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The Pats take the lead early in the fourth and seal it by forcing their fourth turnover.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
Published February 7, 2005

[Getty Images: Brian Bahr]
New England Linebacker Tedy Bruschi celebrates after intercepting Donovan McNabb in the fourth quarter.
Pats! Pats! Pats!
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John Romano: Gimme 5
Branch hits peak of Super feats
Owens at full capacity in return
QBs' play makes big difference
John C. Cotey on TV: Fox pregame show waste of our time
Jay Cridlin: The St. Johns River is party central
Jax to the Max: Jay Cridlin's Super Bowl blog
A dynasty? Vote here
Are the New England Patriots officially an NFL dynasty?
Yes. You have to hand it to them.
No. They'll have to show me more.

JACKSONVILLE - They have Tom Brady, a quarterback the girls think is hot and the guys think is cool.

They have Bill Belichick, the genius coach who stalks the sideline like a hooded monk.

They have the best team, if not the best players.

And for the third time in four seasons, the Patriots have the Lombardi Trophy.

And yes, they are officially a dynasty.

Brady and Belichick took their places among the game's greats as New England beat Philadelphia 24-21 to win Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium on Sunday.

Brady passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns to improve his playoff record to 9-0. He might have won his third MVP, but that went to Deion Branch, who tied a Super Bowl record with 11 receptions for 133 yards.

Meanwhile, the Patriots forced four turnovers, intercepting Donovan McNabb three times, twice in the fourth quarter. McNabb completed 30 of 51 passes for 357 yards but was sacked four times.

New England joins the Packers of the 1960s, Steelers of the 1970s, 49ers of the 1980s and Cowboys of the 1990s as a team of the decade.

At 27, Brady also takes his place among the game's greatest passers. He joins Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman as the only quarterbacks to win more than two Super Bowls.

But don't expect Brady or the Patriots to use the D word.

"Three of four, ... I don't think we ever approached in that vein trying to win three of four," Brady said. "We just continue to win them, and with the excitement of it, we've never really proclaimed ourselves anything. That's just not our style. We just love playing ball.

"In four years, I've never had a receiver complain about not getting the ball. I've never had a running back say he's not getting enough carries; an offensive line that's always brought their lunch packs every day and a defense that's just unnerving. So it's just great."

The Patriots broke open the only Super Bowl tied after each of the first three quarters on Corey Dillon's 2-yard touchdown run 1:16 into the fourth. Adam Vinatieri's 22-yard field goal made it 24-14 with 6:20 left.

McNabb's 30-yard touchdown to Greg Lewis cut the Pats' lead to a field goal with 1:48 left. But David Akers' onside kick bounced into the arms of Christian Fauria.

The Eagles' last chance ended when safety Rodney Harrison recorded his second interception with nine seconds left.

Belichick, 52, becomes only the fourth coach to win three or more Super Bowls, joining Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs. Sunday's victory was his 10th win in 11 playoff games and ninth in a row, surpassing Vince Lombardi as the most successful postseason coach.

But Belichick is reluctant to mark the Patriots' place in history.

"We didn't look at it that way before. We don't look at it that way now," Belichick said. "We're so happy to win this year. We started at the bottom of the mountain with everybody else, and we're thrilled to be able to get to the top. And that's what this year was about, that one fight against 31 other teams to try to win the Super Bowl and win that trophy. We're happy to do it, and I'll leave the comparisons and historical perspectives to everybody else."

Harrison had a monster game after being called out last week by Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell, who couldn't remember the names of the New England defensive backs and said he "had something" for the 11-year veteran.

But Harrison had seven tackles, a sack and two interceptions. Mitchell had one catch for 11 yards.

"Freddie probably bit off a little more than he could chew," Harrison said. "But I bet he knows our numbers now, huh?"

New England took a 14-7 lead 3:56 into the second half when linebacker Mike Vrabel made a juggling catch of a 2-yard pass from Brady, beating defensive end Jevon Kearse, who was called for holding on the play. It was the second Super Bowl touchdown for Vrabel, the other last season against Carolina.

Branch, who had 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in last season's Super Bowl, had four catches for 71 yards during the drive, including three for first downs.

"Deion's best games have been the Super Bowls," Brady said. "He's just a very dynamic player. He can do it all. I was looking to find him. He was getting open and really doing some great things after he caught the ball."

The story of Super Bowl XXXIX was defense, which dominated early. Each team lost a fumble, and McNabb was intercepted near the goal line in a sloppy, mistake-filled first half.

"There's a lot of ways you could put your head down," McNabb said. "I'm going to continue to hold my head high. We've been in a position like this before, losing the first NFC championship, and we lost the Super Bowl. But we'll be back."

Eagles receiver Terrell Owens did his part. Just seven weeks removed from surgery for a severely sprained ankle and broken fibula, he caught nine passes for 122 yards after participating in half of the plays in practice last week and missing the walk-through Saturday.

"The media made it a situation where they thought I was grandstanding," Owens said. "But like I told a lot of people, in this situation, other people like Brett Favre, they would've called him a warrior. For me, they said I was selfish. If I'm selfish, I'm selfish because I want to help the team win."

The Patriots are pretty selfish, as well, especially when it comes to hogging history.

Now they're eyeing the Steelers, who won Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV. It won't be easy. The Patriots are losing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who has performed double duty the past month as coach of Notre Dame. And defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel accepted the Browns coaching job Sunday night, according to his agent.

"There's such a special feeling with our team with what we've gone through and how difficult it's been," Belichick said. "The other two were difficult as well. They're all pretty high. From one to 10, I'd say they're all 10."

[Last modified February 7, 2005, 01:45:08]

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