Today we have Super Bowl XXXIX, which was held on February 6, 2005, at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, between the five-time AFC champion New England Patriots and the second-time NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.
As always, we have a pop quiz, and then homework at the end of the episode. The pop quiz question for today is: this game was tied going into the fourth quarter. How many Super Bowls before this one had a tied score going into the final frame? The answer will come at the end of the podcast.
Prelude to Super Bowl XXXIX
The New England Patriots brought a long winning streak into the 2004 season, and they won their first six games to stretch that streak to 21 games, the longest in NFL history. They had their streak end at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8.
They’d then only lose one game the rest of the way, going on to finish 14-2. They wiped out the Indianapolis Colts in the snow in the divisional round by a 20-3 margin. Then they went to Pittsburgh, where they faced the 15-1 Steelers. The Patriots dominated the game and put up over 40 points in a 41-27 victory. They were headed to their fifth Super Bowl and third in four years.
Quarterback Tom Brady had another banner year, throwing for 3,692 yards and 28 touchdowns, though also throwing 14 interceptions. Running back Corey Dillon, who had left Cincinnati after the 2003 season, ran for over 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns. Brady’s top receivers all had first names that started with “D.”
They were receivers David Givens – 56 for 874 and 3 TDs, David Patten – 44 for 800 and 7 TDs, Deion Branch, 35 for 454 and 4 TDs, and tight end Daniel Graham – 30 for 364 and 7 TDs. This was an outstanding offense, but don’t forget about the defense. Linebacker Willie McGinest picked up nine-and-a-half sacks. Receiver Troy Brown played on defense due to injuries to the secondary, and he was brilliant, picking off three passes along the way. The Patriots were seven-point favorites going into the Super Bowl.
On the other side, the Philadelphia Eagles also started this season with a great streak. They went 7-0 before losing to, guess who, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers managed to give both the Pats and the Eagles their first losses of the season. The Eagles then cruised to six more victories, getting to 13-1, before resting everyone in the final two games, which they lost to finish 13-3.
The Eagles got the 8-8 Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round after the Vikes knocked off the #3-seeded Packers. The Eagles shut down Randy Moss and beat the Vikes 27-14. They then finally won a conference championship game, after having lost the previous three. This one they won by a 27-10 margin over the Falcons, to advance to Super Bowl XXXIX.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb had a breakout season, throwing for 3,875 yards and 31 touchdowns with just eight interceptions for a passer rating of 104.7. He also ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles were led on the ground by Brian Westbrook with over 800 yards and former Packer Dorsey Levens with 410 yards.
Receiver Terrell Owens was the Eagles leading receiver with 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he went down with an injury thanks to a horse-collar tackle. After missing both playoff games headed up to the Super Bowl, he decided he was going to give it a go in Jacksonville. Owens’ status was the biggest question mark entering Super Bowl 39.
Super Bowl XXXIX: First Quarter
The Eagles started with the ball, as defensive back Roderick Hood returned the opening kickoff to the 39. On second down, McNabb went play action to Owens for a seven-yard gain. On the next play, linebacker Tedy Bruschi sacked McNabb and forced a fumble, which he recovered.
However, that got overturned on a challenge by Eagles head coach Andy Reid, as McNabb’s knee was down prior to losing possession. In any case, the Patriots got the ball back since that was third down, and punter Dirk Johnson kicked to Brown. He returned it to the 27.
Brady started his team’s offense with a 15-yard pass to a wide-open Branch. A false start on tackle Matt Light set the Pats back, though, and they had to punt. Each side traded three-and-outs after that, and Philadelphia got the ball back for a third time at their own 26.
McNabb threw to Westbrook, who broke a tackle attempt by Brown and ran for a first down to the 40. Next, McNabb found tight end L.J. Smith for a first down at the midfield stripe. Facing third down, McNabb went to a wide-open Owens for 30 yards, and the Eagles got even more yardage when the Pats were called for roughing the passer. But defensive back Rodney Harrison picked off McNabb’s next pass, and the Eagles got nothing out of it.
The Patriots punted, and the Eagles got great field position. This time, though, Smith fumbled away a reception over the middle, and defensive back Eugene Wilson recovered for the Patriots. The Pats wouldn’t move it far; defensive end Derrick Burgess sacked Brady, and New England punter Josh Miller kicked it away early in the second quarter.
