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Adam-bombed

Proehl's heroics once again overshadowed by Vinatieri

Posted: Sunday February 1, 2004 11:26PM; Updated: Monday February 2, 2004 12:16AM
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HOUSTON (AP) -- Oh no, not again.

For the second time in three years, Ricky Proehl made a dramatic, late tying touchdown catch in the Super Bowl.

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And for the second time, he watched New England's Adam Vinatieri ruin it all with a winning field goal.

"You go from a hero to no one remembers," Proehl said. "You make a couple of big plays at the end like I did two years ago, you're high as a kite, and a minute later, it doesn't mean anything."

Proehl has played 14 NFL seasons, and this unbelievable coincidence is a legacy more bitter than sweet.

"It must be a nightmare," he said. "Deja vu was happening all over again."

The Carolina Panthers' receiver slid wide open over the middle for a 12-yard touchdown catch from Jake Delhomme to tie it at 29 with 1:08 to play.

Proehl laughed with Delhomme on the sideline, thinking the game was headed for overtime, but he more than anyone else in Reliant Stadium should have known it was far too soon to celebrate. Not against the Patriots and their clutch kicker.

When John Kasay's kickoff went out of bounds and gave New England the ball on its 40, Proehl knew it was trouble.

"When I scored I was confident that we could hold them," Proehl said. "As soon as they get the ball on the 40-yard line, that's not a good proposition with Tom and what he can do."

Two years ago, with Proehl's St. Louis Rams playing New England in New Orleans, the same scene unfolded. Proehl caught a 27-yard TD pass from Kurt Warner to tie it at 17 with 1:37 to go.

Tom Brady moved the Patriots downfield against the Rams, then Vinatieri won it with a 48-yard field goal as the game ended.

This time, there were 4 seconds left when Vinatieri's kick sailed through the uprights to give the Patriots a 32-29 victory.

Proehl, 35, is no star, just a durable, reliable, possession receiver from Wake Forest who has played for Arizona, Seattle, Chicago, St. Louis and Carolina. He left the Rams after five seasons a year ago and signed with the Panthers as a free agent.

He is the team's third receiver, behind Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith. Going into the Super Bowl, he had one catch for 7 yards in the three postseason games.

The old guy saved his best for last, though. He caught four for 41 yards on Sunday, two of them in the seven-play, 80-yard drive that tied the game at 29.

"He played like he always plays," Smith said. "He played like it was the first game of the year. We got playmakers on this team, and I think Sunday showed the three of us shouldn't go anywhere next year. We should come back here ready to work."

His 31-yard catch put the ball on the 14, and on third-and-8 from the 12, Proehl bounced off a defender and found himself all alone in the end zone.

"I think he busted a coverage," Proehl said. "He was trying to jam me at the line, I got inside him and I think he let me go to the safety. But the safety had gone to the tight end."

Elation, followed by emptiness. It's a feeling Proehl knows all to well.

"They're all tough," he said. "When you lose tough ballgames like that, they're tough to swallow. They really are

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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