Do you want to relive the rest of the season? Go check out old GIF of the Week posts. I discovered gfycat too late into the season, but it shouldn't be too bad to load. Almost every game has a cool play or two (and let's be serious it took me some time to get into a groove).
It might be surprising, but this game wasn't the best for GIFs until the final stretch of the game when everything went nuclear. For the first three quarters, the Patriots were dinking and dunking their way down the field with only one or two noticeable plays (which you'll see below). Picking up 6 or 7 yards is great for moving the chains, but it doesn't really make the headlines! And then the Seahawks were kind of just running the ball, so it was difficult to find a standout play.
In reality, most of the splashy plays through were made by the Seahawks, with their big gains and forced turnovers.
But then the fourth quarter happened. Oh. My. Goodness. The Patriots were unstoppable and the defense made so many plays that both touchdown passes didn't even make the cut. Surgical is one word that comes to mind. The other word is probably just onomatopoeia.
Hope you all enjoyed this segment this season- we have one more GIF of the Week feature we'll put out prior to the draft.
Brandon LaFell and the Needle
Tom Brady fires a laser to Brandon LaFell and the receiver's route couldn't have been any better- do you see how quickly he stems his route? The playaction is key for this play as it keeps the Seahawks linebackers out of the passing lane so Brady can thread the ball in between three Seattle players.
The timing on this play is so important because if Brady throws it a second earlier, then LaFell wouldn't have been fully into his break and the cornerback might have been able to make a play. If the throw is a second later, linebacker Bobby Wagner might have another interception.
If LaFell doesn't catch the ball at his body, and if he had to extend to grab the ball, then safety Earl Thomas would likely smack him before he crossed the goal line. If Brady hesitates, then the passing window is closed and no one is getting open since LeGarrette Blount and Rob Gronkowski are staying in to block.
And all of those "football out in under two seconds" stats? This is one of them. A lot can happen in two seconds.
Raindrops for Rob Gronkowski
This is easily Tom Brady's best throw of the day. It's not the most crucial, but the touch on the deep pass is perfect. It's where only Rob Gronkowski can make a play on the ball and the pass is released the second Gronk throws a head-fake and gets to the outside of his coverage.
Danny Amendola actually breaks wide open on the other side of the field and with Kam Chancellor asked to play deep coverage, the Seahawks wouldn't have the back-end range to defend the pass. Seattle was clearly challenging Tom Brady to either make the deep throws, or be comfortable picking up short yardage every play. By hitting this huge pass early on, it forced the Seahawks to respect the big play possibility by the Patriots offense.
Julian Edelman the Hitman
Yes, he was down, but I had to show his run after hitting the ground purely because this is the play that inspired the entire Patriots team to be lockdown for the fourth quarter. He's the heart and the engine of this whole team and he put his entire being on the line for this third down conversion.
If the Patriots don't make this play, they probably lose the Super Bowl. Edelman doesn't receive enough credit for being transcendent on the biggest stage.
Also underrated? Brady's scramble potential (!!!) and Shane Vereen's ability out of the backfield draws a linebacker out of the passing lane and allows Julian Edelman to open up for this huge pick-up.
Rob Ninkovich's Scrape Sack
Rob Ninkovich had himself a post-season. After completely going HAM on the Colts offense, Ninkovich provided a few game changing plays in the Super Bowl. This sack gave the Patriots a chance to win the game and I think everyone felt it. After this play, it felt like there was blood in the water and the Patriots were slamming doubt into the minds of the Seahawks
This was 3rd down and the Patriots played their version of the NASCAR package with Chris Jones and Chandler Jones holding down the middle, with both Dont'a Hightower and Akeem Ayers setting the edges. The Patriots actually played this alignment a couple times as it offered three quality pass rushers in the Joneses and Ninkovich, while both Hightower and Ayers can both rush the quarterback or drop into coverage.
There's so much teamwork on the Patriots defensive line. If Chandler doesn't drift to the middle, then the left guard doesn't have to transition. If the guard doesn't transition at the exact same time Ayers charges towards the pocket, then Ayers wouldn't draw double coverage. If Ayers doesn't draw double coverage, then Ninkovich will be blocked instead of getting a free shot at the quarterback.
One Handed Shane Vereen
WHEW. This is when everyone knew things were going the Patriots way. This exact play. The Patriots chipped their way down the field, scored, and held onto the lead for the first time in the second half.
Malcolm Butler Saves the Season
Props to Brandon Browner for a phenomenal jam to give Malcolm Butler a free seam to the ball. Props to the coaches for noting this exact play and practicing against it in practice. Props to Jimmy Garoppolo and Josh Boyce for beating Butler on Tuesday's practice so he'd study extra hard. Props to Dont'a Hightower for not accidentally knocking the ball loose as Butler went to the ground. Props to Ricardo Lockette for looking so graceful getting outmuscled by a player 4 inches and 25-lbs smaller.
Props to Malcolm Butler for the single most important valuable in NFL history.
The Seahawks didn't lose this game. The Patriots saw the game up for grabs and just went for it.
Opposite Ends of the Spectrum
This is how a heart heals. This is how a heart breaks.