Before it became stylish for the rest of the fans of teams in the NFL to hate the Patriots, the St. Louis Rams fans hated the Patriots. These feelings have bubbled to the surface in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today as the Rams face off with the Patriots for the second time since Super Bowl XXXVI. As we like to do, let’s take a trip in the way back machine.
The Rams came into Super Bowl XXXVI as huge favorites. They were favored by the highest margin in Super Bowl history. They were facing off with the New England Patriots, who needed the support of the “Tuck Rule” and a long field goal in the snow to beat the Raiders in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs. The Patriots were playing with their backup quarterback, some guy named Tom Brady who did not even start in college at Michigan.
So, the Patriots were the huge underdogs and the Rams came into the game with the “Greatest Show on Earth”. (As an aside, I will contend to this day that the Rams offense circa 1999-2001 was known as the “Greatest Show on Earth” until an opposing player named them the “Greatest Show on Turf” to indicate that they couldn’t run their offense on grass. But I digress.) The game was in the Louisiana Superdome where the Rams played once a year against the New Orleans Saints and you guessed it, it had turf. So, the Rams had a lot going for them coming into the game.
The underdog Patriots started off the game in a very unorthodox fashion, they asked their starting lineup to not be announced as usual and instead they would be announced as a team and so the whole team ran out of the tunnel at the same time.
It was a gesture that football is a team game and no one are stars on their team, etc, etc. But, the unintended (or intended) consequence of this is since the Patriots were announced first, the when the Rams had their starting offensive unit announced and run onto the field one by one, they just looked foolish compared to the unselfish Patriots.
Whether or not you believe that the Patriots taped the Rams walkthrough or they taped the Rams signals from their regular season matchup that year, (The latter being more possible than the former.) the Patriots had a game plan to slow and frustrate the high-powered Rams offense. Another strategy of the Patriots was to challenge and hold the Rams receivers as they came off the line and downfield, challenging the referees to call penalties.
The Patriots were basing their strategy on the fact that the referees call fewer penalties in the Super Bowl than any other game. And the Patriots were right. Their defense clutched, grabbed and held the Rams offense that was based on precise timing. (As another aside, the NFL changed the rules in regard to contact with wide receivers after that year. It was almost as if they were acknowledging that what the Patriots did was against the spirit of the rules. But, I digress again) It did not help that the Rams stubborn head coach, Mike Martz refused to deviate from his game plan and run Marshall Faulk at the Patriots. Consequently, the Rams offense was held down throughout most of the game, but was able to break out at the end of the game to tie the game at 17.
Everyone knows what happened next as Tom Brady did what he did a thousand times after that night and drove the Patriots down the field against Lovie Smith’s tired prevent defense. Adam Vinatieri hit the game-winning field goal as time expired and the NFL’s newest “dynasty” was born.
Rams fans were frustrated, disgruntled and most of all began the hate the new darling franchise, the New England Patriots. Rams fans became even angrier as the two squads went in different directions – the Rams went downhill from there and the Patriots only went up. You do not have to go far on the internet to find websites devoted the Patriots potential wrong-doings in the game.
The first and foremost of these sites was http://stlouisrams.net (now since defunct), which had extensive videos detailing each late hit on quarterback Kurt Warner – including a vicious head slap on Warner’s interception returned for a touchdown by Ty Law, each instance of holding – including an egregious one on Willy McGinest right in front of an official that was not called. There were many more instances that
Look to the comment section of the Post-Dispatch article, or even this blog post before the Patriots most recent Super Bowl as evidence that Rams fans are still upset by the loss.
Should Rams fans move on from one game almost 8 years ago? Absolutely. Is it all just sour grapes by Rams fans? Probably, as nothing is going to change the outcome of the game at this point. But, does this history make it even more important to Rams fans for the up and coming St. Louis Rams to beat the up and down New England Patriots at Foxborough on Sunday? Absolutely, totally and completely.