As to be expected, Super Bowl XXXVI was a contest fraught with excitement. Yet, it was also an event tinged with sadness and even angst, as heightened security measures following the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks on the United States. Super Bowl Sunday starred the NFC champion St. Louis Rams and their 14-2 regular season record, versus the 11-5 AFC champion New England Patriots. Head coach Mike Martz and his Rams came into the big game with one of the greatest offenses in recent memory. Nicknamed the "Greatest Show on Turf," the St. Louis offense — quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, tight end Ernie Conwell, and wide receivers Isaac Bruce, Az-Zahir Hakim, Torry Holt, and Ricky Proehl — combined to give the team its third consecutive record-breaking season in a number of categories. St. Louis led the NFL in in total offense (6,930 yards), completions (379), passing yards (4,903), yards per pass attempt (8.90), passing touchdowns (37), rushing touchdowns (20) and yards per rush attempt (4.87). The Pats, not yet the juggernaut squad they would become in later years, pinned their hopes on second-year QB Tom Brady and second-year head coach, Bill Belichick.
Super Bowl XXXVI was held on February 3, 2002, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. The
February date marked the first time in the game's history that the contest was held so late, the result of the NFL's postponement of a week of regular season games following the September 11 attacks. That postponement moved the league's playoff schedule back, causing a cancellation of the original date of January 27. The game marked the Rams' third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history and the second in three seasons. Coupled with their stellar regular season, the conclusion seemed to be a foregone conclusion. New England, however, had other plans, and the game turned into a seesaw event as St. Louis took a small 3-0 lead in the 1st quarter, only to have New England grab a 14-3 lead by the half. In the 3rd quarter, Adam Vinateri kicked a 37-yard field goal to increase New England's lead to 17–3 (three St. Louis turnovers). The Rams, however, showed why they were a record-setting squad and eventually tied the game at 17-17 with 1:30 left on the clock. Vinatieri won the game for New England with a 48-yard field goal attempt — the first time in Super Bowl history that a game was won by a score on the final play. Brady, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, was named MVP. Although it was New England's first Super Bowl victory, the win set the stage for the team to become regular contenders — and frequent Lombardi Trophy recipients — during the early 2000s.