Super Bowl XXXVIII
Houston, Texas · Feb. 1, 2004
New England Patriots - 32
Carolina Panthers - 29
After winning their first Super Bowl championship in the 2001 season, the Patriots managed a record of just 9-7 the following season and failed to make the playoffs.
And in 2003, things started slowly with a 2-2 start.
But then they reeled off 15 wins in a row, including Super Bowl XXXVIII. The only team that had ever run off more straight wins was the undefeated Miami Dolphins of 1972.
The Patriots took on a Carolina Panthers team that had gone from worst to first — from a 1-15 record in 2002, to 11-5 in 2003, winning the NFC South.
This Super Bowl proved to be an extraordinary game, memorable for worthier reasons than Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at halftime.
The first half was mostly a scoring drought — the two teams went almost 27 minutes without scoring. Then points came quickly and New England led 14-10 at the half.
Both teams hung zeroes for the 3rd quarter. And then came the deluge: a combined 37 points in the 4th, which is still a Super Bowl record for any quarter.
Tom Brady and Carolina's Jake Delhomme kept pouring it on in what had become a very physical game. Rodney Harrison, a key addition to the Patriots for the 2003 season, broke his arm late in the 4th quarter.
New England had the edge in part because of Bill Belichick's bag of tricks. In addition to his usual targets such as Deion Branch, Troy Brown and David Givens, Brady hit linebacker Mike Vrabel for a touchdown pass.
It's worth noting that Vrabel was the first defensive player to score a TD on offense since William "Refridgerator" Perry of the Chicago Bears in their humiliating smackdown of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in 1986.
In the end, the Patriots' second championship ended the same way the first had. With the score 29-all late in the 4th, MVP Tom Brady once again showed poise and calm and got the ball into field goal range for Adam Vinatieri. His 41-yard kick with four seconds remaining sealed the win.
We Patriots fans who had been in the football wilderness for decades actually began thinking about the "D" word — not defense, but dynasty.