Patriots Defeat Eagles For Third Super Bowl Victory In Four Years
On the first drive of the game, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb fumbled while being sacked by New England linebacker Willie McGinest, and the Patriots recovered the ball at Philadelphia's 34 yard line.
Fortunately for the Eagles, coach Andy Reid's instant replay challenge overruled the fumble; officials ruled that McNabb had been down by contact before the ball came out of his hands. Later in the quarter after each team had punted twice, McNabb completed a 30-yard pass to Terrell Owens, with a roughing the passer penalty adding 9 yards, moving the ball inside the Patriots 20 yard line. However, linebacker Mike Vrabel sacked McNabb for a 16-yard loss on the next play. On the following play, the Eagles once again appeared to turn the ball over: McNabb's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Patriots defensive back Asante Samuel, but it was nullified by an illegal contact penalty on linebacker Roman Phifer, moving the ball back inside the 20 and giving the Eagles a first down. However, McNabb's second chance was wasted as he threw an interception to safety Rodney Harrison on the next play.
The Eagles defense then forced New England to a three-and-out on their ensuing possession, and Philadelphia got great field position by receiving the punt at the Patriots 45 yard line. But once again, they gave up another turnover: tight end L.J. Smith lost a fumble while being tackled by defensive back Randall Gay, and Samuel recovered the ball at the 38.
The Eagles defense once again forced New England to punt, and got the ball back at their own 19 yard line. Aided by a pair of completions from McNabb to receiver Todd Pinkston for gains of 17 and 40 yards, the Eagles drove 81 yards in 9 plays and scored on McNabb's 6-yard touchdown pass to Smith, taking a 7–0 lead with 9:55 left in the second quarter. It was the first time New England trailed during the entire postseason. On their ensuing drive, the Patriots moved the ball to the Eagles 4-yard line, mainly on plays by Corey Dillon, who caught two screen passes for 29 yards and rushed for 25. But quarterback Tom Brady fumbled the ball on a fake handoff and Philadelphia defender Darwin Walker recovered it. However, the Eagles could not take advantage of the turnover and had to punt after 3 plays. Eagles punter Dirk Johnson's punt went just 29 yards, giving the Patriots the ball at Philadelphia's 37 yard line. The Patriots then drove 37 yards to score on Brady's 4-yard pass to receiver David Givens with 1:10 remaining in the period, tying the game 7–7 by halftime. It was only the second halftime tie in Super Bowl history and the first time both of the game's first 2 quarters ended tied.
On the opening drive of the second half, Patriots receiver Deion Branch caught 4 passes for 71 yards on a drive that ended with Brady's 2-yard pass to Vrabel, who lined up at the tight end spot on the play. The Eagles later tied the game with 3:39 left in the third period with a 74-yard, 10-play drive that was capped by McNabb's 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Brian Westbrook. For the first time in Super Bowl history, the game was tied going into the fourth quarter.
Early in the final period, the Patriots put together a 9-play, 66-yard scoring drive that was keyed by 3 plays from running back Kevin Faulk, who caught 2 passes for 27 combined yards and rushed once for 12. Dillon capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Patriots a 21-14 lead. Then after forcing another Eagles punt, Branch's 19-yard reception and a roughing-the-passer penalty on Philadelphia defensive lineman Corey Simon set up kicker Adam Vinatieri's 22-yard field goal with 8:43 left in the game to increase the score 24–14.
The Eagles responded by advancing to the New England 36-yard line on their next drive, but it ended with no points after linebacker Tedy Bruschi intercepted a pass from McNabb at the Patriots 24-yard line. After forcing New England to punt, Philadelphia got the ball back at their own 21-yard line with 5:40 left in the game.
The Eagles then drove 79 yards in 13 plays to cut their deficit to 24–21 with McNabb's 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Greg Lewis. However, the drive consumed 3:52 of the clock, and only 1:55 remained in the game by the time Lewis scored. Because of this, many sportswriters later criticized the Eagles for not immediately going to a no-huddle offense at the start of the possession.
The Eagles failed to recover their ensuing onside kick attempt. The Patriots then played it safe by running the ball 3 times and forcing Philadelphia to use all of its timeouts. New England punter Josh Miller then pinned the Eagles back at their own 4-yard line with just 46 seconds left in the game. Philadelphia then tried one last desperate drive to win or tie the game. But on first down, McNabb was pressured into making a rushed pass to Westbrook at the line of scrimmage. Instead of dropping the pass to stop the clock, Westbrook made the mistake of catching the ball and was immediately tackled for no gain, keeping the clock running and forcing the Eagles to run back to the line of scrimmage for their next play with no huddle. On second down, McNabb threw an incomplete pass intended for Owens. Finally on third down, McNabb threw a pass that went just over the outstretched fingertips of Smith and into the arms of Harrison for an interception with 9 seconds left, sealing the victory for the Patriots.
Deion Branch had 11 receptions for 133 yards and the Patriots’ defense forced four turnovers en route to becoming the eighth team to post consecutive Super Bowl titles. The Patriots matched the Dallas Cowboys (XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX) as the only teams with three Super Bowl victories in the span of four seasons.