Patriots' win makes Deflategate probe stakes higher; more Super Snaps
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from an unforgettable Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium, where the New England Patriots somehow found a way to stave off back-to-back Seattle championships, beating the Seahawks 28-24 in dramatic and entertaining fashion. ...
• Well this couldn’t have been the scenario the NFL was really rooting for. The New England Patriots won big Sunday night, but I’m not sure the league did. Let’s face it: Another Seattle Super Bowl victory would have greatly lessened the intensity and impact of the Deflategate story that surrounds the New England Patriots, and would have helped nudge it off the radar screen to a degree.
But now, the ongoing investigation into the alleged practice of football under-inflation in Foxboro is going to get a fresh supply of oxygen. It’s the Super Bowl champions -- not just the AFC champs -- who are under the microscope, and the NFL can’t afford any appearance of down-playing the issue while still looking credible.
That means the stakes just got higher. And even if you think the story has been overblown, a stance I tend to share, this topic isn’t going away until Ted Wells issues his investigative findings. And maybe not even then. Some will see the Patriots’ win as a tainted title. Some will not, and will scoff at the significance of any competitive edge a little less air pressure provided.
Unsurprisingly, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was in no mood to have his team’s accomplishment questioned Sunday night, telling NBC: “Well, we won that game 45-7 [the AFC Championship, against Indianapolis], and we today [won] 28-24, and nobody touched the balls.’’
But something tells me that won’t be quite enough evidence to end this controversy.
• Pretty easy to see what will be one of Monday’s hottest stories coming out of the Patriots’ Super Bowl comeback victory, after the shock of the game’s unbelievable ending starts to wear off: Did New England receiver Julian Edelman play through some obvious concussion symptoms in the second half, with the NFL’s concussion protocol being all but ignored?
Edelman certainly looked plenty woozy after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit from Seattle safety Kam Chancellor in the fourth quarter. But he stayed in the game, and later caught the game-winning three-yard touchdown pass with 2:02 remaining, giving the Patriots their four-point margin of victory.
According to Detroit Free Press reporter Dave Birkett, there were medical personnel in a box upstairs that were trying to alert the field that Edelman should be checked for concussion symptoms.
"Can hear the independent medical doctors in the box radio to the sideline saying Edelman needs to be checked for concussion," Birkett tweeted. It’s not known if Edelman ever underwent the protocol, but he seemingly was not out of the game long enough to do so. And the head injury debate rages on.
• Sorry, but I have a hard time seeing how Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell ever puts this one completely behind him. Pete Carroll certainly tried to deflect the blame to his shoulders, but Bevell’s play call on the game-deciding Malcolm Butler interception was indefensible. I predict that in time, Bevell will take the full brunt of that bone-headed decision.
A yard away from clinching a second consecutive Super Bowl title, the Seahawks opted for a risky pass into the middle of the field in really tight quarters instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch, the NFL’s regular-season rushing touchdown leader (17), who had already scored on a three-yard run in the second quarter.
Butler made a tremendous play. But he shouldn't have been in position to ever get his hands on the ball, because the ball shouldn’t have been thrown in the first place. Case closed. This one will haunt the Seahawks for years.
• What a painful postseason run it was for NFC playoff teams this year. The same excruciating cycle kept repeating throughout the NFL’s month-long Super Bowl tournament.
The Lions season ended in devastating fashion when the Cowboys beat them in Dallas, thanks to some questionable officiating. The Cowboys’ season ended in devastating fashion when the Packers beat them in Green Bay, thanks in large part to that Dez Bryant catch that wasn’t. The Packers’ season ended in devastating fashion when the Seahawks beat them in Seattle with a miraculous late-game comeback from a 16-point deficit.
And now, Seattle joins the list of the heartbroken, having lost by four points to New England in the Super Bowl, coming up a yard shy of victory.
• The shame of all shames in this Super Bowl is that the great story of Chris Matthews won’t resonate anywhere near as much now that Seattle lost. The first-year receiver entered the game without an NFL reception, and nearly stole the show, catching four passes for 109 yards, with an 11-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Matthews single-handedly kept the Seahawks in the game for a good portion of the night, and the 26-year-old former Foot Locker employee would have been the most unlikely game-changing star in Super Bowl history. Being cut by both the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Cleveland Browns is not your typical path to the Super Bowl.
•Call me naive, but when I saw Richard Sherman mugging for the TV cameras after Seattle took a 24-14 lead on a Doug Baldwin touchdown catch in the third quarter, I took it as he was pointing out the scoreboard, and that the Seahawks had scored their 24th point in the game.
But if he was mocking Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis, his competition for title of the NFL’s best cornerback, then he didn’t really see the play Baldwin scored on. It was pretty clear that Baldwin was so wide open in part because he let the umpire set a perfect pick for him, with Revis in essence being blocked by a zebra.
• Think about how different the game might have been had Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane intercepted Tom Brady a yard deep in the end zone in the first quarter, instead of right at the goal line or a yard outside it. Lane broke his left arm in grotesque fashion on the return of the pick, when he landed awkwardly on the arm after a hit by Julian Edelman.
With Lane out, the Seahawks had to give reserve cornerback Tharold Simon extensive playing time, and the Patriots picked on him incessantly on the next drive, which resulted in a 22-yard Rob Gronkowski touchdown drive. Simon wasn’t horrible, but he was clearly the weak link in the Seattle pass defense on Sunday.
• My favorite quote of the night, from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, when asked if he had ever seen a catch like the juggling, deflected 33-yard grab made by Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse, the miracle play that very nearly won the game for the Seahawks?
"Yeah, I’ve seen two of them," Belichick dead-panned, clearly referring to the Super Bowl-turning catches made by Giants receivers David Tyree (in 2008) and Mario Manningham (in 2012), both of which led to New England defeats. "I thought it was incomplete and then he ended up with the ball. I saw the replay and it was a tremendous catch, great concentration. It was a tremendous catch, kind of like two other ones I’ve seen."