Our resident NFL fanatic Lewis Gregory, reviews this year’s Superbowl and asks was it the best one ever?
Seattle Seahawks 24
New England Patriots 28
One week after the controversial end to the NFL’s grand final and instantly the chatter has started: Was Superbowl XLIX the best Superbowl in a decade? Is Tom Brady the greatest Quarterback of all time? Are the New England Patriots on the verge of a renewed dynasty?
It’s all very easy to make these grand gestures days after the big day. Even easier when it’s been a while since we have seen such a close match on the big stage after the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the Denver Broncos a year ago. The year before had its moments but barely keeps up with the controversy of this year. The last time a Superbowl was this exciting the Pittsburgh Steelers toppled the Arizona Cardinals with a contentious last second toe-tapping touchdown grab from Santonio Holmes in Superbowl XLIII to win 27-23.
This game however had it all. This game had all the excitement that last year’s Superbowl should have had and more. A top flight defence and surprisingly explosive offence vs an established, well drilled and Superbowl experienced offence vs a surprisingly strong defence. The keys to this game would lie in the running game: Marshawn ‘Beast Mode’ Lynch versus LeGarrette‘Blount Force Trauma’ Blount.
The Patriots came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter but after a promising drive, Tom Brady was picked off in the end zone by Jeremy Lane giving the Seahawks the ball. However, Lane was carted off the field with a broken wrist and replaced by second year Tharold Simon. Tom Brady soon capitalised on the replacement in the second quarter and it was the Patriots who struck first as Tom Brady hit Brandon LaFell on the slant for touchdown.
Up until this point, the Seattle offense had been held in check by the Patriots; Quarterback Russell Wilson didn’t complete a pass until 10 minutes into the second quarter when he found receiver Chris Matthews deep downfield. Moments later inside the red zone the Seahawks handed the ball off to their workhorse back Marshawn Lynch who dived headlong into the end zone to tie the game up despite the Patriots dominating the time of possession.
With just over two minutes left in the half Tom Brady orchestrated a near perfect 2 minute drill that culminated in a 23 yard touchdown pass to his big bodied tight end; Rob Gronkowski. However, with only 31 seconds left in the half Russell Wilson, through a combination of calling his own number and with the help of a 23 yard catch from Ricardo Lockette, the Seahawks were knocking on the door with 6 seconds left on the clock. A gutsy call from the Seattle sideline, Russell Wilson launched up a quick fly and let the 6”5 Chris Matthews (who had not caught a pass all throughout the regular season) go up and grab it to tie the game 14-14 at the half.
The Seahawks came out in the second half with their tails up and all the momentum behind them. Another huge catch to Matthews put the Seahawks into the red zone but after the following plays stalled, the defending champions had to settle for a field goal. For some, the fates may have seemed sealed when, on the following drive, the Seattle defence created a huge turnover as Brady threw his second interception of the day targeting Gronkowski but finding Bobby Wagner instead. Failing to amass any points in the third quarter, the Seahawks unleashed the beast as Lynch pounded through tackles to put the Hawks back on the Patriots goal line. The drive was punctuated by a Doug Baldwin catch in the end zone as he broke free from All-Pro cornerback Darelle Revis for the touchdown and put the Seahawks up 24-14.
However, if there’s one player you can’t keep down its Tom Brady and as the fourth and final quarter began, Brady unleashed a tirade of passes, consistently finding Edelman open on third down to move the chains and finally hitting Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone to cut the Seattle lead to just 3.
Whilst no other Superbowl team in the history of the NFL has ever come back from a 10 point deficit to win the game, Brady finished with a Superbowl record 37 completions and went 8 from 8 on a 10 play go ahead drive that gave the Patriots the lead late in the fourth quarter as Brady found his favourite target, Julian Edelman for the score.
However, it wasn’t over yet. Seattle didn’t quit — it never does and the Patriots had to survive a last-ditch drive by the Seahawks who, helped by a Jermaine Kearse 33-yard circus catch and a four yard Marshawn Lynch rush, managed to get to the 1 yard line with 20 seconds remaining on the clock.
Seattle, seeking to become the first repeat NFL champion since New England a decade ago were heartbroken to see Russell Wilson get picked off in the end zone by free-agent rookie, replacement cornerback Malcolm Butler that sealed the Patriots fourth Superbowl title, and sparked worldwide shock and awe: Why on earth didn’t the Seahawks hand the ball off to Lynch?!
But it’s all ancient history now. Sure, the brilliant Brady needed a huge play by an undrafted rookie to preserve New England’s 28-24 Superbowl victory over Seattle on Sunday night. But Brady’s imprint was all over the Patriots’ sensational fourth-quarter rally for their fourth NFL championship of the Brady-Bill Belichick era. Brady surpassed childhood hero Joe Montana’s mark of 11 Superbowl touchdown passes and outplayed the NFL-leading defence when it mattered most. Brady has also equalled Montana with four Lombardi Trophies and three Super Bowl MVPs. He stands alone with 13 Super Bowl touchdown passes, was 37 for 50 for 328 yards against the NFL’s top-ranked defense and picked apart the Seahawks defence on fourth-quarter drives of 68 and 64 yards, solidifying his championship legacy.
The ‘DeflateGate’ controversy of a fortnight ago was well and truly forgotten. It didn’t matter how much air was in the balls, Brady was unstoppable when the pressure was strongest and was without doubt the obvious Superbowl MVP. “He’s Tom Brady,” Team mate Julian Edelman said. “He’s the greatest quarterback on the planet.”
So, Was Superbowl XLIX the best Superbowl in a decade? That’s debateable, but it’s damn well up there. Is Tom Brady the greatest Quarterback of all time? Almost certainly. Surpassing historic legends and now standing alone atop the NFL, streets ahead of Manning and Rodgers, Brady is almost certainly a first round Hall of Fame Ballot when he retires. Are the New England Patriots on the verge of a renewed dynasty? I don’t think so, but what they have done, is put to rest a threatening, young and riotous Seahawks dynasty, and cemented their name as one of the greatest NFL teams of an era.