As strange as it is to imagine now, Brady and Belichick’s legacies were not clearly cemented as greatest quarterback/head coach tandem of all time five years ago.
The Patriots had not won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season. They had suffered heartbreaking playoff defeats to the Giants and Broncos, as well as frustrating losses to the Colts, Jets, and Ravens. While they were always championship contenders, one way or another, they would come up short during that nine year stretch.
While it was certainly a reasonable opinion to have them ranked Number 1, it was far from unanimous. Not to mention, the annoying fans from around the country loved pointing out “You haven’t won since Spy-Gate!”, as if they had an understanding of what that actually was.
Brady and Belichick needed at least one more Lombardi to claim GOAT status in most viewers’ eyes. So Malcolm Butler saved far more than just that year’s Super Bowl.
Let us imagine again that Butler does not make that interception. Brady and Belichick have now gone 10 straight seasons without winning a ring. Brady threw two atrocious picks in that game, one of them in the Red Zone.
Belichick’s defense gave up a touchdown drive with under 30 seconds remaining in the first half. His defense would have also allowed another game tying/ go ahead drive late in the 4th quarter (to add to the Super Bowls against the Rams, Panthers, and Giants twice). In another cruel twist of fate, New England was the victim of another miraculous, fluky catch.
Thankfully, that narrative never saw the light of day. After “The Butler Did It”, New England fans could focus on the game’s positives. Brady, with possibly the best quarter of his life, carved The Legion of Boom in the 4th down 10. (At that point, it was the largest comeback ever in the second half of a Super Bowl.) Brady went 13-15 for 124 yards and two touchdown passes. The 2nd was the game winner to Julian Edelman with 2:02 remaining.
Belichick’s greatness was highlighted as well. The fact he did not call a timeout with Seattle poised to score left many pundits shaking their heads at the time. In the “Do Your Job” documentary, Belichick described how the Seahawks looked somewhat flustered. He was not going to take the pressure off them by calling a timeout. When Butler came down with that ball, it was proven Belichick’s grasp on football psychology was second to none.
That Super Bowl win recharged the Patriots dynasty. They would compete in three of the next four Super Bowls, coming away with two more trophies. Now the people who think they are not the greatest quarterback/ head coach duo are either jealous fans, Spy-Gate or Deflate-Gate truthers, or simply have no idea what they are talking about.
Lastly, the most important Boston sports play is a discussion worth having. David Ortiz’s massive postseason swings in 2004 or 2013 are options. Steals by Larry Bird, John Havlicek, and the often forgotten Gerald Henderson are all incredibly important plays. Any crucial Tim Thomas save or Nathan Horton game winning playoff goal in 2011 should be in the conversation. Maybe the two kicks by Adam Vinatieri in a Foxborough blizzard crack the list. All of these and many more should be mentioned.
However, in my opinion, no single play altered a Boston sports championship game, season, legacies, and future seasons of success as much as Malcolm Butler’s Super XLIX game winning interception.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones