This year’s Super Bowl matchup is set, as the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots will square off in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 in Atlanta. That’s as a result of Sunday’s conference championship games, as the Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints, while the Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Both games went into overtime, and both were won by the team on the road.
This year’s Super Bowl will mark the second time the Rams and Patriots have faced each other in NFL’s championship game. They first played each other 17 years ago, in Super Bowl XXXVI, in which the Patriots beat the Rams 20-17 for the first championship of their historic run, per NFL.com‘s box score. The game was played on February 3, 2002, 17 years to the day before this year’s big game.
Held at the Superdome in New Orleans, that Super Bowl is a particularly memorable one. It was the first to be played after the 9/11 attacks, and the game’s broadcast on Fox was subtitled “A Celebration of America.” The game had actually been postponed a week from its originally scheduled date, as the NFL had cancelled the Sunday slate of games after the attacks, and therefore pushed their playoff schedule back a week. This made it the first Super Bowl ever played in February.
The Rams, who had won the Super Bowl two years earlier, were in the midst of a dominant run with quarterback Kurt Warner, while the Patriots were in the first year of contention under young first-year starting quarterback Tom Brady. The Rams entered the game as heavy favorites, by 14 points.
But the game remained close throughout. The Rams scored first, with a field goal in the first quarter, but New England responded with an interception for a touchdown by Ty Law, followed by a Brady touchdown pass that brought the score to 14-3, at the half. In the third quarter, Adam Vinatieri made a field goal for New England to bring the score to 17-3. But the Rams soon responded with a pair of touchdowns early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17. But as time was running out in the fourth quarter, the Patriots drove down the field, for the game-winning field goal from Vinatieri.
U2 performed the game’s halftime show, while Mariah Carey sang the national anthem. And it was also the final game for the longtime announcing tandem of John Madden and Pat Summerall, as Summerall announced his retirement after the game.
Much has changed for the two teams since; the Rams, who then played in St. Louis, have since relocated to a different city, moving to Los Angeles in 2016. The Rams have cycled through several head coaches since Mike Martz, who coached that Super Bowl, finally landing on current coach Sean McVay. Bill Belichick, who coached the Patriots in 2001, remains their coach today, having won a total of five Super Bowls, and lose three others.
Tom Brady is the only remaining player from that Super Bowl who will suit up again in this year’s big game, with Adam Vinatieri the only other player from the game who remains an active NFL player. Four players from the game, all of them for the Rams – Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Orlando Pace, and Aeneas Williams – have since been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, although Brady is a virtually certain inductee once he retires.
Super Bowl LIII will be broadcast on CBS on Feb. 3.
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