Sports

Super Bowl flashback

Patriots grounded the Eagles in XXXIX

Linebacker Mike Vrabel’s 2-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter really got the Patriots’ offense jumping against the Eagles.

brian bahr/getty images

Linebacker Mike Vrabel’s 2-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter really got the Patriots’ offense jumping against the Eagles.

By the time Super Bowl XXXIX rolled around, everybody was gunning for the Patriots.

The Patriots had come a long way since the 2001 season. They were no longer the wide-eyed underdogs who shocked the world after beating the Rams. They proved that when they beat the Panthers in 2003.

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The 2004 season afforded the organization a chance to put the finishing touches on a historic run that concluded with the Patriots repeating as Super Bowl champions and winning their third title in four years.

“We all knew about it, it was in the air,” guard Joe Andruzzi said of the challenge of repeating as champions.

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“But we weren’t thinking about it. All those flashes go off at kickoff and then you’ve got to focus.”

The Patriots and Eagles were tied, 14-14, after three quarters, but New England opened a 10-point lead with a touchdown from Corey Dillon and a field goal from Adam Vinatieri. The Eagles scored in the final two minutes, but that was as close as they’d get.

The Patriots returned a strong core from the 2003 team with most of the offense and defense intact. They also added cornerback Asante Samuel.

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They lost Antowain Smith but replaced him with Dillon, who rushed for 1,635 yards in the regular season behind the rock-solid line of Matt Light, Andruzzi, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, and Brandon Gorin.

“There were a bunch of us that had to come together and know what needed to be done,” Andruzzi said. “We had a great core and in ’04 we all grew together.

“I was the elder statesman on the line and most of us were lunchpail guys that developed into players and gave 110 percent.”

Anthony Gulizia can be reached at agulizia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyGulizia.
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