Super Bowl XXXVI grades: Good flashes from Brady, but plenty of mistakes in win over Rams
New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17
As part of our look back at some of the more recent New England Super Bowls, here are the top-graded players and most noteworthy performances from the Patriots’ victory over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
New England Patriots
Quarterback grade: Tom Brady, 48.9
It’s easy to look back now with the knowledge of what Brady has become and assume that he was always the driving force behind the team, but in his first Super Bowl, it was the defense that was carrying the Patriots, with Brady effectively a game-manager until the final seconds with the game on the line. Overall, he completed 59.3 percent of his passes at just 5.4 yards per attempt, and when pressured, he completed only 28.6 percent (two of seven) for 13 total yards. On the final drive, with 1:21 on the clock needing to score however, Brady completes five of eight pass attempts, with the three incompletions all being spikes to stop the clock, setting Adam Vinatieri up for a game-winning 48-yard kick.
Top offensive grades:
FB Marc Edwards, 85.2
C Damien Woody, 81.7
WR Troy Brown, 81.5
HB Antowain Smith, 80.8
G Mike Compton, 75.3
This was a game in which the defenses were on top, but that’s not to say that the offense didn’t have some impressive performances, especially up front. Antowain Smith was able to average 5.1 yards per carry over the game, and the Patriots 5.3 as a team thanks to some impressive blocking up front, specifically the interior of the line anchored by C Damien Woody. That interior trio all had strong games, and combined to surrender just one total pressure—a sack surrendered by RG Joe Andruzzi. Woody at center and Compton at LG kept a clean sheet in 32 pass-blocking snaps, and Woody was also without the penalty that Compton gave up. The Patriots’ offense had moments in the game, but couldn’t consistently sustain their play.
Top defensive grades:
LB Roman Phifer, 84.8
CB Otis Smith, 80.2
CB Ty Law, 76.8
LB Tedy Bruschi, 76.5
EDGE Willie McGinest, 76.1
The Patriots’ defense was able to get pressure on Kurt Warner a lot in this game thanks to the combination of pass rush and physicality in the secondary against the Rams’ receivers. Warner was under pressure 15 times in the game, with Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour accounting for the majority of it (two sacks and eight more total QB pressures between them). They also batted down two passes over the course of the game, one from Roman Phifer and one from Seymour up front. The Patriots had the benefit of good field position for most of the game, but even so, this wasn’t a perfect performance, and as a team they missed 14 tackles, with SS Lawyer Milloy being responsible for four of them on his own.
St. Louis Rams
Quarterback grade: Kurt Warner, 68.0
Warner re-injured his thumb in this game, an injury that seemed to plague much of his career, and that had a definite effect on his play, giving him issues just taking the snap from under center every play. When he was kept clean, we saw some of his best play, even in spite of his receivers being physically overmatched, but when pressured, his numbers cratered, and he had a passer rating of just 40.6 from the dozen passes he attempted when being hurried. The Rams found themselves with poor field position much of the game, and Warner just wasn’t able to overcome it efficiently enough to have the kind of success he was used to at the time.
Top offensive grades:
FB James Hodgins, 86.6
WR Az-Zahir Hakim, 84.5
T Orlando Pace, 80.6
G Tom Nutten, 78.4
C Andy McCollum, 78.2
The Rams’ offense had some success in the game, but they were undone by mistakes that cost them too often when trying to mount long drives throughout the game against a formidable defense. Torry Holt dropped two passes in the game and caught just five passes for 49 yards, despite seeing the ball come his way four more times than any other Rams’ receiver. The team had some success running the ball, but with Mike Martz at the controls, they dropped back to pass 51 times, versus only 22 total rushing attempts. The majority of the pressure on Warner came off the right side of the line, with Rod Jones and Ryan Tucker at right tackle combining to surrender six total QB pressures.
Top defensive grades:
S Adam Archuleta, 81.8
EDGE Leonard Little, 81.7
EDGE Grant Wistrom, 77.1
DI Brian Young, 72.9
LB Tommy Polley, 72.9
As much as the Rams’ offense at this time gets all of the ink, the defense was a pretty useful unit, too, and several members had big games against the Patriots. Defensive ends Grant Wistrom and Leonard Little notched a sack each and six additional total pressures between them while Adam Archuleta had a solid game at safety, coming up to make quick stops against the run and pass. The weakness of the unit was in run defense, and despite missing far fewer tackles than the Patriots (just five), the front seven were moved on the ground and opened up space for the Patriots to run the ball.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Troy Brown, WR, New England Patriots
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