Later today, the New England Patriots will face off against the Philadelphia Eagles for a chance to win their sixth Super Bowl. The first five victories – and even the losses – on the game's biggest stage have produced multiple great plays and unforgettable memories. Members of the Pats Pulpit staff and commenters revisit some of theirs ahead of Super Bowl 52. Take a look:
Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill)
The Patriots victory over the Atlanta Falcons is dear to my heart because I was there. I saw New England mount the greatest comeback in NFL history and win the very first overtime Super Bowl game and clinch the title of “Greatest of All Time” for both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. I met the players and saw the joy on their faces, the realization that all of their hard work paid off. How can you top this game?
Alec Shane (@alecdshane)
Just one memory? I mean, how do you choose as a Patriots fan? There are so many! For me, definitely, not even close, Super Bowl 36. Adam Vinatieri, 48-yarder as time expired to beat the Rams 20-17. They've won a lot since then but nothing – for me at least – will ever, ever top that first one.
Ryan Keiran (@Ryan_Keiran)
February 1st, 2015. In my dorm for my freshman year of college in New York, a fellow Patriots fan in the room and a Seahawks fan. Malcolm Butler seemingly bats away a pass intended for Jermaine Kearse, and while the Seahawks fan panics and the other Pats fan celebrates, I sink to the floor watching Kearse haul in the bobble. The Seahawks fan starts incessantly talking smack, increasing when Marshawn Lynch nearly gets in, stopped at the 1 yard line. Wilson in shotgun. “The pass issssss... INTERCEPTED at the goal line! By Malcolm Butler!!” Class was not attended the next day (sorry Mom).
Doug Moore (@DMooreNFL)
I’d say the Edelman catch in SB51. Not only was it in the midst of the most improbable comeback in Super Bowl history, but the difficulty of it made it that much more memorable. It got batted down but Edelman is able to shift his momentum back and catch it with three defenders draped around him. And then the bobble and recovery! Are you kidding me? It was something you don’t even see in a video game and here it was, during comeback time in the Super Bowl. Absolutely mind-blowing moment.
Matthew Rewinski (@SomeCallMeGoose):
As one of the resident old guys, I’m going to cheat a bit and say Mike Vrabel’s touchdown receptions. Yes, plural. Lined up on the goal line in back-to-back Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004 as an eligible tight end, outside linebacker (and smartest man alive, according to Belichick) Vrabel hauled in a one-yard and two-yard touchdown against both the Panthers and the Eagles, respectively.
New England had been running the trick play with Vrabs on different sides of the formation successfully since 2002 (I guess a big guy lined up at tight end is a trick play?), and not only did Bill have the stones to run it in back-to-back Super Bowls in razor-tight games with zero margin for error, the Patriots ran Vrabel at tight end on the goal line in the second half of the game BOTH times. (We won’t razz Mike too hard that the pass against the Eagles bounced off his fingers before he actually caught it.)
Pro tip: if it looks like the Patriots are running something weird, they’re PROBABLY RUNNING SOMETHING WEIRD.
Oliver Thomas (@OliverBThomas)
J.R. Redmond’s safety-valve catches in the final turn of Super Bowl XXXVI were never archived the way Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal was. But Redmond, a third-round pick from the draft prior, caught three of Tom Brady’s final five completions on a drive that began at New England’s 17-yard line with 1:21 remaining. The former Arizona State back caught a five-yarder on first-and-10, and eight-yarder on second-and-5, and an 11-yarder on second-and-10 in a 17-17 game against the then-St. Louis Rams. And had Redmond not, things might have gone the way John Madden felt they should.
“Now with no timeouts, I think that the Patriots – with this field position – you have to just run the clock out,” Madden said on the Fox broadcast. “You have to play for overtime now. I don’t think you want to force anything here. You don’t want to do anything stupid, because you have no timeouts and you’re backed up.”
