First, let me say that the reason that this recap has taken til Monday afternoon is only because I was at the game and couldn’t get adequate internet on the flight back. But I hope that I can provide some great analysis from the perspective of someone who was there.
And second, let me say that Seattle Seahawks fans really do deserve the credit they get as great fans. They made a neutral stadium in the 4th quarter louder than Gillette Stadium often is. And hell of a season for the Seahawks, even though I’m about to laugh at a few of them for having their trash talking get blown up in their face.
I’m going to start by talking about the two pillars of the past 15 years, because where else would we start? There are not many QBs who could do what Tom Brady did last night, throwing 2 horrible picks and then leading his team on 2 perfect, beautiful, backbreaking drives with under 12 minutes left in the 4th quarter against one of the best defenses ever. That’s incredibly difficult even when your team has a legitimate running game, but the Pats had no such thing in the 2nd half last night, making Brady’s accomplishment nearly impossible.
What I’m struggling with is how much to factor those 2 interceptions into the overall evaluation of Brady’s performance last night. The 1st one was down right horrendous, and the 2nd one was merely bad. Those 2 picks more than anything else are the best example possible of why this is not the Tom Brady of old anymore. Remember his game ending pick in the 2006 AFC Championship Game? Remember how much of a shock that was, because Tom Brady wasn’t supposed to throw picks in big games at big times? And that was with a receiving corp of Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, old Troy Brown, and rookie Chad Jackson. Nowadays, Brady throws 4 picks in 3 playoff games, all of which are 100% his fault. When you think of it like that, I don’t think there’s any way we can’t hold it against him.
The 2007 vs. Jacksonville or 2011 vs. Denver Tom Brady are both gone, but 2014 Tom Brady vs. the best defense in the league is pretty damn good. Think about the 5 drives that went the length of the field, including the 4 TDs and the early one with the 1st quarter pick. As much of a cliche as it sounds like, I’m a believer in the feeling/atmosphere that a player can give the people in the stadium, and it was evident in University of Phoenix Stadium that we were watching a craftsman at work. The Seattle Seahawks usually play the same zone and just dare an offense to beat them, and the only way to beat it is to find the holes with a precise quarterback and a bunch of shifty receivers. The shifty receivers with the underneath routes are also the only way to open up passing plays down the field against the Hawks, a la the Rob Gronkowski touchdown. Brady is one of the few quarterbacks in the league who could do that, albeit with the 2 INTs.
And Belichick is the best coach of all time, but last night was an off night, at least by his relative terms. He made the right move by benching Kyle Arrington for Malcolm Butler (!!!!!!), but the fact that Chris “Hardball” Matthews got the better of the Pats defense up until Brandon Browner asked to be put on him doesn’t speak well for Belichick. With 2 weeks to prepare, you’d expect The Hooded One to be ready for that, but Pete Carroll is a damn good coach, too, and Carroll seemed to beat BB there.
The famous final minute of the Super Bowl saw both coaches make horrible mistakes, but Belichick got bailed out by his 5th string cornerback, while Carroll got let down by his 3rd string receiver (Locklear letting Butler beat him to the ball). The fact that Belichick didn’t call a time out is indefensible in my opinion, because there is no reason to hold the 2 timeouts until after 2nd and 3rd down, as BB suggested he was doing. I’d rather have a minute and 1 TO than 20 seconds and 2. Even if the Seahawks purposefully wasted a play to keep the clock running, burning another timeout there would be worth it. Forty second were worth way more than each timeout in that case, and it’s too bad that the best coach ever turned into Andy Reid during the final minute of the Super Bowl. Thank God that Belichick the GM bailed out Belichick the coach, as the former saved the latter by signing an undrafted rookie free agent named…
MALCOLM MOTHER@#$%^&* BUTLER
What a story. I know that we always talk too much about he heartwarming stories, which are a little overrated considering that NFL teams readily employ convicted wifebeaters and other kinds of scum left and right, but this one is legit. The dude was a Popeyes manager because he couldn’t make the grades to be a college athlete, and then decided that he wanted to do something better with his life, so he went to community college, transferred to Western Alabama, which I didn’t know existed until last night, and then wowed everyone in training camp when he got a shot. Butler told Sal Pal after the game that he felt that a loss would have been his fault, which shows you exactly how an undrafted rookie in the NFL thinks. He was only thrown into the game because another guy sucked even worse, and the biggest play of the game up until that point was one of the luckiest catches ever. It wouldn’t have been his fault, but I’m glad he thought that way. He said that he saw Wilson look his way right before the snap, so he knew what was coming, and he jumped the route for the biggest play of his career.
