By winning their third title in four years the same year that the baseball team that defines the hopes and dreams of generations of New Englanders wins its first World Series in 86 years.
It's true, the Patriots somehow pieced together a team that, despite a string of injuries that seemed to defy all rationality and managed to finish a second consecutive campaign as Super Bowl champions with a 17-2 record (which just as easily could have/should have been 18-1)...but the 2004 Boston Red Sox completely sucked the oxygen out of the American Sports atmosphere and somehow the 2004 Patriots season just doesn't seem to measure up to the previous title years of 2001 and 2003. Part of the reason is that the previous years seemed to have their own personalities (2001 having 9/11, the coming-of-age of Tom Brady, the Snow Bowl, and the unbelievable finish of what was probably the most exciting Super Bowl ever. 2003 had the release of Lawyer Milloy, the early stumbles to Buffalo and Washington, the birth of the winning streak, winter weather in Foxboro, and yet another thrilling Super Bowl finish); 2004 just seemed like an anticlimax by comparison, like you were watching a scripted performance that was always going to end with the "W" on the Patriots' side of the field.
This is not to say that there were not intriguing challenges that made for good storytelling...the injuries (leading to the incredible "throwback" two-way play of veteran Wide Receiver/rookie Cornerback Troy Brown), the continued winning streak, the rebirth of offseason acquisition Corey Dillon, the continuing mastery of the Indianapolis Colts, and the return to Pittsburgh (where the record 21-game winning streak came to an emphatic end on Halloween (just days after the Red Sox won the World Series, karmically enough), where University of Michigan graduate Tom Brady resurrected himself from a triple-digit fever the night before to thoroughly dismantle the best regarded defense in the NFL to send the Patriots back to the Super Bowl, this time in the unfairly maligned city of Jacksonville, FL.
No nail-biting endings this time, though...despite the best efforts of Terrell Owens to come back from a leg and ankle injury that would have ended the season of anyone else (with the possible exception of Curt Schilling, of course), the Eagles All-Pro was clearly the second-best receiver on the field as Deion Branch won the Super Bowl MVP for a record day (Safetyman and Render Of Mayhem Extraordinaire Rodney Harrison would have been my pick, actually) and the Patriots, though trailing early, never really seemed in doubt of winning a game they led by 10 points late before prevailing by the final score of 24-21 which in truth flattered the Eagles more than they deserved.
Far be it that a season ending with a record of 17-2 and another Super Bowl ring should be considered hum-drum, but there was something missing from the 2004 campaign that, impressive as it was, just doesn't translate to the memorable re-telling that the Pats' previous title years do. This is a great DVD for Pats fans, indispensible even, but for the casual fan who appreciates the drama that a good NFL season can bring, I would recommend either of the previous Patriots highlights DVD's over this one.