New England Patriots claimed their first Super Bowl victory in ten years as they came from behind to beat Seattle Seahawks 28-24 at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
While far from an emphatic victory, it will serve as important closure for the Pats, who took an significant step towards regaining their credibility after enduring a scandal over their attempts to deflate the ball in several NFL matches this season.
Patriots’ quarter-back Tom Brady, who was awarded Most Valuable Player, was instrumental in the win. No doubt he will realise the importance of restoring his own personal integrity with more performances like this on the field. Former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Charles Haley has been among the high-profile voices to question Brady’s record, insisting his four Super Bowl rings have been tainted by ‘deflate gate’.
However, commentators hailed Brady as the greatest quarter-back of all time after he threw for four touchdowns, amid comparisons with the likes of Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. Brady surpassed Montana’s record for the most career touchdown passes, but naturally, it is difficult to compare the two condidering the way the game has changed since Montana’s days.
As for the Seattle Seahawks, they were left to rue what might have been, and perhaps deservingly so after one of the poorest past choices ever seen in the dying seconds.
Pete Carroll’s men looked set to hold on to win back-to-back Super Bowls, but after taking control in the third quarter, complacency appeared to slip in, summed up perfectly by Richard Sherman’s gloating.
Seahawks’ Russell Wilson could have been an NFL hero as the final play fell into his hands, but rather than pass to an expectant, ever-powerful Marshawn Lynch, he made completely the wrong call and saw his pass to Ricardo Lockette from the 1-yard line intercepted by Pats’ Malcolm Butler.
Lynch was characteristically unstoppable. He appeared before the game in a meeting with the assembled media, whom he told he was speaking to “so he didn’t get fined”. Lynch may not be one for embracing his place in the spotlight, but it was difficult for him to avoid the limelight with a spectacular touchdown. He was also the game’s top rusher, covering 102 yards.
The bitterness over the final play is still tangible in the Seahawks camp. Quarter-back Russell Wilson has refused to take responsibility, blaming Lockette for not being stronger on the ball, while coach Carroll has also acknowledged his failings and is refusing to blame offensive co-ordinator Darrell Bevell.
Wilson should take the brunt of the disapproval disseminating from Seahawks fans, especially after getting off to a slow start. Brady demonstrated why it is he, and not Wilson, who is really the quarter-back for the big games, leading the first scoring drive of the second quarter. Wilson, on the other hand, began shyly, and it was clear that Seahawks did not know where to begin until he arrived in the game. The 26-year-old was virtually invisible for the first 20 minutes, though his throw to Chris Matthews was certainly something to behold.
Matthews’ performance is the main positive to take away for Seattle. Only hard-line Seahawks fans would have heard of the practice-squad incumbent prior to kick-off, but he transformed from a relative unknown into an NFL hero.
New England may not have been popular winners, but for the NFL as a whole, it was vital that the match grabbed headlines for the right reasons. Quite apart from a frankly bizarre half-time show where Katy Perry, Missy Elliott and Lenny Kravitz were upstaged by an inflatable shark, the Super Bowl was a success in terms of entertainment, regardless of a slow first quarter.
A sour ending threatened to overshadow the thrill of the final play as both sides squared up, and the fall-out is yet to cease over a week on. Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin has since been fined $11,025 for unsporting conduct in the light of his controversial celebration in the end-zone. Baldwin has noticeably only been fined the minimum amount for that penalty, which suggests the NFL are simply going through the motions.
Finally, spare a thought for cornerback Jeremy Lane, who broke his wrist after falling awkwardly intercepting one of Brady’s passes. Lane would probably not have changed the result, but will be devastated to have missed out on half the turbulence of one of the most talked-about games in history.