Twice as nice
Belichick matches mentor Parcells with second championship
Updated: Monday February 2, 2004 9:20AM
HOUSTON (AP) -- It would hardly be a surprise if, filed away on one of the shelves in Bill Belichick's office, there is a game plan that lays it all out it just the way it happened.
Go to the Super Bowl. Take the lead. Stumble back into a tie. March down the field for a game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
A mastermind praised for his preparation, Belichick was ready for an all-too-familiar situation Sunday when Carolina tied the Super Bowl with 68 seconds left. Tom Brady moved the ball into field-goal position, and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41-yarder with 4 seconds left to give New England a 32-29 victory against the Panthers -- the Patriots' second NFL title in three years.
"This never gets old. Every one is really special," Belichick said. "It was a terrific football game to watch. It wasn't that terrific to coach. I was having a heart attack out there. I'm sure it was a great spectator game."
Belichick's second win as a head coach puts him in a class with such luminaries as Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and, yes, even Belichick's longtime boss, Bill Parcells. Belichick also won two Super Bowls as the New York Giants' defensive coordinator under Parcells.
Asked about his legacy, Belichick said, "You win 15 in a row and then a Super Bowl championship, that's pretty good. I think it can be talked about up there with some of the other teams that have had good accomplishments.
"Right now, I'm still kind of on Cloud Nine. I don't know if I've had a really good chance to reflect on that. I'm just enjoying the moment," the NFL Coach of the Year said. "This will be an unforgettable season for me."
Chuck Noll won four Super Bowls in Pittsburgh, Joe Gibbs won three in Washington and Bill Walsh won three in San Francisco. Belichick joined eight other coaches who have won two.
"I don't know about legacy, but I know that two out of three years in the modern era is quite an achievement," offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said.
It's hard to believe Belichick is the same man who was run out of Cleveland after five years coaching the Browns. After he was fired, he came to New England as Parcells' assistant and went back to the Super Bowl in 1997 -- his only loss in five career trips.
Belichick followed Parcells to the New York Jets and then came back to the Patriots in 2000 as head coach. Two years later, he had them in the Super Bowl again. Fourteen-point underdogs to the St. Louis Rams, they won on Vinatieri's field goal with no time left and Belichick had earned his first championship as the man in charge.
It only gave him a taste for more.
This season, Belichick had to use all of his coaching tricks to get the Patriots back to the top. After he cut Pro Bowl safety Lawyer Milloy five days before the season -- and then lost to Milloy and his Buffalo Bills 31-0 in the opener -- Belichick barely averted a locker room revolt.
The team was beset by injuries from the beginning -- at one point, eight of the 22 opening day starters were out -- but everyone Belichick plugged in seemed up to the job. Once the roster was somewhat stabilized, the Patriots went on a winning streak not seen since the 1972 Miami Dolphins played a 17-0 season.
After ending the regular season with 12 straight victories, Belichick noted that winning streaks meant nothing if they didn't win the next game. And the next one. And the next one.
And then came the Super Bowl.
"He preached to us that one week had nothing to do with the next," special teamer Larry Izzo said. "It all just shows why he's the best coach with the best staff in the league."
And they showed it Sunday.
With the Patriots at the Carolina 1 and trailing 22-21, linebacker Mike Vrabel and defensive lineman Richard Seymour entered as eligible receivers. Vrabel caught the second touchdown pass of his career to make it 27-22.
Then the Patriots went for 2, and the coaches called for a direct snap to Kevin Faulk, who ran it in to make it a seven-point game. Carolina tied it on a touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl -- the same guy who caught the tying pass for the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl two years ago.
That's when Brady took New England down the field to set up Vinatieri's game-winner. Although the hero of the 2002 Super Bowl missed two kicks in this game, Belichick didn't hesitate to go back to him with the season in the balance.
"If you've got to have one kick with the game on the line, he's the one I'd want kicking them," Belichick said. "That was the game. That's what Adam's here for."