ATLANTA -- Sunday, it will be 17 years to the day since the Patriots took out the Rams in Super Bowl 36.
Their final drive, which culminated in Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal, birthed what is arguably the greatest dynasty in professional sports.
How did that drive go down? In the months following that win, I caught up with as many of the principals as I could to do an oral history of the nine-play drive and we went through it play-by-play in detail.
I spoke to Tom Brady, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, running back J.R. Redmond, wide receiver Troy Brown, tight end Jermaine Wiggins, long-snapper Lonie Paxton, holder Ken Walter and Vinatieri. From the Rams side, I got the perspective of their defensive leader London Fletcher.
The entire story ran in the September 8, 2002 edition of the Providence Journal where I worked from February 2002 through August of 2006
With the entire drive still so fresh in their memories, the recollections and detail are fascinating to revisit. Click here to read the story.
This was the description of the drive’s sixth play, the key one in which Brady hit Brown for a 23-yard gain down to the Rams 36.
Weis: "We called a play where they expected us to throw to the outside and we had a play called to the inside. We wanted to attack their Cover-2, figuring they wouldn't blitz twice and they went back to their bread and butter. Fortunately for us, Troy cleared the linebacker and Tom made a great throw."
Brady: "I saw the coverage and we were running three in-cuts. It's a read where I go from the first in-cut to the second to the third. The first in-cut, Troy, was covered initially. I looked to the second one and I saw some commotion, then I felt the whole left side of the pocket open up so I kind of slid to the left side of the pocket and I pick up Troy again, who was my first read. So I went first, second and back to my first. I couldn't even see the third in-cut, it was so far across the field. I just saw Troy pop out the back side of the coverage so I dumped it to him. He just popped open and I let it rip."
Brown: "We had all in-cuts called on the front side of the play. All I was thinking was get open and catch the ball. If I catch it in bounds, get as many yards as I can and get out of bounds. They went to their zone defense and I just tried to find an open spot in the zone. I was headed in there and I knew I only had to get behind one guy. After that, I said we got a chance. When I saw where I was I said, we got a chance to win this thing."
Fletcher: "I haven't watched the tape so I can't say for sure who did what, but two things obviously happened: We didn't pick him up across the middle, and we didn't keep him in bounds."
And here’s this from Paxton prior to Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal.
Paxton: "My mindset was, 'Try not to think you're about to become a world champion.' Because I know I'm automatic, (holder Ken Walter) is automatic, Adam's automatic. I knew the field goal was going to be made. I wasn't scared about screwing up, I'm more nervous because I'm tasting it, I'm about to be a champion, and I've never been a champion. It was a little rushed. It took longer than normal to get everyone on and off the field. A couple of guys were jawing because we knew we were going to win. Rod Rutledge was saying something (to the Rams), Jermaine Wiggins was saying something. Just stuff like, 'You blew it. Supposedly (you're) the best show on earth and you're going down.' They didn't say anything back. I think they were just shocked. Once I got down, there were only six seconds left (on the play clock) and I just went down and let go. Once I threw a strike, I knew the game was won, so I just took off toward the end zone."
If you like football, you’ll love this story.
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