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Throughout its recap of the Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning 2014 season, the newly-released sixth episode of the Tom Brady documentary “Man in the Arena” focuses on the challenges that came at its protagonist from all sectors.
Whether it was the implicit pressure of Bill Belichick drafting Jimmy Garoppolo, the continual pundit prognostications about the impending demise of New England’s dynasty, or the high-level competition presented by the defending champion Seahawks, Episode 6 (titled “Stop The Bleeding”) tries to convey just how hard it was for Brady to win his fourth Super Bowl after going a decade between championships.
And, of course, there was the controversy that became known as “Deflategate.”
Brady was joined in the episode by on-camera appearances from former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and ex-Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
Here are a few takeaways:
After winning three Super Bowls in his first four years as an NFL starter, Brady admitted that his viewpoint early in his career was distorted.
“When you’re on top of the mountain you’re thinking, ‘Well, this can’t be it,'” said Brady. “There’s got to be more than the top of the mountain.”
“Ten years go by where you get beat up, physically, mentally, emotionally,” said Brady. “Life changes. There’s a lot of perspective you gain from things not going your way.”
“I think what I recognized in 2014 was, ‘Man, this is really hard,'” Brady explained.
For Wilfork, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots as a rookie, the effect was similar.
“So of course, my mindset is, ‘We could do this every year,'” Wilfork said of winning a championship with the 2004 Patriots. “Well, three, four, five years go by, and you start getting an appreciation not only being in that game, but what the Patriots had done before me.”
Though Brady said he treated the Patriots’ decision to draft Garoppolo in 2014 “like every other” player New England picked, there was an aspect to it that he didn’t agree with.
“Coach Belichick referenced my age to me, referenced it to the media,” Brady recalled. “In my mind I was thinking, ‘What are you talking about?’ I think he was just referencing [how] not many quarterback had ever played and been successful late in their career, and that’s just a fact.
“Of course for me, I was just like, ‘I don’t care about any of those things,'” Brady added, noting that he never viewed the arc of his career through the prism of “aging in the traditional way.”
It was a moment which Brady noted made him feel like the Patriots organization was less committed to him than he was to them.
“I really felt like I was giving my heart to the team, the city. I felt like I was setting down my roots, because I had committed to being in Boston,” he said. “And I didn’t necessarily feel like, ‘Oh, well that’s reciprocating,’ but I recognize that I’m no different than those other positions on the team. I still have to go out there and perform at a high level and earn my job.”
A famous moment for the Patriots in 2014 was the disastrous 41-14 Week 4 loss to the Chiefs on Monday night. The aftermath of the game created numerous soundbites from pundits who were ready to call time on the Patriots’ dynasty.
“I think people were so excited to tell that story because it was a story that maybe they hadn’t been able to tell in a long time,” Brady theorized. “I think everyone was really looking forward to us not succeeding. Everyone was looking forward for the Patriots to finally be going away.”
As has been the case throughout the documentary series, some of the more interesting quotes—those that have provided the best insight into the Patriots’ dynasty—have come not from Brady, but whoever appears with him in that particular episode.
In the case of Wilfork, it was about how other leaders on the team besides Brady made an impact.
“I felt that sometimes my voice was heard more than Tom’s was,” said Wilfork. “It wasn’t a lack of anything Tom did, but sometimes people look at him like, ‘He really doesn’t know what we deal with. He never had to make a tackle.'”
“Here I am. When I speak, it was coming from a rugged individual that plays the dirtiest position on the the field, and I demand respect,” Wilfork continued. As the Patriots prepared for the Bengals the next week, it was the defensive tackle who set the tone.
“If Vince told you to get something done, you got it done,” Brady concluded.
As Rodney Harrison pointed out in Episode 2 of “Man in the Arena,” the Patriots’ popular saying, “ignore the noise,” was flexible in certain situations. Players still heard what the media was saying much of the time, unable to escape ceaseless coverage.
Yet, as Harrison had concluded, it could be funneled as a good source of motivation. The same was true in 2014, though both Brady and Wilfork had a more tempered view.
“We hear all of it, but we don’t care,” Wilfork explained. Brady maintained that despite what he saw as an anti-Patriots agenda, media coverage left him unfazed.
