I said on twitter that I would have no more words about the football season that ended last night, but I lied. I have a few more things to say about the game specifically and the Pats in general. Then I’ll really be done for the season.
There has been some dissent around the fact that Brady got the MVP for the game. I’m curious who people think should have gotten the MVP. On the one hand, the Pats do not win the game without that superhuman miracle interception by Butler. On the other hand, without Brady’s otherwordly fourth quarter, the Patriots aren’t even in a position for the interception to matter. On the third hand, without some great play by the offensive line and pass receivers, Brady would not have been able to be virtually perfect in the 4th quarter. All of this just means that the entire idea of a single MVP for a game like this is ludicrous.
In my mind the game was over as the 4th quarter started. The Seattle D seemed to have played the Giants Game Plan (tm) perfectly and were in Brady’s head. In addition, every time Russell Wilson touched the ball he was either running around and past people or chucking up terrifying deep balls that seemed to always lead to scores. I remarked at the time that what the Pats needed was for 2007 Brady to show up for a quarter, and then maybe we’d have a chance. When Brady was sacked on the first play that the Pats ran in the 4th quarter, I thought it was even more over than before.
Then, a funny thing happened. Needing 15 yards on 3rd down Brady dropped back and watched the Seattle pass rush open up and flow around him. He took two or three steps forward and then threw a laser to Edelman 21 yards down field who caught it and then got destroyed by Chancellor. Huge throw and catch (and probably a huge concussion, but…). After that play the ghost of 2007 Brady showed up and he and the rest of the offense proceeded to take Seattle apart. Seattle had not given up meaningful 4th quarter points, much less touchdowns, for multiple weeks running before giving up 14 points to the Pats.
It’s important to emphasize that this was done by Brady and the rest of the offense. Brady needed his guys to run great routes, make great catches and most importantly, block the Seattle pass rush. That rush had been destroying the Patriots just ten minutes earlier, leading to the second of two picks and a distinct impression that Brady was getting old. But in the 4th quarter the O-line finally put it together and ultimately put the Pats ahead with two minutes left. The D just needed a couple of stops and the game was over.
When have we seen this situation before?
Of course it wasn’t over. And of course another flukey catch put Seattle in a position to win, at which point a miracle pick by an unknown rookie defender saves the day, the game, and most importantly Brady’s position as the greatest of all time.
It’s like this: Brady has been doing Brady things for 15 years, but flukey catches and a few missed plays here and there had put him permanently in the “really good but has not won since 2005” bucket for most people. So now he is given his own somewhat flukey miracle interception (by someone whose name you will not remember next year) and suddenly everyone is annointing him the greatest of all time. Really this is just the big random number generator in the sky, but our puny primate brains cannot accept this. Instead we must project illogical and irrational narratives on to these events, and then argue about these falsehoods on national TV to sell advertising to companies who make cars, beer and aids to sexual performance. That’s just how humans are.
I understand that this is inevitable, but I also think it takes away from the accomplishments of the teams in the here and now. The fact that this Pats team has been able to win tough games and come back from big leads (14 points twice, 10 points once) is a reflection of their unique character. It’s more than just a notch in the Belichick and Brady victory belt, securing their future legacy as the best of all time. It’s a reflection of a really good team of 52 guys who ultimately played well enough to be in a position to win, and then maybe got lucky at the end there because the other team made a weird play call. Butler still had to get to that ball though. It was pretty great.
On a personal note, I was so surprised by the pick that I screamed at the TV for maybe a minute and a half. I can’t remember the last time I screamed at the TV, but it was probably the helmet catch. In 2008 after that game ended I was full of angry, nervous, jittery energy for maybe a week or ten days. Today, after the win last night, I am full of a very similar nervous jittery energy. A tiny little man inside my mind is still leaping up in front of the TV and screaming OH MY GOD WHAT JUST HAPPENED. He’ll probably quiet down in a few days and then I’ll be able to sleep and think normally again.
Meanwhile, maybe I’ll buy a t-shirt. And maybe I’ll just walk out into the Pittsburgh night wearing a big PUNCH ME sign. Ah well. I’m really done now. Honest.