Sunday, February 1, 2004 Updated: February 2, 1:40 PM ET
INT, missed kicks set up dramatic finish
HOUSTON -- With a chance to put the Patriots ahead early, Adam Vinatieri missed not once, but twice. With a chance to put
them in control late, Tom Brady threw his worst pass of the
When it really counted, New England's two coolest customers were perfect.
Brady stood up to Carolina's nasty pass rush, making the throws that got New England in position to win another Super Bowl on a last-second kick. Vinatieri then delivered again with 4 seconds left for a 32-29 victory Sunday.
The dependable duo had done it again.
With his second Super Bowl title in three years, Brady stamped
himself as one of the game's best clutch passers. But he was
feeling a lot more like a failure after throwing his only
The Patriots were already well within Vinatieri's range early in
the fourth quarter when Brady threw one that he immediately knew he
should have just flung away.
Instead of letting Vinatieri make the kick and put the Patriots
up by eight points, he made an uncharacteristic mistake. Brady, who
didn't throw an interception in any home game during the regular
season, simply threw it and hoped.
Reggie Howard's interception in the end zone left him hoping for another chance.
Brady got it, and delivered a last-second drive that was a
bookend to the closing seconds of the Patriots' win over the Rams
two years ago. With the score tied and 68 seconds left, he made
three clutch throws that decided it.
Thirteen yards to Troy Brown, then 13 more to the same guy.
Then, with overtime looming and the clock running down, a perfectly
timed 17-yard pass to Deion Branch along the right sideline.
As Branch tumbled out of bounds with 9 seconds left, another
Lombardi Trophy was within the Patriots' grasp. All they needed was
a 41-yard field goal from Vinatieri, who beat the Rams with just
such a kick.
This time, he had a few troubling things on his mind. He had
missed his first two tries -- one wide right, one blocked -- and
wasted a chance to put New England ahead and get the early
Now, he was lining up in the only domed stadium that has
befuddled him. He missed two in a regular-season game in Houston
during the regular season -- the first time he'd ever been off the
mark in a dome.
This time, the ball stayed true.
"I looked up and it was going down the middle," he said.
"I've been very fortunate, very lucky to be on such great teams."
The quarterback and the kicker made them great again.