terrell Owens had become the central storyline. After a scoreless first quarter, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when L.J. Smith caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb. The Patriots answered late in the first half as David Givens caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady. Philadelphia had controlled the game most of the first half, but an L.J. Smith fumble in New England territory proved to be costly.
The Patriots received the second-half kickoff and marched down the field to take the lead, as Mike Vrable playing on offense caught a two-yard pass from Brady. The Eagles would answer late in the third quarter as Brian Westbrook caught a ten-yard pass from McNabb to tie the game 14-14. As the fourth quarter began, the Patriots were starting to take over as they had driven deep into Eagles’ territory. New England completed the drive with a two-yard touchdown run from Cory Dillon. On the ensuing drive, Donovan McNabb was picked off by Bethel Johnson. The Patriots had a chance to put the game on ice, but the Philadelphia defense stiffened as Adam Vinatieri hit a 22-yard field goal to extend the Patriots’ lead to 24-14.
The Eagles now faced desperation and got a big 36-yard reception by Terrell Owens. However, one play later McNabb was picked off by Teddy Bruschi. The Patriots were unable to add to their lead, giving the Eagles the ball back with just under six minutes left. The Eagles would capitalize, scoring on a 30-yard pass from Donovan McNabb to Greg Lewis at the two-minute warning. The drive was best remembered for McNabb throwing up during the drive. The Eagles would get the ball back at their own five, down 24-21, but with 17 seconds left, Donovan McNabb tossing a prayer, threw his third pick of the quarter, caught by Rodney Harrison to end the game.