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Revisiting the last Patriots vs. Eagles Super Bowl, 13 years later

The Pats and Eagles had a classic Super Bowl matchup in 2005. Let’s stroll down memory lane and see where the teams and players are at today.

Super Bowl XXXIX Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Super Bowl 52 features the New England Patriots taking on the Philadelphia Eagles, which gives a chance to get nostalgic for the mid-2000s. Yes, this is a rematch of Super Bowl 39, which ended with the Patriots winning their third title in four years and solidifying their dynasty after a 24-21 victory. The Eagles haven’t been back to the big game until this year.

A lot has changed with both teams since that memorable game on Feb. 6, 2005. In fact, there are only a handful of players still in the league, while the rest have moved on to do other things with their lives. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the biggest names from this game, along with where they are today.

The game

The Patriots entered the game as seven-point favorites after finishing the regular season 14-2 and steamrolling through the playoffs, stomping the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers by a combined score of 61-30.

The Eagles went 13-3 and had a similarly dominant playoff run, dispatching the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons without much trouble. In a funny case of history repeating itself, those were the same teams the Eagles beat in the 2018 playoffs.

Perhaps the biggest story of this game was the status of Terrell Owens, who suffered a serious injury against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15. Owens got his leg awkwardly pinned when Roy Williams dragged him down on a horse-collar tackle, which led to the NFL banning the move. He suffered a fractured fibula and sprained ankle, requiring surgery in the process.

In most cases this would be a season-ending injury, but when the Eagles made the Super Bowl, Owens came back much quicker than he probably should have to play in the game. He delivered a heroic effort with nine catches for 122 yards, a performance that could’ve won him MVP had the Eagles pulled off the win.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Eagles drew first blood when Donovan McNabb hit L.J. Smith for a 6-yard touchdown. Tom Brady answered with a 4-yard strike to David Givens near the end of the half, and the teams went into the locker room tied 7-7.

In the third quarter, Bill Belichick broke out one of his favorite goal line packages of the era — linebacker Mike Vrabel checking in as an eligible receiver. He caught a touchdown pass to take the lead, but Philly tied it up again when Brian Westbrook found the end zone.

The score was 14-14 entering the final quarter. The Patriots rattled off 10 unanswered points with a Corey Dillon score and Adam Vinatieri field goal. Down two possessions with 5:40 left, the Eagles needed a quick score. They eventually got one when McNabb hit Greg Lewis for a 30-yard touchdown, but took too much time off the clock (an Andy Reid special), and failed at an onside kick attempt with 1:55 to go.

Philly’s defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out, giving McNabb one final shot to win the game. Unfortunately, the offense was backed up at its own 4-yard line with 46 seconds left and no timeouts, leaving the Eagles in pure desperation mode. Three plays later, Rodney Harrison picked off McNabb to ice the game.

Brady had a solid performance, even if it wasn’t his most memorable Super Bowl game (236 yards, two touchdowns on 23-of-33 passing). Deion Branch took MVP honors with 11 catches for 133 yards.

McNabb finished with three touchdowns and 357 yards, but also threw three interceptions and faced the brunt of criticism for this loss — including a bizarre urban myth that he vomited in the huddle during the Eagles’ final drive.

Where are the Eagles at today?

The coaches

  • Andy Reid: That Super Bowl appearance ended up being the peak of Reid’s tenure in Philly. The next year, the Eagles crashed to 6-10, before rebounding and making the playoffs four of the next five years. After the infamous “Dream Team” fell apart in 2011 and 2012, Reid got fired following a 4-12 campaign. He has since resurfaced with the Kansas City Chiefs, taking them to the playoffs in four of five years. Fittingly enough, Reid continues his trend of disappointing playoff losses in K.C.
  • Offensive coordinator Brad Childress: Chilly spent one more year as Philly’s OC before taking the head coaching job with the Minnesota Vikings. He went 39-35 in five years, including an NFC Championship appearance in 2009. They fired him in the middle of 2010. He was an assistant head coach with Reid in Kansas City, but retired this year.
  • Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson: The legendary Johnson continued serving as the Eagles’ DC until 2009, when increasing health problems forced him into retirement. He passed away later that year, and is fondly remembered today as one of the sport’s best defensive minds.
  • Other notable coaches: Reid has a long and winding coaching tree, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that most of his 2004 assistants — John Harbaugh, Sean McDermott, Pat Shurmur, Steve Spagnuolo — went on to future head coaching jobs.

Players of note

  • Donovan McNabb: 2004 marked McNabb’s peak, when he set career highs with touchdown passes (31) and QB Rating (104.7) while making his fourth straight Pro Bowl. Injuries and locker room drama marred the second half of his career, and in 2010 Philadelphia traded him to Washington. After a forgettable run there, he was traded once again, this time to the Vikings. McNabb started just six games before getting benched for Christian Ponder and released a few weeks later. He officially retired after spending 2012 out of the league. McNabb holds nearly all Eagles franchise records as a quarterback.
  • Terrell Owens: Despite his great Super Bowl performance, TO’s relationship with the Eagles went south in a hurry. A contract dispute turned into a ridiculous circus that dominated the headlines all offseason. He ultimately reported to training camp instead of holding out, but the damage was done — the Eagles suspended him four games in 2005 and released him the following offseason. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys and had several more productive years before running out of chances in 2011. TO is undoubtedly a Hall of Fame talent, but his tumultuous off-field personality led to the voters snubbing him two straight years. Will the third time be the charm in 2018? We’ll have to wait and see.
  • Brian Westbrook: An undersized but versatile running back, Westbrook wound up being a perfect fit in Reid’s offense. His best year came in 2007, where he had 2,104 yards from scrimmage and made the All-Pro first team. Injuries cut his career short, but he’s remembered as one of the better pass-catching backs of his era, with 10,275 scrimmage yards and 71 touchdowns in nine seasons.
  • Brian Dawkins: The hard-hitting safety was smack in the middle of his prime in 2004, getting named to his third of four career All-Pro teams. He was probably the best player on an Eagles defense that allowed the second-fewest points in the league that year. Dawkins stayed with the Eagles until 2008 and spent his final years with the Denver Broncos. This is his second year on the Hall of Fame ballot, and he has a good shot of getting in sooner rather than later.
  • Jeremiah Trotter: 2004 was a nice little homecoming for Trotter, who was drafted by the Eagles in 1998 and spent his first four years there. He signed a free agent contract with Washington in 2002, but that didn’t go so well and he was released after just two years. The Eagles brought him back in the middle of 2004 to stabilize the run defense, and he ended up making the Pro Bowl for a third time. Trotter remains a fan favorite to this day and was inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame in 2016.
  • Todd Pinkston: I only put him here because at one point he had the greatest Pro Football Reference page of all time.

