I don’t use the term “script” loosely, either. This is the NFL after all, a league with plummeting ratings that needs to squeeze every ounce of drama out of every oversaturated primetime game that it can. So how refreshing to see the end of Sunday night’s Super Bowl XLIX rematch unfold the way that it did.
What the Seattle Seahawks did on Sunday night won’t guarantee them a Lombardi Trophy, but the win was impressive given how heavy the deck was stacked against them (isn’t that always the case for opponents of the New England Patriots?).
Fresh off a Monday night game on the other side of the country, the 5-2-1 Seahawks flew to Foxborough on a short week minus arguably their biggest impact defensive player in Michael Bennett. New England was 7-1, unbeaten since Tom Brady’s return. Brady had been flawless, throwing 12 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
In a game that appeared to be headed down the exact same fateful path as that February night in Arizona some 21 months ago, Seattle somehow, some way pulled out a victory despite missed opportunities left and right that looked like bad omens.
There was the trepidation of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, whose conservative red-zone play-calling led to four field goals instead of touchdowns. Bevell was undoubtedly nervous about throwing the ball to the middle of the field given how Super Bowl XLIX ended.
There was the improbable 3rd-and-25 conversion by the Patriots when Brady dropped in a dime to Julian Edelman. Fortunately, Seattle was able to keep New England out of the end zone.
And then there was Pete Carroll once again outsmarting himself against Bill Belichick. Ahead 25-24, Doug Baldwin hauled in his third touchdown catch of the game, and the extra point — anything but a given considered Seattle had one blocked earlier in the night — would have made it an eight-point lead. That would have forced New England to go for two if it scored.
Instead, Carroll went for the jugular, but Wilson’s pass fell incomplete (it is the Seahawks at the goal line against the Patriots, after all), keeping it just a seven-point margin. And yet in spite of all of that, in spite of a miracle catch by Rob Gronkowski to set up a first-and-goal, the Seahawks’ defense stiffened, and kept the Patriots out of the end zone despite New England trying all of its patented gimmicks that have been befuddling opponents for 15 years.
There was no Brady Magic on this night, even though the Seahawks refused to close the door on the Patriots. Hours earlier in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to have a miracle win in the bag only to be usurped by the Dallas Cowboys’ unheralded rookie tandem of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. It is a treat we as football viewers (let’s say viewers, not fans) are rarely fortunately enough to enjoy, watching the two teams that have rendered the rest of the AFC useless falling in heartbreaking fashion in the final minute.
I can sit here and type away and tell you that my waning interest in football comes from a variety of factors — overexposing of the product, Thursday Night Football, concussions and early retirements galore, Roger Goodell’s greed, Week 17 and its predictably-bad divisional matchups, and so on and so forth. But I’d be lying if I didn’t put the New England Patriots at the top of the list, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on that sentiment.
New England has lost a grand total of 17 games since the start of the 2010 season. The Pats haven’t lost three straight games since 2002 (!). They’ve had a postseason bye the last five years. The AFC in the Super Bowl has been represented by only three quarterbacks in 12 of the last 13 seasons. This act has gotten tired, stale, annoying, and any other adjective you want to throw in there. So any time we get to watch Tom Brady and Bill Belichick pout in their postgame press conferences because they “inexplicably” lost a football game, let’s all soak it up.
Props to the Seahawks for ignoring all the noise, all the omens, all the bad scheduling by the league. A win is a win is a win, and this was at least a small measure of revenge for what happened in Glendale 21 months ago. The Patriots are going to win their 12 or 13 games as usual, be at home in the playoffs, and make the narrative all about them. So for this one night, this one week, let’s enjoy something different. The NFL seems to have lost its way with that in recent years.