The New England Patriots “Deflategate” scandal, starring Teflon Tom Brady, dominated the sports headlines and social media circus this offseason.
Once Brady was vindicated, a potentially ugly situation for the Patriots became a rallying cry and motivation for the upcoming season.
Sixteen games, 12 victories and another cakewalk AFC East title later, the Pats find themselves in a familiar place, hosting the Kansas City Chiefs at home in the Divisional Playoff round on Saturday at 4:40 pm ET.
They enter this game with a bitter taste still in their mouths.
Player’s fingerprints were still visible on the Lombardi Trophy when whispers of possible illegal ball deflating by Tom Brady and Co. during the AFC Championship Game were revealed.
An NFL investigation led by Ted Wells found that 11 of 12 game balls that the Patriots used on offense were under-inflated by about 2 pounds per square inch each. A ball with lower inflation is said by some to be easier to grip and may give the passer a competitive edge.
Wells’ report concluded that while the team did not appear to be in on the suspect activity, New England employees intentionally manipulated the air pressure inside of game balls. Additionally, said the report, quarterback Tom Brady was, at a minimum, aware of the efforts.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
It should have been a time to savor the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl victory. By May, however, New England's joy had turned to chaos and a firestorm of mixed emotions as the organization was on the defense, desperately trying to salvage its integrity and most importantly uphold the honor and legacy of their legendary QB and head coach.
Brady flat out denied the allegations.
“I didn't alter the ball in any way," Brady said at a press conference. "I have no knowledge of wrongdoing."
The omniscient Bill Belichick didn’t have much to say on the matter.
"I have no explanation," Belichick said of the controversy.
The Patriots who have developed a growing reputation for teasing the limits of illegal protocol as it applies to game preparation and participation, had basically gotten away with “Spygate,” but this time Commissioner Roger Goodell smacked Brady across the dome with the right hand of the NFL law. He suspended the iconic signal caller without pay for the first four games of the regular 2015 NFL season.
The league called the discipline "relating to the use of under-inflated footballs," and described the conduct as "detrimental to the integrity of the NFL."
Patriots fans everywhere went into an angry frenzy and accused Commissioner Goodell of venomously attacking their football saint.
However, like so many late fourth quarter drives that Brady has executed in the past, he flipped the script on the situation and appealed. In September (right in time for the season) a federal judge erased the four-game suspension and with it totally discredited the NFL’s contention that what Brady did compromised the integrity of the league.
Brady, who wasn’t always the undisputed, movie star face of the NFL, has never taken his success for granted.
“It's never come easy for me, “ Brady once said in an interview. “ I don't think my mind allows me to rest ever. I have, I think, a chip on my shoulder, and some deep scars that I don't think were healed."
|The emotional roller coaster of the Deflategate fiasco had Brady carrying a boulder this season as he passed for nearly 4,800 yards and 36 touchdowns. It’s rare that a four-time Super Bowl champion QB goes into a season with something to prove, but every old dog needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning, hit those weights one more time, keep eating right, getting the proper rest; mastering the craft.|
Deflategate was the locker room gunpowder. The legacy smearing campaign was the near catastrophic blow that ignited a new fire in the Pats. A reason to be top dawg again.
Brady already won legal vindication in court, but the entire ordeal was still an indictment of his abilities on the field and some still suggest he wasn't official enough to win without an illegal advantage. That’s why winning a Super Bowl this season is probably more important to Brady and Belichick than any playoff run they’ve experienced.
Two men, recognized as the best at their respective jobs, were abused, ridiculed, meme’d to death and doubted. This season is personal for the Pats. Another SB win -- a clean one with no controversy -- would go along way towards silencing critics and further cementing Brady as the greatest winner this game has ever seen.
In the words of Kid Frost, “This is for La Raza.”