JACKSONVILLE - The slightest mistake on a risky play easily could have put the Patriots in a 14-0 hole entering halftime.
Then again, the ball was in Tom Brady's hands.
On second and goal from the 4, Brady dropped back and looked to his right then over the middle. With the pass rush closing in, he saw David Givens standing on the far right side of the end zone. Brady slung the pass sidearm about 20 yards across the field, and it arrived just before cornerback Lito Sheppard.
It was perfect. Anything less and Sheppard had an easy pick - and 100 yards of empty grass ahead of him.
The touchdown tied the score at 7 with 1:10 left, and an almost flawless second half by Brady carried the Patriots to a 24-21 victory.
The difference in this Super Bowl was the difference between the two quarterbacks.
Brady made cool decisions under pressure that paid off. His counterpart, Donovan McNabb, couldn't run, was wild with some throws and usually needed big plays by his receivers to keep Philadelphia going.
McNabb acquitted himself well in his first Super Bowl, going 30-of-51 for 357 yards and three touchdowns. But he could not escape mistakes, three interceptions, including one he threw up for Brian Westbrook early that led to an easy catch by Rodney Harrison.
McNabb relied more on his receivers making big catches; Todd Pinkston leaping high over defenders, Westbrook snagging the ball behind him. Even Terrell Owens had to stretch high on an open route that he turned into a 30-yard gain in the first half.
McNabb's first Super Bowl ended with Harrison making his second interception with nine seconds left, sliding to the ground to clinch the victory and give the Patriots their third Super Bowl title in four seasons.
Brady made only one mistake.
Trailing 7-0, he drove the Patriots 83 yards in seven plays. But on a play-action fake to Kevin Faulk, the ball grazed Faulk's hip and hit the ground, and Brady failed to secure it in the pile.
But he was flawless when he had to be.
First came the daring throw at the end of the first half that tied it.
Then came a nine-play, 69-yard drive to start the second half and set the tone for New England. He completed four passes to Deion Branch during that drive. It ended with a flip to linebacker Mike Vrabel, who lined up as a tight end and caught the bobbled pass for a 2-yard touchdown and New England's first lead.
Brady made all the right moves.
When the Eagles started to blitz, he dumped consecutive screen passes to Corey Dillon that covered 29 yards and slowed Philadelphia's pass rush.
Brady finished 23-of-33 for 236 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
McNabb was scrambling, not for rushing yards, but for a chance to make a big play. Ultimately, he didn't make enough.