"Deflategate" talk dominated Super Bowl week for the New England Patriots, with opinions about what happened coming from people as varied as Joe Montana and Bill Nye. The Patriots repeatedly denied allegations of using underinflated footballs during the AFC Championship game and brushed talk about alleged cheating aside.
Then, down by 10 points to the Seattle Seahawks with 7:55 left in Super Bowl XLIX, knowing their chances were slowly dwindling away, the Patriots again brushed adversity aside and calmly drove down the field the next two times they had the ball to take the lead a 28-24 lead with 2:02 remaining.
What happened in the next one minute and 40 seconds drove a record number of Americans to their television sets to watch Seattle drive down to the one-yard line, thanks to a circus catch by Jermaine Kearse and a barreling Marshawn Lynch scamper to the one-yard line on first-down.
What the offensive coaching staff did next will continue to be debated and talked about for years to come. Instead of handing the ball to Lynch, Russell Wilson dropped back and threw a slant in the direction of Ricardo Lockette, who had all of 17 receptions on the year.
Lockette’s route was quickly jumped and the ball intercepted by Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler. Thus ended the Seahawks chance to become the first team in a decade to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Instead, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won their fourth title in 14 years.
Brady, the game’s MVP after he completed a Super Bowl-record 37 passes, cemented his legacy as one of the best to ever play the quarterback position, "Deflategate" or not.
As SI’s Greg Bishop writes, “The Patriots win provided a counterpoint to critics. No tricks. No strategic tomfoolery. They won with footballs properly inflated.”
Super Bowl XLIX was a game for the ages: featuring one team whose dynasty shows no signs of slowing down, and another that goes into the offseason full of questions and soul-searching about what could have been.
For more on Super Bowl XLIX, check out this week's Sports Illustrated. (subscribe here)
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