The New England Patriots came back from a 24-14 deficit in Super Bowl XLIX, tying the Packers and Giants with their fourth title, trailing only the Pittsburgh Steelers with six and the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys with five following their 28-24 win. It was one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever. Here are my ten takeaways…
1) Malcolm Butler’s interception with :20 left in the game provided another classic ending provided by a previously relative unknown, turning that guy into a hero. Like Mike Jones of the Rams making The Tackle in Super Bowl XXXIV, or defensive MVP’s such as Dallas’ Larry Brown, Tampa’s Dexter Jackson or Malcolm Smith of the Seahawks last year, Butler has etched his name into Super Bowl lore with one play to win a Super Bowl.
2) I found it amazing that Danny Amendola and Michael Hoomanawanui would play in a Super Bowl together for any team. They were both always hurt for the Rams, but were durable and somewhat productive for New England in 2014. And Amendola was actually productive in the game, grabbing five balls for 48 yards and a touchdown.
3) Like Timmy Smith of the Redskins in 1988, Seattle’s Chris Matthews turned into a star on the Super Bowl stage. During the ’87 season, the rookie Smith carried the ball in four games, totaling 29 carries for 129 yards. In the Super Bowl, Smith carried 22 times for a Super Bowl record 204 yards. Matthews, who had never caught an NFL pass, made that amazing catch to set up Seattle’s first touchdown, and the caught the tying touchdown right before halftime. He finished with four catches for 109 yards and that score. How can the Seahawks find a guy like him working at a Foot Locker store, and have five undrafted receivers in the Super Bowl, yet the Rams fail to get as much production out of drafted receivers Mardy Gilyard, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas, Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey?
4) I thought Seattle dodged a bullet when the Patriots didn’t really utilize their big X-factor, Rob Gronkowski, in the first half. Aside from his 22 yard touchdown catch, he had only two other first half catches for a total of six yards, and six for 68 overall. He did have huge twenty and thirteen yard catches in New England’s game winning drive, but they could have used him much more effectively than they did.
5) I told the people I was with that after Gronkowski’s late first half touchdown that the Patriots had left too much time for Russell Wilson. I figured he’d drive them into field goal range, but he did better than that. As the Packers learned, he has a remarkable ability to put together late drives. Sure enough, he turned in a five play, 80 yard touchdown drive that took just 29 seconds. And what a gutsy call by the Seahawks to run the play with just six seconds on the clock. It was perfect, because if even if it had been incomplete, there were still two second left to try a field goal.
6) What is Tom Brady doing throwing key interceptions? The pick by Jeremy Lane in the end zone on New England’s first possession was a cruncher. New England could have won in a blowout if not for that. The Pats used up more than half a quarter…7:41…and got nothing out of it. And then the Bobby Wagner interception midway through the third quarter to set up Seattle’s third touchdown and make it 24-14 put the Patriots behind the eight ball.
7) I loved the way the officials let the teams play. We saw early on that they weren’t going to call the ticky-tack illegal contact and interference penalties. This is the way the sport was about ten years ago. There are just too many rules in the NFL. It was nice to see a game with some flow that wasn’t consistently interrupted by the zebras.
8) Back in the Patriots run of Super Bowl wins in the early 2000’s, two of the most underrated parts of the team were running back Kevin Faulk and wide receiver Troy Brown. It seemed that whenever New England needed a first down, Brady would find one of those two. It’s the same way now with Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman. While they brought in Brandon LaFell and Amendola, it’s the home grown guys that the Patriots go to in crunch time. Vereen had eleven catches for 64 yards and added four runs for thirteen. Edelman had nine catches for 109 and the lead touchdown just before the two minute warning.
9) Jermaine Kearse’s fourth quarter catch provided shades of the heroic David Tyree in the same stadium in 2008. What an amazing, athletic catch that was, that should have provided Seattle the opportunity to win. But the Seahawks didn’t take advantage of their great fortune. Like the Rams in San Diego this season, there was no good reason to throw the ball in the middle of the field when they had Marshawn Lynch, who led the NFL with seventeen touchdowns this season, from the one yard line and a time out left. Like Rams QB Shaun Hill, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw an incredibly inopportune interception into the end zone. So Kearse’s miracle was wasted and New England won the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade. Nine of Lynch’s seventeen scores this season were runs of six or fewer yards, with five of those being three or less. And the ‘Hawks decided to throw the ball on 2nd and goal from the one.
10) During the week leading up to the game, former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner was asked about Bill Belichick’s cheating ways on KJR Radio in Seattle and said “I don’t want to believe that there was anything outside of his team beat our team. That’s what I want to believe. There’s a sliver of a doubt because I think, as a human, you can’t help it.”
“To know that if you were a part of that process at that time, was there any advantage they gained in any game, not just our Super Bowl game, but maybe a game before that to get to the Super Bowl? I mean, all those things enter your mind.”
With that thought, Warner had to deliver the Lombardi Trophy to the victorious Patriots. It must have been a walk of mixed emotions to that podium.
And so New England has their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
We’ll find out soon enough if the NFL chooses to punish them for have deflated footballs in their game against Indianapolis. But with authentic footballs and plenty of safeguards in place to prevent another Spygate episode, they have to feel good about winning a Super Bowl in a legitimate manner.