During the two week break between the AFCCG and Super Bowl XLIX, my wife had two cardiac arrests and was in intensive care. She had been unconscious for over a week when the Super Bowl started. After being married to her or over 20 years and talking to her every single day, the silence was the worst. The doctors had been backing off her medication trying to bring her back to consciousness the day of the Super Bowl.
The game was on the TV in her room with the sound muted. I saw maybe the first 10 minutes, before she started struggling to wake up. It was not a good night for her at all. She was in a some real pain and she was fighting. Really fighting. Did I mention she has a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do? Her fighting included punching and kicking the medical staff. I remember looking at the TV one time and the Pats were down by at least two scores. If only the Patriots had that fight....
I spent a lot of time trying to comfort her and quiet her and blocking her attacks for the medical staff. Eventually, the doctors decided that they needed to sedate her again, and I would have to wait even longer to be able to talk to my bride. I wasn’t in a very good place at all. Thankfully, I didn’t see the “Kearse of the catch” when it happened, because I might not have survived it. I was exhausted, so I walked down to the family visitation room to mix up some hot chocolate and coffee. Their coffee was awful, but the chocolate helped.
The Super Bowl was on TV, and there was confetti streaming. What color was it? Red and blue. They did it! Text comes in from a friend, “Congratulations! Pats won!” I see Tommy on stage and he’s happy. It’s nice, but not the miracle I needed. That would come the next day when I got to talk to my wife for the first time in over a week. “The Butler did it”, and all of that would come later. Eventually, months later, I got to see the whole game. Super Bowl XLIX for me was about two victories, one on a football field in Arizona, and the other in a hospital bed in Minnesota.
Evan Lazar (@ezlazar)
Picking just one Super Bowl memory when you have five championships to choose from is nearly impossible, but since that’s the question at hand I’m going back to the first one. I’ll never forget how John Madden said on the broadcast that he’d play for overtime on what ended up being the game-winning drive because of Brady’s inexperience.
What Brady did on that drive as a 24-year-old quarterback in his first season as a starter gave us all chills as Madden said, and birthed the entire dynasty. In particular, the 23-yard completion to Troy Brown stands out. It was Brady’s longest completion of the drive and put the Pats on the Rams’ side of the field. It also displayed two of Brady’s hallmark traits: accuracy over the middle and anticipation.
Bernd Buchmasser (@BerndBuchmasser)
When you think about your favorite Super Bowl memory, you probably think about one of the wins, right? 28-3. The Butler interception. Adam Vinatieri's game winners. When I think about my favorite Super Bowl memory, I think about something else: February 6, 2012. “Wait!”, you might say. That's the day the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl 46. “No, the day after the day the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl 46!” Good observation, Sherlock. Here's the story behind it.
When the 46th Super Bowl took place, I wasn't in the United States but in a little town in the Austrian Alps. Together with a group of friends we decided to watch the big game but of the 12 people in the room, only two knew its rules: Me, rooting for the Patriots, and a friend who – as a Cardinals fan – did not have a horse in the race. We took it upon ourselves to educate our friends about football throughout the game. What does this mean, what does that mean, why does Bill Belichick always look so grumpy.
By the fourth quarter, 10 of 12 people in the room were openly rooting for the Patriots. The team ultimately came up short and all 10 people felt – some more, some less – devastated. No, it was not a good ending to the night. As a whole, though, it was a Super Bowl unlike any other I've ever experienced; one that I will never forget because the end result was secondary that day.
That was the most intense moment of my life, there’ve been more important things, and things that have bought me greater joy, but nothing that intense.
After Brady scored the go ahead touchdown and the euphoria of taking the lead hit, so came the nagging thought, there’s too much time. This defense can’t hold. The slow creeping dread with every play, until it seemed punctured by Butler breaking up the pass to Kearse, maybe we’d hold them, but no somehow he’s done it again, the miracle catch.
Then it shifted from praying for the clock to run out, for praying for extra seconds to stay on it, because we knew they were going to score. And was Brady going to have enough time. Hightower makes the tackle, and while part of you celebrates, the other part is like, why didn’t we just let him through, think of the time. Then no time out, I’m calling it with my hands in my room (the rest of the house asleep) but it doesn’t come, the dawning realisation that there’s no longer going to be enough time for Brady. The defense has to hold from the one yard line for two plays.
