- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Everything went exactly according to plan — from millions of sensibilities being safeguarded by the NFL’s good-taste gestapo to the New England Patriots celebrating yet another Lombardi Trophy.

For those who dozed off during the NFL’s version of a hip halftime show, New England pulled away in the fourth quarter, the Philadelphia Eagles provided a thrust of intrigue as garbage time loomed large, and the Patriots, in a sight that’s all too familiar, whooped it up late into the night.

Fresh off a stint in his very own hyperbaric chamber, the Monday Morning Quarterback averts his eyes from GoDaddy.com just long enough to acknowledge a modern NFL dynasty.

Q: Just one question matters: Where do the Patriots stack up among the all-time greats?

A: There was no dominance last night, no authoritative thumping as there was in the AFC playoffs. But New England has a tremendous ability to make the plays it needs to make to come up big. You won’t remember MVP Deion Branch the way you will Dallas’ Michael Irvin. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi won’t harken any memories of Pittsburgh’s Jack Lambert. The Patriots might go down as the greatest group of overachievers of all time — a fantastic testament to the power of resilience and teamwork.

Q: Break it down. What did the game turn on?

A: The Patriots’ ability to keep bringing it offensively, to convert in crucial situations on offense and to come up with the big play on defense. Rarely does the group run out of gas. Rarely does it drive to the doorstep and not convert. Rarely does a fourth quarter go by without the key stops. The Patriots have the maturity and confidence to stay alert in the most important situations and come through.

Q: Who scripted Philadelphia’s two-minute drill? The Eagles wasted more time than a seventh-grader with a social studies project due.

A: The Eagles took that stretch far too lightly. It’s impressive any time a team can handle its nerves in the clutch and not make big mistakes, but Philadelphia needed to play with more urgency. Andy Reid, who just seemed to gain the slippery good graces of Philly’s fans, will hear about that for a long time.

Q: Terrell Owens didn’t seem to have any trouble. Did the hyperbaric chamber work?

A: T.O. came to North Florida with quite an array of add-ons. Besides bringing one of the oxygen-rich tanks generally associated with the Neverland Ranch, Owens was accompanied by his massage therapist, ankle surgeon, mortgage broker and lawn guy. His ankle looked fine, and he provided just what Philadelphia hoped — a few big catches and a strategic magnet for New England’s defense.

Q: How did Eagles fans enjoy their long-awaited day in the sun?

A: Green jerseys overtook Alltel in an impressive show of partisan support. Eagles fans have a deserved reputation for boorishness at the Linc, but they were passionate yesterday. They stood much of the game and their cheers drowned out those of the Patriots fans.

Q: Paul McCartney managed to keep his shirt on. Guess that qualifies as an accomplishment. What would Simon say?

A: Sorry if the mental picture from McCartney’s gig was Grampa Simpson getting down and funky. No offense to McCartney, but last night’s halftime show packed all the sex appeal of a Sperry Top-Sider. If the NFL is trying to keep the under-25 crowd from forgoing Xbox at halftime, it fell flat.

Q: On to commercials. What’s GoDaddy.com, and will it get past AOL parental controls?

A: A quick check of the Internet (you wouldn’t expect any less from the Quarterback) revealed that GoDaddy.com is a harmless techie site for domain names and Web hosting, among other services. On a night that otherwise was as conservative as a navy suit, the site’s eye-catching commercial undoubtedly drew a couple kajillion hits from drooling — and subsequently heartbroken — 19-year-old guys.

Q: Any winners on Madison Avenue?

A: It wasn’t a strong night for commercials; corporate America clearly was guarded after last year. Our favorites: Burger King’s nerd reeling in a Big Fish and Pepsi’s Pimp My Ride for the new generation. Honorable mentions go to FedEx’s mock commercial (for intellectuals) and Bud Light’s bad fantasy (for abused husbands).

Q: Boy, was it fun to listen to the media griping all week about gasp 55-degree weather. You guys ever heard of a light jacket?

A: Yes, NFL writers get a bit spoiled from annual pilgrimmages to Super sites like San Diego and Miami. And yes, the moaning probably was a bit overdone. But Jacksonville is no joke after dark this time of year. With the wind blowing and the thermometer dropping last night, we wouldn’t have blamed Sir Paul for playing in a parka.

Q: Have Jacksonville visitors dislodged themselves from their cruise-ship rooms? And is the Super Bowl ever coming back?

A: This city definitely had some trouble playing host to the Big Kahuna of sporting events, with no one quite sure where to hang out and the normal 45-minute drive to the beach at times quadrupled. But if nothing else, Jacksonville will look like Maui next winter when football fans are freezing their keisters off in Detroit. Super Bowl sites can be — and will be — worse.

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