4. Super Bowl XXXVI, 2002: New England 20—St. Louis 17
In one of the largest upsets in Super Bowl history, what is perhaps the game’s greatest-ever dynasty emerged seemingly from nowhere.
Competitiveness: 9 out of 10. The lightly regarded Patriots came in as two touchdown underdogs, but quickly shocked oddsmakers by building a 14-3 halftime advantage. When they extended the lead to 17-3 after three quarters, it appeared they might waltz to a stunning win. That was not to be, as the Rams’ high-powered offense finally caught fire in the fourth period, tying the game with 90 seconds left on a Kurt Warner touchdown pass. With little time remaining, Tom Brady marched the Patriots down the field for a history-altering field goal as time expired.
Star Power: 10 out of 10. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick versus Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show On Turf was the Ali -Frazier of the early 2000s NFL. Legends abound.
Intrigue/Controversy: 9 out of 10. In ensuing years, the game would become a flashpoint for the Spygate controversy, which indicted the Patriots in alleged illegal filming of their opponents’ games and walk-throughs and which still raises hackles to this day. Some have alleged that those tactics assisted Belichick in creating a gameplan to slow down the high-scoring Rams.
Aftermath: 10 out of 10. No one could have predicted at the time that this was the beginning of the greatest stretch of excellence in league history, as the Patriots now prepare to play in their seventh Super Bowl under Belichick. The nearly unfathomable excellence of the Patriots organization throughout this period is the greatest single achievement in NFL history.
Aggregate Score: 38 out of 40.
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