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Super Bowl 31

The Green Bay Packers, sparked by an MVP performance from kick returner Desmond Howard, ended a near 30-year Super Bowl drought by downing the New England Patriots 35-21 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Green Bay pushed the Super Bowl XXXI spread as a two-touchdown favorite, and the game played OVER its total of 49.

The Packers went 13-3 during the regular season, leading the league in both scoring and scoring defense, the first time that had been done since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The Packers then dispatched San Francisco and Carolina to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since the Lombardi era.

New England, meanwhile, went 11-5 during the regular season, entering the playoffs as the two seed in the AFC. The Patriots then did away with Pittsburgh and Jacksonville to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since serving as victims of the Shufflin' Bears' back in Super Bowl XX.

In the process New England's Bill Parcells became the second head coach, behind Don Shula, to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl.

Green Bay hit the board first, and quickly, when QB Brett Favre hit wide receiver Andre Rison for a 54-yard touchdown connection on the Packers' first possession. Three minutes later they added a field goal to go up 10-0.

But the Patriots bounced back and scored touchdowns on their next two possessions to take a 14-10 lead into the second quarter.

Green Bay then scored the next 17 points of the game, on a Favre-to-Antonio Freeman 81-yard hook-up, a Chris Jacke field goal, and a two-yard Favre touchdown lunge to lead at the half 27-14.

New England got within 27-21 on an 18-yard touchdown run by Curtis Martin with three minutes go to in the third quarter, but on the key play of the game Howard, the former Heisman Trophy winner, took the ensuing kickoff, shook a tackle and bolted for a 99-yard score that reinstalled Green Bay's two-touchdown lead. Neither team scored after that.

Defensive end Reggie White, the greatest free-agent signee in NFL history, recorded three sacks for the game. Green Bay outgained New England 323-257, held the ball for over 34 minutes and won the turnover battle 4-0.

With 244 yards on returns and that scintillating score Howard became the first special teams player to win the Super Bowl MVP award.

The Packers' victory gave the NFC 13 straight Super Bowl titles. That streak would end, though, the following season, when Green Bay lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

The loss was the second in two Super Bowl tries for New England, but five years later the Patriots began a run that resulted in three Super Bowl titles in four seasons.

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