No doubt we’ll hear that and worse this week.
The problem with being a rabid sports fan is that you’re often forced to defend your team, which, when you think about it, is kind of ridiculous. I don’t play for the New England Patriots, I don’t have anything to do with their coaching and I’m quite sure that removing my hat did not assure that Tom Brady would bring the Pats back from 10 down…
…even though that’s exactly what happened…and I also took my hat off just before Brady rallied the Pats and Adam Vinatierri sealed the deal in ’01.
“It’s not weird if it works,” right?
Writers, pundits and fans will debate the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX for weeks- at least until they can find some mysterious conspiracy to explain how the Pats somehow cheated the Seahawks out of their destiny.
The Patriots won because of one thing, and it wasn’t the psychic abilities of un-drafted rookie Malcolm Butler. The Pats won because no matter what adversity they face, they live and die as a team.
The Hawks’ Bruce Irvin sums it up:
“I don’t understand how you don’t give it to the best back in the league and not even the 1-yard line. We were on the half-yard line. And we throw a slant. I don’t what the offense had going on, what they saw. I just don’t understand.” (The News Tribune)
Irvin was ejected from the game in the final seconds for starting a brawl when he should have showed some class in defeat.
He wasn’t the only one with issues about the Seahawks last minute strategy. Several Seahawks players voiced their displeasure with their coaching staff and the decision to throw that final pass instead of jamming Marshawn Lynch into the endzone.
The worst was probably Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who was quoted as saying receiver Ricardo Lockette could have gone harder to the ball to make the catch. While true, it’s not something you want to say about one of your players after the last meaningful play of the season- at least not on national television.
The Pats have last two trips to The Game ended with similar last minute disappointment. Twice Eli Manning and his Giants tipped the scales with last second heroics to come from behind.
Did the Patriots criticize throw their teammates and coaches under the bus? No- they praised their opponent, went home to rest and came back the next year to do their jobs.
This game could have gone either way…
Frankly, even if the Pats lost, I would be saying it was one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history. If you doubt my sincerity, ask my wife, who has become a more intense Pats fan than I am, which is really saying something. I really pissed her off- twice, when I said that after each of the Giants’ wins.
The Pats stood together despite a psychotic hatred of all things Patriot. They rallied around one another while the NFL manufactured what is arguably the most egregious load of excrement ever dumped on a team before the Super Bowl in the form of Deflate-gate. They stood together after the embarrassment in Kansas City as the Boston sports press was hanging up Brady’s spikes, predicting the end of The Dynasty and proclaiming that Belichick’s mojo had finally run it’s course.
Most of all, they took the Seahawks’ best body blows and once again rallied from behind, just as they’d done several times this year.
Now as for Malcolm Butler…
Butler wrapped up the game in more ways than one. He admitted after the game that he knew that throw was coming in his way.
How could he possibly know this? More spy-cams? More Beli-cheat tactics?
Study. Practice. Discipline.
Butler knew that throw was coming because he recognized the formation and the shift. The Pats had practiced this exact scenario dozens of times. They understood what Pete Carroll was doing- arguably even better than Carroll himself did.
I’m going to credit Butler not just for the interception, but for his embodiment of the never-quit attitude of this year’s Patriots- and it came on the play that put Seattle in position to win the game.
Butler fought Jermaine Kearse for Russell Wilson’s deep ball that highlighted Seattle’s potential game winning drive. Kearse won the battle and made arguably the best catch of the season.
At that point, all Kearse had to do was roll into the end zone. Of course that would have left Brady, Gronk and the boys two minutes to produce their own heroics, but instead Butler stayed with the play even after he was beat and kept Kearse from scoring the go-ahead TD.
In football, it ain’t over ’til it’s over…and Malcolm Butler showed that not once, but twice.
The casual fan or the Super Sunday Only group will no doubt label the Pats lucky. Those who have played this great game, and those who know that football is game of inches where seconds last forever, appreciate the tenacity that guarantees Butler a place in Patriots history.
For those of us whose love of all things Patriots started long before The Dynasty- for those of us who proudly wore Pat Patriot gear and still have a warm place for the red jerseys, this one has a certain feeling of vindication about it. I won’t say it means the same as ’01…
…but it’s pretty damn close.
The haters will continue to hate. I’ll just leave you with the rallying cry that spread among Patriots fans over the past couple of weeks…
“You hate us…’cause you ain’t us.”