By Ron Griffitts
Super Bowl XXXVI took place on February 3, 2002, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the Louisiana Superdome, the St. Louis Rams (14-2) faced the New England Patriots (11-5).
The Patriots were coached by Bill Belichick, in his second year in New England after spending five years coaching the Cleveland Browns. His offensive coordinator was Charlie Weis and his defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
The Patriots were led on offense by 24-year-old, second-year quarterback Tom Brady who had taken over for the injured Drew Bledsoe after the first two games of the season and passed for 2,843 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The Pats were led in rushing by Antowain Smith (1,157 yards, 12 touchdowns), in receiving by Troy Brown (1,199 yards, 5 touchdowns) and David Patten (749 yards, 4 touchdowns) while their place kicker was Adam Vinatieri, who made 24 of 30 field goal attempts.
Their defense was led by Lawyer Milloy (113 combined tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions), Roman Phifer (93 combined tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception), Otis Smith (5 interceptions), Bobby Hamilton (7 sacks), Anthony Pleasant (6 sacks) and Willie McGinest (6 sacks).
The Rams were coached by Mike Martz who had as his offensive coordinator, Bobby Jackson, and defensive coordinator, Lovie Smith and their managing owner was Georgia Frontiere, one of the few women to win a championship with a professional sports team as she did in Super Bowl XXXIV.
They were led on offense by quarterback Kurt Warner who passed for 4,830 yards for 36 touchdowns, running back Marshall Faulk who ran for 1,382 yards, 12 TDs, caught 83 passes for 765 yards, 9 TDs, for 2,147 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns.
Warner’s main receivers were Isaac Bruce (1,106 yards, 6 TDs) and Torry Holt (1,362, 7 TDs) while their field goal kicker was Jeff Wilkins who made 23 of 29 field goal attempts.
They were led on defense by London Fletcher (119 combined tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 interceptions) Aeneas Williams (73 combined tackles, 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles) and Dre’ Bly with 6 interceptions.
After the coin toss by former president George H.W. Bush and Hall of Fame quarterback and former graduate of the Naval Academy, Roger Staubach, the two teams settled in to a tightly contested game.
The two touchdown favorite Rams scored first on a Jeff Wilkins 30-yard field goal for the only scoring of the first quarter and the Rams leads 3-0.
Turnovers often tell the story of a game and in the second quarter Ty Law intercepted a Kurt Warner pass intended for Isaac Bruce and returned it 47 yards for a score for 7-3 Patriots lead.
With 36 seconds left in the half Tom Brady passed for the first Super Bowl touchdown pass of his career for 8 yards to David Patten and with the made extra point the score at the half was 14-3 in favor of the Patriots.
With 3:35 left in the third quarter the Rams moved to the New England 45-yard line when a Kurt Warner pass was intercepted at the Patriots 37 by Otis Smith and returned 30 yards, resulting in Adam Vinatieri making a 37-yard field goal and the score was 17-3 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, the game turned the Rams’ way as Warner scored on a two-yard run and with 1:37 left in the game, then found Ricky Proehl for a 26-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 17-17.
Starting at their own 17-yard line, Tom Brady engineered the Patriots to the St. Louis 30-yard line with 4 seconds left in the game to set up a field goal attempt by Adam Vinatieri from 48 yards out.
Vinatieri calmly made the field goal to give the Patriots their first ever Super Bowl win with Tom Brady getting the game MVP, his first of five, in a 22-year long career.
The Patriots returned to the Super Bowl in 2004 while the Rams were back in 2019 as the Los Angeles Rams.
Several of Belichick’s assistants went on to head coaching jobs, including Charlie Weiss at Notre Dame and University of Kansas, Romeo Crennel at Cleveland and Kansas City in the NFL, Eric Mangini with the Jets and Browns, and Josh McDaniels with Denver.
Among Mike Martz’ assistants, Lovie Smith went on to be the head coach of the Bears and Buccaneers and Ken Zampese was the quarterbacks’ coach for the Bengals for 14 years and two years as offensive coordinator.
Statistics for this article came from football-reference.com.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.