Friday, February 3, 2012

One For The Books

Such a thing is frequently said of a championship game, but Super Bowl XXXVI, which was played 10 years ago today, really was one for the books.
  • It was the first Super Bowl ever played in February.

    If you're under 20, you might not have a clear memory of a time when Super Bowls were always played in January, but in the decade since Super Bowl XXXVI was played, only one Super Bowl has been played in January. The rest — including the one that will be played this Sunday — have been in February — and it certainly has the look of a permanent change.

    The fact that the Super Bowl was played in February 10 years ago was completely unintentional. It was a consequence of the Sept. 11 attacks and the fact that the NFL postponed all the games that were scheduled for the weekend after the attacks.

    Those games eventually were made up the weekend after the regular season was scheduled to end, pushing the start of the playoffs back by a week. The Super Bowl originally had been scheduled for Jan. 27, but it was moved instead to Feb. 3.

    Super Bowl host cities are chosen years in advance, and other events are often planned for the week leading up to the game. Local businesses plan to cash in on all that Super Bowl windfall — which is never limited to game day alone.

    (Here in Dallas, for example, where last year's Super Bowl was played, there were stories of private citizens who were renting out personal property for up to two weeks — for thousands of dollars per day. And, in spite of an ice storm that virtually crippled the area in the week leading up to the big game, hotels, restaurants and transportation providers still did a thriving business. Some reportedly raised their fees just for the occasion.)

    There wasn't any wiggle room for adjusting the schedule to allow for something like a terrorist attack a decade ago.

    In the past, there had been a bye week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. If a bye week had been scheduled 10 years ago, it could have been sacrificed to make up the lost regular–season games, and the Super Bowl still could have been played on Jan. 27.

    But the bye week had been temporarily dropped during a transition period in which the start of the NFL season had been moved to the weekend after Labor Day. That meant there was no bye week to drop in order to accommodate the lost games and keep the Super Bowl on its original schedule.

  • It was the first time that the lead changed on the final play of the Super Bowl.

    There have been a few Super Bowls in which the outcome was unknown until sometime in the final minute, and sometimes it went down to the last seconds. But Super Bowl XXXVI was the first — and, so far, only — one that had a lead change on the final play.

    In fact, there was no leader when the teams lined up for that final play. The score was tied, and just about everyone must have assumed we were about to witness the first Super Bowl to go into overtime.

    But the New England Patriots engineered a remarkable drive, capped by an even more remarkable field goal by Adam Vinatieri to beat the heavily favored St. Louis Rams as time ran out.

  • Even though he was on the losing side, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner had the second–most productive passing day in Super Bowl history — second only to the day he had two years earlier when the Rams beat the Tennessee Titans.

    Warner's numbers (365 yards in February 2002, more than 400 yards in January 2000) seemed appropriate for a team that had been dubbed "The Greatest Show on Turf." The Rams of those years piled up big yardage and incredible scores almost every time they played and are remembered by many as one of the greatest offensive units in pro football history.

    But, for some reason, they seemed to encounter immovable objects when they got to the Super Bowl.

  • The reputation of the Patriots' Tom Brady had not yet been established 10 years ago.

    When the 2001 regular season began, Brady was the team's #2 quarterback behind Drew Bledsoe, but he was pressed into full–time service when Bledsoe went down with an injury in the second game of the season.

    It's safe to say Patriots fans never missed him.

    New England was 0–2 following the game in which Bledsoe was injured. The Patriots were 11–3 the rest of the way with Brady at the helm, even though he was only in his second year and had thrown just three passes on the pro level before Bledsoe was hurt.

    Warner finished the game with gaudier numbers, but Brady won a ring.
He's added two more to his personal collection since then, but this Sunday he will be seeking to avenge the one time when it got away.

And, when he takes the field against New York, he will be starting in his fifth Super Bowl. That's as many as John Elway — and more than Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach.

It's hard to remember when Brady was a relatively unknown quarterback who had never even played in a Super Bowl, much less won one.

But it all began 10 years ago today.

No comments: