When Kevin Garnett celebrated his only championship with the Boston Celtics, he professed, “Anything is possible.”
And on Sunday night, the Patriots proved just that.
In one of the most exciting Super Bowls of all time, the Patriots fired us up with a solid first quarter, disappointed us with a second-quarter drop-off and crippled us with a third-quarter collapse.
Trailing by 10 entering the final frame against the NFL’s best defense three years running, Tom Brady turned the clocks back and delivered two dramatic drives that cemented his legacy as the GOAT.
Facing consistent pressure from Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, Brady had his moments throughout the first three quarters. New England moved the ball effectively on its first two drives before Brady made a mind-numbingly bad interception to Jeremy Lane at the Seattle 10-yard line.
Fortunately for New England, Lane was knocked out of the game with a wrist injury, and his replacement, Tharold Simon, was no match for the rest of the Patriots’ passing game.
Brady did respond with two touchdowns in the second quarter, including a 22-yard strike to Rob Gronkowski with K.J. Wright trailing in coverage. At that point, the Patriots held a 14-7 lead and had completely silenced Russell Wilson.
Frustratingly, Kyle Arrington couldn’t contain Chris Matthews—a guy who entered last night with zero career catches. The 6’5” undrafted rookie made a few big plays, capped off by an 11-yard touchdown grab at the end of the half that tied the score at 14.
Whether it was Katy Perry’s bizarre halftime show or something said in the Seattle locker room, the Patriots completely blew the third quarter. The offense couldn’t get anything going, especially on the ground. Meanwhile, Wilson got hot and Seattle entered the fourth quarter holding a 24-14 lead.
Even as a Patriots diehard, even I thought it was over. Honestly, who can come back from a 10-point deficit against the Legion of Boom?
Certainly not a Patriots offense that couldn’t protect Brady, couldn’t run the ball and couldn’t muster a single point through the first 18 minutes of the second half. Well, lucky for me, I was wrong.
Brady, who remained cool, calm and collected throughout the entire game, went to work.
Taking over with 12 minutes and 10 seconds remaining, the drive got off to a horrific start, as Bruce Irvin sacked Brady for a loss of eight yards.
Brady responded with a quick strike to LaFell to set up a third-and-14 at the Patriots’ 28-yard line. Not the best position to mount a comeback, right?
Julian Edelman took a mammoth shot from Kam Chancellor, but held on to a strike from Brady to move the chains for a 21-yard gain. Brady hit Shane Vereen two times before finding Edelman at the Seattle four-yard line. Two plays later, Danny Amendola—yes, Danny Amendola—caught the touchdown pass that narrowed the lead to just three.
New England’s defense came up with yet another three-and-out, giving Brady the ball with 6:52 left and a three-point deficit.
I’ve seen this situation happen far too often in recent years with Brady and the Pats. Too often the offensive line has crumbled, receivers haven’t been open and Brady has come up short.
Not on this night.
Brady surgically dissected a crippled Legion of Boom.
First it Vereen for eight. Then Vereen again for five. Edelman for nine.
An Amendola pass interference call negated a first down, but Brady and Josh McDaniels did their jobs and adjusted.
With Seattle in man coverage, Gronkowski beat Chancellor on a crossing route for a 20-yard gain to put the ball at the Seattle 32-yard line. Following an incompletion to Vereen, Brady once again hooked up with the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year for another big gain (13 yards). Vereen rushed up the middle for a gain of seven before Brady hit LaFell for another short gain.
Two plays later, Edelman burned Simon for a three-yard touchdown to give the Patriots a 28-24 lead.
The next 2 minutes and 2 seconds may have taken years off my life. But boy was it worth it.
Desperately needing just one stop, New England’s much-improved defense got off to a bad start when Jamie Collins got beat by Marshawn Lynch for a 31-yard gain on first down. A serious of broken-up passes set up a critical third-and-10 from the New England 49-yard line.
Seattle got 11 yards.
The next play, to a Patriots fan, was a sick sign from God that Brady and Belichick just weren’t destined to win a fourth ring together. Like David Tyree and Mario Manningham before him, Jermaine Kearse made a once-in-a-lifetime ridiculous catch off a tipped pass by Malcolm Butler that simultaneously gave Seattle the ball at the 5-yard line while deflating Patriot Nation.
Seattle called a timeout with just over a minute remaining.
On first down, Lynch, who averaged 4.3 yards per carry, came up one yard short of the go-ahead score. At this point, I was ready to throw, punch and kick everything in my living room with the despair that another impossible catch would cost the Patriots a fourth ring.
What happened next will go down as the single greatest play by a defender in Super Bowl history and the worst play call by an offensive coordinator ever.
Instead of handing the ball to Beast Mode, Seattle elected to throw the ball against Butler. But the undrafted rookie out of West Alabama had other plans in mind. Seeing the play develop early, the kid who had just given up the Impossible Reception jumped the slant route and picked off Wilson to preserve the win for New England.
And just like that, the Patriots pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in Super Bowl history.
How fitting, right?
A sixth-round pick (Brady) delivers the go-ahead touchdown to a former seventh-round college quarterback (Edelman), and an undrafted rookie (Butler) saves the Super Bowl for the greatest quarterback-coach combo of all time.
Like I said, anything is possible.