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TALK OF THE TOWN

Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:

THE GAMBLE: With more than 12 minutes remaining and the Panthers trailing 21-16, Carolina coach John Fox opted for a two-point conversion. It failed and set into motion a series of decisions that led to Carolina's downfall. If the kickers had all made their extra-point conversions, New England would have been driving for a tying field goal instead of a winner.

LESSON LEARNED: This was the dull Super Bowl, or so we were told. It had no pregame buzz. You know why? We confused personality with performance. Ray Lewis wasn't sulking and Keyshawn Johnson wasn't primping, so it looked like a bore. What wasn't counted on was teams with heart. With enough faith to provide the greatest fourth quarter the Super Bowl has known.

KICKING HIMSELF: With two horrible punts and two missed field goals, it appeared New England would be doomed by special teams. Turns out, Carolina blew it at the most critical time. With 1:13 left and the score tied, kicker John Kasay booted the ball out of bounds. New England got it at the 40 and drove into range for the winning field goal.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: U2 singer Bono offered to perform in the halftime show to highlight the problem of AIDS in Africa. The NFL, saying it did not want political messages, turned him down. Instead the league handed halftime over to the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson flashing act. So who looks like a boob now?

ARE YOU AWAKE DAN HENNING?: The Panthers could not run inside, so why did they not try to get the ball outside to DeShaun Foster? He touched the ball just four times and gained 52 yards.

FIVE PERKS FOR WINNING QB

5. Replica of Joe Namath's flask.

4. Next year, you play Timberlake at halftime.

3. All the clean urine samples an athlete could need.

2. Custody of Charlie Sheen for one year.

1. Jon Gruden will try to acquire you.

FIVE REASONS NEW ENGLAND

IS NOT YET A DYNASTY

1: The Browns made the playoffs last season. The Patriots did not. You're not a dynasty when you make the postseason every other year.

2: In the 1970s, the Steelers won four Super Bowls in six seasons. That's dominant. In the '90s, the Cowboys won three in four seasons. That's impressive. The Patriots have won two out of three. That's a Meatloaf song.

3: Russ Hochstein is the starting left guard.

4: In the past five seasons, New England is 47-33 with two playoff appearances. Tampa Bay is 49-31 with four playoff appearances. One extra Super Bowl would not make Tampa Bay a dynasty and it doesn't do it for New England.

5: Kennedys still the most dominant team in New England.

FIVE OTHER GAMBLES,

FIVE MORE OUTCOMES

1: Panthers returned one kickoff for a TD this season. Still, New England goes for the pooch kick at the end of the first half. Panthers get good field position and kick a 50-yard field goal. Bust!

2: Fourth and 1 on the Carolina 38 in the second quarter, the Patriots convert. Winner!

3: Instead of backing New England up on a penalty at the 21, the Panthers decline. The Pats score three plays later. Bust!

4: Streaker dances at midfield. CBS refuses to show his assets. He's tackled and cuffed. Busted!

5: On their first two-point conversion attempt of the season, the Patriots used a direct snap to Kevin Faulk. Winner!

FINAL FIVE WORDS

Tampa Bay, your reign ends.

Up next:CAT NIPPED

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