Then the snap, the lack of handoff and the pass. Into a crowded area on the screen, you can’t really see what has happened, but then IT IS AN INTERCEPTION, and the switch is flicked. From gutted bitter remorse at what could have been and grief in repeated pending miraculous defeat, to pure joy. We’re going to win, it may be tight down on the two, but we’re going to win. Surely we’re going to win.
I’ve never had a moment like that before or since. I can only imagine there a few that can beat it, such an intense turnaround, in such little time. It was amazing, and I’ll never forget it and exactly what it was like to witness.
My vote is for Butler, and here’s why, from a “pink hat until 2011, rabid diehard henceforth” perspective:
I watched Bernard Pollard single-handedly ruin two championship shots by wrecking Gronk’s ankle in 2011 and knocking Ridley out cold in 2012. I watched the rest of the league accuse our owner and coach of being evil when our Joe Pesci-wannabe tight end murdered a guy for no reason in the 2013 offseason. I watched us make it to the AFCchampionship game in 2013 with half our starters on IR, only for Pot Roast to single-handedly destroy our O-line and harass Brady into a loss against the hated Manning at cursed Mile High, cementing his image in the media as THE GREATEST QB EVER SRSLY GUYS!!!! Thankfully, Playoff Manning finally decided to show up two games later than usual.
2014 went pretty well, calls to trade Brady after KC notwithstanding, and then I watched the two teams we destroyed in the playoffs, assisted by petty league officials with axes to grind, accuse us of cheating, putting a cloud over our whole season in everyone’s eyes but New England’s. They were playing the game in the same stadium where the dream of a perfect season ended, which the media gleefully pointed out.
Then, the game. Unlike Atlanta, it was a total slugfest, haymakers traded on both sides, and Seattle had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. No team hae ever come back from a fourth-quarter deficit of more than 7 points. The Pats are down 10. They take the lead with 2:02 remaining. Too much time. Seattle gets to midfield almost instantly, and then…the Kearse catch. CBS immediately replays the Tyree and Manningham catches. I sit in my chair and stew. Yet another miraculous, once-in-a-lifetime play is going to cost the Patriots a Super Bowl. God DAMMIT. 2nd down. “Pass…is INTERCEPTED!!!!” You’ve all seen the video of Brady going nuts when that happened. That is pretty much exactly what I did, along with crying and screaming “WE JUST WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!!” about 20 times. I have never gone from complete, soul-sucking despair to delirious, rapturous happiness like that ever in my life.
I’ll never forget that game, and it was in total was a better one than Atlanta, in my opinion. Seattle only really screwed up on that goal-line play call, and it cost them the game. Atlanta screwed up a ton in their coaching and execution (detailed best in Bill Barnwell’s “Anatomy of a miracle” article), allowing us to claw our way back. For that reason, and for all of the craziness leading up to it, I put it over Atlanta.
My roommate and I had invited probably 15 or 20 people over my apartment, we were showing the game on a TV, as well as projected on a wall. I didn’t know if they would pull the comeback off, but Edelman holds on to the ball and the Pats manage to pull ahead. They may really do this!
Unfortunately Seattle is putting a drive together, culminating in the most bogus play where Malcolm is blanketing Kearse, they fall together like some kind of synchronized dance move and the ball bounces right onto Kearse’s stomach! I’m on the ground. I watch the rest of the game from the floor, upside-down with 20 friends around me, moaning: “That’s it, that’s it! There will always be some dumb ##$%!@#$ catch that rips the game away from us when we have it won! We will never win again.”
Then Butler steps up and picks the ball and my head explodes. I’m actually screaming “where’s the flag?! Where’s the flag?!” I couldn’t believe it.
What a moment.
What is your favorite Super Bowl memory? Share it in the comment section below!