For just the seventh time in NFL history, we have a Super Bowl rematch. It’s the sixth different matchup to be contested more than once for the Lombardi Trophy, with the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers having three total Super Bowl clashes. The other four previous ones were Dolphins vs. Redskins, Bengals vs. 49ers, Bills vs. Cowboys, and much more recently, Patriots vs. Giants.
Now number seven is upon us. The Philadelphia Eagles have a chance to avenge their 24-21 loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2005.
Brady threw for an effective 236 yards, going 23/33 with two touchdowns. Deion Branch had more than half of those yards, with 133 on 11 receptions. The game was tied at the end of the first, second, and third quarters, but New England’s defense intercepted Donavan McNabb twice in the final frame to power them to their third Super Bowl triumph in four seasons.
We’re back where we started in a lot of ways, with the Patriots going for that same accomplishment of three championships in four years- this time in Minneapolis. But there are plenty of notable items from within that 13-year loop before we officially come full circle Sunday night.
Tom Brady: You know where he is. He’s trying to accomplish the same thing he did over a dozen years ago and pip the Eagles to yet another championship.
Donovan McNabb: He did throw three touchdown passes in his first and only Super Bowl, but his three interceptions are the enduring images from that night in Jacksonville. McNabb went on to play five more seasons with the Eagles, and qualified for the playoffs in three of them. He never made it back to the pinnacle though, and retired after two ultimately futile pit stops in Washington and Minnesota.
Deion Branch: The MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX played one more season in Foxboro before being traded to Seattle after a contract holdout at the start of the 2006 season. He spent four and a half seasons with the Seahawks before being shipped back to New England in exchange for the draft pick that would turn into standout linebacker K.J. Wright.
He played in another Super Bowl during his second stint with Tom Brady, but only had three receptions in a 21-17 loss to Eli Manning’s New York Giants. Branch retired one season later.
Rodney Harrison: Branch won Super Bowl MVP, but you could have easily argued it should have been Harrison. The safety had arguably the two most vital plays of the game, first intercepting McNabb deep in the red zone in the first quarter, and then picking him off again in the final minute to clinch the game.
Three years later he was involved in one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history, but this time he was on the wrong end of it.
If you’re ever in need of a good trivia question, ask who the New England defender was on David Tyree’s helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII to deny the Patriots a 19-0 season.
He had just one more season in the league, and now works as part of NBC’s Sunday Night Football team.
Terrell Owens: Some people remember Owens for being one of the greatest receivers ever. Others, for his various touchdown celebration antics and reality television show. The New England Patriots will remember him as the guy they couldn’t get a handle on in Super Bowl XXXIX. Owens had nine catches for 122 yards, including a 36-yard play that was Philadelphia’s longest of the contest.
Owens signed for the rival Dallas Cowboys in the offseason leading up to the 2006 season, and registered three straight 1,000-yard seasons in Texas. He hung up his uniform in 2010 as the #2 receiver in NFL history by yards.
Corey Dillon: The man who led the Patriots in rushing yards with 75 on 18 carries and had New England’s go-ahead touchdown run in the fourth quarter played two more seasons with the Patriots to cap off a 10 year career.
Brian Westbrook: The Villanova product caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from McNabb tie to the game 14-14 late in the third quarter, and was Philadelphia’s leading rusher on the night. Westbrook ended up having a solid NFL career that lasted nine years and had over 6,000 rushing yards. In 2015, he was inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame.
L.J. Smith: The first touchdown of Patriots-Eagles part one came when McNabb found his tight end Smith from six yards out to cap off an 81-yard drive. Smith ascended into one of Philadelphia’s best receivers in the two following seasons, but lingering injury problems led to an early retirement in 2009.
David Givens: Catching Tom Brady’s touchdown pass to tie the game 7-7 with just over a minute left in the first half isn’t the legacy of Givens. In 2009, he sued the Tennessee Titans regarding how his knee injury was handled when he tore his ACL three years prior.
Mike Vrabel: A name you’ll be hearing a lot more of soon. Vrabel had six more seasons in the NFL before retiring and immediately working his way up the ranks of coaching. On January 20th, the Tennessee Titans announced Vrabel as their new head coach. Rewinding to the game, Vrabel started at linebacker and caught a touchdown pass from Brady in a goal line package during the third quarter.
Greg Lewis: The only touchdown scorer in Super Bowl XXXIX we haven’t covered yet had a short but memorable time in the NFL. He hauled in McNabb’s 30-yard touchdown in the penultimate minute of the game to cut New England’s lead to 24-21. He had another famous touchdown catch in 2009 from Brett Favre with the Vikings, and is now a wide receiver coach with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Todd Pinkston: His contribution to the game checked in at four receptions resulting in 82 yards for the Eagles, but that would be his final NFL game. Pinkston tore his Achilles in training camp six months later, and never made an NFL roster again.
Randall Gay: The leading tackler of the game with 11, the New England cornerback had a healthy NFL career that lasted until 2011 and included another Super Bowl ring. The Louisiana native won it all with the New Orleans Saints five years after doing so with the Patriots.
Derrick Burgess: The only Eagle with a sack in Super Bowl XXXIX spent his next four seasons with the Oakland Raiders before ironically signing with the Patriots, and then finishing his career back with the Eagles in 2010.
Adam Vinatieri: I’m going to end this the same way I started it, with a player still in the NFL. New England’s kicker went 3/3 on extra points and made his only field goal attempt of the night, a 22-yarder with 8:40 left that ended up being the game’s decider. In all three Super Bowls the Patriots won in the early 2000s, three points was the difference, and all three times Vinatieri hit a field goal in the fourth quarter.
The oldest active player in the NFL is still getting it done today, splitting uprights at the age of 45 with the Indianapolis Colts.