View Full Version : It's deja vu all over again for Brady and Vinatieri

02-02-2004, 02:19 PM
Houston, TX - Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri had been there before and, much like the previous go-around, the results were strikingly similar this time around.

For the second time in three seasons, Brady led the New England Patriots down the field and Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal to crown New England king. This time Vinatieri capped a thrilling contest with a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left to play, leading the Patriots to a 32-29 win over the pesky Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Brady, who finished 32-for-48 for 354 yards with three touchdowns, drove the Patriots 37 yards in six plays to set up the game-winning score. Vinatieri, who had uncharacteristically missed his only two attempts up to this point, continued to build upon his legacy as one of the most clutch kickers of all- time by splitting the uprights with the game on the line.

"I looked up and it was going right down the middle," Vinatieri explained.

It was groundhog day all over again. Two seasons ago, Vinatieri turned the improbable into reality when his 48-yard kick as time expired helped the underdog Patriots stun the high-octane St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.

Brady's legacy also continues to grow, and any doubts that he should be mentioned in the same breath as any of the league's top quarterbacks -- both past and present -- should be discarded.

"Like I said before, he is the best quarterback in the game," Patriots cornerback Ty Law explained of the Patriots' leader. "I'll take him over anyone." Once again, Brady showed the hidden qualities that allow him to exude greatness. The four-year pro was cool, calm and collective late in this contest despite throwing a crucial fourth-quarter interception.

With New England clinging to a 21-16 lead, Brady threw a pick near the goal line. Carolina then scored to take its first lead of the contest at 22-21, but that is when Brady took over.

The Michigan product immediately drove the Patriots down the field to put his team back ahead. After the two-point conversion allowed the Pats to take a seven-point advantage, the resilient Panthers and their own impressive gunslinger, Jake Delhomme, answered again, tying the contest and setting the stage for Brady and Vinatieri.

An errant kickoff put New England on its own 40-yard line with the game tied at 29-29 and 1:08 remaining. More than enough time for Brady to emit greatness.

His first pass fell incomplete on the Patriots' final drive. However, that would be his last pass to hit the ground. A pair of 13-yard completions to Troy Brown put New England on the move. Then, after Brady picked up only four yards on a completion to Daniel Graham, he made perhaps the play of the game when he found Deion Branch near the right sidelines for 17 yards.

Branch's reception put the ball down at the 23, setting up a kick for Vinatieri, who wasn't about to waste the exceptional effort from his superstar quarterback.

With a brilliant coaching staff expected to remain in place, a stud starting quarterback and a boatload of draft picks in this year's draft, there is no reason to believe the Patriots can not carry over their success into the future. No one on the roster will complain if next year produces a similar result.

"They never get old. They never, ever get old," a jubilant Vinatieri proclaimed.