You may not believe it, but Jermaine Kearse made–or not–the biggest play of one of the greatest games in NFL history last night. You won’t believe it, because you’re thinking about Malcolm Butler jumping the route into Patriots lore, ensuring that he’ll never have to buy a drink in Massachusetts for as long as he lives.
You won’t believe it, because Malcolm Butler should have been Jermaine Kearse last night, performing some sort of acrobatic magic trick with the ball in the final minute of the one of the greatest games in NFL history last night. It was the sort of catch that makes one question whether or not these players are actually human, and not some sort of evolved species that have traveled to Earth like the Gods of Olympus so long ago.
You won’t believe it, because that catch–that Herculean effort of sheer luck and concentration–should have gone down as the greatest catch in the greatest game in NFL history, completing the trifecta of other great throws and catches to rip the hearts out of the Patriots in Super Bowl losses, with the best saved for last.
You won’t believe it, because the most important play wasn’t a catch, or a throw, or the game-winning touchdown, or the Super Bowl-sealing interception. No, the most important play came on a 3rd and 2, with the Seahawks up 10, and driving.
It was a well-thrown albeit tough catch to the sidelines, and the coverage was there. The throw was there, too, and it bounced off Kearse’s hands. The Seahawks had to punt the ball away after that, shifting the game in the Patriots’ favor. Seattle wouldn’t score again; New England would 14 more points.
(Quick point, before we get to the greatness of the Patriots: Seattle’s receivers are atrocious. And I mean that in the nicest and warmest possible way. Early in the game, before Seattle did anything, this showed: Russell Wilson had enough time in the pocket to cook a full meal in a crockpot, and yet couldn’t find an open receiver. Not to point fingers (note: totally meant to point fingers), but they really could have used a Pro Bowl-caliber Wide Receiver/Running Back hybrid who, at his best, inspires the time of Olympian comparison as stated above. Maybe somebody whose name rhymes with Mercy Marvin, and was traded away for no return on his value and for no good reason. Especially if this person played a crucial part in helping them win the Super Bowl last year, but whatever. Lie in your bed, Seattle.)
But, now, the Patriots. The most successful franchise over the past decade-plus this side of the San Antonio Spurs. If you hate them, it’s because they don’t care about you or anything that you do: through Spygate and this newly overblown Deflate-gate, they stick together. When Aaron Hernandez (allegedly) murdered three people, they internalized, focused on the game, and came out stronger.
This is a testament to Belichick and Brady. The joke around Belichick is that he only cares about the next game, answering questions with “On to [next team],” something so funny because it is so true and so terrifying. Belichick has made a career out of being more prepared than the next guy. He has flummoxed Peyton Manning at his peak, he turns other teams’ rejects into diamond athletes, and he is the greatest coach in NFL history.
And now, Brady. The greatness of Brady was on display with his very last throw last night. It was a route Julian Edelman already ran, and Brady missed. There really isn’t anything to say about the first throw: Edelman ran a beautiful route, shaking off the defender as if he teleported, and Brady just threw a bad pass.
But here’s where Brady’s great. They went back to that exact play. Edelman ran that exact teleportation route. The only thing that was different, though, was that Brady through a different pass. This one hit Edelman exactly where the first one should have, and Seattle never recovered.
Here’s the impact of Brady: the Patriots gained 57 rushing yards last night, the fifth fewest all time in the Super Bowl for the winning teams. The quarterbacks in front of him? Kurt Warner, Troy Aikman, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. One of those is already in the Hall of Fame, two of those are locks once they retire, and Kurt Warner should be inducted (but probably won’t be).
It’s that type of level Brady plays at, and has since Bledsoe’s injury changed football and the Patriots’ history. In winning his third Super Bowl MVP, he’s accomplished something only one other person in the history of the world can say. The comparison has always been Joe Montana, and he’s finally caught him.
And do you want to know the scary thing? They’re not going to rest on their laurels. On to training camp.