By Aaron Schatz
Special to Page 2

Ten random nuggets from the Super Bowl:

1. The Eagles turned the ball over twice in the first quarter, not counting the interception cancelled by a penalty and the fumble overruled by replay review. That's TWICE the number of first-quarter turnovers as the Eagles had the entire rest of the season. Philadelphia's only previous first-quarter turnover the entire season was a lost Donovan McNabb fumble on a sack by Green Bay.

But first-quarter takeaways are nothing new for the Patriots. They led the NFL with 11 first-quarter takeaways during the regular season and then added another two against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship.

2. During the regular season, the Eagles averaged over 7.3 yards per offensive play during the first quarter (not counting penalties). No other offense -- including Indianapolis -- averaged over seven yards per play during the first quarter. In Super Bowl XXXIX, the Eagles averaged less 2.8 yards per offensive play during the first quarter.

3. Corey Dillon had 31 yards receiving -- a season high. Week 4 against Buffalo was the only regular-season game where Dillon had three receptions. Dillon had three receptions twice in the postseason.

4. During the regular season, the Patriots did not allow a touchdown reception by a running back, and they did not intercept a pass intended for a running back. They did both in Super Bowl XXXIX.

5. Deion Branch is the fourth wide receiver to be named MVP of the Super Bowl, and the first in 16 years. The others were: Lynn Swann, Super Bowl X (4 catches, 161 yards); Fred Biletnikoff, Super Bowl XI (4 catches, 79 yards); and Jerry Rice, Super Bowl XXIII (11 catches, 215 yards). Branch is also the first Super Bowl MVP to have a pass bounce off his butt -- it was the only pass thrown to him that he didn't catch.

6. Branch's MVP award was a surprise, but his big day was not. All season long, Philadelphia gave up big days to No. 1 receivers. They gave up a season-high 135 yards to Roy Williams, a season-high 80 yards to Travis Taylor, 116 yards to David Terrell, and 100 yards to Laveranues Coles.

7. The first-quarter red zone sack where Donovan McNabb lost 16 yards was the fifth-biggest sack of the season. The biggest was a 23-yard sack of Trent Green by Denver in Week 1. There were three 17-yard sacks, including one of Michael Vick by the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, one other 16-yard sack, and four 15-yard sacks. Three of these 10 sacks of 15 yards or more were by the Patriots, including the only two that took place while the offense was in field-goal range. (By the way, five of these 10 sacks of 15 yards or more were on quarterbacks named "McCown.")

8. During the first 15 weeks of the season, when Terrell Owens was healthy, the Eagles threw to Owens 17 times in the red zone. They threw to other wide receivers in the red zone a grand total of one time: an incomplete pass to Freddie Mitchell on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line against Green Bay. During the Super Bowl, Philadelphia threw five red-zone passes: three to running back Brian Westbrook, two to tight end L.J. Smith, and zero to wide receivers.

9. This was the first game of the season where New England allowed four different opposing players to gain at least 50 yards receiving. The only other game where New England allowed four different opposing players to gain at least 40 yards receiving was the 27-24 win over Indianapolis in the first game. Kansas City and St. Louis were the only other two teams this season to have three receivers with at least 50 yards receiving against the Patriots.

10. The combined regular-season record of the New England opponents was 40-8. Based on regular-season records of opponents, that makes this the the most difficult Super Bowl title in NFL history. The previous best combined regular-season record of opponents on the way to a Super Bowl title was the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs, at 34-7-1. Seven teams have won the Super Bowl facing opposing teams that averaged better than a .750 winning percentage. They are:

2004 New England Patriots, .833
1969 Kansas City Chiefs, .821
1967 Green Bay Packers, .810
1990 New York Giants, .792
1976 Oakland Raiders, .774
2001 New England Patriots, .771
1972 Miami Dolphins, .762

Aaron Schatz is editor-in-chief of FootballOutsiders.com.




Aaron
Schatz
SUPER BOWL NUGGETS