Super Bowl XXXVIII saw the AFC champion New England Patriots challenge the NFC champion Carolina Panthers in a contest that many football fans rated as one of the best in Super Bowl history. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his team, which included quarterback Tom Brady, line backer Tedy Bruschi, and kicker Adam Vinatieri, planned on bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Massachusetts after posting a 14-2 record in the regular season. If successful, it would be the team's second Super Bowl title in three years. The Panthers were looking for their own piece of the action, however. Under head coach John Fox and led by quarterback Jake Delhomme, the team was already basking in the glory of having made it to the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. Now, they were making their first Super Bowl appearance, in their ninth year as a franchise, after posting an 11-5 regular season record. (Two year earlier, the Panthers had mustered a dismal 1-15 campaign). Ironically, Super Bowl XXXVIII is remembered not only for its great on-the-field action (the teams had a combined total of 868 yards and 61 points), but also for its controversial halftime show that included the famed "wardrobe malfunction" by singer Janet Jackson.
Super Bowl XXXVIII was held at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 1, 2004. Despite several early scoring opportunities for New England, neither squad was able to put any points on the board in the 1st quarter. In fact, the game was scoreless for a Super Bowl record 26:55 before the two teams combined for 24 points prior to halftime, as the Pats led the Panthers 14-10. New England drew first blood, with Deion Branch grabbing a five-yard pass from Brady and Vinatieri kicking for the extra point. Some two minutes later, Carolina tied it up on after Steve Smith took a 39-yard pass from Delhomme, followed by the extra point by kicker John Kasay. The 3rd quarter proved to be another scoreless offering. The 4th quarter, however, turned into an explosive affair, as the combatant would combine for a Super Bowl record 37 points. The Patriots took the lead following 71-yard, 8-play scoring drive on the second play of the quarter, but the Panthers soon cut their deficit to 21-16. With 6:53 remaining, Delhomme threw an 85-yard touchdown completion to Muhsin Muhammad —the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. Although their 2-point conversion attempt failed, Carolina took their first lead of the game, 22-21. (It marked the first time in Super Bowl history a team down more than 10 points during the 4th quarter came back to take the lead). New England retook the lead on their next drive, only to have Carolina tie it on their next possession, 29-29. Vinatieri sealed the deal for New England (with four seconds left) with a 41-yard field goal, and a final score of 32-29. Brady was honored as Super Bowl MVP for the second time in three years. He set a Super Bowl record for the most pass completions (32), completing 66.7 percent of his passes and accumulating 354 passing yards, three touchdowns, and 12 rushing yards. At the time, Super Bowl XXXVIII was rated the most watched game ever, with 144.4 million viewers.