That right there is one of the biggest differences between the Patriots and everyone else for the past 14 years. When the Patriots target and pick on an overmatched guy like Tharold Simon, they succeed. Brady picked Simon apart, never throwing at Richard Sherman except for an opening 2 yard pass on the first play of the game. But when the Seahawks target the lowest CB on the depth chart, he reads Wilson’s eyes before the play and jumps the route. It’s good to be a Patriots fan.
I hope the O line gets the credit it deserves. By no means was it a brick wall, but the line held its own against the awesome combo of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. While they also couldn’t block well for Blount in the final half, Brady had more time than many of us feared that he would have on Super Sunday. The O Line didn’t have a great game, but I hope they get at least some of the credit they deserve.
The secondary also didn’t have a great game, but they also won’t get the credit they deserve. Just like the Super Bowl in 2001, the Patriots didn’t blitz much, instead choosing to rely on their great secondary to handle the job. Darrelle Revis was Darrelle Revis, holding Dough Baldwin to just a 3 yard TD catch on a play where he was picked by the ref, and, frankly, the Seahawks were gonna score anyway. Devin McCourty and Pat Chung didn’t have any huge impact plays, but also didn’t have any gaffs, which is good enough for any DB. The only soft spot in the secondary was the Arringon/Butler spot, but I’m not gonna complain about that after the final interception.
Belichick didn’t have his guys blitz a ton, but they didn’t allow Russell Wilson to get too many rushing yards, which was a fear going into the game. Marshawn Lynch certainly had a day, but he also didn’t break the game wide open. I think that if you had told us beforehand that Lynch and Wilson would combine for 141 yards, we wouldn’t be happy with it, but we all knew that the Pats could still win the game with that total.
The front seven, and the secondary for that matter, get a TON of credit for holding the Seahawks on 2 drives when the Pats were down in the 2nd half. That was a key to the game that everyone will miss because it’s sexier to talk about Tom Brady. But the defense kept the team in the game, and the offense brought them back. And then the defense made the crucial final stop.
Vereen, LaFell, Gronkowski, Amendola
I’m putting these 4 together because that’s how the Patriots think of their receiving options: as a unit. This was vintage Brady and Patriots passing offense, when Brady ignored the name on the back of the jersey and just threw to whoever way open — or, more accurately, whoever Tharold Simon was covering. If it wasn’t for Demaryius Thomas’ unforgettable 13 catch performance last year, Vereen would have tied Deion Branch for the most reception in a Super Bowl with 11. Gronkowski was there exactly when and exactly however the Pats needed him whether it was a long play for a touchdown of a few important 3rd down conversions. LaFell stepped up when needed, especially on his touchdown catch, and Amendola came through in key moments as well. The Patriots receiving core was a unit, and that’s when it’s been at it’s best during the Brady-Belichick reign.
He gets his own section. Edelman was an absolute warrior last night, and he is the kind of guy that the Patriots would have during those 2001-2004 years that we remember fondly. It’s only appropriate that he would play such a key role and get the winning touchdown. He got absolutely rocked by Kam Chancellor on a play that absolutely should have been 15 yards for helmet to helmet, and I hope that people remember that play as a necessary one for Super Bowl number 4. On the play where Edelman got down to the 4 yard line, 2 plays before he connected with Brady for the go ahead score, you could see how hard it was for him to get to his feet. Didn’t matter — he came up when needed, and he will be remembered as the best receiver on the field in Super Bowl 49.
I’ll be writing more posts on Tom Brady, Malcolm Butler, Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman, Super Bowl 49 itself, and the Patriots Dynasty this week. After all, this one deserves multiple posts. But for now, that’s all, and it’s good to finally have the one we needed. So glad I was there.