4. Patriots 20, Rams 17 (Super Bowl XXXVI)
It’s the season when it all began. Bill Belichick was in his second season as the head coach of the Patriots. The team was off to a 0-2 start and in that second game, veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down. Enter 2000 sixth-round pick Tom Brady and it was the start of a magical campaign.
New England finished 11-5 and won the AFC East. The playoffs epitomized team football and there was that memorable moment at Super Bowl XXXVI at New Orleans when the entire Patriots’ team came out for the pre-game introduction.
In three postseason contests, the Patriots offense scored three touchdowns (one in each victory) and the defense and special teams combined for three TDs. In the 24-17 win over the Steelers at Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game, Bledsoe wound up replacing an injured Brady and led the team to its only offensive touchdown of the game.
A thrilling 20-17 win over the Rams at the Superdome featured a New England defensive unit that pummeled Mike Martz’s receivers. The Pats owned a 17-3 fourth-quarter lead but the Rams, who outgained Belichick’s club by 160 total yards, tied up the game with 1:30 and overtime seemed a certainty.
Brady orchestrated a 53-yard drive, Adam Vinatieri hit a 48-yard field goal on the final play of the game and a historic run began.