New England Patriots wide receiver David Givens (87) reacts to a second quarter four-yard touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005.
AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The New England Patriots became a dynasty Sunday night, a team as sure and steady as the mighty river flowing outside the stadium where they won their third Super Bowl in four years.
The NFL brought its biggest party to the river town of Jacksonville, and when it was over, the Patriots still had a firm grip on the Vince Lombardi trophy, winning 24-21 over the Philadelphia Eagles.
''You take one at a time and realize how tough they are,'' quarterback Tom Brady said. ''We did, and we're happy about that.''
Brady threw for 236 yards and Most Valuable Player Deion Branch tied a Super Bowl record with 11 catches as the Patriots accomplished what was supposed to be impossible establishing themselves as a dynasty in a free agency era supposedly immune to them.
New England joined company with the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s, who became the team of that decade by winning three from 1993-96.
''I can say it: New England. Dynasty,'' said Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Cowboys to two of those titles.
The Patriots did it the way they always do methodical, not too flashy, just good enough to win a tight game. All three of their Super Bowl wins have been decided by three points, a field goal off the foot of dependable kicker Adam Vinatieri.
As usual, New England came into this game thinking about the task at hand, not its place in history. Winning another Super Bowl didn't change that perspective.
''I'm happy we did it,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ''I'll leave the comparisons to everyone else.''
As always on Super Bowl Sunday, the teams provided only part of the fodder for watercooler conversation.
Paul McCartney performed during a halftime show devoid of trouble, unlike last year's spectacle when Janet Jackson flashed her bare breast at the end of her set the now infamous ''wardrobe malfunction.''
New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch (83) pulls in a fourth quarter pass over Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown (24) and in front of cornerback Roderick Hood (29) during Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005.
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
McCartney wore a black, pinstriped blazer over a bright red shirt and performed a four-song set during a 15-minute show that was that was much more family friendly than last year but not completely pure.
The former Beatles star sang ''Hey Jude,'' ''Drive My Car,'' ''Live And Let Die'' and an unfiltered version of ''Get Back,'' including the lyric: ''Jo Jo left his home in Tucson, Arizona, for some California grass.''
At one point, he stripped off his jacket, but there was no nudity or anything close to it, and Fox wasn't made to regret its decision to forgo delays on its Super Bowl telecast.
About 140 million people across the United States were expected to enjoy this game from the comfort of the couch, at bars or at one of 7.5 million Super Bowl parties expected to take place. Fitting of the country's biggest unofficial holiday, Americans eat more food on Super Bowl Sunday than any day but Thanksgiving, including 14,500 tons of chips.
Advertisers paid an average of $2.4 million to show off 30-second spots that were specially produced for the game. The ads traditionally create as much or more buzz than the game itself.
Some highlights included a trash-talking cockatoo harassing guys at a bar, Burt Reynolds dancing with a bear and Gladys Knight playing rugby.
The raciest spot was a hilarious sendup of a gorgeous woman suffering a wardrobe malfunction in a Senate hearing about decency over the airwaves; one lawmaker is so overcome, he needs to take oxygen.
Overall, though, the commercials were a little less risque than in recent years. That's thanks to a squeaky clean-up in the wake of last year's halftime debacle, when Jackson's top was torn off by Justin Timberlake, setting off a frenzy of outrage from the NFL to the Federal Communications Commission to Congress.
Meanwhile, much of the hand-wringing about the NFL's decision to take a risk and bring the game to Jacksonville, a city of 1.2 million, seemed unfounded.
The city paid $11.7 million to get five cruise ships to dock on the St. Johns River to make up for a deficiency in hotel rooms. The 3,700 rooms the ships provided brought the total to more than 17,500, which is the minimum mandated by the NFL.
Hundreds of volunteers wearing red shirts crowded the streets all week, using their homespun charm to overwhelm even the most hardened critics many of whom had seen the game in more cosmopolitan cities and came here with a healthy dose of skepticism.
On Saturday night, a gigantic fireworks show lit up the warm, clear night over the St. Johns. Elsewhere, the cruise ships buzzed their bars and lounges full and the outlying cities of Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine took on the feel of Mardi Gras on the ocean.
The game, meanwhile, was tight tied after the first, second and third quarters. After falling behind by 10, Philadelphia receiver Terrell Owens caught a touchdown with 1:48 left to shave New England's lead to 24-21.
But New England salted away the game, silver confetti fell into the cool, Florida night and the NFL's newest great team started getting ready for next season.
''Each one is special,'' Belichick said when asked to compare this title to the other two. ''On a scale of 1-to-10, I'd say they're all 10.''
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