"You are a %&#-ing idiot. You're are always saying this is going to happen and that is going to happen in the games, and then no one ever holds you to it. It's ridiculous and so are you."*
This email from a "fan" was pointed, but also makes a point.
I am always saying this is going to happen or that is going to happen in games, and have been for 36 seasons. It comes with the job description.
But with the Seahawks' last game – and especially their final play in a season that was so successful until the very end of Super Bowl XLIX – still a topic of so much conversation, let's look back at the series of "storyline" features I did the week leading up to the 28-24 loss to the New England Patriots and how they played out at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.:
Russell Wilson and Tom Brady
This obviously wasn't a one-on-one matchup, but the quarterback who had the better game likely would be the QB whose team won the game. And that was indeed the case.
Wilson was good, completing 12 of 21 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns and also running three times for 39 yards in helping stake the Seahawks to their 24-14 lead entering the fourth quarter. But Brady was better, especially while directing 68- and 64-yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter against a Seahawks defense that had allowed only one fourth-quarter TD during the eight-game winning streak that the Patriots' snapped.
Brady was 5 of 7 for 59 yards on the drive that ended with his 4-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola that made it 24-21 with 7:55 to play. Brady was then 8 of 8 for 69 yards on the drive that ended with his 3-yard TD pass to Julian Edelman and gave the Patriots their 28-24 lead with 2:06 left in the game.
Brady was voted the game's MVP, but Wilson likely would have been the choice if his final pass to Ricardo Lockette at the goal line went for a game-winning TD rather than a game-ending INT.
And it needs to be added that, even with the expected "you're an apologist" email just a few key strokes away, that the Seahawks played those fourth-quarter drives without the injured duo of nickel back Jeremy Lane (forearm) and rush-end Cliff Avril (concussion) and with the All-Pro trio of Richard Sherman (elbow), free safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) and strong safety Kam Chancellor (knee) playing at less than 100 percent of their intimidating selves.
Sherman and Darrelle Revis
The best cornerbacks in the NFL were as advertised. On the Seahawks' fateful final play, it was Revis who had leading receiver Doug Baldwin locked up on the left side, and former Seahawks corner Brandon Browner who took away Jermaine Kearse, who was lined up next to the slotted Lockette on the right side. And the Revis-led coverage by the Patriots proved problematic for the Seahawks the entire game, as Wilson was left to hold the ball far too long on far too many passing plays.
For Sherman's impact on the game, we'll go with what Brady told SI.com's Peter King in his "Monday Morning Quarterback," because it supports what Sherman's presence meant to the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense all season: "They'd allowed the fewest big plays of any team all season, and you saw pretty early why you don't want to go into the Super Bowl throwing up a bunch of posts, a bunch of 'nine' routes ('Go' routes). Richard Sherman picks off the go route every time you throw it. The plan was to exploit other parts of the field – but short parts of the field. … They believe in what they do. We countered that by saying, 'Okay, here's what we're pretty good at: Space the field, find the soft spots, be satisfied with the 4-yard gain, be happy with the 4-yard gain. We were gonna be happy with a 2-yard gain."
Of Brady's 13 completions on those two fourth-quarter TD drives, nine went for 9-or-fewer yards, and four of those were for 5-or-fewer yards.
Chancellor and Rob Gronkowski
At first glance, the Seahawks' coverage-by-committee approach on the Patriots' All-Pro tight end worked pretty well. Gronkowski did score a touchdown, on a 22-yard pass with linebacker K.J. Wright in coverage. But other than that, Gronkowski caught five passes, on nine targets, for 46 yards.
But that's the problem with Gronk, even when the ball is not coming his way; you have to play him as if it is. And what they did was help the Patriots open spaces for those shorter passes that Brady used so effectively in passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns by completing a Super Bowl-record 37 of his 50 pass attempts.
Despite playing with a knee injury he got on the next-to-last play in Friday's practice, Chancellor had eight of his 10 tackles in the second half, including stopping LeGarrette Blount for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-1 play in the fourth quarter.
Marshawn Lynch and Blount
The best back on the field on this day, just as he is pretty much any day, goes by Beast Mode. And Lynch used his dementedly relentless running style to pound away for 102 yards on 24 carries, including a 3-yard TD run for the Seahawks' first score.
Blount, meanwhile, got 14 of the Patriots' 21 carries and had 40 yards – or a 2.9-yard average, compared to a 4.3-yard average for Lynch.
In this matchup of the bigger back who runs like the smaller back (Blount) and smaller of the two backs who runs so big (Lynch), the best back coming in and leaving – despite the outcome – was Lynch.
In 10 playoff games with the Seahawks, Lynch has six 100-yard rushing performances and has scored nine touchdowns. In the game where he rushed for at least 100 yards, the Seahawks are 5-1. In the games when Lynch scores, the Seahawks are 6-2.
Jeremy Lane and Edelman
This was the matchup the Seahawks wanted on the elusive and slippery Edelman. Lane in the slot and Byron Maxwell at right cornerback was the alignment the Seahawks practiced with for two weeks.
On Brady's second pass to Edelman, at the goal on a third-and-6 play from the Seahawks' 10-yard line in the first quarter, Lane made the interception. But Lane then broke his forearm while bracing his fall at the end of the 14-yard return.
Lane's loss prompted a double move, with Maxwell moving into the slot and Tharold Simon taking over at right corner. It's a combination the Seahawks had used with success earlier in the season, especially against bigger receivers. But with Edelman on the field, Lane was the best matchup.
It didn't take Brady long to start exploiting the new matchup, as Edelman caught nine passes for 109 yards – including the 3-yard TD pass for what proved to be the game-winner, against Simon.
While we're at it, a major shout out to former-Seahawks-linebacker-turned-NFL-analyst Chad Brown for his appraisal of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner's importance in the "Focus On" he basically wrote for me.
Brown's assessment: "Bobby Wagner's ability to cover deep when they go Cover 2 has a huge domino effect. Now, Kam Chancellor can play more aggressive. Now, Earl Thomas is not so worried about the middle of the field because Bobby Wagner's back there. So now Earl can give the corners more help and the corners now have more confidence because they know Earl Thomas has their back.
"It's amazing how Bobby Wagner's return (from missing five games at midseason) and his ability to play that middle so well is really the lynchpin to the entire Seahawks defense."
From Brown's lips to Wagner's finger tips: On Brady's third-and-9 pass to Gronkowski, Wagner read the formation and the route, darting in from of the 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end and made the interception that setup Wilson's 3-yard TD pass to Baldwin that made it 24-14 in the third quarter.
So in a game that still is being dissected, there's a closer look at the outcome of some of the things that were said leading up to a game that will go down as one of the most memorable in Super Bowl history.
And with that said, we can check back in 20 years to see if that is indeed the case.