Seven plays and 80 yards later, Delhomme zipped a 12-yard touchdown pass to wideout Ricky Proehl. Two years earlier, while playing for the Rams, Proehl had tied the Super Bowl on a 26-yard touchdown catch with 1:30 remaining; this time, there was 1:08 left when Kasay's extra point made it 29-29. "I've been in that situation so many times," said Brady, now 26-4 in games played in November or later. "So, yeah, I was calm."
With a huge assist from Kasay, who hooked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds to give New England possession at its own 40, Brady and Vinatieri made hearts flutter again. On third-and-three from the Carolina 40 with 14 seconds on the clock, Brady took a shotgun snap and found Branch down the right sideline for 17 yards. On came Vinatieri, who kicked a 41-yard field goal with four ticks remaining, and it was time to ponder the Patriots' potential for a dynasty (box, left) and their quarterback's ascent to gridiron icon.
Several hours later at the victory party, Brady's family members and close friends finally reached him, and the quarterback's boy-next-door smile returned. The first of the group to arrive was his current love interest, Bridget Moynahan, a stunning brunette who most recently costarred in The Recruit. (She has a toughness to which the quarterback can relate, as evidenced by her reaction to an aggressive male suitor at a packed Super Bowl party the night before the game. "I thought about punching him," Moynahan recalled with a serious expression, "but I didn't, because of Tommy") The two hugged and smooched and whispered sweet nothings, and for the first time all night, the masses backed off and gave the quarterback some space.
SI.com Michael Silver's Open Mike, every Thursday at si.com.