(Keep in mind that I wrote this in July of 2007.)
Super Bowl XLII is on February 3, 2008. 6 years removed from February 3, 2002 — the day the Rams lost Super Bowl XXXVI to the (at the time) underdog Patriots 20-17 on a last second field goal by Vinatieri.
The following is unlikely to happen unless the Rams defense can hold up, and if their offensive line can play consistently the whole season without faults in penalties. The excessive false starts and ridiculous collapses where they didn’t allow Marc Bulger to have any time to pass completely rattled the 2007 season. Keep in mind this is just a quick write-up of what it would be like a dream to happen:
5:03 left in the 4th Quarter. St. Louis holding the ball at their own 12 yard line, with a 23-20 lead, after a fumble by the usually-clutch Tom Brady. Marc Bulger lines up behind his Pro Bowl center, Brett Romberg, as the Rams open up shop in a 3-wide, 1 tight end, singleback set. A quick hot route set to send Holt over the middle, Bulger jabs up flicking his wrist in the air signalling Bruce and Bennett to move to the outside and release.
Stats flash onto the screen displaying the Rams’ enthralling offensive numbers put upon the Patriots defense. — the Rams QB, Marc Bulger, hikes the ball, and steps into his drop. Scanning the field, and planning to play it safe, he solidifies himself in mode and hits Steven Jackson in the flats. Jackson reels in the ball and turns his head to look down field. Patriots defenders from the opposite side of the field begin to chase down Jackson. Patriots linebacker, Tedy Bruschi, grabs ahold of Jackson’s waist but is shaken off by a violent stiff-arm to the neck, but he is brought down by a multi-tackle hit after a quick gain of 6 yards.
Troy Aikman comments: “the moxie and determination that is instilled into Steven Jackson is unquantifiable when he has the ball in his hands because he exceeds what we expect him to do.”
2nd and 4: Bulger and the Rams coherently end the playcalling huddle with a quick clap of the hands and Bulger lines up in a special 4-wide, 1 back, set on only 2nd down. He sets his knee and as he lands, a perfect spiral is lined out to him, and he gradually hands the ball off to Jackson as Jackson lowers his shoulder and piles into the ‘quiet’ heavy hitters of the New England Patriots, and gains 3 and 1/2 yards. 3rd and inches. Jackson loosens his chinstrap, removes his helmet, and heads to the sidelines.
Troy Aikman comes back with another comment, this time to add insult to the Rams: “I don’t know what they are doing here. There’s 4 minutes left in this game, they have a 3 point lead, and they are taking out their third down running back in Jackson while it is third down and inches. I don’t understand this bonehead move by Coach Linehan.”
Surprisingly, Rookie Running Back, Brian Leonard, is added into the game and he quickly enters the Rams huddle. Bulger, again, lines up, goal line formation, and it looked as if the Rams were going to run with the Rookie. The Patriots two premier safeties played up close; 9 in the box! Bulger fakes a playaction, fake pumps a pass to Randy McMichael’s direction. Instead, he tosses a pass over the middle to Brian Leonard and it’s nearly intercepted by Eugene Wilson as the ball innocently drops to the ground.
The Rams, being forced to punt seeing as it’s 4th down and they are in their own territory. The Patriots fair catch the ball at their 39.
Joe Buck, questions Aikman: “Troy, pick your poison, huh? Who’s more dangerous in these situations? Tom Brady or Steven Jackson?”
Troy Aikman, replies: “It’s got to be Tom Brady, Joe. While it’s very scary for defenders to bring down Steven Jackson, he has no accolades to prove himself. Tom Brady can brandish himself with his 3 rings, and 2 Super Bowl MVPs to show for it. Not only that, but he’s drove the Patriots down the field in last minute drives 3 times to set up field goals. He may set up another one this time, or strike into the endzone because that’s what he does.”
Aikman closes out his comments, saying: “if you’re the Rams, you have to play extremely smart to outwit Tom Brady. The Indianapolis Colts did it last season in the AFC Championship on the Final Drive by playing an up close defense. Let’s see what the Rams do..”
