It was undoubtedly one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played, but thinking about why is instructive.
Sure, it had the obvious — a last-second play that decided the game, but I don’t think that’s the main reason it was such an amazing contest. I think it was the back-and-forth momentum swings, with the Patriots hot out of the gate, then the Seahawks taking almost total control, to be followed by the Patriots taking over again. In the last few minutes, the pendulum swung a few more times — first to the Seahawks when they got to the Pats 1 yard line, then to the Pats with the amazing interception.
And what exactly is so impressive about momentum swings; why are they such a big deal? It is because most teams, the average ones, cannot withstand a severe barrage. When it comes, they often wither on the vine and die a quiet death. All but the best teams take the opportunity of being down by more than a touchdown to take the rest of the game off. The very good teams can come back once, maybe twice, but only the elite, the cream of the crop, never, ever, ever stop coming at you, no matter how far ahead you are, no matter how little time is on the clock.
We clearly saw what a great team Seattle is during the NFC Championship game against Green Bay. With absolutely no logical reason to keep playing hard, with no chance of coming back, they did the illogical, they came back and they won. Against the Pats in the Super Bowl, they almost recreated the magic, but the folks on the other end were just as tough, just as illogical about knowing when to quit, just as possessed with an all-consuming desire, a need, to win.
And this is exactly what the usually tight-lipped Pats Coach Bill Belichick said in an extremely long and revealing comment about his opponent, Pete Carroll, before the Super Bowl. As one who admires leadership, I listen when Belichick talks, and I think we can all learn a lot about how to be successful from these comments. I quote a length:
“Well I think when I’ve watched Pete’s teams play through the years, but most particularly in Seattle, the thing that impresses me the most … is just the way that his teams play for 60 minutes,” he said. “They play from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, to the final gun. They play from the snap of the ball ‘til the whistle blows at the end of the play.
“They play extremely hard, down after down after down, week after week, year after year. They compete relentlessly,” Belichick continued. “As well as any organization I’ve ever observed, they just compete relentlessly. Not even 60 minutes, it’s even longer, like last week against Green Bay. But it’s from the opening kickoff to the final gun. They’re just never gonna let up in any phase of the game: offense, defense, special teams. Their receivers, their defensive backs, their linemen, their quarterback: Everybody just competes at such a high level for every single second that they’re out there, and I think that’s a great credit and tribute to Pete and his staff.
“The players they’ve brought in there, they’re just relentless in the way that they play, and so I think any coach wants his team to play that way. I think that Seattle and Pete really are the model for that.”
Let that sink in. In sports, in life, those who win are those who complete relentlessly, who never throw in the towel, who keep coming, keep coming. Picture “life” as your opponent in a sense — it will never stop throwing challenges at you — layoffs, sickness, car accidents, cancelled flights, lost deals, missed opportunities. Can you operate at the level Belichick describes? Can you keep coming and coming and coming and never quit until the final gun sounds? If you do, nothing can defeat you.