In one of the greatest Super Bowl shockers of all time, in 2002, the New England Patriots topped the St. Louis Rams 20-17. As defending champions, the Rams entered the game as the heavy favorite to win. Dubbed “The Greatest Show on Turf,” their electrifying offense had been unstoppable in the regular season and throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Patriots had limped into the Super Bowl with two narrow playoff wins. Oddsmakers in Las Vegas listed New England as 14-point underdogs heading into the game. In fact, in the Super Bowl’s 41-year history, only two other contests were predicted to be as lopsided as the Rams-Patriots match up.

One memorable moment of the Patriots’ upset win occurred before kickoff when the teams took the field. As the pre-game excitement built into a fever pitch, the starters of the St. Louis Rams were introduced individually. One by one the Rams’ players strutted onto the field for a moment of personal glory—each player’s face prominently displayed on the stadium’s jumbo screens. Minutes later, in an unprecedented statement of togetherness, the Patriots broke with years of NFL tradition by choosing to enter the field as a team. The PA announcer simply introduced them as “The New England Patriots,” and the entire team, both starters and backups, raced onto the field as one.
As the architect of the Patriots 2002 Super Bowl team, head coach Bill Belichick had ingrained the value of teamwork into his squad. The Patriots may not have had an equal level of talent as the all-star performers on the Rams, but their effectiveness as a team carried them to the title. In a recent column for, Chris Musselwhite comments on the qualities of winning teams, each of which was on display in the 2002 New England Patriots.
An effective team understands the big picture.
As Musselwhite writes, “In an effective team, each team member understands the context of the team’s work to the greatest degree possible. That includes understanding the relevance of his or her job and how it impacts the effectiveness of others and the overall team effort.” As demonstrated by their Super Bowl entrance, the Patriots dignified each player for his contributions to the team’s overall performance. Substitutes and role players were equally given credit for the team’s victories. The kicker was given just as much respect as the quarterback. Perhaps it’s fitting that the kicker (Adam Vinatieri) would make a last second field goal to earn the Patriots their Super Bowl victory over the Rams.
An effective team has common goals.
The Patriots were bonded by a shared pursuit of football’s ultimate prize—the Lombardi Trophy, given to the NFL champions. Players did not get caught up trying to accumulate personal statistics or achieve individual honors. They were of one mind in their goal of being the top team in the league.
An effective team works collaboratively, as a unit.
As Musselwhite observes, “In an effective team you’ll notice a penchant for collaboration and a keen awareness of interdependency.” His words are truly spoken for a football team. For the quarterback to complete a pass, the wide receiver has to run the correct route, and the linemen have to block the defenders. Each play is a microcosm of teamwork, and the Patriots understood the importance of carrying out their assignments in a spirit of unity.



“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”
~ Paul Boese

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
~ Alexander Pope

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
~ Lewis B. Smedes

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
~ Mark Twain

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