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 2001 season’s showdown between the Rams and Patriots.
The Rams had marched through the NFC leaving devastation and destruction in their wake, 14-2 while leading the NFL in points scored and finishing third in points allowed. The Patriots had somehow fought their way to 11-5 despite losing their big-name starting quarterback to injury and replacing him with a second-year unknown named Tom Brady. The Rams were favored by 14. Boston reporter Ron Borges famously predicted the final score as 73-0, Rams.
How did the Patriots manage the upset? Head coach Bill Belichick came up with a game plan so unique that Ron Jaworski ended up devoting an entire chapter to it in his recent book “The Games that Changed the Game.” Belichick decided that the secret to stopping the Rams was to concentrate on running back Marshall Faulk, not quarterback Kurt Warner. The Pats defenders hit Faulk mercilessly whenever he tried to run a receiving route, and that sent the whole Rams offense off course.
However, in the fourth quarter, Warner finally found his rhythm, and the Rams came back and turned a 17-3 deficit into a 17-17 tie with 1:30 left. TV commentator John Madden suggested the Patriots kneel on the ball and send the game to overtime, but Belichick knew he couldn’t risk Warner getting the ball back again. Somehow, the unheralded Brady worked the ball down to the Rams 30, mostly on passes to backup running back J.R. Redmond. Adam Vinatieri hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired, and the Patriots had accomplished the unthinkable.
By the way, no video review of this game is complete without watching some of the soaring halftime show by U2, which featured a tribute to the victims of the September 11 attacks.
Follow Aaron Schatz on Twitter @FO_ASchatz.