Monday, February 2, 2015

Patriot Day

So much of this ends differently, if Pete Carroll doesn’t make that call.

Tom Brady likely becomes a three-time Super Bowl loser instead of Joe Montana 8.0.

Russell Wilson likely becomes the guy who beat Peyton Manning and Brady in back-to-back Super Bowls instead of the guy who almost did.

And America is not subjected to a lot of sanctimonious jaw-flapping about answering their critics from the New England Patriots, a shady lot who have fully earned the criticism.

Instead … well, instead, Pete Carroll made The Call.

And, no, not the slant down on the goal line with the clock inside a minute, the ball inside the 2 and Marshawn Lynch waiting to take three more cracks at the end zone.

That call cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl, and it was inexplicable only outside the context of the Other Call. That would be the gamble Carroll pulled off in the first half, with the Seahawks inside the 10 and six seconds left until Katy Perry and her dancing sharks.

Logic says you take the three points there and go to halftime down 14-10. Instead, Carroll played to the inside straight, opting to squeeze in one more shot at the end zone without time enough to kick the field goal if it missed.

It didn’t.

Wilson found Chris Matthews for six, and the Seahawks went in tied at 14-14 after being dominated for the entire half. And the table was set, not to say the mindset, for what happened at the end.

You can’t definitively say pulling off the riverboat turn once influenced Carroll to try it again with the game on his racquet. But it for sure didn’t influence him not to try it.

In retrospect, of course, it was the dumbest play call in Super Bowl history, considering what was riding on it. When you have three tries from the 2 with the guy who runs at the goal line better than anyone in football, you run him at the goal line. Duh.

But, no. Wilson threw the slant, Malcolm Butler read it perfectly, and a magnificent football game would forever be known for the magnificence of Brady, who engineered two fourth-quarter drives that, as this is written, already are being bronzed in Canton.

Down ten to the best defense in football, he took the Patriots home not once but twice to deliver the Lombardi Trophy -- and, yes, it really did remind you of how cold-blooded Montana was in the final drive against the Bengals in his first Super Bowl. Now, like Montana, Brady belongs to the ages, and to inarguable numbers.  

 Four Super Bowl rings, same as Joe. Thirty-eight completions, a Super Bowl record. Twelve career touchdown passes in a Super Bowl, another record. Greatest playoff quarterback in NFL history, case closed.

In his fourth win, Brady went after the Seahawks a nick at a time, throwing a lot and mostly underneath. The dink-and-dunk chewed up yards and clock and prevented the Seahawks from getting to him even when they had a clear shot. He got hit, but, in most cases, the ball was gone by the time he did.

And then Pete Carroll handed him his legacy on a silver platter, after Wilson led a valiant drive in the last two minutes that was highlighted by yet another Roman Numeral Miracle – Jermaine Kearse catching a bomb from Wilson while lying flat on his back.

It was David Tyree’s helmet catch all over again for the Patriots, and then it was not.  Brady had his legacy, Bill Belichick tied Chuck Noll with four Super Bowl wins, and the Patriots were almost certainly off the hook for Deflategate, because the NFL is not going to do anything to mess with such historic business.

Expect Roger Goodell to eventually issue some fine commissioner-speak about the Shield not finding anything “conclusive,” and let’s move on, folks. Hey, how about that Tom Brady?

Well … yes.

How about him?

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