Like it or not, the New England Patriots are on a great run

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On the heels of yet another controversy that threatened the way we see the New England Patriots’ unparalleled success of the last decade and a half, they pulled out perhaps their greatest victory. The Pats erased a 10 point, fourth quarter deficit to knock off the favored Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX—and cement the great legacies of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.

Let me stop you before you give me some crap about asterisks. I don’t care about Deflategate. I sure don’t want to talk about Spygate. None of those situations gave the Patriots as big an advantage as some would lead us to believe, and even if they did, you can’t convince me that other teams haven’t done similar.

What Belichick and Brady have done in New England is almost unreal. Belichick hasn’t had Hall-of-Famers at every other position like Vince Lombardi did in Green Bay. Brady hasn’t had nearly as many quality targets as his childhood hero Joe Montana did in San Francisco. In fact, save for a couple years with Randy Moss, Brady’s never been able to throw to someone considered special (except maybe Gronk).

Yet the Patriots are the first team since the AFL/NFL merger to win a Super Bowl against a team that finished first in scoring defense and yards allowed. Seattle’s defense is legit, yet Tom Brady lowered the boom on the Legion of Boom to the tune of 37-of-50 passing for 328 yards and 4 TDs. Even with a pair of bad interceptions, that’s MVP material.

Yet it was bigger than just an MVP performance. This was a legacy game in every sense. The 37 year-old Brady—the 4th oldest QB to win a Super Bowl—set records for Super Bowl completions (37), career Super Bowl touchdowns (12), and Super Bowl MVPs (3). His 21 postseason wins are more than most NFL franchises.

No pairing has won more titles than Belichick and Brady’s four. That’s not lucky. That’s not by accident. Even if they are cheaters, that’s no guarantee of victory.  Just ask the Atlanta Falcons.

To downgrade New England’s victory is to underestimate their opponent. Seattle was back in the Super Bowl after winning it all last season. The Pats had to dink and dunk their way to two long drives early (the Patriots had the ball for over 11 minutes in the first quarter) but had nothing to show for it. Why? The vaunted Seahawks secondary forced Brady into throwing his first red zone interception since the 2007 AFC championship game.

Then in the 2nd quarter, Chris Matthews happened. No, not the guy who yells and spittles on MSNBC. Matthews — a practice squad receiver who now famously worked at Foot Locker before making his first career catches on the biggest stage in sports—was playing like Odell Beckham in a Seahawks jersey, catching a momentum-changing touchdown pass just six seconds before halftime and catching a total of four passes for 109 yards to total…four catches for 109 yards in his brief NFL career.

After halftime, the game started to look like Seattle’s coronation. Brady threw another pick, the Seahawks outscored the Pats 10-0, and Beast Mode was initiated (Marshawn Lynch had 30 of his 102 yards in the 3rd quarter).

The Patriots needed Tom Brady at his best in the 4th quarter and that’s exactly what they got. Brady threw half of his touchdowns in the final stanza, and on his final possession, he hit Julian Edelman for a short touchdown to complete all 8 of his throws for 65 yards on the game-winning drive. In a quarterback-driven league, that’ll get you a free SUV every time.

Even still, Brady can’t win championships alone. In fact, I’ve long said that Brady’s failure to win a Super Bowl in the last decade speaks less about his ability to carry a team and more about how foolish it is to expect to win a championship on the back of a single player in the ultimate team sport.

So it was almost apropos that undrafted Malcolm Butler made the game-clinching interception of Russell Wilson (who had previously never lost to another elite quarterback) at the goal line after Seattle inexplicably followed up a miracle catch by Kearse (one that rivals the David Tyree helmet catch that ironically happened at the Pats’ expense right there in Arizona eight years ago) with a pass play from the 1 yard line. It was almost an answer to Seattle’s use of Matthews and hammered home the Patriot Way often includes the contributions of lesser players in big spots.

We can fight it all we’d like, but this much is clear now: the New England Patriots are in the midst of the greatest run of sustained success in NFL history. So we might as well sit back and appreciate the greatness we’re witnessing.

Like it or not, we’re highly unlikely to ever see it again.

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Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on WTOP.com.

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