It took Tom Brady and the New England offense a little time to get going, but once the Patriots got aggressive, they finally started moving the ball against the Carolina Panthers.
The Patriots came out looking a little tentative and got pushed around by the Carolina defense. The Panthers' ends, especially, seemed to be giving tackles Matt Light and Tom Ashworth a heap of trouble. And Brady misfired a lot early on, missing Dedric Ward on one play in the first series, which ended when Adam Vinatieri missed a chippie field-goal attempt.
That 31-yarder, and a blocked 36-yarder later, could end up making a huge difference in this game. But if the Pats can keep using effective play-action passes, like they did on both of Brady's short touchdown passes, and their defense keeps the Panthers' running game in check, they'll be OK.
The first New England TD was a gift, really, coming off a turnover caused by their defense. The second, which came when the Pats came out throwing as time ran down in the half, was set up by a 52-yard pass from Brady to Deion Branch. The safety on that play broke to the wrong receiver. Don't expect the Panthers to make many more mistakes like that.
The Pats' biggest slip on defense happened when they got caught in a blitz and cornerback Tyrone Poole was burned on the TD pass to Steve Smith, who just outran Poole. Expect New England head coach Bill Belichick to keep pressuring young Carolina QB Jake Delhomme in the second half.
-- John Donovan, SI.com
Strange as it sounds and ugly as it was to watch, the Carolina Panthers have to be thrilled with their performance in the opening two quarters. The Panthers turned in one of the most pathetic offensive halves in Super Bowl history, and somehow they only trail by one score, 14-10.
After hearing all week how this game of games wouldn't be too big for Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme, the Cajun country boy, he went out and looked for most of the first half as if he was in way, way over his head. The entire nation at one point was put on Rodney Peete alert.
Before leading the Panthers to a touchdown and a field goal on their final two drives of the half, in a span of 1:07, Delhomme was a shaky 1-of-9 for 1 yard, with a fumble and three sacks on Carolina's opening six possessions, plus one play on its seventh. Ugh.
Carolina punted on each of its first five drives -- four of those were three and outs -- and committed the game's first turnover on its sixth possession. The Panthers didn't even pick up a first down by anything other than penalty until less than two minutes remained in the first half.
That's why Delhomme's late-half rally (4-of-6, 90 yards) should inspire much hope in the Carolina locker room. Seemingly he has weathered the worst and now will continue to calm his nerves and play the kind of steady -- and at times spectacular -- ball that helped the Panthers get here in the first place.
-- Don Banks, SI.com