Winners and losers from a Super Bowl week in North Florida:
Winner: The Machine
The New England Patriots have won three of four Super Bowls, nine consecutive postseason games and 32 of their last 34 games overall. What more can you say? A team that doesn't just say but lives all the great clichés in sports – "no I in team," "one game at a time," etc. – just keeps on winning.
The way this team carries itself, the way it takes care of business and does all the little things that distinguish good from great, is uncanny. The Patriots may have been doubted in the playoffs, especially before facing Indianapolis in the divisional playoffs, but they have received no lack of respect since.
Now they'll never have to again. The Machine is the first Dynasty of the 21st Century.
Winner: Deion Branch
Maybe nothing proves what the Patriots are about more than their Super Bowl MVP. Branch was about storyline No. 23 coming into the game, which is funny considering his superstar effort last year. But he doesn't run his mouth like a lot of players and thus he gets overlooked.
His Super Bowl record-tying 11 catches for 133 yards – including a ridiculous fourth-quarter grab that set up the field goal that would prove the difference – showed what kind of a star he is.
Losers: Eagles coaches (Part I)
Andy Reid will be ripped to shreds on Philadelphia talk radio this week (and years to come) for two bizarre decisions.
No. 1: Trailing by two scores late in the fourth quarter, why did the Eagles take their sweet time getting to the line of scrimmage? It was surreal watching Donovan McNabb let precious seconds (and the Eagles' season) die as he slowly broke out of the huddle and long-counted under center.
The result was a baffling drive that played directly into the Patriots' hands. When Philly finally scored to make it a three-point game, they were forced into an onside kick that shifted field position and effectively ended any hope of winning.
They'll be talking about this forever in Philadelphia. And rightfully so.
Winner: Terrell Owens
This unbelievable effort from the injured Eagles receiver should go down in the pantheon of heroic sports performances, even if it occurred in a losing cause.
Seven weeks after breaking his leg and severely spraining his ankle, Owens may not have had the deep threat going for him, but he had everything else. He caught nine balls for 122 yards and gave Philly a huge lift emotionally.
Moreover, as he pointed out afterwards, much of the criticism that painted him "selfish" for trying to come back reeked of a double standard. No one said the same of Curt Schilling in the World Series.
Owens should be similarly celebrated.
Losers: Eagles coaches (Part II)
With the Patriots forced to punt with 55 seconds left, why did the Eagles decide to not send anyone deep to field it? Patriots punter Josh Miller was able to slowly and safely pooch-kick the ball, which the Patriots easily downed inside the 5-yard line. Philly would have had to march 60 yards just to try an impossibly long field goal to tie the game.
Even if you instructed the punt returner to not field the ball, his decoy would have forced Miller to make a play and perhaps kick it through the end zone. Reid's way stacked the odds against the Eagles coming back for a tie or victory.
They'll be talking about this forever in Philadelphia, too.
There were bigger names in Sunday's game, but no better football players.
Loser: Freddie Mitchell
Talk. Talk. Talk.
And one reception.
His call-out of Rodney Harrison (seven tackles, two interceptions and a tip that set up another) will go down as the most ill-fated in Super Bowl history.
Winners: Cleveland Browns and Notre Dame
Pats defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is headed to Cleveland to become the Browns' new head coach. Notre Dame gets offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as its full-time coach this week.
Is there any doubt these football institutions each hired brilliant coaches who should succeed?
Loser: The Florida Times-Union
Media around the country characterized the city of Jacksonville as a backwater, bucktoothed and not ready for prime time.
The area's sole daily newspaper repeatedly (and repeatedly) made these pathetic attempts to fight back, and in the process made the city of Jacksonville appear backwater, bucktoothed and not ready for prime time.
Over/under lines were set in the media center over how many rebuttal columns trying to defend the city or suck up to the readers would appear each day. One day, there were five separate columns. The paper had one writer scanning hundreds of newspapers around the country looking for slights. Every section of the paper had unimaginative writers try to rip back at the critics. It was high comedy.
Some advice: When people call you a small-time city, don't act like a small-time city. When people rip the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times doesn't take it personally.
Winners: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
The legend continues. Brady now has almost as many Super Bowls as his boyhood hero, Joe Montana. Belichick, at 10-1, now has a better postseason record than Vince Lombardi.
And neither one looks done.