- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

NEW ORLEANS Wow.
In one of the most stunning upsets in pro football history, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal as time expired last night to give the New England Patriots a thrilling 20-17 victory over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Few gave the Patriots, 14-point underdogs, a chance. But the Patriots created their own chances, forcing three turnovers and converting them into 17 points before 72,000 fans in the Superdome.
"We shocked the world," Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy said.
The game was one of the most scintillating ever. The Rams rallied from a 17-3 deficit in the fourth quarter and tied the game with 1:30 remaining on a 26-yard pass from quarterback Kurt Warner to receiver Ricky Proehl.
The play appeared to set up what would have been the first overtime in Super Bowl history. That prospect seemed especially likely with 24-year-old Tom Brady playing quarterback for the Patriots. Brady had completed just one National Football League pass before this season, and his status as starter for last night's game was in doubt until midweek because of an injury.
Brady executed a largely conservative game plan on offense until the team's final possession. The Patriots, again confounding conventional wisdom, unleashed Brady's accurate right arm on the Rams in the final moments with a championship in the balance. With 1:21 to go and no timeouts to work with, Brady completed five of eight passes and drove the Patriots 53 yards to put them in position for the game-winning field goal.
Then it was up to Vinatieri, who was flawless indoors this season. Vinatieri connected on his 25th consecutive kick inside a dome, giving the Patriots their first NFL title.
"If we were playing next week, we would probably be the underdogs," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
The victory capped a wild and improbable journey by the Patriots, who finished 5-11 last season and would not even have made it to last week's American Football Conference championship game except for a snafu in the snow a questionable overturned call by the officials against the Oakland Raiders.
"People said we weren't worth a darn, but we rallied around it. You get into a knock-down street fight and that's our game," said Brady, who was named the game's most valuable player.
The upset was the biggest in the NFL's championship game since the New York Jets, inspired by a guarantee of victory by quarterback Joe Namath, defeated the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, 16-7, in Super Bowl III in 1969.
A day that ended with a thrill began with the tightest security of any sporting event in U.S. history. The Secret Service coordinated the effort, which included more than a dozen federal, state and local agencies and cost $6 million.
More than 2,000 security personnel were on hand at a stadium that was encircled by an 8-foot concrete and wire-link barrier. Sharpshooters walked the perimeter of the Superdome, and uniformed soldiers were stationed all over the city. Stadium entrances and concourses were patrolled by bomb-sniffing dogs and undercover policemen.
A no-fly zone over the stadium was enforced by F-16s that ran numerous drills on Saturday night. Interstate 10, which runs right past the stadium, was closed to truck traffic.
Fans arrived at the stadium more than four hours before the 6:40 p.m. kickoff to ensure they wouldn't miss the start of the game. Some waited in the long lines for an hour to get inside the dome, where they were patted down by guards. They then waited in another line to pass through metal detectors or be scanned with a metal-detecting wand. The NFL said that 95 percent of the 72,000 ticketholders were in the stadium an hour before kickoff.
Many fan staples at football games coolers, bottles, banners, backpacks were not allowed in the building. Cell phones and electronic devices were allowed but discouraged lest they slow the security process. Large pieces of equipment belonging to vendors and media were X-rayed.
"It's a sign of the times," Patriots fan Tricia McCarthy said. "Whenever you have big crowds somewhere, you have to worry about terrorism. It's pretty sad to say."
Patriotism was the evening's overriding theme. The NFL produced stirring pregame and halftime shows led by Paul McCartney's "Freedom" and Mariah Carey signing the national anthem. Fans waved glow sticks to create an American flag through the 65,000 crowd.
"We're proud to be a symbol of that in a small way," said Patriots owner Bob Kraft. "Spirituality, faith and democracy are the cornerstones of our democracy. We are Patriots and tonight we are world champions."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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