New England Patriots ‘deflate’ the Super Bowl hopes of reigning champs


The Green Bay Packers narrowly missed punching their ticket to Super Bowl 49 … narrowly, of course, includes a botched onside kick, back-to-back poorly defensed touchdown drives and a Hail Mary 2-point conversion.

However, if the Packers were unable to represent the NFL in the Super Bowl this year – you really couldn’t ask for a better, more thrilling game.

The New England Patriots were 2.5-point underdogs to the NFC powerhouse and reigning champion Seattle Seahawks, heading in to Sunday night’s epic matchup. It was Tom Brady and one of the NFL’s highest scoring offenses clashing with the Legion of Boom and one of the NFL’s top defenses. The storylines write themselves.

Even so, #deflategate and the miraculous destiny comeback were all that was talked about during media week.

When the cleats hit the field on Sunday night, however … it felt like a culmination of every high and low of the 2014 NFL season, in 60 minutes of football.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Brady and the Patriots struck first – even though they were unable to capitalize on their first trip into the red zone, ending in an interception. The Seahawks were able to generate more of a pass rush on Tom Brady than they were able to do to Aaron Rodgers, even on a gimpy leg, paying a testament to the continuity that the Packers experienced at the offensive line position down the stretch.

Brady looked uneasy, missed on a couple short throws that could have moved the chains, overthrew receivers on deep routes. He did take some punishment in the pocket, even on connected throws.

After taking control of the game and driving down to score a touchdown with 30 seconds remaining before the half, the Patriots defense gave up another long conversion to unknown free agent receiver, Chris Matthews … who Packers fans may remember as being the guy who foiled our Super Bowl hopes with that onside kick recovery off of the helmet of Brandon Bostick.

In the end, the Seahawks punched it in with six seconds remaining in the half, to take a 14-14 tie to the locker room.

After an entertaining half-time show, featuring Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott, the boys were back and adjustments were made.

The Seahawks jumped out to an early lead, with a field goal, following it up with a few Patriots’ stops and taking advantage of another Tom Brady miscue, which turned into a touchdown – sending the Patriots into the fourth quarter in a 10-point hole.

Announcers made a point of declaring the Super Bowl record of comeback margin: 10 points. It was at the moment that I realized that the Patriots were going to do this.

More from Lombardi Ave

In the same game that Tom Brady surpassed Joe Montana on the list of all-time QBs with the most Super Bowl TD passes (12), the Patriots were going to tie the record for most comeback points in a Super Bowl. It’s just what the New England Patriots do: they overcome the odds.

With two drives ending in touchdowns to Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman (who was clearly concussed from a gutsy catch in the slot to extend a drive), the Patriots found themselves up by four points at the 2-minute warning. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks took over at their own 20 and began what every fan in Packer Nation is all-too familiar with – a miraculous game-sealing drive.

With just over a minute to play, Russell Wilson heaved a deep ball toward the right sideline where Jermaine Kearse and Patriots rookie CB Malcolm Butler were tangled in the air.

The ball was tipped! Butler seemed to make a remarkable defense on a well-placed ball that would bring the Seahawks deep into the red zone.

But … but … wait! As Kearse and the ball fell to the ground, his thigh popped the ball back up JUST enough to give him an angle to make a play on the ball – from flat on his back.

When Kearse pulled that ball in … my heart (and those of Packers fans everywhere) sank. Are you kidding me?! I thought immediately of David Tyree in the 2007 Super Bowl that went down in infamy and lore.

The history books had just been re-written and the Pats were AGAIN the black sheep in the story. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Neither sideline seemed to be able to, either. The Patriots were in disbelief. The Seahawks were feeling more and more destined.

A run by Marshawn Lynch put the Seahawks at the 1-yard line with a minute to play. Bill Belichick didn’t call a timeout. The world was screaming for a timeout and … he didn’t call one. He wanted to see what his goal line defense was going to be able to do against … the BEAST.

It was then that the Super Bowl curse was lifted on the New England Patriots … and subsequently, on that quiet, well-mannered young man, Malcolm Butler.

An ill-advised play call from the goal line, ended the game. Russell Wilson was instructed to sneak a pass into Ricardo Lockette … instead of pounding the ball with Lynch. Butler, with 20 ticks on the clock, undercut the short route and stole the game from the Seahawks and the 12th man.

The looks of pure, unadulterated horror on the faces of everyone in teal, silver and green was … worth all the Internet memes that would follow.

FNew England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler (21) makes a interceptions during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports photograph

In a crazy NFC playoff bracket of “you steal one from me, they steal one from you” … where the Cowboys stole one from the Lions, who got stolen from by the Packers, who were robbed by the Seahawks, who were flat-out destroyed in the final seconds by a rookie from the New England bench … the 2014 NFL season ended in blue and red confetti falling on the heads of hundreds of thousands of lucky spectators who were present for one of the wildest finishes in Super Bowl history.

As a stout Packers fan, I understood the thought process behind boycotting the big game, after that epic collapse two weeks ago. But – I sure am glad that I didn’t.

The Patriots wiped the smug looks off of Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, and that made it all worth it for me, in the end.

While I do look forward to seeing green and gold confetti falling next February, I have the presence of mind to say CONGRATULATIONS to the franchise and fans of the New England Patriots, and appreciate the ups and downs and all-arounds that tug at my heartstrings every August through January.

Next: Q&A with draft prospect Danny Shelton