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Patriots champs again


Two quick scores in the fourth quarter lifted the New England Patriots to their third Super Bowl title in the last four years. The Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21, in Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium.

The two teams were tied, 14-14, after three quarters of play, but the Patriots showed the mettle of a true champion by responding at crunch time by playing their best football of the night. Running back Corey Dillon capped a ball-possession drive with a two-yard touchdown run with 13:44 to play in the game, then Adam Vinatieri's 22-yard field goal with 8:40 to play gave the Patriots a comfortable 24-14 advantage.

Philadelphia cut the deficit to three points with 1:48 to play in the game when quarterback Donovan McNabb completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lewis. That left the outcome to be decided by an onside kick. New England's Christian Fauria made an easy catch of kicker David Akers' onside attempt.

New England broke a 7-7 halftime tie by storming down the field on the opening possession of the second half. Quarterback Tom Brady completed passes of 27 – a third-and-10 play – and 21 yards to wide receiver Deion Branch and the Patriots had a first-and-goal at the Eagles' two-yard line. On the next play, Brady completed a two-yard touchdown pass to Mike Vrabel, a linebacker who doubles as a goal-line receiver.

Philadelphia answered New England's score with a 74-yard touchdown drive in which McNabb was at his best. McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook were the feature players in the drive, McNabb completing passes of 15, five, four and, finally, 10 yards to Westbrook.

The big play in the drive was a four-yard completion to Westbrook on a third-and-three play at the New England 14-yard line. Westbrook made a one-handed catch to get the first down, then McNabb followed that play with a dart to Westbrook for the game-tying touchdown with 3:35 to play in the third quarter.

Philadelphia opened the game's scoring with an 81-yard drive on its first possession of the second quarter. McNabb completed a third-down pass over the middle to wide receiver Todd Pinkston for a first down at the Eagles' 38-yard line. The same combination then accounted for a 40-yard gain to the New England 17-yard line, Pinkston making a leaping catch.

An 11-yard run by Westbrook left the Eagles first and goal at the Patriots' six-yard line. Three plays later, McNabb found tight end L.J. Smith in the middle of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 9:55 to play in the first half. McNabb put the pass just out of linebacker Roman Phifer's reach.

New England roared right back. Brady, off to a slow start, turned to a couple of productive screen passes against a blitzing Eagles defense. A couple of runs by Kevin Faulk left the Patriots with a first down at the Eagles' 45-yard line, but a pass completion to wide receiver David Givens resulted in a fumble that was recovered by the Eagles. Patriots coach Bill Belichick "challenged" the call and replay reversed it.

A 25-yard run by Corey Dillon followed the Givens play and the Patriots had a first-and-goal at the Eagles' seven-yard line. Then the roof fell in on New England.

On second-and-goal from the five-yard line, Brady fumbled the snap from center and Eagles defensive lineman Darwin Walker recovered at the Eagles' 13-yard line.

The Patriots got the ball back at the Philadelphia 37-yard line with 4:25 to play in the first half and Brady quickly moved the Patriots to a first down at the Eagles' 23-yard line.

On second-and-six at the 20, Brady threw over the middle for wide receiver Troy Brown at the Eagles seven-yard line, leaving the Patriots first and goal, again, at the two-minute warning. Two plays later, Brady threw a four-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Givens.

New England became only the fourth team in NFL history to win three titles in four years. The other three are the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys and Patriots are the only teams to have won three Super Bowls in four years.

Vinatieri has scored the game-winning points in all three of the Patriots' Super Bowl wins.

Branch won the game's MVP award with 11 receptions for 133 yards.

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