February 01, 2004
Patriots Pull a Deja Vu
BY: Kevin Rousseau
The Patriots and their fans are on top of the world. They did it again and have brought us a second Super Bowl Championship in three years.
On Sunday, a dynasty was born. Now, one can begin to compare the Patriots to the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s, and the Cowboys of the 90s. With the coaching staff coming back largely intact, two upcoming first-round draft picks, and a decent salary cap position, the sky is the limit for this team that is now the gold standard for the other 31 NFL franchises.
Its hard to imagine another situation in the history of modern American professional sports where the same exact scenario played out in a championship game for a team twice in three years. Let's review: Ricky Proehl blasts into the end zone to tie the score late in the game as a reeling, spent Patriots defense looks like it won't be able to stop the opposing team in overtime. Calmly, Tom Brady methodically marches his team down the field in Montana-esque fashion (Yes, it's more than okay to compare the two now). And then Mr. Ice himself, Adam Vinatieri, hits it straight and true as time runs out to give the Patriots the most coveted seven pounds of sterling silver in the entire world-the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The 2003 Patriots are a team for the ages. Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins won more consecutive games in a season than this team. Think about that for a moment. In this age of parity and salary cap purges, it may be a feat that will not be repeated in our lifetimes. Professional sports today are full of "me-first" attitudes and players. Not this team. This throwback team showed the world that if you unconditionally sacrifice and give yourself to the greater good of a cause, what can be accomplished is truly astounding. Time and again, this team put its individual egos aside and stayed focused on the common goal and task at hand. There were no off-field embarrassments this year, no end zone cell phone calls, or Sharpie incidents. I fell in love with this team and will forever be grateful to them for making my dreams come true yet again.
In the days to come, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Adam Vinatieri will be exalted as the heroes of Super Bowl XXXVIII. The true heroes of this game however were the five offensive linemen of the Patriots. Tom Brady was not sacked once during the game. The vaunted Carolina defensive front four was not much of a factor in the game. The Patriots offensive line opened up huge holes for Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk all night. Earlier in the week, Warren Sapp was his typical loud mouth self and told anyone that would listen that Russ Hochstein and the Patriots young offensive line was going to get killed against the Carolina defensive line. I'll wager that Mr. Sapp will be MIA in the weeks to come as the media tries to get his take on the game? Frankly, it couldn't happen to a better guy.
In all honesty, the Carolina Panthers gave the Patriots a lot more of a fight than I thought they would give them. Heading into the game, I predicted a 24-10 Patriots victory. Jake Delhomme proved that he is indeed the real deal and that he will be a stellar quarterback in the League for years to come. The Panthers showed a toughness and resiliency that was impressive to watch. It was as if we were watching a mirror image of the Patriots. More than any other team this season, they got the Patriots to make mistakes, give up big plays, and make them look like mortals. Indeed, the two best teams in the NFL played in the Super Bowl. Unselfish play, defensive toughness, and smart quarterbacking will the blueprint for success in the NFL after watching this Super Bowl between the Panthers and the Patriots.
That said; the better team won.
Have you ever exalted such joy in your life as the two times Adam Vinatieri put the ball through the uprights to win a Super Bowl? This is why we care about sports so much. All with the hope that someday in our lifetimes we may experience a moment like we did again on Sunday. Indeed, these are our glory days that we will tell our grandchildren about. Take it all in. Go to the parade. Buy the hat and the DVD. Soak in every moment and memory. The people that you watched the game with will forever carry a bond with you. You deserve this moment in exchange for being so loyal to this team over the good and not so good years. This is your championship as much as it is the players. Enjoy it.
Feel free to drop me a line. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't forget to check me out at 8:20 on Monday mornings on Bangor, Maine's sports radio leader, WZON 620 "The Zone." You can listen over the internet at www.zoneradio.com This column also appears in the Village Soup Times (Belfast/Camden/Rockland, ME), Waterboro (ME) Reporter, the Maine Standard Times (Lewiston/Auburn, ME), the American Journal (Westbrook, ME) and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham, ME).
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