“People were against us, people were burying us, and look at us now,” Brady said of the team’s winning streak following the Kansas City defeat. “They’re not saying it now.”
“You know, you’re the worst team in the league, and then you win three games in a row and oh this team’s going to be the Super Bowl champs. And I think that rollercoaster of emotions is what really derails a lot of teams.”
Inevitably, the story of “Deflategate” was going to be a major part of any recap of the 2014 season.
According to Brady, he thinks that the first he heard of the controversy was during his weekly radio interview with WEEI on Monday after the AFC Championship win over the Colts.
Brady “laughed it off” since he wasn’t aware of the story at that point. Recalling his first press conference after the story of deflated footballs broke, he noted “that there were different cameras there than ever before,” and that the story had taken on a scale that went beyond football.
“We’d accomplished so much as a team, and here we are talking about something that we didn’t know much about at the time, and all it is is negativity and people trying to take us down,” Brady summarized of the “Deflategate” storyline.
“People don’t want to believe that there were great, positive things behind what we had achieved,” he added. “I think people want to believe that there’s always shortcuts to take and so forth.”
The Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XLIX and were set to face the defending champion Seahawks.
Seattle’s famous “Legion of Boom” secondary, led by Sherman, had Brady’s full attention following a 2012 regular season loss. It was a game which gave the world a viral meme of Sherman trash-talking Brady afterward.
But as Brady noted, Sherman’s late-round draft status (having been picked in the fifth round by Seattle in 2011) helped ignite a high level of motivation to succeed. It was a concept that ringed familiar to Brady, himself a former sixth-round pick.
“He was someone who plays with a chip on his shoulder too, I could relate to that,” Brady acknowledged.
Sherman could also point at traits in Brady’s game that he identified with. Specifically, their mutual enjoyment for trash-talking.
“It was cool to see,” Sherman said of Brady’s ability to talk back, “because it was similar to how I am. You’re going to talk your stuff. You’re going to be a competitor.”
Late in the Super Bowl, with the Patriots trailing in the fourth quarter and needing a defensive stop, it was Wilfork and his teammates who made the necessary adjustments.
Specifically, Wilfork said that years of being coached by Belichick had made him smarter than the average defensive lineman.
“He made us learn formations, motions, running back actions,” Wilfork explained. “He made us learn offensive line blocking schemes. He made us learn all of that.”
“When a quarterback comes out and he says something that I’ve learned—thinking I’m a defensive lineman and defensive players are not going to know that—I’ve got an edge.”
The Patriots, helped by Wilfork and the defensive line, engineered a crucial stop and got the ball back to Brady.
New England retook the lead on the following drive, led by a masterful performance from Brady (who completed eight consecutive passes, including a touchdown to Julian Edelman).
“I just remember Tom [was] just on fire,” recalled Wilfork.
Up 28-24, Wilfork and his defensive teammates desperately tried to hold off Seattle’s final drive.
Of course, the game came down to the now iconic moment on New England’s goal-line. Instead of trying to run with Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks elected to attempt a pass.
For Sherman, the first clue that something was off was the formation.
“We lined up in [shot]gun,” Sherman remembered. “I was like, ‘Are we running [Marshawn]? They snapped the ball and passed the ball and it was like, ‘Well, that’s an odd play.'”
Wilfork, in true defensive lineman fashion, could only judge what had happened by the joyous reaction of his teammates.
“I was on the ground and I think I turned around and I saw them hugging and picking up Malcolm,” Wilfork explained. “I’m like, ‘Did he just pick that ball? And I just dropped to my knees like, ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ because at that moment, I knew the game was sealed.”
“I would’ve run it four downs, straight,” Wilfork added of the Seahawks’ play-call.
Following Brady’s final knee-down to end the game, Sherman came over and extended his hand.
“I have tremendous amount of respect for the man, the player,” Sherman said of Brady. “I just go out there to do my best to make his life as miserable as I can and help my team win and get lined up and play again.
“It wasn’t like we got cheated,” Sherman explained. “Something crazy did happen, but they won it fair and square so you shake the man’s hand you walk away. That’s what I did. I was comfortable holding my head high knowing that I did everything I could. We fought hard. We got beat.”
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