GLENDALE, AZ – It would’ve been a game for the ages. For all intents and purposes, it should have been. And for 59:40 out of 60 minutes, it was.
But then, with only 20 seconds left in the game, arguably the worst play call in Super Bowl history – that’s saying a lot, but it’s easy to back up – turned what should have been one of the greatest Super Bowls ever into one of the most preposterous and frustrating ones of all.
It was a classic battle: the vaunted New England Patriots, whose head coach Bill Bellichick and quarterback Tom Brady had already appeared in five Super Bowls together – three wins and two losses – versus a Seattle Seahawks team that looked like a dynasty in the making – after dismantling the high octane Denver Broncos in last year’s big dance, and outlasting another offensive juggernaut, the Green Bay Packers, by a sheer will to win, to emerge as the NFC champions and head to their second straight Super Bowl.
Seattle’s ferocious defense, unstoppable running back Marshawn Lynch, and prolific passing/rushing quarterback Russell Wilson made them an easy pick to get to the final game again. On the other side, in the AFC, were the New England Patriots, after a shellacking by the Kansas City Chiefs on national television early in the season on Monday Night Football 41-14, the pundits wrote Brady’s epitaph. Courageously, he rose to the occasion like a true champ and proved them wrong. The Pats came back to win the conference, as the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos faded – largely due to their own aging legend, quarterback Peyton Manning, who suffered a quad injury that hobbled him during the home stretch.
Then, after dismantling the Indianapolis Colts 45-7. the Patriots endured a major distraction – Deflategate – for the past two weeks: the allegation being that they deflated their footballs below NFL standards, thereby “cheating” their way to a Super Bowl berth. Well, if nothing else, they proved the footballs’ PSI count to be a moot point, as they more than held their own against the league’s top defense in Super Bowl 49 – with Brady throwing for four touchdowns. If that alone would have accounted for the Patriots win, what a great story it would have been!
Seattle, in turn, came back from an early New England lead to claim a 24-14 lead in the third quarter. After picking off Brady twice, they looked as if they’d coast to their second consecutive Super Bowl win, cementing themselves a bona fide dynasty in the making.
Admirably, the Patriots came back again – with two consecutive TD scores, leading by four points, 28-24, with about two minutes to play.
But if the Patriots set the standard for clutch over the past two decades, the Seahawks have matched that play for play over the last couple of years. And with two minutes left, Wilson drove them down the field to the half yard line.
There, they were supposed to give the football to Marshawn Lynch – the most ferocious, unstoppable running back since…maybe Jim Brown. The Seahawks didn’t have to disguise their play: they could have announced, on the scoreboard: “WE ARE HANDING OFF THE BALL TO MARSHAWN LYNCH – HE HAS 1/2 YARD TO DRIVE – SO FEEL FREE TO PUT YOUR ENTIRE DEFENSE ON COVERING HIM.” It would not have mattered. Lynch would have scored. It is the simple laws of physics.
It is like prompting an elephant to break a defense line comprised of flamingos. The elephant wins – every time.
Astonishingly, however, the Seahawks decided to throw the football. As if they were the flamingos facing a wall of elephants. And throw they did – right into the hands of Patriots’ safety Malcolm Butler. He intercepted the ball. The Patriots held serve, and won the game.
This game should have ended one of two ways: either the Patriots should have brushed off the Deflategate distraction and used their surgical skills to pierce through the Seahawks’ vaunted defense, or the defending champions should have dominated with their superior talent.
It would have been worth noting that Seattle’s defense was hobbled to begin with, and got even more hurt as the game progressed. Had they been healthy, it is likely that clutch or no clutch, Brady would have had a TD or two at best, with four interceptions.
Good for Brady – good for the Patriots. I’m glad they shook off the September 29 cobwebs and bounced back. Too bad their heroics were tainted by the worst call in Super Bowl history. At least we can be thankful for one thing: the Patriots have proven they are great at scoring points, no matter what the footballs’ PSI level.
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