Brady, the Patriots, line up in a 2 WR, 2 TE, 2 RB, formation. For whatever reason, the Rams have switched free safety Ron Bartell over to play cornerback being matched up with Reche Caldwell. A snap by Brady, and he looks over the field. Caldwell gets a big jump on Bartell and slashes across the middle of the field. Brady rolls out, across the hashmarks, as Rams defensive end Leonard Little is held up with a block by two of the Patriots offensive lineman. Brady passes to Caldwell in the post of the field, as he brings it in high over his head for a 17 yard gain, and is almost immediately brought down by Bartell.
1st down in Rams territory. 15 seconds from the 2 minute warning. New England allows the clock to reach 2 minutes and a commercial break as both teams head over to their respective sidelines.
Bruce, appearing in an efficacious stance, runs over to the defense, and being the future reverend that he is, gives them a quick pep talk: “Hey! Guys, we got 2 minutes left. We up by 3! Does that mean anything to you all? You guys look like you are scared of these boys! They nothin’! We have had the lead up until now. The only thing you have to do is get us back on offense, and I’ll take the load. Years ago this was a different story. Tonight is our night, we are going to win the Super Bowl tonight and we are going to hoist champagne after the game and celebrate as Super Bowl champions. But right now, we got to play hard and play to win. I’m not accepting a loss today, and thus far God has been on our side, and I’m going to serve him the best. Just get us the ball back! We may be called underdogs, but we are the better team on the field! Show it to ‘em, give it to ‘em, and silence them sad asses!”
The Patriots line up in a single back set once more, as Brady looks around for portentous coverage that would be painful for his offense in the upcoming play. Patriots coach’ Bill Belichick pacing himself on the sidelines, folding his arms, glances every couple of seconds at the scoreboard clock, and then back at his 3-time Super Bowl champion team.
Brady licks the upper form off this 3 fingers then parts them as he reaches down to perennially hold the football. He hikes, he receives the ball in the snap, and drops back to get ready to pass. Randy Moss signals for the ball around 11 yards out and almost instantly, Brady passes and the ball hits Moss in the gut as he seems to be bringing it down in a catch, two Rams defenders (Will Witherspoon, playing a deep zone, and O.J. Otogwe) sacrifice their body and slam themselves into Moss as hard as the can, forcing Moss to lose control of the ball and flip on his back.
1:53 left, 2nd down. Brady takes another quick snap in a 3-wide single back set and hits Troy Brown in the corner for an 8 yard gain, as he’s knocked out of bounds, gladly.
1:44 left, 3rd and 2. Brady takes the snap and fake hands off to Laurence Maroney, and takes a quick roll out. Tight End, Ben Watson, waves his left hand in the air wildly, the Rams front footed defense scoots back and the pass to Watson is knocked away by linebacker Brandon Chillar.
1:34 being the time left in the game. 4th and 2. The Patriots line up for a field goal that’s around 59 yards deep. Stephen Gostkowski jogs out onto the field and sets up. Torry Holt, on the sidelines, shakes his head, and says over to Isaac Bruce, “Oh, not again..no way he be making this!” Bruce paces alone in his own sync allowing his own mind to think out a strategy plan. The field goal would tie up the game, but would force the Rams to drive hard.
Aikman comments: “Gostkowski may not be Adam Vinatieri, but he’s a very good kicker.”
The snap is up to Patriots backup QB Matt Cassel, in a near perfect spiral, Gostkowski takes his steps and mounts a monster kick. Snap was good, kick was good, field goal? WIDE LEFT!
With the Rams receiving the ball back, again, still holding onto a 23-20 lead with a mere 1:28 left. The Rams offense heads out onto the field filled with competent energy and determination. The first play is an off-tackle to the left by Steven Jackson and he’s stopped by 4 Patriots defenders with only a gain of 3, especially knocked over by Bruschi, [Ty] Warren, and Rosevelt Colvin, and Rodney Harrison.
After a quick shake-off, Bruschi arises and gradually the whole Patriots defense begins to yell “time out, ref! Time out!” Rodney Harrison, smacks the helmet of some of his fellow defensive players, convulsively yelling “Let’s go! Let’s go! Turnover, baby, turnover! Let’s get the rock back to their side!”
1:13 left. 2nd and 7. Another handoff to Jackson for a gain of only 1 yard. Jackson raises up, frustrated and flustered by how well the Patriots defense is keeping him in check on a possible game saving drive.
