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Best and Worst

Monday, February 7, 2005; Page D08

Best team: The New England Patriots ascended into elite company in NFL history, joining the Dallas Cowboys as the only teams to win three Super Bowls in four seasons. They also join the Cowboys, 49ers, Steelers, Redskins, Packers and Raiders as the only teams with at least three Super Bowl trophies.

Best spectacle: The Super Bowl has become an unofficial national holiday, with the television commercials, halftime show and endless pregame hype helping draw interest in the game from more than just the average football fan. An estimated 140 million were expected to watch.

New England quarterback Tom Brady fires a pass in the first quarter. (Rusty Kennedy - AP)

_____NFL Basics_____
Team index
NFL Section
_____Mark Maske's NFL Insider_____
Weis Is Working Overtime (washingtonpost.com, Feb 4, 2005)
Thomason Settles Into Role With Eagles (washingtonpost.com, Feb 3, 2005)
E. Smith Retirement May Come as Cowboy (washingtonpost.com, Feb 2, 2005)

Worst gear: Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, after looking dapper at his final news conference in a pink shirt and matching tie, went back to his drab look for the game, wearing his customary gray hooded Patriots sweatshirt.

Best sight: Eagles fans breathed a sign of relief when wide receiver Terrell Owens stepped onto the field as a starter. He caught two passes early, then broke free on a crossing pattern for a 30-yard gain. Owens turned in a performance that seemed improbable after surgery and recovery from a serious ankle injury, finishing with nine catches for 122 yards.

Worst performance: After saying he did not know the names of the Patriots' defensive backs and praising his hands, Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, who has called himself First-Down Freddie and the People's Champ, finished with one catch for 11 yards.

Worst quarter: The first period ended in a scoreless tie. The Eagles had two turnovers and one yard rushing. The Patriots had 17 yards rushing.

Best confidence builder: On third and goal from the 6, Donovan McNabb, with plenty of time to throw, threw a strike to tight end L.J. Smith in the middle of the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 10 minutes 2 seconds to play before halftime.

Best replays: In the first quarter, it appeared McNabb fumbled after being hit by Willie McGinest. But an Eagles challenge overturned it after the replay revealed McNabb's knee was down on an original hit by Tedy Bruschi. Then, in the second quarter after it appeared David Givens fumbled while being tackled after making a catch, a Patriots challenge overturned that call when the replay showed Givens's knee was down.

Worst injury: A depleted Patriots secondary suffered another major blow just before halftime when starting safety Eugene Wilson appeared to injure his right shoulder while making a tackle on a kickoff. Wilson went to the locker room for evaluation.

Best catch: On first and goal from the 2, Mike Vrabel made a juggling catch for a touchdown in the third quarter. The reception was all the more difficult considering Jevon Kearse was tugging at Vrabel's jersey throughout his pattern until the linebacker turned goal-line receiver got separation as he dove for the pass.

Best response: Two drives later, the Eagles came right back with a 10-play drive covering 74 yards to tie the game. Tailback Brian Westbrook did most of the work, including catching a 10-yard touchdown pass with 3:39 left in the third. Westbrook handled the ball five times during the possession and converted a crucial third and three with a one-handed grab.

Worst throw: With the Eagles at the Patriots 36 and trailing by 10 midway through the fourth, McNabb never looked away from Smith, and Bruschi stepped in front of the pass for the interception.

Best rally: The Eagles showed fortitude despite trailing by 10 late in the game, cutting the deficit to 24-21 when reserve wide receiver Greg Lewis caught a 30-yard touchdown behind cornerback Asante Samuel. The score capped a 13-play, 79-yard drive that included a 10-yard catch by Owens on third-and-eight.

Best punt: Josh Miller's 32-yard effort late in the fourth quarter pinned the Eagles at their 4-yard line with 55 seconds to play, and New England's defense held when Rodney Harrison collected his second interception of the game to seal the win.

-- Gene Wang

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