New England was fine with the Patriots’ arrogance, until they lost

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots speaks to the media after losing 41-33 to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Bill Belichick speaks to the media after the Patriots’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Accept it, New England Patriots fans. The better team won.

Gisele Bundchen did the right thing after the New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl. According to Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, she was seen congratulating Philadelphia Eagles players as she was leaving the Minneapolis stadium. She also reportedly told 5-year-old Vivian, “Daddy won five times. They never won before. Their whole life, they never won a Super Bowl. You have to let someone else win sometimes.”

The “let” part got some pushback. But give Tom Brady’s wife some credit and leeway. She was comforting distraught children — not distraught adults who also want to believe the Eagles won because Bill Belichick let them. That narrative lets the hometown crowd gnash its teeth over Malcolm Butler’s benching rather than Brady’s fumble. The Eagles exploited the defensive match-up. But Nick Foles, a backup quarterback, played the game of his life and hung in to beat the greatest quarterback of all time. Of course, Brady played a great game too. But as he also acknowledged during his post-game press conference, “They made one good play at the right time.” That game-changing play, by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, stripped the ball from Brady’s hands. If a Patriots player made it, it would be glorified as much as Butler’s legendary interception against the Seattle Seahawks.


Note to WEEI meanies: I know I’m not a football expert. But arrogance, I understand. The Patriots organization personifies it, and their fans accepted it as long as Belichick’s team won. Now that Belichick’s on the losing side of a Super Bowl showdown that had great meaning for Brady, a belated demand for transparency kicks in. Of course, Belichick should have to explain why Butler didn’t play a single defensive snap against the Eagles. Belichick shouldn’t be allowed to let rumors undermine Butler’s reputation. For once, Bill, tell us the truth. What really drove this coaching decision? Patriots Nation deserves to know. But don’t expect Belichick to give up anything.

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He’s the MVP of rudeness and evasiveness. He got away with ill-tempered mumbles for too long and in fact, was worshipped for it. It is what it is. On to Cincinnati. Players and fans celebrated his opaqueness about injuries, from Brady’s hand to Rob Gronkowski’s concussion. Sure, it’s part of the strategy of keeping opponents off-balance. But Belichick took it to a bullying extreme. Everyone seemed to go along with it, at least until this season, when Belichick’s ego collided with Brady’s, according to media reports, which now seem accurate.

You know the old saying: There can’t be two kings. That applies to the turf at Gillette Stadium, along with another old saying: Never give your enemies a weapon they can use against you.

By benching Butler without explanation, Belichick did just that. The Super Bowl defeat ruined a storybook ending for “Tom vs Time” and his ardent supporters. With loss, Belichick becomes the villain of the story. But to this non-football expert, saying the Patriots lost solely because of Belichick’s coaching decision about Butler sounds as whiny as saying Hillary Clinton lost because of former FBI director Jim Comey’s decision to reopen a probe into her e-mails. I’ve whined about that, so I understand the temptation. But sometimes you have to step back, acknowledge that someone ran a better campaign, and congratulate the victor.

No, I can’t do that yet with President Trump.


But true sports fans should be able to do it with the Eagles. Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, and former Patriot LeGarrette Blount ran for another score. Foles also caught a touchdown. And, of course, Graham knocked the ball from Brady’s hands.

Congratulations, Eagles.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.