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Quarter by quarter

By GREG AUMAN, 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.
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Only the sixth scoreless quarter in Super Bowl history (and the second straight game), it was a defensive stalemate with a combined five punts. New England could not move the ball while Philadelphia could but turned it over twice in Patriots territory. Two more Philly turnovers were taken back, a fumble overturned by instant replay and an interception negated by a penalty.

KEY PLAYER: Patriots safety Rodney Harrison intercepted Donovan McNabb inside the Patriots 5 then held up tight end L.J. Smith long enough for teammate Randall Gay to force a fumble. Harrison also dropped McNabb for a loss, showing himself to be the Patriots' defensive leader on the field as much as he is in the locker room.

KEY PLAY: The only big offensive play was a 30-yard gain by Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, who showed himself to be healthy with catches on each of Philadelphia's first three possessions. By playing (and thriving in) his first game in six weeks, Owens answered a major question going into the game, making the Patriots account for him at all times.

Second quarter

Philadelphia took the lead on Donovan McNabb's third-down TD pass to tight end L.J. Smith. But New England, after a turnover deep in Eagles territory, came to life, tying the score with 1:10 left on Tom Brady's pass to David Givens. Like the first quarter, this is a defensive struggle. For only the second time in Super Bowl history, the score was tied at halftime. The other was Super Bowl XXIII, when the 49ers beat the Bengals 20-16 in Miami.

KEY PLAYER: Brady lost a fumble on second and goal but rebounded. New England hadn't crossed midfield until 7:58 left in the half and hadn't converted a third down until four minutes left. But Brady's touchdown allowed the Patriots to go into halftime with the score tied.

KEY PLAY: Brady found Givens in the right edge of the end zone, left open by cornerback Lito Sheppard. He got over too late to stop Brady's pass from tying the score. Givens fumbled on the previous possession. But as was the case with McNabb's fumble in the opening minute, the turnover was called back on instant replay.

Third quarter

New England mounted, perhaps, the game's best drive. Brady connected with Deion Branch three times for first downs before finding linebacker Mike Vrabel, making a cameo as a goal-line tight end, for a 2-yard touchdown and 14-7 lead. The Eagles answered, however. Donovan McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook connected for 4 yards on third and 3 then again on the next play for a tying touchdown with 3:35 left. No Super Bowl had been tied after each of the first three quarters until Sunday.

KEY PLAYER: Brady had the better quarter statistically, but McNabb stepped up in leading the Eagles back from their first deficit. After a shaky first quarter, McNabb showed poise, leading the Eagles to five first downs on the second drive before his second touchdown pass.

KEY PLAY: McNabb's touchdown to Westbrook took advantage of New England's depleted secondary. With safety Eugene Wilson injured on a special teams play, the Patriots had rookie Dexter Reid covering Westbrook. McNabb threaded a pass between Reid and Vrabel for the tying touchdown.

Fourth quarter

Corey Dillon's touchdown gave New England a 21-14 lead 1:16 in, and Adam Vinatieri added a field goal to give the Patriots a 10-point lead with 6:20 left. McNabb's touchdown to Greg Lewis with 1:48 left pulled the Eagles to within three. But Philadelphia's onside kick was easily fielded by Patriots tight end Christian Fauria, and a final drive ended with Rodney Harrison's second interception. The Patriots have their third three-point Super Bowl win in four seasons, a dynasty in the free-agency era.

KEY PLAYER: It was fitting that Harrison clinched the victory with an interception as he held together an otherwise inexperienced secondary. Harrison had two picks and helped set up a third turnover, leading a defense that ended the seasons of the league's MVP (Peyton Manning) and rookie of the year (Ben Roethlisberger).

KEY PLAY: With 7:20 left, McNabb lofted a pass across the middle that was behind tight end L.J. Smith. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi was in the right place with the right read, making an easy interception. That turnover should have put the Eagles into a scrambling, no-huddle desperation. But they stayed a little too calm, ignoring the clock and running out of time.

[Last modified February 7, 2005, 05:08:32]

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