Patriots

How late broadcasting legend John Madden called the first Patriots Super Bowl win

"I’ll tell you, what Tom Brady just did gives me goosebumps."

John Madden
Fox broadcasters Pat Summerall, left, and John Madden stand in the broadcast booth at the Superdome before Super Bowl 36 on Feb. 3, 2002. AP Photo/Ric Feld, File

Per the NFL, legendary football broadcaster John Madden died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning at age 85.

“There will never be another John Madden,” commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a statement. “We will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today.”

For Patriots fans, Madden will perhaps best be remembered for being on the call of Super Bowl XXXVI — Brady’s first in his once-in-a-lifetime run. In a statement on Tuesday, Robert Kraft referenced Madden’s famous call, and offered his “sincerest sympathies” to the Madden family.

“I can’t think of a more iconic football personality of the past half century than John Madden,” Kraft wrote.

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Madden — who was the color announcer alongside his longtime play-by-play partner Pat Summerall — memorably questioned the Patriots’ decision to play for the win in the final two minutes rather than letting the clock expire to send a 17-17 tie into the first overtime in Super Bowl history.

For the next five minutes, as the Patriots put together one of the more dramatic drives in Super Bowl history, Madden reversed course — a masterclass in color announcing. Reveling in the moment, Madden delightedly highlighted how wrong he was in his assessment, and how his own error showed how uniquely gutsy and impressive the Patriots’ win ultimately proved to be.

Here’s a look back at five minutes of Madden’s announcing career Patriots fans will never forget.

Setting the stage

The fourth quarter was very nearly a disaster for the Patriots. Forgotten in the drama of Brady’s arrival as an NFL legend is how close Willie McGinest came to becoming a New England antihero. With 10 minutes remaining, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner tried to sneak into the end zone on fourth and goal and fumbled. Safety Tebucky Jones grabbed the ball and sprinted 97 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown, but a holding penalty on McGinest away from the play brought the ball all the way back and gave the Rams a fresh set of downs.

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That sparked a 14-0 Rams run, and their touchdown with 1:30 left tied the game at 17-17 — an incredible turnaround after the Patriots were just a holding penalty away from leading 24-3.

The Drive

Characteristically unfazed, Tom Brady took over at the 17-yard line. As the Patriots lined up, Madden — a former coach himself — offered his prediction.

“With no timeouts, I think that the Patriots — with this field position, you have to just run the clock out,” Madden said. “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.”

Initially, the Patriots looked like they might follow Madden’s advice — Brady shoveled a short pass to J.R. Redmond, who was brought down in the middle of the field. The clock kept ticking.

But to Madden’s surprise, Brady gathered the Patriots back together without a huddle.

“I don’t agree with what the Patriots are doing right here,” he said. “I would play for overtime. If I had good field position, I wouldn’t, but in this field position, I would play for overtime.”

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The Patriots snapped the ball with a minute remaining. Brady fired another pass over the middle to Redmond, who was wrapped up and brought down. Brady quickly got the offense to the line of scrimmage and spiked the football.

At that point, Madden seemed to sense something was brewing.

“This guy is really cool though,” Madden said. “I’ve been impressed watching Tom Brady on film and television games and so on, but the way he has played in this game today, he has been very, very impressive with his calmness.”

Still, as Madden noted while the Patriots lined up, they still needed roughly 40 yards to get into field-goal range. Brady dropped back and looked down the field, but when nothing developed, he found Redmond who propelled himself diagonally toward the sideline. He picked up a first down and managed to get out of bounds.

“And now,” Madden said, with the trace of a chuckle, “I kind of like what the Patriots are doing.”

Madden noted the Rams hadn’t applied much pressure to Brady, and right on cue, they blitzed and forced an incomplete pass. Madden and Summerall began discussing the Tebucky play again, but then Brady made his biggest throw of the day — a 23-yard completion to Troy Brown. Brown got out of bounds near the 40, and the Patriots were on the edge of Vinatieri’s range.

Madden sounded deeply satisfied to be proven wrong.

“This is amazing,” he said. “This is something I will admit as a coach and as an analyst, I don’t think they shouldn’t have done. But they had the guts, they had the young quarterback and they did it. …

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“At some point when you’re in the Super Bowl, you have to let it all hang out, and I’ll say this: [Patriots offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis and this Patriots team, they are letting it all hang out.”

Brady completed a final pass — this one to Jermaine Wiggins, which trimmed Vinatieri’s field-goal attempt to 47 yards.

“I’ll tell you, what Tom Brady just did gives me goosebumps,” Madden enthused.

The Kick

As Vinatieri lined up his kick, Madden noted that the Patriots kicker had made “two of the greatest kicks that I’ve ever seen in my life” a few weeks before, beating the Raiders while snow pounded down on the field. Madden probably wasn’t being hyperbolic — Vinatieri’s makes from 45 and 23 yards tied and won the game for the Patriots. Without them, the first Super Bowl likely never would have happened.

“This has been the year of Adam Vinatieri,” Madden said as the teams lined up.

In his trademark flat affect — a developed way of letting the game speak for itself — Summerall deadpanned that Vinatieri’s 47-yarder was “one of greater importance, if he makes it.”

“And it’s right down the pike,” Summerall added as the field exploded in celebration.

“That’s the way you should win a Super Bowl,” Madden said. “They come in here against all odds. They were backed up. They had no timeouts, and they drove the ball down and got in field-goal position. That was a great, great drive.”

The Aftermath

As the Patriots celebrated, Madden continued to sound giddy over how gutsy the play calling was down the stretch. After all, a spooked team playing for overtime simply wasn’t as good a story.

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“I’m on record saying I don’t think they should have done it,” Madden exclaimed. “I would have just played for overtime. Bill Belichick didn’t think that, Charlie Weiss didn’t think that, Tom Brady didn’t think that. They made plays, he made plays, as I said they let it all hang out when you had to let it all hang out.

“Doggone it, more power to them. This is great.”

Summerall and Madden both spoke glowingly about Brady, who was shown celebrating with Drew Bledsoe on the sideline.

“You know the thing is, Pat, how calm he was on that whole drive,” Madden said, as Summerall agreed wholeheartedly. Both seemed to realize they might have witnessed the beginning of something special.

Brady offered Patriots fans plenty of iconic moments over the years, but that moment was an indelible memory of the consensus greatest quarterback in history — voiced by a color broadcaster who made an indelible impact on football.

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