Super Bowl XXXIX: Second Quarter
McNabb passed twice to Pinkston early in the next drive, each time getting a first down, and moving the Eagles down to the Patriot 17. Westbrook ran off tackle for ten more yards. The Eagles soon faced third down, but McNabb fired a pass over the middle to Smith for a six-yard touchdown. Kicker David Akers made the extra point, and the Eagles led, 7-0.
New England then put together a drive, with Dillon catching screen passes on consecutive plays and taking them for gains of 13 and 15, respectively. Running back Kevin Faulk took it out to midfield with an eight-yard run, then he got a first down with five more yards.
Givens fumbled away a reception, which was picked up by defensive back Sheldon Brown of the Eagles. However, that got overturned on a challenge by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, as his knee was down. Dillon followed that with a 25-yard run down to the 7. But two plays later, Brady fumbled, and defensive tackle Darwin Walker recovered for the Eagles.
The Eagles were stuck deep in their own territory, and they had to punt. Johnson’s kick only reached the Philadelphia 37. Brady threw to Graham on first down for about six yards, then he hit Branch on a third-down pass to move the sticks.
Two plays later, Brady threw to Mr. Do-Everything Troy Brown for a 12-yard gain. After the two-minute warning, Dillon ran it down inside the 5, then Brady found Givens open in the right corner of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown, tying the game at seven.
Reid and the Eagles mismanaged the clock at the end of the half.
They ran down the clock under half a minute, before McNabb hit Pinkston on a couple of passes and got a first down at their own 40. They called timeout, but not until there were only ten seconds remaining. A pass and a draw to Westbrook ended the half, and the Eagles got no points out of it. They were still tied at seven at halftime.
Super Bowl XXXIX: Third Quarter
Brady put together a picture-perfect drive to start the second half. He threw to Branch for gains of eight and 27 yards to move the ball to the Philadelphia 38. After a couple of incompletions, he went back to Branch for 16 more yards. Two plays later, Branch made a fourth catch on the drive, this one reaching the 2.
Linebacker Mike Vrabel then came in as a tight end, and Brady found him for a touchdown, his second touchdown in the last two Super Bowls. The Eagles were called for holding on the play, which was declined, as the Patriots took a 14-7 lead.
The teams traded punts, and Philadelphia got the ball back deep in their own territory. McNabb started the drive with an eight-yard pass to Owens. Westbrook then ran outside for a first down at the 45. McNabb hit Lewis for a first down, then went to Owens for six more yards. Westbrook ran for the next first down, and McNabb fired to Lewis for seven more.
Facing third-and-three, McNabb threw to Westbrook for a first down. He’d go right back to him on the next play, and Westbrook made the catch over the middle for a ten-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.
Super Bowl XXXIX: Fourth Quarter
Faulk took a screen for a first down at the New England 47. Dillon ran for another first down, and Faulk ran it to the Eagles’ 28 to end the third quarter tied at 14. Faulk then ran for a first down at the 16, before catching a screen and getting it down to the 2. Dillon pounded in from there for a two-yard touchdown off the left side, and the Pats took a 21-14 lead.
The Eagles went three-and-out, and the Patriots got the ball back at the Eagles’ 47. Brady threw a second-down pass down the middle to Branch, who made a great catch for 19 yards, plus 15 more on a roughing the passer penalty. Dillon ran for seven yards, then gained a first down on an outside run. While the Patriots didn’t gain another yard, kicker Adam Vinatieri made a 22-yard field goal to put New England up 24-14.
On the next drive, McNabb threw to Owens in the open, and Owens got all the way down to the New England 37. But his next pass was intercepted by Bruschi. The Eagles had to make a stop now to have any chance at staying in this game. They did, forcing a punt, and they got the ball back at their 21.
The Eagles plodded down the field, going with short passes and huddling up after every play. It took three short passes to get the first down. It took another three plays for the next first down. The clock ran down under three minutes, as McNabb found receiver Freddie Mitchell for a first down. But the Eagles kept on huddling up! McNabb hit Westbrook over the middle for a first down, and now the game was at the two-minute warning. Two plays after the timeout, McNabb fired a 30-yard touchdown pass down the middle to Lewis to cut the Eagles’ deficit to three.
