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Unlike in Super Bowl XXXVI when the New England Patriots were a Cinderella team and a double-digit underdog, the Patriots came into this Super Bowl as a 7-point favorite over the Carolina Panthers. Super Bowl XXXVIII was played at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
New England started the season off with a 2-2 SU record coming off a disappointing 9-7 season in which they missed the playoffs the year before. But from that point on, the Patriots didn't lose another game, finishing the regular season with a 14-2 record and the top seed in the AFC. Tom Brady was sharp as the team's full-time starter with 3,620 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, and the defense was one of the best in the league against the pass. New England's defense led the NFL in passing yards per attempt, passing touchdowns against, and interceptions.
Just two years removed from a 1-15 SU season in 2001, the Carolina Panthers turned things around under head coach John Fox and went 11-5 to make the playoffs as the NFC South champions. Jake Delhomme proved to be an effective free agent signing at quarterback, though the team's real strength was in the running game. Stephen Davis led the way with a franchise-record 1,444 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. The defense, led by defensive ends Julius Pepper and Mike Rucker, did a solid job of getting to the quarterback and stopping the run.
What transpired turned out to be one of the most entertaining Super Bowls in NFL history. After setting an NFL record for the longest start without a score with 26:55 before the first score of the game, bettors that took the UNDER 37.5 had to be feeling great. But the second quarter ended with a flurry of scoring and Carolina took a 14-10 lead into halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, the offense ramped up again in the fourth quarter with both teams trading blows. Carolina tied the game at 29-29 with 1:05 left, but another game-winning drive by Tom Brady and another game-winning kick by Adam Vinatieri gave the Patriots a 32-29 win. Carolina backers cashed at +7 while the total soared OVER 37.5.