Patriots D-ominant

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

In a perfect world, the scoreboard would have more accurately reflected the ease with which the New England Patriots have captured the past two Super Bowls.

Decades from now a look at the record book will lead some to believe that the Patriots were all out to win each time.

The books in Las Vegas also will show that in both games, the Patriots failed in one popular measuring stick by being unable to cover the point spread.

The reality, however, is that three-point victories over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and the Carolina Panthers the previous year never were in doubt.

How can a three-point win such as the 24-21 verdict here at Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium be considered a virtual blowout?

Ask yourself this: Were the Patriots ever in serious danger of losing on Sunday?

For a time, New England was stymied by the Eagles defence and yes, they let Donovan McNabb throw three touchdown passes. But the Patriots trailed for all of a few minutes in the second quarter. Whatever had been lapsing or lacking to that point quickly was erased on the first drive of the third quarter when New England showed just how much they meant business.

The Patriots' wins have been dominant because of the way their defence imposes its will on a game. Just look at what this team has done in its past three games to a trio of quarterbacks who built tall reputations in the preceding months.

The regular-season MVP and single-season touchdown king Peyton Manning? Crushed along with the rest of the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC divisional playoff. Rookie of the year Ben Roethlisberger? Humiliated as the Pittsburgh Steelers, owners of a 15-1 regular-season record, went down in the AFC championship.

And whether the Patriots weren't as sharp against the Eagles or whether the Super Bowl opponent was better prepared than those other two teams is up for debate. What isn't is that McNabb was one player that wasn't going to beat them.

In that light, they got the wrong guy when naming Super Bowl MVP.

Receiver Deion Branch got the car for a worthy performance, equalling a Bowl record with 11 receptions.

But safety Rodney Harrison might have been most deserving of the award. One of many leaders on the Patriots defence, Harrison had a profound impact throughout the game.

From the first series, when he dinged McNabb with a solid enough hit to make him think twice about running the rest of the game, to the last when he had his second interception, Harrison set the tone.

PRECEDENT

Defensive players have won Super Bowl MVP in the recent past -- Dexter Jackson for Tampa Bay two years ago and Ray Lewis for Baltimore two before that -- so it is not as if there isn't precedent.

Harrison, for the record, caught one more McNabb pass than Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell, who was all talk in the days leading up to the Super Bowl and no walk on game day.

When a defence intimidates its opponent the way the Patriots can, the longer the game goes, the more dominant it becomes.

Don't expect the Pats' reign to end anytime soon, either, at least as long as coach Bill Belichick is around. Much has been made of the Patriots ability to take ordinary players and make them fit into the salary-cap system.

Well, Belichick may in fact be a better coach than the late Vince Lombardi. His 10-1 playoff record and three Super Bowl rings have come not just in the cap era, but in an era of spoiled, me-first athletes.

The record books won't show that, either.


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