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Julian Edelman's Relentless Determination Made The Difference And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts


It's likely sunk in by now that what you witnessed Sunday night was the most preposterous ending a Super Bowl has ever had. To be sure, there have been some spectacular, wildly unlikely finishes in Super Bowl history. You don't even need to dig too far into the history books to find some great ones -- Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri working magic in '01, Kevin Dyson coming up a yard short in '99, David Tyree making the Helmet Catch in '07, Santonio Holmes toe-tapping in '08, the Ravens making a goal-line stand after the lights went out in '12.

All of those games were great in their own right, but none compares to this year's Super Bowl. Because this year, the game to be defined by one miracle play, only to be answered by a more unbelievable play.

But by now, you know all about the Jermaine Kearse catch, how it defied explanation and caused everybody -- including Brady himself -- realize that once again, the Patriots had been foiled on the University of Phoenix turf by a play for the ages. And you know all about the incredible play made by Malcolm Butler, a guy we all thought looked decent in August against the Eagles but really had not thought about until the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

So rather than focus on those two plays, I'll point out the two plays which allowed the Kearse catch and Butler interception to mean anything.

The first came, coincidentally, from Kearse late in the third quarter. The Seattle offense was rolling, and the New England defense had no answers. From the final drive of the first half to that point, the Seahawks went touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, gaining 272 yards on 26 plays. And on this drive, they looked capable of keeping it going. Russell Wilson hit Ricardo Lockette for 25 yards on the opening play. Marshawn Lynch ran for two yards, and Kearse picked up six, setting up a third-and-2.

On the Patriots' side of the 50-yard line and in possession of a 10-point lead with just over 16 minutes left to play, Wilson looked left and lofted a perfect pass to Kearse on a wheel route. The pass was right on the money, hitting Kearse on the hands, but he could not hold on, and Seattle had to punt:

Jermaine Kearse
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Jermaine Kearse
(Screen shot from
Jermaine Kearse
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Credit where it's due: Malcolm Butler made a good play by chopping Kearse's right elbow to help make that an incompletion. But that ball is in Kearse's hands, with the chance for Seattle to put some knockout points on the board. He has to make that catch.

That was play No. 1.

Play No. 2, you are likely more familiar with, but its significance cannot be overstated. This one came four minutes into the fourth quarter, after the Patriots' second-half drives had ended with two punts and an interception. And after Brady took an eight-yard sack on first down, and after the following play gained just four yards, it looked like another Patriots drive was destined to end in failure.

But that was the exact moment that Tom Brady started playing like Tom Brady. And it was also the exact moment when Julian Edelman started playing like The Incredible Hulk.

Brady deftly stepped up in his pocket while scanning the field, crow-hopping his way toward the line of scrimmage before delivering a pass over the middle to Edelman 20 yards over the middle. Edelman leaped, made the catch and hung on, despite Kam Chancellor sizing him up ...

Julian Edelman
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... and summarily delivering as devastating a hit as any receiver can ever absorb.

Kam Chancellor
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Catching the ball was impressive in its own right, but the fact that a dazed Edelman was able to stay in the game defied explanation (and the league's concussion protocol, perhaps). Four plays later, facing a third-and-8, Brady and Edelman played Demarcus Dobbs like a fiddle for a 21-yard catch-and-run:

Tom Brady
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Edelman's pesky hip flexor appeared to act up after that one, but nothing was keeping Edelman from staying in the game, and nothing was keeping him from winning the Super Bowl.

Though Edelman's touchdown to give the Patriots a 28-24 lead -- along with the Kearse catch, the Pete Carroll play call and the Butler interception -- will rightfully get a great deal of attention. But without the Kearse drop and the Brady-Edelman third-and-14 conversion, none of those other plays ever get to mean anything or happen at all.

That's my big takeaway, but don't worry, I've got plenty of more. As I sit on this Amtrak train in Connecticut on Hour No. 17 of traveling home and Hour No. 38 of no sleep, these might be the best (or worst?) leftover thoughts of all time!

--Pete! Peter! PEEETTTTEEE! Are you serious, man?

Pete Carroll
Pete Carroll (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Look, I'm not saying that blowing the Super Bowl in hilarious fashion suddenly validates everything I've thought about ol' Petey and wipes out all the positive vibes he had built for himself in recent years. But I'm also not not saying that, you know?

