Each weekday until Super Bowl Sunday, Hulu and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz are counting down the 10 best Super Bowl games in history with the help of NFL Films. Check our Spotlight page every day to see the latest pick. Today’s selection: the showdown between the Patriots and the Panthers following the 2003 season.
Perhaps no Super Bowl is a better match for the half-hour highlight film, as nearly all the activity in Super Bowl XXXVIII came in the second and fourth quarters. The first quarter-and-a-half were dominated by defense. Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme was sacked and fumbled the ball away with 5:15 left in the first half. At that point, Delhomme had an absurd minus-25 net yards passing. The Patriots used that great field position to score an easy touchdown, and that woke both offenses up. In the final four minutes of the quarter, the two teams combined for 24 points.
After the most controversial halftime show in NFL history , both offenses went back into hiding, seemingly trying to avoid both touchdowns and “wardrobe malfunctions.” But the Patriots put together a good drive at the end of the quarter, which ended in a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. That woke the offenses up again. Carolina scored a touchdown, then picked off Tom Brady and scored another touchdown on the longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history: An 85-yarder from Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad. Tom Brady then drove the Patriots down the field to take the lead with three minutes left. Delhomme answered that drive to tie things up with 1:13 left. And finally, Brady drove the Patriots into field-goal range in less than a minute, and Adam Vinatieri put it through the uprights to give New England their second title in three years.
Follow Aaron Schatz on Twitter @ FO_ASchatz.