Finally, a super Super Bowl!

My congratulations go out to the New England Patriots, whose 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams in Sunday’s Super Bowl XXXVI showed us all how determination and creativity can overcome all sorts of handicaps.

Consider: here was a team that was universally considered a sure loser, whose coach even admitted in pregame interviews that the only way they could win was if they could somehow pull a miracle out of their collective hat. But this morning, they were the ones wearing the Super Bowl rings.

Maybe sometimes the underdog wins after all!

How did they pull it off? That’s what made the game so interesting. The Patriots’ offense was almost uniformly lackluster throughout the first 3 quarters of the game. There were no spectacular Hail Mary passes, no impressive marches down the field. The most common end to a Pats possession was a punt!

But it was their DEFENSE that made the game special. These guys held on by their teeth for 3 quarters. They managed to put a cage around Marshall Faulk, an impressive feat in and of itself. And they rattled the hell out of Rams QB Kurt Warner, who gave up two costly interceptions that led to Patriot TDs.

Of course, it’s an axiom of conflict that when the defense is outgunned, they’ll have to give in eventually. And that’s exactly what happened in the fourth, when a sudden Ram surge down the field seemed to deflate the Patriot defense. Two Ram TDs later, with less than two minutes on the clock, it looked like the game would be the first Super Bowl ever to go into overtime, with the demoralized Patriots meeting their inevitable fate.

But it didn’t turn out that way. John Madden was on TV sagely opining that the best thing for the Patriots to do would be to run down the clock and hope for the best in OT. But Patriot QB Tom Brady wasn’t burdened with Madden’s football wisdom, and he decided to go for it. What followed was truly inspiring: Brady brought the pallid Patriot offensive line to life, leading a one-minute long march down the field from their own goal line to just past the 50 yard line, where a long-range field goal made the impossible reality.

Heck, I don’t even like football that much. But these guys showed spirit in the face of an entire nation that tuned in to watch them get beat. They refused to accept their designated status as fluke participants in The Big Game. And they were willing, when it seemed like all was lost, to reach out and create an opportunity rather than wait for one to come by, ready to be seized.

It’s only a game — but this was a game to remember.