To throw a pass on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, two plays after coming out of a timeout, is an idiotic idea to end all idiotic ideas ... and that's if you have Joe Schmoe at running back. But when you have Marshawn Lynch, the man who cannot be tackled within three yards of the line of scrimmage and the man who had exactly zero negative rushes on 24 attempts on this night, and you call a pass? Holy smokes.

Terrible management of the end of the game by Carroll's team, and I can't say I'm surprised. Sure, I've said some nice things about him over the past 12 months, but that was only because I had to. At long last, the real Pete Carroll finally stood up. Missed ya, bucko!

There's no shame in losing a Super Bowl, but there is no way to ever get over blowing one.

--Terrible decision-making aside, you simply cannot take anything away from what Malcolm Butler did on that play. The kid's confidence clearly kept growing as the second half wore on, as he played tight coverage on Kearse and broke up a few passes in the process.

But on the interception, Butler started here:

Malcolm Butler
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And he identified the route and burst to a spot before Lockette could get there:

Malcolm Butler
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That's great smarts, great athleticism, great ball skills and great toughness to hang on through contact. Simply a great play.

--It was obvious that the Seahawks blew this with their play-calling, but don't let anyone use that fact to discredit the Patriots' win. This is the Super Bowl. The pressure is at its very highest. It makes grown men crumble, and that's often how these championships get decided. Some men make plays; others choke up their lunch. Look only at the Patriots' history for proof of that. If John Kasay can simply keep his kickoff from going out of bounds, perhaps the Panthers win in '03. If Donovan McNabb kept an exercise regimen so as to not be vomiting in the huddle, the Eagles could have definitely won in '04. David Tyree, Plaxico Burress and Eli Manning obviously stepped up in '07. Wes Welker dropped what could have been the game-sealing catch in '11, while Mario Manningham made a catch that was 10 times as difficult to help the Giants win.

And this time, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson choked when the game was on the line and the pressure was at its highest. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Malcolm Butler kept their composure and made great decisions and great plays. That's why the Patriots are champions and the Seahawks are not. That's sports.

--I should have a more detailed description of what it's like to cover the Super Bowl in a separate story tomorrow, but I'll say, the "no cheering in the press box" rule certainly does not apply if the Patriots are playing. Because anyone and everyone will cheer loudly and proudly against Bill Belichick's team. That was one big, happy media contingent for a while there in the fourth quarter. I felt like I was at a Seattle sports bar.

--Marshawn Lynch got his, like he always does, with 102 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. But I really felt that the Patriots' rush defense did its job for the most part in containing him. And I thought it started with a statement on the opening drive, when Seattle's game plan was Lynch, Lynch and more Lynch. The defense held the line, and forced a three-and-out thanks to gang tackling like this:

Patriots rush defense
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--Peeeete! Oh my God, dude. PETER!

--In case you missed it, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that ESPN's report about the deflated footballs was wrong. Instead of 11 footballs being inflated a full 2 PSI under the level in the rulebook, just one football was 2 PSI under. The other 10 were "just a tick" under, which happens to footballs that are outside and whatnot.

Oh, and if you connect just a couple of dots, like a ProFootballTalk report, you know that the one football that was 2 PSI under the limit was the one that was intercepted by Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and therefore ended up on the Colts sideline. The Colts are the team that launched the whole investigation. Do you think they might have let that football breathe a little bit before handing it over to the league?

And, because Rapoport works for the NFL, he has zero room to be wrong on this one. So you have to trust his report.

Add it all up, and you'll see that DeflateGate was clearly nothing at all. Now, don't go crazy and expect everyone in the country to A) do this minimal amount of research or B) think anything differently about dirty, rotten, stinking, cheating Patriots. Their minds were made up long ago.

But if anyone is interested in some basic truth, it's all out there. And it tells you that this "controversy" was manufactured from the get-go.

Robert Kraft
Robert Kraft (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

--Also, imagine if a star Patriots player went down Friday in practice, and the team said it was no big deal and was just a bruise, and then that player wore a knee brace for the game? There would be a manhunt for one Mr. Bill Belichick. People would call for Robert Kraft to fire him if he had any dignity, John Harbaugh would throw the world's biggest hissy fit, because there is no room for such deceit in the game of football.

--But really though ... Pete! I almost titled this story "Pete Carroll Finally Delivers Super Bowl To New England And Other Leftover Thoughts" but I thought that was too negative way to spin such a huge Patriots victory. I did seriously consider it, though.

