Revisiting Super Bowl XXXIX

Super Bowl XXXIX was arguably the biggest game in Eagles history. It was the apex of the Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb era.

After falling a step short the previous three years, Feb. 6, 2005 was supposed to be the night the Eagles finally took that last step and put to rest a 38-year-old taunt regarding their lacking of a Lombardi Trophy.

And I remember none of it.

Granted, I remember the fanfare leading up to the game, the big white tents that popped up at every gas station in the Delaware Valley, peddling unlicensed Super Bowl gear, the cruise ships that were docked in Jacksonville because there weren't enough hotels to accommodate the masses of Eagles fans that made the trip south. Hell, I even remember my mom bringing in soft pretzels for my fourth-grade class the Friday before the game.

But outside of a botched two-minute drill and Rodney Harrison's game-clinching interception, I remember none of the action in what would be the New England Patriots third Super Bowl title in four years, a 24-21 loss for the Eagles.

So 11 years later, I decided to finally pop in the tape and revisit what happened that night in northeast Florida.

Early Domination

The Eagles defense absolutely dominated the early part of the game. They allowed just one first down in the first quarter and did not let the Patriots cross midfield until there were eight minutes remaining in the first half. Jim Johnson's unit blitzed and got consistent pressure on Tom Brady, forcing him to be erratic at times. 

Offensively, Reid played his hand close to his vest, trying to settle McNabb's nerves by calling short passes. Big Red called 16 pass plays in the first quarter and just three runs, but the run game was terribly ineffective.

However, a nice catch by Todd Pinkston after McNabb avoided a blitz set the Eagles up for the first touchdown of the game, when L.J. Smith fought through a triple team on third and goal and makes a nice catch in the back of the endzone, handing the Patriots their first deficit of the playoffs.

Dumb Mistakes

One common theme in this game was the Eagles inability to capitalize on their opportunities. McNabb was sacked for 16 yards and threw an interception two plays later to negate a red zone opportunity in the first quarter. Smith fumbled at midfield, but made up for it with his touchdown on the next drive. 

The Eagles offense would play clean football until the fourth quarter when McNabb followed up a 36-yard completion to Terrell Owens with an interception to Tedy Bruschi. Two drives later, McNabb threw the deciding pick to Harrison.

Besides turnovers, a shanked punt gave the Pats good field position that led to their first touchdown and a tie game.

Key Players

The guy Eagles fans will always remember from this game is Owens. His heroic effort, playing on a broken leg, just six weeks removed from surgery resulted in nine catches for 122 yards. But most people have forgotten Pinkston's four-catch, 82-yard game.

McNabb threw the ball over 50 times and targeted eight receivers. Greg Lewis caught a touchdown pass and remains the only Eagles wide receiver with a touchdown catch in the Super Bowl. 

Defensively, Derrick Burgess picked up the only sack for the Birds. He was inconsistent for the most part in his time as an Eagle, but would leave for Oakland in the offseason where he led the NFL in sacks the following season. 

Too Little, Too Late

The main story of the game was the Eagles inability to manage the clock late in the fourth quarter. When I started this project, I assumed that it had been blown out of proportion over 11 years of griping, but watching it back, it's just as bad now as it ever was.

After Bruschi picked off McNabb, the Eagles defense forced a three-and-out, handing their offense the ball down 10 with 5:40 remaining. McNabb and company proceeded to go on a 13-play, 79-yard drive culminating in Lewis' 30-yard touchdown catch. The drive took over four minutes and forced the Eagles to try an onside kick, which was recovered by the Pats. 

The defense was able to force another three-and-out – their sixth of the game – but a beautiful punt by Josh Miller put them at their own four-yard line with under a minute to play. 

McNabb forced a ball down the seam that was tipped by Smith, intercepted by Harrison and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tucker Bagley is a columnist for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @tbagley515.