Anyone who reads this site knows I’m a big Baseball fan and while I can watch Football & enjoy the nuances of the game I think it can’t compare.
The greatest advantage to Baseball? No clock, you have to get those 27 outs, while often in football you can just run out the clock, the game is pretty much out of control.
That’s not how the Patriots approached this game. On sunday the Patriots were playing football, but were thinking baseball they played until the last out was recorded.
Consider the start of the fourth quarter. Seattle had the ball, the Patriots were down 24-14. No Superbowl team in history had come back from a 10 point 4th quarter deficit and New England was playing against not only the defending NFL champions but the best defensive team in the league.
Rather than panicking or losing control they methodically, after stopping Seattle they drove down the field to score making it a 3 point game.
Then after stopping Seattle a 2nd time they drove a second time for a second touchdown with 2:02 left.
Both of those situation said a lot about the Patriots but what followed said even more.
Seattle, needing a touchdown started from their twenty and drove down the field, with 1:16 left on a 1st & 10 from the Patriots 38 we witnessed on of the greatest catches in NFL history:
That was an amazing miraculous catch but notice that in addition to Jermaine Kearse’s incredible play, rookie defender Malcolm Butler (more on him later) after having what appeared to be a great defensive stop turned into a 30+ yard catch had the presence of mind to get Kearse out of bounds before he could score.
He didn’t waste time in shocked disbelief the game was still on the line and he acted.
With 1:06 left Seattle holding a time out in their pocket handed off to the best running back in the league Marshon Lynch who is stopped just short of the goal line.
Again, here are the Patriots, seconds after dealing with a dagger in the heart play step up and stop Lynch just before the line keeping the game in play, making it 2nd & goal on the 1 yard line with 26 seconds to go.
This is the first of two telling moments. The play by play announcers are saying openly perhaps Patriots Coach Bill Belichick should simply let Seattle walk into the end zone and take the lead to give Tom Brady the maximum amount of time to possibly come back for a game tying field goal. As far as they are concerned a Seattle touchdown to take the lead is a fait accompli and there is nothing the Patriots can do to stop it.
Seattle is thinking the same thing, consider Pete Carroll’s post game comments, he is thinking to “waste” a play, to get time off the clock to minimize the chances of a Patriots comeback after they score.
This kind of thinking suggests a lack of confidence in his top ranked defense but more importantly it presumes that the lead taking touchdown has already happened, his team doesn’t have to execute, he doesn’t have to make the right call, it’s all over.
Bill Belichick is thinking the opposite. His team already has taken the lead and if Seattle wants it they’ll have to take it back. He isn’t using a time out in the hopes of preserving time for Tom Brady to take back the lead, he’s counting on his defense to hold it.
And when the snap is made Malcolm Butler, the same fellow who stopped Kearse from scoring two plays earlier recognizes the play and muscles his way forward to intercept the ball and give the Patriots the ball on their own 1 yard line with 20 seconds to go.
But even then, no matter what the highlight reels are showing, the game is NOT over and the Patriots understand this.
There is little or no space for Brady to take a knee and if he is brought down in the end zone not only is it a safety making the score 28-26 but the same Seattle team that drove down the field at the end of the 2nd quarter would just have to get within field goal range for a chance to win.
Meanwhile Seattle was in the same spot New England was in a mere 46 seconds earlier. They had been kicked in the chest by a stunning reversal. But unlike New England who put it behind them and got down to business Seattle did not.
First the Patriots understanding the game wasn’t over, did their best to draw Seattle offsides and defensive end defensive end Michael Bennett obliged.
Suddenly instead of the ball on the 1 and the Patriots having to worry about a safety the ball was on the 5.
Now the odds were very long for Seattle. With only one time out left the Patriots would only need two snaps without a fumble with five yards instead of one to clinch the game. The chances of a fumble or mistake were longer than the Patriots picking off a pass at the one yard line to save the game.
But no matter how long the odds it was the only chance they had and like Jackie Robinson in 1951 making sure Bobby Thompson touched every base after his historic Home Run or Wil Wheaton using the “Moonpie gambit” to defeat Sheldon Cooper in Mystic warlords of Ka’a
A team determined to win a 2nd straight Superbowl championship keeps its cool, lines ups and forces the Patriots to execute.
They did not:
Seattle’s vaunted defense loses it’s cool and now the Patriots get to make their final snap not inside of the 5 where a bad snap could cost them the game, but at the 20 with plenty of room to make sure everything is under control.
And that really says it all. During the last two minutes the Patriots played Superbowl 49 as if it was the 9th inning of the 7th game of the world series, they didn’t stop executing until the very last out was made.
And that’s what champions do.