Feb. 7, 2004, 12:35 a.m. (CST)
with their own defensive wrinkles. They basically junked their 3-4 defense, figuring that just wasn't going to do against Philly quarterback Donovan McNabb, know for backyarding teams with his ability to improvise.
So the Patriots go to a 4-3, trying to get their best pass rushers on the field, and at times a 2-5 - that's right, five linebackers - making sure the pressure on McNabb was concerted so he would have no where to go. McNabb didn't. He ran once for zero yards. Worse, even though he threw three touchdown passes and finished with 357 yards passing, he was intercepted three times, was sacked four times and if not for a successful challenge and a defensive holding call would have lost a fumble and thrown another interception, too.
"You got to tip your hat to those guys," Philly corner Lito Sheppard said. "The bottom line is they made the plays they needed to do."
Doff your cap to all of them. Not just Branch and Brady, who quietly completed 23 of 33 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns . . . and did not throw an interception, to finish with a 110.2 quarterback rating to win his third Super Bowl. How about Corey Dillon, doing what he needed to do, gaining 75 yards on 18 carries and scoring a touchdown?
How about linebacker Mike Vrabel, making that acrobatic touchdown catch on the goal line while doubling as a tight end? How about Rodney Harrison, who finished with seven tackles, two interceptions, one sack and two passes broken up? How about Teddy Bruschi, a sack and an interception?
On and on and on.
These Patriots, sort of like a black dress: A team for all occasions.
"It was pretty tough," said Belichick, now just one of four head coaches - Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs - to have won at least three Super Bowls. " Indianapolis, we all know the kind of football team they are. Pittsburgh had the best record in the AFC and bombed us early in the year. Philadelphia led the NFC wire to wire. We had it tough (in the AFC East) with the Jets and Miami and Buffalo.
"But our team stood up to the competition. We did beat those two teams during the year. So to me, they've met all comers."
Met 'em this year, met 'em last year and met 'em in 2001 when they began this dynasty, winning three of the past four Super Bowls while having to deal with the salary cap and free agency, something the Cowboys only had to after they had won the first two of their three Super Bowls in four years.
Belichick would not talk about a dynasty. Still.
"We didn't look at it like that two days ago, and we don't look at it that way now," Belichick said.
Maybe not now. Maybe because Belichick doesn't think this Patriots run is about to expire anytime soon.
But you know what? In the hands of several of their players was a front page, compliments of Pro Football Weekly, and right there above three Lombardi trophies was the word "DYNASTY!!!
So let departing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis explain this, echoing earlier on how "first of all, it's a team. This Patriots team is truly a team," but concluding most appropriately before departing for Notre Dame:
"Dynasties are a thing that is talked about later. So when you're living it, you don't think about what you're doing. When you're living it, you don't feel it. Maybe 20 years from now, we'll sit around and think about it."
McCartney would probably understand that, too.
|Amazing how fast Cleveland made that call to Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who said the Browns called him after the game, and that "I should be up there in the next day or two" to be the head coach. That definitely means, then, the Cowboys will lose running backs coach Maurice Carthon, to be hired as Crennel's offensive coordinator.
| Did you catch the report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, saying Quincy Carter's absence from the Jets that final week of their
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