Akers tried an onside kick, but it went right to Patriots tight end Christian Fauria. Brady simply handed off to Faulk on three straight runs, costing the Eagles their last two timeouts, and moving the clock all the way down to 55 seconds. Miller got away a perfect punt that bounced down to the 4 and left 46 seconds.
McNabb now was 96 yards from the goal line with less than a minute to go and no timeouts. What did he throw? A one-yard pass to Westbrook in bounds. By the time he got off his next pass, an incompletion, there were 17 seconds left. Finally, McNabb threw a second interception to Harrison, and the Patriots ran out the clock on their 24-21 victory.
Super Bowl XXXIX: Aftermath and Awards
This was a tightly contested game, despite the Eagles’ mangling of the clock. In fact, it was the first Super Bowl ever to go to the fourth quarter with a tie score. So, the answer to today’s pop quiz question is zero.
Deion Branch was named MVP for his record-tying 11 catches for 133 yards. He was the first Patriot other than Tom Brady to be named Super Bowl MVP.
If I were to give out an award for the second-best player on the Patriots, I’d have to go with two players: Bruschi, who had both a sack and an interception, not to mention his forced fumble and recovery that got taken off the board on instant replay, and Harrison, who picked off two passes. Both of those guys helped the Patriots’ defense do just enough to win this game.
For Least Valuable Player, I’m going with McNabb. Not only did he throw three interceptions, but he ran an offense that went at a snail’s pace while trailing by ten in the fourth quarter. That’s on the quarterback to move the offense faster.
If he had saved even one more minute, that may have been enough to move the ball into field goal range to tie the game, assuming the Eagles could have avoided an interception.
The most valuable player on the losing team was definitely Terrell Owens. He caught nine passes for 122 yards. He was fighting off a serious injury yet playing right through it and looking as if he wasn’t hurt at all.
What a game he had, and it’s a shame the Eagles didn’t manage the clock right, because I could easily see him catching a 50-yard bomb to put the Eagles into field goal range to tie the game at the end.
The best player you don’t remember? How about tight end L.J. Smith of the Eagles. He caught four passes for 27 yards and a touchdown. He provided a great target for McNabb as the team’s starting tight end. I had even forgotten about him.
The biggest play of the game was Bruschi’s interception, stopping the Eagles from closing in on the Pats’ ten-point lead. He blunted the Eagle momentum and allowed the Patriots to run off some clock. Without that interception, maybe the Eagles do have enough time to tie or even win the game in regulation.
The biggest play you don’t remember is McNabb’s one-yard pass to Westbrook in bounds with less than a minute to go. How could he have possibly thought that was a good idea? And why didn’t Westbrook just knock the pass down, knowing a catch would cause more clock to run? McNabb needed to be looking for T.O. Instead, he ended up throwing a desperation interception two plays later.
For this week, I’m going with Patriot Reign: Bill Belichick, the Coaches, and the Players Who Built a Champion by Michael Holley. The New England franchise is going to end up with the most books written about them by the time all is said and done. It’s just a fascinating story of how this team went from rags to riches. Of course, you probably hate the Patriots; but there’s no denying their greatness.
Next time, it’s a blast from the past. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who hadn’t won a Super Bowl in 26 years, go up against the Seattle Seahawks, who had never been to a Super Bowl before. Can Steelers running back Jerome Bettis go out on top in his hometown of Detroit? Can Mike Holmgren win a Super Bowl with a second team? And what was it about all those weird calls by the officials?
Find out my take on all of it in two weeks, when I take on Super Bowl XL! In the meantime…
You can find all my books at tommyaphillips.com; I specifically suggest the Great Eighties and Nifty Nineties books. Later this year, there will be a third book on NFL decades, on the seventies. You won’t want to miss it. Until next time, this is Tommy A. Phillips, signing off. So long!
Lombardi Memories is a show that takes you back in time, into January or February, to the greatest one-day spectacle in all of sports. This is the every-other-Tuesday podcast that looks back at each and every one of the 50-plus Super Bowls and tells the story of who won and why. Tommy A. Phillips is your host on this Super Journey. He’s an author of multiple NFL books. You can purchase below.
Books From The Host Of Lombardi Memories
Please Note – As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases