Superbowl: Vinatieri earns Patriots last-gasp win

Carolina Panthers 29 New England Patriots 32
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The Independent Online

New England kicker Adam Vinatieri ended the first half as a villain but, more importantly, he ended the game as a hero.

Vinatieri missed two field goals in the first half of Super Bowl XXXVIII, but when he was needed the most he came good to mirror scenes witnessed two years ago when his last gasp 48-yard field goal gave the Patriots a 20-17 win over the St Louis Rams.

This time the kick was from 41 yards but the result was the same, sparking wild celebrations on the New England touchline as they defeated the Carolina Panthers 32-29 to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy for the second time in three years.

Vinatieri's first miss brought to an end the Patriots' first drive of the game. From 31 yards out, the New England kicker drilled his effort wide right in a scoreless first quarter.

Shane Burton then blocked Vinatieri's next effort as the half threatened to end scoreless for the first time in Super Bowl history.

But out of nowhere, the two teams sparked into life. Following a Jake Delhomme fumble, New England quarterback Tom Brady hit Deion Branch for a six-yard touchdown pass with 3:05 to go in the half to open the scoring.

That lit a fire under Delhomme and he guided the Panthers offence on a 97-yard drive - the longest in Super Bowl history - and capped it off by finding Steve Smith for the tying score with a 39 yard pass.

But anything Delhomme could do, Brady wanted to do better. He launched a 52-yard pass to Branch to move into scoring range and then hit hometown boy David Givens for a five-yard touchdown pass to send the Patriots 14-7 in front.

John Kasay closed the first half down with a 50-yard field goal for the Panthers to make it 14-10 at half-time.

Mirroring the first half, the second began with a scoreless third quarter. But the fourth started with a bang when another Houston-native, Antowain Smith, ran in for the score from two yards to make it 21-10 to New England.

Once again, Delhomme and his Panthers offence were buoyed by Patriots scoring. DeShaun Foster bounced his way down the left side of the field and into the endzone for a 33-yard score. The Panthers opted for a two point conversion and failed, leaving them trailing 21-16.

On New England's following drive Tom Brady needlessly threw the first interception of the game and was duly punished by his opposite number. Delhomme connected with wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad on an 85-yard pass for the touchdown to set a Super Bowl longest pass completion record that put Carolina 22-21 up.

The Patriots were not down for long, as they rolled downfield and Mike Vrabel collected a one yard pass to put New England back in front, and they made a two point conversion.

The game was at a fever pitch and when Ricky Proehl caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Delhomme to make it 29-29 with just over a minute to play, it looked as though the Super Bowl would go into overtime for the first time ever.

But cometh the hour, cometh the men. The Patriots marched into field goal range and Vinatieri came up trumps, drilling a 41-yard field goal through the posts to give New England a 32-29 victory

Tom Brady picked up the Most Valuable Player award.