Countdown of the 20 Greatest Super Bowl’s: #4 Super Bowl XXXVI
#4 Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams
New England Patriots – 20
St. Louis Rams – 17
New Orleans, Louisiana
February 3, 2002
MVP: Tom Brady, QB, New England
Key Play: After the Rams tied the game with 1:30 left, Adam Vinateri hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give the Patriots the win.
Super Bowl XXXVI marked the beginning of the Patriots dynasty and the end of “The Greatest Show on Turf” (the nickname for the Rams record-breaking offense).
St. Louis came into the game favored by 14 points, and they jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. The game turned around in the second quarter though, when Ty Law intercepted Kurt Warner and returned the ball 47 yards for a score, giving the Patriots a 7-3 lead.
Then with less than two minutes left in the half, Ricky Proehl fumbled the ball after catching a pass, setting up the Patriots at the Rams’ 40-yard line. A few plays later, Tom Brady connected with David Patten for an 8-yard touchdown, giving New England a 14-3 lead.
Another interception by the Patriots in the third quarter gave them the ball in Rams’ territory, leading to a 37-yard field goal to make it 17-3.
In the fourth quarter, the Rams’ vaunted offense finally sustained a drive all the way to New England’s 3-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, Warner fumbled trying to run in the score, and Tebucky Jones took the ball back 97 yards for a score. However, Willie McGinest was called for defensive holding on Marshall Faulk, which nullified the touchdown and gave the Rams a first down. Two plays later, Warner scored on a 2-yard run, making the score 17-10.
A few possessions later, the Rams got the ball near midfield with less than two minutes left. In just 21 seconds, the Rams tied the game when Proehl caught a 26-yard touchdown from Warner.
With no timeouts left, the Patriots got the ball back at their own 17 with 1:21 remaining. Brady then led New England on a drive that would launch his legacy, completing five passes for 53 yards to bring the Patriots to the Rams’ 30-yard line. Vinateri then nailed the game-winning field goal, marking the first time the Super Bowl was won on the last play.
While Brady and Vinateri are remembered as the heroes, New England’s outstanding defensive performance should not be forgotten. Leading up to that Super Bowl, St. Louis averaged over 32 points per game over the previous three seasons. Yet, the Patriots held the Rams to just 17 points and forced three turnovers leading to 17 points of their own.