Super Bowl XXXVIII: Year of the Cat


Feb. 1, 2004, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 16 years, 11 months ago


Super Bowl XXXVIII is upon us. On Feb 1, 2004, the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots will clash in Houston for the rights to this year's Super Bowl ring. This year's game promises to be physical, hard-fought and down-to-the-wire; all good qualities for the most exciting sports event of the year.

Nick's pick (catchy, no?): Carolina.

Read it and weep, Patriot fans.

For any of you who missed my Super Bowl Predictions, well, don't read them. Seriously.

As for the game, two words: ball control. The Panthers can do it, the Patriots can't. Sure, Antowain Smith looked pretty good against the Colts two Sundays ago. But really, who didn't? The Panthers have a Washington-tested, Panther-approved veteran in Stephen Davis, who has consistently run for close to 100 yards per game this season, en route to a 1400-plus yards season. They also have up-and-comer DeShaun Foster, who ran for 90 yards against the Rams on ten or so attempts. Carolina compliments this solid running core with journeyman Jake Delhomme, who has rightfully earned a reputation as a comeback kid. He may not throw for 200-plus yards a game, but he throws it straight when it counts. The Panthers' main receivers are no pushovers, either. Steve Smith is arguably among the best receivers in the league and has a knack for making clutch catches. Muhsin Muhammad, the Panthers underrated number two receiver, is likewise a physical player. Look for this tandem to team up with Delhomme to take advantage of a run-minded Patriots' defense.

Speaking of defense, the Panthers' front four of Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker, Brentson Buckner, and Kris Jenkins is one of the best in the league. The Patriots' offensive line should have a hard time keeping Brady out of the soup. Brady may get some early passes off, but as the game progress he'll find himself with less and less time. And with no real running game to turn to (especially with the Panthers' stingy run defense), the game will quickly devolve into chaos. Not really. But the Panthers will pull it out.

How it'll happen: Early in the game, Brady will find himself in some kind of rhythm, connecting on quick passes (probably to people like David Givens) that move the Pats down for an early score. The Panthers will stick to their guns with Davis and kick an early field goal or two. As the game progresses, the Pats will find their drives stalling as the Panthers figure out the passing game and the running game chokes, though of course Vinatieri will put a couple through the uprights. Late in the second quarter, probably as the result of a Ricky Manning, Jr. interception (or a fumble), the Panthers will run Davis over a short field for the strike.

Halftime score: Patriots 13, Panthers 10.

In the third quarter, Brady will be unable to get anything going, and the Panthers will start to take over. Delhomme will connect for a touchdown with Muhammad over a startled Ty Law and Pats defense. The ball control will start to wear on the clock, and before either team knows it, the fourth quarter is upon them. Vinatieri will kick another one, but the Panthers pound Davis and Foster for hard-fought yards. Kasay will then add a field goal, and with about five minutes left, Davis will get his second touchdown of the day. The Patriots will run a quick passing drive to close within four, but fail to recover the onside kick, and the Panthers will run out the clock.

Final score: Panthers 27, Patriots 23.



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