New England quarterback Tom Brady took his place among the greatest players of all-time Sunday – only after one of the worst calls in Super Bowl history.
Brady was phenomenal in the New England Patriots’ 28-24 win against Seattle. He broke some sort of record seemingly every series, including a masterpiece of a winning drive when he threw eight passes, and completed all of them.
But he’s not getting sized for a fourth ring if the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll calls the play 100 million people watching on their plasmas and HD TVs just knew was coming: a handoff to Marshawn Lynch.
It turns out the only person who could stop the back known as Beast Mode at the 1 was his own coach.
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When Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell saw the Patriots’ goal-line defense on the field against Seattle’s three-wide receivers set, they called a pass play that will be on a continuous loop on NFL Network until, oh, Valentine’s Day.
With 26 seconds left, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson fired a pass toward Ricardo Lockette. But cornerback Malcolm Butler – an undrafted rookie from West Alabama – jumped the slant route and made a great interception that will haunt the 12th Man’s dreams.
In the postgame media scrum, Carroll began explaining his rationale before he was asked about it. Then he was asked about it some more.
“At this time it seems like over-thinking, but they have goal-line guys on. We have three wide receivers, a tight end and one back. They’ve got extra guys at the line of scrimmage,” Carroll said. “So we don’t want to waste a run play (against) that.”
Carroll didn’t want to waste a play, although the Seahawks wasted two timeouts on their last drive that would have come in handy during the final minute.
The second-guessing started before all of the confetti had fallen.
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who was presented with his NFL Man of the Year trophy on the field before the game, wondered why a “running team” would get cute with the Super Bowl on the line.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman conceded he was a “little bit surprised” by the call.
The real head-scratcher is why the Seahawks had three wide receivers on the field at the 1.
One guy who wasn’t questioning the decision to pass was the player who threw it.
“I thought it was a good call. I thought we could have scored a touchdown there,” Wilson said. “We didn’t. That’s what it really came down to.”
And then he began talking about the greatness of Brady, who somehow managed to get overshadowed despite joining childhood idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls.
Brady threw two interceptions, but those were blips on a night when he was surgical while throwing 50 passes.
He completed 37 of them – a Super Bowl record – for 328 yards and four touchdowns to four receivers.
Brady erased a 24-14 deficit in the fourth quarter with touchdown drives of 68 and 64 yards, finding Julian Edelman in the front corner of the end zone for the winning, 3-yard touchdown with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left.
Brady, still wearing his uniform, wasn’t interested in jumping into the Greatest of All-Time discussions just yet.
“I never put myself in those discussions. That’s not how I think,” Brady said. “There’s so many great players that have been on so many great teams. And we’ve had some great teams that haven’t won it, and I think you’ve got to just enjoy the moment.”
Others were happy to talk about Brady’s legacy.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels believes Brady, 37, is the best of this era.
“I don’t know where he ranks in history, but who’s done more than him?” McDaniels said. “Who’s done more winning than him?”
It looked for a bit like the storyline would be Wilson’s last-minute comeback and the Seahawks’ second consecutive title.
When Jermaine Kearse made a ridiculous, juggling catch that took the Seahawks to the New England 5, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was having bad David Tyree flashbacks.
And when Lynch bulled his way to the 1 on the next play, you started wondering about that awkward moment when he comes to the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player news conference and says, “I’m only here so I don’t get fined” for five minutes.
We can guess how Lynch feels about Carroll’s play call. He, of course, did not talk to reporters.
But as Wilson was finishing up his postgame comments, he made sure to bring the conversation back to Brady.
“I admire the guy because he plays with true grit. I want to be that guy one day,” Wilson said. “I just keep working. I think our team just keeps working. I think we’re in a great situation. I expect us to win. I expect us to be back here.”
The thing is, Brady and Belichick might be there waiting for him.