Where are the Patriots at today?

The coaches

  • Bill Belichick: He’s still here, and still the best head coach in football after all these years. Not even the asinine Deflategate scandal could slow down the Patriots dynasty, and now they’re looking for their second straight title and third in four years. (sound familiar?)
  • Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis: Well, not every Belichick disciple was a winner. After this game, Weis took a head-coaching job with Notre Dame, where he was paid handsomely to restore the Fighting Irish to their glory days. That... didn’t really happen. Despite making a BCS bowl his first two years, Weis’ tenure hit diminishing returns and he got fired after going 35-27 in five years. He’s been out of coaching ever since a disastrous stint with the Kansas Jayhawks, where he went just 6-22 before getting canned in 2014.
  • Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel: Like Weis, Crennel was an in-demand head coaching candidate that year, joining the Cleveland Browns after the Super Bowl. He went 24-40 in four years in Cleveland, though he did deliver the franchise’s best record since its revival at 10-6 in 2007. After a brief stint with the Chiefs, Crennel joined the Houston Texans as in 2014, where he remains to this day.
  • Other notable assistants: Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia were on staff in 2004, because apparently time is a flat circle in New England. In 2005, Eric Mangini got promoted from defensive backs coach to replace Crennel as DC, before jumping to the New York Jets job one year later.

Players of note

  • Tom Brady: Still going strong at age 40. I think we all know his life story at this point.
  • Corey Dillon: After spending his first seven years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Dillon was traded to the Patriots and had his best season at 30 years old in 2004, leading the league with 1,635 rushing yards. He was a difference-maker in the Super Bowl with a touchdown and 75 yards. That was pretty much the last hurrah for Dillon, who got released two years later and retired in 2007. He finished with 11,241 yards and four Pro Bowls in ten years.
  • Deion Branch: The Super Bowl MVP went on to set career highs the next year in catches (78) and yards (998). The Seattle Seahawks were impressed enough to trade a first-round pick for Branch in 2006, but he never quite reached the same heights again. Branch eventually hung up the cleats after a Patriots reunion in 2011 and 2012.
  • Benjamin Watson: The Patriots’ first-round pick in 2004, Watson played just one game his rookie year while dealing with injuries. He went on to be a quality tight end weapon for Brady before heading to free agency in 2010, where he had runs with the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, and Baltimore Ravens. Watson is one of the few players from this game still active today.
  • Tedy Bruschi: One of the Pats’ most beloved leaders at the time, Bruschi made his first and only Pro Bowl in 2004. He suffered a stroke shortly after this Super Bowl, but came back to play nine games the next year and won Comeback Player of the Year in 2005. Bruschi retired after the 2008 season and was voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013.
  • Richard Seymour: A dominant defensive linemen, Seymour made the All-Pro first team three straight years between 2003-05. The Patriots traded him to the Oakland Raiders in 2009, where he continued to offer solid production for four more years. Seymour retired with 57.5 sacks in 12 years and made the Hall of Fame semifinal ballot for the first time this year.
  • Mike Vrabel: Another steady contributor on a loaded Patriots defense, Vrabel ended up with 57 sacks and 11 interceptions in 14 seasons. And of course, as mentioned above, Vrabel was a mainstay on goal-line offenses, catching 10 touchdown passes in his career. Vrabel entered the coaching ranks shortly after retiring in 2011, spending three years at Ohio State before joining the Texans as linebacker coach in 2014. Vrabel was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017 and just scored his first head-coaching gig with the Tennessee Titans.
  • Vince Wilfork: Wilfork was just a rookie in 2004, but he started the game and was already showing flashes of potential, which culminated in five Pro Bowl appearances. He even had hair during this time!
  • Rodney Harrison: Harrison was a controversial figure at the time, being voted “dirtiest player” multiple times in an SI poll of fellow NFL players. So naturally, he joined the Patriots in 2003 after a long run with the San Diego Chargers. Harrison was a major playmaker in the Patriots’ secondary, picking off McNabb twice in this Super Bowl victory. He retired in 2009 and has been working at NBC ever since.
  • Adam Vinatieri: Currently the oldest player in the NFL, Vinatieri is still one of the league’s best kickers at age 45. In a strange twist of fate, he’s now spent more seasons with the Indianapolis Colts (12) than the Patriots (10), despite being synonymous with New England’s first run of titles in the 2000s. Vinatieri is a certain Hall of Famer whenever he decides to call it quits.

The worst Super Bowl ever was played in the 1990s