When it comes to the Patriots’ Super Bowl history, everyone knows about the big moments: Tom Brady’s clutch drives. Adam Vinatieri’s game-winners. Ty Law, Deion Branch and Troy Brown coming through with the season on the line time and again.
But what about those moments that paved the way for greatness? The moments — such as the work of Russ Hochstein, David Patten or Josh Miller — that only are recalled with a second, third or even a fourth viewing of those championship era DVDs? Those small, underappreciated events that may have flown under the radar at the time but ultimately proved to be impactful moments on the game?
With Super Bowl XLIV looming at the end of the week, this seems like a good a time as any for our take on the Top 5 underrated moments in New England’s recent Super Bowl history:
5. Josh Miller’s final punt at the end of Super Bowl XXXIX
Philadelphia had just pulled to within 24-21 when Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb hit Greg Lewis (remember him?) over the middle with 1:55 left in regulation. The Eagles were unable to recover their onside kick, but they soon forced the Patriots to punt the ball away with under a minute left. Under the gun, Miller delivered: He adroitly dropped a punt inside the Eagles 4-yard line. It buried Philadelphia deep in its own territory, making New England’s last-minute defensive stand — which ended with Rodney Harrison picking off McNabb — all the easier. (FWIW, it was a great day for Miller, who pinned the Eagles inside their 20-yard line three times.)
4. David Patten’s touchdown route in Super Bowl XXXVI
Late in the second quarter against the Rams, the Patriots converted on their only offensive touchdown of the night when Tom Brady found David Patten on an 8-yard strike, a relatively simple looking red zone connection that gave New England a 14-3 lead. The play was initially part of the Patriots passing game as a simple down-and-out pattern, but in the week leading up to the game, the Patriots had realized St. Louis cornerback Dexter McCleon had a tendency to jump the route.
So, Bill Belchick and Charlie Weis told Brady and Patten to alter the route — instead of having Patten make a beeline for the pylon, Patten added an extra move, breaking for the pylon and then flattening out before adding another break toward the corner of the end zone. The move worked: Patten made the adjustment, and McCleon bit on the move. Patten ended up catching the ball in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
3. Carolina’s John Kasay kicking the ball out bounds in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII
In Super Bowl XXXVIII, John Kasay had a great first 59 minutes. He converted a 50-yard field goal and made all his extra points, the last of which tied the wild shootout of a game at 29 with 1:08 remaining. But his final kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Patriots the ball on the New England 40 with 1:04 remaining.
Brady and the New England offense took advantage of Kasay’s blunder. The quarterback engineered a six-play, 37-yard drive that included two 13-yard pass plays to Troy Brown and a key third-down connection to Deion Branch that went for 17 yards. That set up Adam Vinatieri’s 41-yard field goal with four seconds left.
“I got around on it a little bit,” Kasay said. “I was just trying to make a good, solid kick. I did hit it solid, but I just got around on it just a little bit. That’s not what you want, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
2. The performance of the New England offensive line in Super Bowl XXXVIII
During Super Bowl week, the Patriots linemen were universally panned by many in the national media, including Warren Sapp, who wondered on “Pardon the Interruption” in the week leading up to the game how the O-line would be able to hold back the Carolina pass rush. Sapp intimated that Russ Hochstein couldn’t block Tony Kornheiser or Michael Wilbon, much less Carolina's vaunted front four of Julius Peppers, Kris Jenkins, Brentson Buckner and Mike Rucker.
But Hochstein, Matt Light, Dan Koppen, Joe Andruzzi and Tom Ashworth managed to keep Tom Brady out of harm’s way all night — Brady attempted 48 passes and was not sacked once. (According to Michael Holley’s “Patriot Reign,” Hochstein drunkenly laughed at Sapp’s comments after the game. “Where is Warren Sapp now? Fat [12-letter expletive].”) It capped a magnificent playoff run for the New England offensive line — Brady attempted 126 postseason passes (not including scrambles) and was not sacked.
“We've been hearing the whole playoffs how crummy we are,” offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said after the game. “How we're just a bunch of bums and aren't any good. They had a sackless postseason. So let's give the offensive line its just due.”
1. TD pass to Mike Vrabel/Pats go for two, Super Bowl XXXVIII
It was perhaps the ballsiest moment in Weis’ career with the Patriots: Locked in a fourth-quarter shootout with the Carolina Panthers and facing a fourth-quarter deficit, Brady found linebacker turned tight end Mike Vrabel on a third-and-goal from the 1 to give New England a 27-22 lead.
The Patriots followed that up with a two-point conversion attempt with a direct snap to Kevin Faulk, who scooted into the end zone to make it 29-22. (Despite Faulk finishing the year with 1,078 yards from scrimmage in the regular season, it was the first time all year he found the end zone.) The move paid off when Carolina answered with a late score to tie the game at 29, setting the stage for Vinatieri’s game-winner with four seconds left.
The game was the best example of Vrabel as a do-everything spare part — he finished with a game-high two sacks, caught his second career touchdown pass and forced a fumble in the Patriots’ 32-29 win.
“Christian Fauria and Daniel Graham are going to be mad at me because I’m always telling them that I’m an option on that play,” Vrabel said. “They don’t like it. But Charlie Weis called a great play.”