--I don't dislike Russell Wilson, and I believe he makes a lot of plays that help lead to Seattle victories. I also think he possesses some sort of magic voodoo. Guys just lose their minds when trying to pin him down in the open field.

Rob Ninkovich broke his own ankles in pursuit in the first quarter:

Rob Ninkovich
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And Chandler Jones said "hi and bye" on a quick Sunday stroll past Wilson later in the game:

Russell Wilson
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Those are very good players (and they each had sacks on the night), but in those instances, Wilson cast some sort of spell on them. He does that a lot.

--I wrote about Tom Brady after the game (shocker, I know), and I said he's the greatest. I'm not interested in an over-the-top debate about it. I just believe Tom Brady is Michael Jordan, so I said so. If you don't believe it, that's fine. Comparing quarterbacks from different eras is a pretty silly game to play to begin with, so I'm not about to make it worse.

ANYWAY, Brady threw two picks in this game. The second was a not-great pass and a great play by Bobby Wagner, but the first was ug-ly. You knew that already, but, I think it's important to note that for as bad as that happy-feet, Peyton Manning-in-Foxboro-in-2004, hop-throw interception to Jeremy Lane was ... Brady was about to get smashed by 275 pounds of Michael Bennett from one side and 260 pounds of Cliff Avril on the other side.

Like ... really smashed.


Tom Brady
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Still a bad pick, but it's not as if he wasn't forced into rushing his decision back there.

Football is difficult.

--I love this. Here's Brady's reaction after Brandon LaFell's touchdown:

Brandon LaFell
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And here's Bill's reaction:

Bill Belichick
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--Hey, listen: Dont'a Hightower is a man. He will undergo shoulder surgery this offseason to fix an ailment that's bugged him for two months. Despite that bum shoulder, he played through it and laid it into Marshawn Lynch all night long on Sunday. Because of that commitment, he was able to bring Lynch down on the 1-yard line in the final minute of the game. And you know what happened next.

Dont'a Hightower
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--Brandon LaFell's stats weren't gaudy (4 receptions, 29 yards, TD), but he is a master of the little things. You saw that with his ability to block two people at once on Danny Amendola's touchdown vs. Baltimore two games ago, and you saw it again late in the first half Sunday.

On a sweep to Edelman, LaFell stepped out to block his man, cornerback Tharold Simon. LaFell kept an eye toward the line of scrimmage to see Edelman. LaFell was able to pick up Richard Sherman out of the corner of the eye, and he let Simon go with a shove before diving to take out Sherman.

Brandon LaFell
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Edelman gained seven yards, and three plays later, they were in the end zone.

It wasn't the biggest play (Sherman got a piece of Edelman, and Simon helped force him out of bounds), but it's commitment. And it's worth noting, because being able to block two people at once is a useful trait.

--I have to say, pretty good job by Bill Vinovich and crew. I mean, no, you should never call holding on Bryan Stork, but other than that, pretty good night by the officials.

--I still find it crazy that in the first 29 minutes of the game, the Seahawks gained just 87 yards, yet in 29 seconds before halftime, they gained 80.

--Richard Sherman didn't win the Super Bowl, but he'll always have that moment where he taunted another great cornerback for something that Doug Baldwin did. So that's special for him, probably.

--Just in case you did not know: Over the final two drives, with his team trailing by 10 points in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady went 13-for-15 for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Also in case you don't know: He is remarkable at footballing.

--There were a lot of great quotes coming from the winning players after that game, but I thought the best came from Julian Edelman. He was asked if his father was in attendance and what it meant to win the Super Bowl in front of his dad.

"It was unbelievable," Edelman said. "My dad, he's had my back since day one. He's pushed me to heights that I thought I never could get to. My dad was just a little trailer trash white dude that worked his tail off, didn't have a dad. He started working at 14, didn't get to play sports. He dedicated his life to his kids to let us live our dreams. I love my dad."

--All in all, that was as wild a season as there could ever be. From the Logan Mankins trade, the season-opening loss in Miami, the famous loss in Kansas City, the response against Cincinnati, the blowouts of the Bears and Broncos and Lions and Colts, the losses of Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley, the road home game in San Diego, the two 14-point comebacks and the ineligible receivers against Baltimore, the whooping of the Colts, the deflated football nonsense, all the way to the Jermaine Kearse miracle catch and the Malcolm Butler interception.

It's certainly too much to interpret all at once, especially so soon after that Super Bowl. But it surely was one to enjoy.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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