As the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers prepare to do battle in Super Bowl XLVII, one of the stars of Super Bowl XXVI isn't about to let go of his belief that the St. Louis Rams were cheated out of a Super Bowl win by the New England Patriots the last time the NFL's biggest game was played in the Big Easy.
It's hard to blame Marshall Faulk either, because he has a point.
According to Tom Curran of ComCast Sports Net, the Hall of Fame running back is over losing the game itself, but Faulk told Curran he's never going to shake the feeling that that loss wasn't on the up-and-up.
"Am I over the loss? Yeah, I'm over the loss. But I'll never be over being cheated out of the Super Bowl. That's a different story. I can understand losing a Super Bowl, that's fine . . . But how things happened and what took place. Obviously, the commissioner gets to handle things how he wants to handle them but if they wanted us to shut up about what happened, show us the tapes. Don't burn 'em."
The tapes that Faulk refers to, of course, are the infamous "Spygate" videos of opposing teams' signals from 2006 and 2007. However, both the NFL and the Patriots have always denied that New England filmed the Rams' final walkthrough before the Super Bowl.
That flies in the face of a Boston Herald report from 2008 (via ESPN) that claims that after New England's final walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI, a member of the Patriots' staff stayed behind and secretly taped the Rams.
According to the report, an unnamed source close to the team during the 2001 season said that following the Patriots' walk-through at the Louisiana Superdome, a member of the team's video staff stayed behind and taped the Rams' walk-through—a non-contact, no-pads practice at reduced speed in which a team goes through its plays.
The cameraman was not asked to identify himself or produce a press pass and later rode the media shuttle back to the Patriots' hotel, the source told the Herald. It is not known what became of the tape, or whether the cameraman made the tape on his own initiative or at someone else's instruction, according to the report.
It's worth noting that The Herald later retracted that report and issued an apology to the Patriots, stating that "We now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walkthrough ever existed,"
The thing is though, we'll never know for sure if the taping actually took place, partly due to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's baffling decision to destroy all the evidence that he had on the Patriots.
With that said, however, obviously at least one person thinks that it did, and it's not exactly a huge leap to assume that given all the evidence that existed of the Patriots' other taping practices.
If you believe that the Patriots did indeed tape that walkthrough, then it's hard not to lend validity to Faulk's beef.
Supporters of the Patriots will no doubt claim that even if they did tape the walkthrough the strategic advantage gained was minimal, that you're not going to get a significant edge by viewing one half-speed practice that wasn't even conducted in pads.
Unless, of course, the Rams unveiled new plays and formations in that practice that they intended to use in the game, which is exactly what Faulk claimed they did.
"I understand Bill (Belichick) is a great coach," said Faulk. "But No. 13 (Kurt Warner) will tell you. Mike Martz will tell you. We had some plays in the red zone that we hadn't ran. I think we got to fourth down—we ran three plays that we hadn't ran, that Mike drew up for that game—Bill's a helluva coach . . . we hadn't ran them the whole year (and the Patriots were ready for them)."
Faulk said the only time those plays were practiced were at the walkthrough.
"I know, in that game, in the red zone, the plays we ran, most of them we hadn't ran most of those plays that year," Faulk noted. "And a couple of plays on third down that we walked through also . . . Any time that I was offset, I was always stationary. And we had creating motioning in the backfield at the same depth on the other side of the field. And they created a check for it. It's just little things like that. It's either the best coaching in the world when you come up with situations that you had never seen before. Or you'd seen it and knew what to do."
At this point fans of the Pats will all but surely keep right on backpedaling, falling back on the "That wasn't why New England won the game" defense.
They'll state that a physical New England defense overpowered "The Greatest Show on Turf", beating up the St. Louis receivers at every opportunity and stopping quarterback Kurt Warner and the Rams offense from getting into a rhythm.
Did the New England Patriots "Cheat" in Super Bowl XXXVI?
In this respect they are at least partially right. Belichick's defensive gameplan was brilliant, and it was the key to New England's upset win.
However, if any part of that gameplan, no matter how slight, was gleaned from viewing an illegally obtained videotape that gave the Patriots an edge in what ended up being a three-point game, then New England cheated—plain and simple.
Thanks to Goodell's cover-up we may never know for sure, but it's hard to find fault with Marshall Faulk wondering if he got the shaft.
He more than likely did, and that also makes it hard to look at the New England "dynasty" as anything but tainted.