"History is made today. And they said we couldn't do it."
The wonderful thing about DVD is that every fan of a champion can relive their team's greatest moments. A personal favorite of mine is the 2003 Fiesta Bowl national title game, where undefeated Miami lost to undefeated Ohio State in double overtime. It very well may be the most replayed DVD in my collection. Die-hard fans can watch the same victory over and over again, to the point where they can recite the commentators' every line. We watch these DVDs repeatedly because they never fail to send a shiver up our spines, and – admit it, wimp – maybe bring a tear or two.
Championship DVDs are perfect preseason fare. They're even better when our team doesn't win it all, because we can look back, and remember what was. For New England Patriots fans, the Super Bowl XXXIX Champions DVD works in these ways and more. The good old days are still going, as the team and its fans revel in the dynasty moniker. In 2004 they won their third Super Bowl in four years, something only the Dallas Cowboys have accomplished before, and the Patriots of 2005 look much like the Patriots of 2004. A fourth title in five years isn't out of the question.
While the full 2004 Super Bowl is on this DVD, the main feature is a recap of the Patriots' record-setting season, game-by-game, with only a handful of blowout games glossed over. And, coming from the thorough people at NFL Films, the entire production is emotional and captivating, even for those of us who aren't Patriots fans. DVD narrator Harry Kalas is by now a well-known staple of NFL highlight reels, and his deep timbre leads us through the remarkable 17-2 season that saw New England win 21 straight games dating to the 2003 season, a dominating NFL record during these days of relative parity. Every game was sifted through for replays, crowd reactions, post game interviews, and smart commentator dialogue. It's put together with simple, yet classy direction, with game highlights, limited arrows to point out players, and minor use of slow-action. When it comes to the playoffs and Super Bowl, the bits are longer and the emotion displayed in the chosen cuts is more apparent. The football insight later in the feature is better as well, as more plays are dissected and the play highlights become less summarized, and more analyzed. The Super Bowl recap will have Patriots fans giddy, as they get to watch the tandem of Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens come up short again.
NFL Films had a great NFL script to work with. They touch on every story of the Patriots 2004 season, and not just the obvious search for a sports dynasty or a record-setting win streak. The Colts' Payton Manning's inability to beat the Patriots, even during a touchdown-record setting year, was sad and funny at the same time, and this DVD drills him, with Kalas intoning: "The humiliation of Manning was complete." The Patriots revenge against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game for the regular season loss is another highlight that'll have New England fans smiling, if they haven't stopped smiling yet.
Viewers of this DVD are treated to a lot of hard work by the staff at NFL Films, apparent in the way the game recaps are treated not only on the field, but in the stands and with the TV commentators. "The Rams were sleeping," a TV commentator says during a fake field goal touchdown by the Patriots, and then we cut to a pair of sleeping St. Louis tykes in the stands. That's good stuff.
NFL Films does great work with our favorite and most memorable teams, but their productions can be predictable. The Patriots' streak ended on Halloween in Pittsburgh, and you know the streak will end before Kalas starts talking, because of the sudden, sad, dark music. As it has always been, NFL Films uses these classic band orchestras for its background music, and while it does serve as an instant transport to the gridiron, it's stale. Yeah, if it isn't broke, don't fix it, I get it, but would it hurt to modernize some of these highlight reels with some hip-hop? Sam Spence is so 1974.
All-in-all, this is a wonderful DVD for Patriots fans, something that stands out among many of the previous offerings for their other two Super Bowl titles. But after watching this DVD, I do have this one nagging question: How the hell did the 17-2 2004 Patriots lose an 11-point lead to the woeful Dolphins with four minutes left in the game?
This is a sharp-looking DVD, very comparable to the high definition broadcast if you were able to watch the 2004 Super Bowl in HD. Black levels are fine, the picture is sharp, and both the game and the NFL Films hour-long feature come through brightly in the fullscreen presentation. I noticed no digital artifacts of any kind.
The simple 2.0 audio is fine, if understated. The menu music actually seems louder and more full than the music and narration in the NFL Films feature. Everything does come through clear and free of distortions however, with narration, commentators, on-field action, crowd noises and music mixing well.
Bonus features for this DVD include the entire game in the NFL's world broadcast format. That's something that usually headlines many championship DVDs, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it in the bonus features. Dick Stockton and Daryl "Moose" Johnston are in the booth for a pretty exciting game, which featured a modest amount of emotional subplots and a cast of memorable athletes. Like every of the Patriots' three Super Bowl wins this decade, it came down to the final minutes, and was a field goal-margin victory.
Special features also include the halftime show, with Paul McCartney's nice performance. It was just about the music at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, a welcome reprieve from flashy dance numbers and sickly, no-talent pop whoring. Also included are media interviews with only New England Patriots, which was a little disappointing. You can still gear this DVD to the target audience – Philadelphia fans won't want to watch their team lose over and over again – but still offer opinions from the other squad. I'm sure Owens had plenty to say that would have livened up the pregame smack talking. We don't always hear the question the players are responding to, and more than one concerned Owens, I'm sure.
The same problem exists in the postgame interviews, with only Patriots featured. C'mon, how much would it delight a Patriots fan to listen to a dismayed Owens or McNabb over and over again, after losing to a superior team?
Menus and graphics are sharp and modern, and the menu allows the viewer to choose what segment of the NFL Films feature to watch. While you can skip to a quarter in the actual game, there is no menu for quarter selection.
Sports fans in general will enjoy having this Super Bowl DVD in the collection. NFL Films never fails to disappoint when it comes to team profiles, and the 2004 Patriots are a team worthy of being remembered. The fact the entire, commercial-free game itself is treated as a special feature says something about the quality of the NFL Films story. Yes, I am sick of hearing about the Patriots, but hey, it's their time and the rest of us are just hoping our team will be like them some day.
This is the type of DVD that every New England Patriots follower must have. The Patriots' third Super Bowl title in four years brought with it the dynasty label, and you just know you're going to pop this sucker back in the DVD player multiple times over the years, especially when you need to forget about an 8-8 season. For the New England faithful, this DVD is Highly Recommended. For every sports fan out there, it's easily Recommended.