The Super Bowl is traditionally the biggest spectacle in the world of entertainment. Most Super Bowls did not live up to the hype, but this one did. You had intrigue before, during, and after the contest. The ripple effects of the New England Patriots 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX will be felt for years to come.
We spent the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX talking about everything but the game itself. There was the uproar about the deflated balls that were allegedly used in the AFC Championship Game. Then there was the foolishness of Seattle's running back Marshawn Lynch refusing to speak to members of the media. It got to the point that some almost forgot that there was a game to be played. Lynch's antics and Deflategate dominated Media Day. It was not until Wednesday or Thursday that we really started focusing on the game itself. And that was a shame because this had all of the makings of a battle of epic proportions.
WE had two great head coaches. There were talent and superstars on both sides of the field. You had the Golden Boy quarterback Tom Brady and the Wild Child Rob Gronkowski on one side going against the Legion of Boom. Lynch matching up against the Patriots' much-improved defense. We should have been talking about whether Russell Wilson could lead the Seahawks to their second-straight championship or whether Brady will leapfrog all of the all-time greats with a victory. But, nooooooo, we were talking about underinflated balls and a disgruntled running back who refused to speak to the masses.
Like I said, this game had everything. Once the game began, it was apparent that we were in for one hell of a ride. And once the final gun sounded we realized that we had just watched one the best sport contests in decades. There were significant momentum swings throughout the game. Players and coaches went from hero to goat and goat to hero in a matter of three and half hours. The superstars played up to their abilities and a number of unknown players imposed their will on the game.
The Patriots started off as they were going to run the Seahawks out of the University of Phoenix Stadium as they raced out to a 14-7 lead. It would have been worse if Jeremy Lane did not intercept Brady in the red zone in the first quarter. Seattle clawed their way back to tie the game at halftime and took a 10-point lead going into the final period only to have Brady lead the Patriots on that great comeback.
Brady's performance was something to behold. He threw for 328 yards going 37/50. He virtually put all of New England on his back and led them to the Promised Land. New England's running game was nonexistent so Coach Belichick put the game in Brady's hand and the game MVP delivered. He picked apart the vaunted Seahawks' defense with surgeon-like precision. He found the holes in the Seahawks' scheme while using the short passing game to replace the ineffective running game. He and Justin Eldelman took advantage the inexperienced Tharold Simon, who replaced Lane who broke his hand after he intercepted Brady in the first quarter. Speaking of Eldelman, he had the game of his life going for 109 yards on 9 receptions. If Brady did not have the game that he had Eldelman could have won the MVP. The Gronkster also got into the act with a beautiful back shoulder catch for a touchdown. The talented tight end was used primarily as a decoy, which opened things up for the other receivers.
One of the main reasons why the Seahawks were able take that 10-point lead was due the play of wide receiver Chris Mathews. This time last year, this kid was working at Footlocker and on Sunday he was one the best players in the biggest game of the year. If the Seahawks would had won this game, he most likely would had won the game's MVP. He only caught four passes but he netted 109 yards and scored in the closing moments of the first half. Belichick had seen enough of Mathews and switched the bigger Brandon Browner on him, which took the former shoe salesman out of the game.
After Brady brought the Pats back from that 10-point deficit to take a 24-21 lead, Seattle still had one final chance to reclaim the lead. Wilson got the ball near midfield. He threw a 50/50 ball to his much-maligned wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who dropped a sure first down that would have put the game away in the third quarter, made an unbelievable catch on his back as rookie defensive back Malcolm Butler watched. Like Mathews, Butler was working a minimum wage job this time a year ago and now he was trusted into the biggest game of the season. On the next play, Lynch bull dosed his way to the half-yard line. What transpired next will go down in sports infamy.
The prevailing sentiment was that the Seahawks were going to give the ball to the unstoppable force Lynch and ride him into the end zone. For some unknown reason, Seattle called for a slant pass, which Butler cut and intercepted. Butler redeemed himself as he went from goat to hero while the Seahawks coaching staff went from genius to dummy in a New York minute. Lynch most likely would had hit pay dirt in his sleep and they go with a high-risk slant pass play. The late great Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes once said only three things can happen on a pass play and two of them are bad. Well, we saw the worse case scenario on that play, which will be criticized until Jesus comes again.
You had great and poor coaching decisions. You had stars living up to their billings and unknown players coming out of nowhere to have an impact of this epic contest. Yes, this game had everything. After spending two weeks talking about everything but the game, we will be spending a lifetime talking about the game.