Playoffs Home Playoffs History NFL Scoreboard NFL Home Gallery Bracket
Only consistent theme is disbelief
By Greg Garber

NEW ORLEANS -- The red, white and blue confetti was fluttering to the field at the Superdome, and the Vince Lombardi Trophy was already in the hands of the New England Patriots. Separated only by a wall, a few feet -- and a 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri as the clock ran out -- the St. Louis Rams sat in their locker room chairs, stunned.

Ten minutes after the second-largest upset in Super Bowl history -- the Rams were favored by a gaudy 14 points, but lost 20-17 -- the silence of the Rams was deafening. It was the sound of a fallen dynasty.

The first reporter in the door looked around for an interview subject, but was met by grim stares of disbelief. Defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson, still in every piece of his No. 97 uniform, sat back in his chair and looked straight ahead. Kurt Warner, a towel wrapped around his waist, walked toward the shower, red-faced and covered with red welts. The thumb on his throwing hand was swollen. He caught the reporter's eye, closed his eyes and grimaced. There were a few players with tears in their eyes.

Strong safety Adam Archuleta broke the silence.

"What can you say?" the rookie said. "We expected to win this game Everybody expected us to win this game. The way we played all season, we didn't expect to lose."

Yo Murphy, the Rams' kickoff returner, was puzzled, too.

"I was just talking to Az(-Zahir Hakim) and I said, 'I didn't script this.' I don't think we took them lightly. We just weren't in sync. We were worried the whole game. You just can't have three turnovers and expect to win the game. They got up on us, and we got tight, and when you're tight you don't play your game."

All season long, the Rams turned the ball over; they lost 22 fumbles, and quarterback Kurt Warner threw 22 interceptions. The reason St. Louis had won 16 of 18 previous games was an offense that rolled up more than 31 points per game. That was why Warner was the league's MVP.

In this game, however, the Patriots' defense forced three turnovers.

The first was a Ty Law interception that was returned 47 yards for a touchdown. The second, a forced fumble by Antwan Harris and a recovery by Terrell Buckley, was later cashed in for another touchdown -- an eight-yard touchdown pass from MVP Tom Brady to David Patten. The third, an interception by Otis Smith, eventually resulted in a field goal by Vinatieri.

Three turnovers, amounting to all 17 of the Patriots' points before Vinatieri's final kick.

Nobody understood the correlation better than Warner.

"It's going to be tough to handle for awhile, but we'll be back," Warner said, not sounding at all convincing.

"I felt fine," he said, responding to a question about his thumb. "Good enough to win the football game. I made some mistakes and they cost us.

"That's hard to swallow."

How long will it take to get over this?

"Probably about six months," Warner said. "Our defense played well enough to be world champions. And that's what hurts the most -- that I let some of the guys down."

"We are capable of coming back from huge deficits," running back Marshall Faulk said of the 17-3 deficit the Rams experienced late in the third quarter. "Before all of that we put ourselves in a hole with turnovers. You can't do that."

The most popular question in the Rams' locker room was one of mindset. Did St. Louis, as they say, take the Patriots lightly? If they did, not one really admitted it.

"Oh, please," Martz said. "That's insulting to me. This is the Super Bowl. How can you overlook somebody in the Super Bowl? I don't understand that question."

Faulk was so incensed he responded with some brutal sarcasm.

"In the Super Bowl, we really weren't thinking about the Patriots," Faulk said. "We were thinking about another team that we are going to play next week."

Really? OK, how about this: Is it possible that maybe, just maybe the Rams were a teeny, weeny bit too confident going into this game?

"No," said wide receiver Ricky Proehl. "We knew coming into the game they were a good football team. Everyone else was writing them off, but we weren't."

Left tackle Orlando Pace had a different spin. He postulated that because the Patriots were 14-point underdogs, they actually were compelled to play harder than the Rams.

"I think they did," Pace said. "The media had everybody picking us and things like that, and that's worn those guys out. We knew what type of team they were. We knew they'd come out and play hard and knew they were capable of winning."

It would have been ninth straight victory for the Rams. Instead, it was the ninth straight for the Patriots. And so, instead of winning their second Super Bowl in three seasons, the Rams have one championship ring to show for their efforts. Instead of the Dallas Cowboys or Denver Broncos, are they really the 2000 Baltimore Ravens or 1996 Green Bay Packers?

"There is a good thing about this," Faulk said. "We're going to reload and expect to be right back here where we are next year. You sulk and grieve over it, but you bounce back. If there is a good thing about this, I've been on the other side.

"Sometimes to experience this lets you know you just don't want be be here ever."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for