:58 left in Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots have utilized two of their timeouts. Bruce jumps into the huddle and interrupts Bulger’s playcalling and initially looks at the rest of the offense, and then looks back at his Quarterback, Marc Bulger, and says “Marc, we can’t run the ball here.” Bruce looks back at Jackson and says “Steven, set up a block for Marc, after he runs a playaction.” Looking back at the rest of the offense, he explains “Trust me, I’m going to get open and we are going to win this game.” Bulger hesitates then calls a play that will set up a playaction and then a streak route to Isaac Bruce.
:59 on the scoreboard, 21 and counting on the play clock as it slowly expires. 3rd and 6. Bulger sets up firmly, and takes the snap, he turns around and holds the ball out for Jackson, then roughly pulls it back in hiding. [Rodney] Harrison playing the strongside runs in to tackle Jackson, who wasn’t carrying, the ball as Steven Jackson throws himself into Harrison in a shoulder charge motion to efficaciously knock out the Patriots defender to the ground.
Bruce, gets a big jump ahead of Patriots cornerback, Ellis Hobbs, and speeds up the field, Bulger recounts his timing, and watches Bruce. Hobbs regains composure of his own speed and catches up, but FALLS. Bulger takes advantage and tosses a rainbow over the field. The Patriots defense watches as Bruce is perennially going to score a touchdown. Bruce, catches the pass and runs to the endzone. No showboating on his way, nothing but a run, and a celebration in the endzone. Troy Aikman comments, “reminiscent to what he done to the Tennessee Titans in 2000!” Bruce points to the sky, and then celebrates with Torry Holt, Marc Bulger. The pandemonium of the crowd filled the Phoenix University stadium with Rams fans in their sections standing up, clapping, and yelling the usual “BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE.” Jeff Wilkins hits the field goal.
Joe Buck comments, “The Rams lead by 10 with 47 seconds left. Are the Patriots done? Can you give the Lombardi trophy to this offensive show just yet?”
Troy Aikman answers, “not at all. Never count the Patriots out of anything. Look for Moss to be active in this next drive.”
Wilkins lines up the kick, takes a deep breath, and nails it deep into the endzone to Maroney. Maroney takes it out ahead a full field of force and Isaac Bruce, while still playing special teams, lays out a block on a running Kevin Faulk, freeing up safety Todd Johnson as he runs and knocks the ball loose from Maroney’s grasp. The season on the line, the Patriots’ Troy Brown dives on the ball but it pops up loosely into the Rams’ Fahkir Brown’s hands as he dives into the field, holding onto the ball, keeping it to potentially secure the win.
The Rams sideline explodes, and nearly almost runs out onto the field. Fahkir Brown, in unbridled happiness, runs to the sidelines leaping into the air, diving onto his teammates.
Marc Bulger takes a knee with 39 seconds left. The Patriots take a timeout. Bulger, still smiling from what has happened, realizing that he and the rest of his crew, are Super Bowl champions. Scott Linehan pats Fahkir Brown on the back, as well as rejoicing with Jim Haslett, celebrating a dream season that has been capped off.
Bulger, takes the final knee, and the Rams were now free to run onto the field. Confetti is shot off, streaming into the air, as the P.A. announcer speaks into the microphone, “Your World Champion, St. Louis Rams!” Tears began to fill the Patriots eyes, even more now, as they realize that their season is over and they have lost their last game in a sad and harsh moment. Being so close, and being so tied down to what the Rams were — the offense, versus the Patriots’ still-stoned specialty — the defense.
Few Patriots players ran onto the field and congratulated their worthy adversaries. Rodney Harrison, being known as notoriously dirty, runs up to Isaac Bruce and says “Congratulations, Ike. Keep peddling, dog, congratulations to you. ‘Hope to see you guys next year!” as he retreats to the sidelines and through the tunnel. Belichick follows up by in the middle of the field, shaking hands with Rams’ coach Scott Linehan and congratulating him on a mission accomplished and a work that was well done.
The Patriots have left the field, and the celebration has begun. Rapper, Kanye West’s, “Touch the Sky” song fills the stadium in the midst of the St. Louis Rams celebration.
