Another trip to the New Orleans Superdome, another beating at the hands of a heavily favored NFC foe, right?
Not so fast.
The third time proved to be quite the charm for the resilient Patriots, who pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in NFL history by beating - and we mean physically beating - the Rams, 20-17, on Adam Vinatieri's last-second 48-yard field goal to claim Super Bowl XXXVI.
The Rams, dubbed "The Greatest Show on Turf," were out of sorts from the get-go as the smashmouth Patriots delivered hit after devastating hit on St. Louis's talented skill players.
"It was force vs. finesse, and something had to give," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "It wasn't too complicated. We just concentrated on hitting them hard."
The secondary was particularly rough on St. Louis's trio of fleet-footed flankers as safeties Lawyer Milloy and Tebucky Jones constantly jolted the receivers with bone-jarring hits, leaving them ducking for the sidelines for most of the evening.
After falling behind, 3-0, the Patriots got on the scoreboard when Ty Law stepped in front of a Kurt Warner pass intended for Isaac Bruce and returned it untouched 47 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots increased their lead to 14-3 before the half when game MVP Tom Brady lofted an 8-yard pass to David Patten in the corner of the end zone.
The Rams appeared to be left for dead when New England increased its lead to 17-3 after three. Instead, the St. Louis offense caught fire and rallied to tie the game on Kurt Warner's 2-yard run and Warner's 26-yard pass to Ricky Proehl with 1:30 left.
While some - most notably analyst John Madden - thought the Patriots should play for overtime, the coaching staff would have none of it.
"I went to Bill [Belichick], and we decided to go for it and win it in regulation," said then offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. "We didn't want to get into overtime with St. Louis. So we opened up the offense."
Brady calmly and coolly led the Patriots on an eight-play, 53-yard drive, setting the stage for Vinatieri.
"I didn't say anything to Adam before the kick," said special teams coach Brad Seely. "I didn't have to. I don't think he has ever missed a kick in a dome."
The victory by Belichick's squad left an impression on many - including that of his St. Louis counterpart.
"Let me say this about the Patriots: They are the most well-coached football team I have come up against since I've been coaching in this league," Mike Martz said six weeks after the game.