FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It was without question the most important victory in the history of the New England Patriots.

On Feb. 2, 2002, the Patriots defeated the heavily favored St. Louis Rams 20-17 on a last-second 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri for the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship.

Sunday, the Patriots honored that team with a halftime ceremony at Gillette Stadium.

That team, with many of its players assembled on the field, “will always have a special place in the hearts of New England fans,” said the owner, Robert Kraft.

Former safety Lawyer Milloy led the players onto the field – again introduced as a team, as they were in that Super Bowl in New Orleans – holding the Lombardi Trophy high for everyone to see.

Malloy, with quarterback Drew Bledsoe and wide receiver Troy Brown, spoke to the fans. “We were the first to do it The Patriot Way,” said Milloy.

Bledsoe, who lost his starting job to Tom Brady that season (but was greeted with long, loud cheers), said the players were “proud to be part of the team that started the tradition of championships in New England.”

The Patriots have won three other Super Bowls and also lost twice.

And then the soft-spoken Brown said that this was the team that “originally Did Their Job,” referring to an oft-used Patriots motto. “And they made all of this possible,” said Brown, talking about the stadium.

Then Brown did something completely unexpected when he dropped a curse word while talking about that victory 15 years ago. The crowd didn’t seem to mind. They cheered even louder.

ONE PLAYER from that first Super Bowl championship team was unable to attend because he was still playing.

That would be Brady, who on Sunday became the NFL leader in wins by a quarterback with 201, including playoffs, with the 26-10 victory against the Los Angeles Rams.

He joined the reunion Saturday night but only briefly because he had to prepare for the Rams. He couldn’t believe 15 years had passed.

“I mean, it goes fast,” he said. “It’s gone really fast. The season goes fast and the years have gone faster and yeah, time’s flying.”

Wide receiver Julian Edelman was asked if it was strange seeing Brady up on the video board showing highlights of that championship team (set to U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day,” which that group played at the Super Bowl halftime).

“Quite frankly,” said Edelman. “It’s unreal.”

Edelman added, “That just shows you what separates him from other guys. You go look at all other greats. When they are at this age (39), they don’t look like him. Not even close. You can put a stamp on that one.”

THE PATRIOTS have won at least 10 games for 14 consecutive seasons, second behind the San Francisco 49ers, who won at least 10 games in 16 consecutive seasons (1983-98).

The Patriots are tied with Pittsburgh and San Francisco for the most 10-win seasons (23) since the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL. Dallas has the most with 25.

LEGARRETTE BLOUNT’S 43-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was his 13th rushing touchdown of the season, tying him for second-most in a season in team history with BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2010) and Corey Dillon (2006).

Curtis Martin holds the team record with 14 rushing touchdowns in a season, done twice (1995 and 1996).

MATTHEW SLATER, New England’s special teams ace, missed his second consecutive game with a foot injury that he incurred in the Nov. 20 victory at San Francisco. Other inactive players for the Patriots included running back D.J. Foster, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, defensive linemen Woodrow Hamilton (illness) and Darius Kilgo, and defensive backs Justin Coleman and Jordan Richards (knee).

Wide receiver Tavon Austin, one of Los Angeles’ most dangerous offensive players, was out with a chest injury and defensive end Robert Quinn was out with a concussion.


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