Joe Buck, trying to pull off what his legendary father, Joe Buck, spoke in 1998 following Mark McGwire’s memorable Maris chase, “excuse me while I stand up and give a round of applause for this amazing team.”
Aikman, laughing in hysterical and incredulous amazement at Buck’s pathetic attempt to wish to follow up his father 10 years later.
The reality hit everywhere. Still in amazement, even at the trophy presentation stand. After they received the Lombardi trophy, FOX Sports’ Curt Menefee interviewed the Super Bowl heroes.
Starting with the Super Bowl MVP, Isaac Bruce.
Menefee: “Isaac Bruce *the Rams fans still around in the stadium yell “BRUUUUUUUUCE”*, you came up and told your team that you were not going to take a loss for anything this game, what made you all of a sudden reach out to them?”
Bruce: “The last Super Bowl we were in hurt worse than any other loss in my life. We were playing the same team that beat us in 2002, and we wanted redemption. The good Lord was with the St. Louis Rams tonight, and he gave me and the rest of us the faith to instill in our hearts that we were going to be the champs on this night; that nothing could take that away from us.”
Menefee: “How does it feel to be the Super Bowl MVP, Ike?”
Bruce: “Oh, man, Curt, I’m not the MVP here. This whole team is full of MVPs. Big Game (Torry Holt) over here for intimidating their defense into double covering him, freeing me up. Action (Steven Jackson) over here for sending out a block on Rodney to give Marc some more time. Looking back at the replay, it looked like the drive would have stalled out and we would have been in trouble! And especially Marc for making the perfect pass to send the game to being over, ending it. All apologies, I’m listing here, but this whole defense being locked and loaded on the final drive, really set up to stop the dangerous offense that the Patriots were running with Brady and they got us back onto offense.”
Menefee: “You scored the game winning touchdown against the Titans, and you score the game-winning cork-capper here. What’s that like?”
Bruce: “I do whatever it takes for my team to win, and that’s what I specially had to do tonight”
Menefee: “Are you going to return, or call it quits?”
Bruce: “I’m definitely returning. I have a lot left, and the Lord isn’t done with me in football just yet, before I serve him off of the field as well.”
Menefee: “Again, congratulations Isaac.”
Menefee moves over to Marc Bulger for a quick question. “You took a beating tonight, yet you still stayed cool and collective and led this team. As a matter of fact, the final two knees you took, it was the first time I’ve ever seen you smile, seriously, after all of the determined looks you have always kept.”
Bulger: “I knew we had won, I was happy and knew our destination was reached. I’ve never been happier in my football career. The Patriots are an amazing team, but tonight we are the best. I knew how much Torry and Isaac wanted another Super Bowl trophy. I wanted my first, as well as the the rest of us, and played wholeheartedly.”
Menefee, speaking to Fahkir Brown, “You secured the Rams victory with the fumble recovery. What were your first thoughts?”
Brown: “My first thoughts were that, “we have the ball with less than a minute left. Then it dawned on me, ‘we are going to win the Super Bowl!’ Nobody can take this away from us!”
Mennefee, speaking to Coach Scott Linehan, “On the final drive, or prior to it, what did you say to your team?”
Linehan: “I didn’t have time to say anything. Ike was being the leader that this team had been previously vying for, and played like the workhorse he is. We aren’t the Greatest Show on Turf. We are the greatest show in football right now, and I think that I speak for the rest of the coaching staff to say that I’m proud to have been able to coach this team, and look forward into returning next year for Super Bowl XLIII!”
Menefee to Steven Jackson, “Steven, you got the hard yards, and made the Patriots send four or five guys at you each time you touched the ball. Scary moment for you, or them?”
Steven Jackson: “Not really a scary moment, but it was hard to get by them. They wanted me down on the ground, and keeping me there. I done all I could do, and I’m glad this aerial attack kept us in and kept us with the lead. I played as hard as I could have ever played, and this defense was tough, but I stuck with them and played at their level, maybe just a bit higher.”
Closely guarded, closely contested, a close score. The Patriots scored 20 points in 2002, that was enough to beat the Rams. This time they were 11 points short of winning, scoring 20 again, losing 30-20. What a game, what a Super Bowl.