For the first time in CBS Sports Radio history, an interview was cut short due to a car crash. The guest, New England defensive end Rob Ninkovich, was not involved in the crash, but he did get out of his car to try to help the strangers who were.
“I’m pulling up on a crash right now,” Ninkovich said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It’s around the corner, and there’s two cars that hit head on. It doesn’t look good at all. I’m going to go check on them. I’m sorry to cut it short.”
Ninkovich got off the phone but called back a few minutes later.
“By my house, there’s this corner,” he explained. “It’s kind of like a gradual bend. And with all the snow that’s going on, the road is narrowed quite a bit because there’s not much space there. I guess both people were coming around at the same time and hit each other. It didn’t look good at all, but everything seemed to be okay.”
Of course, the same could be said for the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX – at least from the Patriots’ perspective. Seattle had the ball on the New England 1-yard-line and seemed poised to take the lead. And then Malcolm Butler became a household name, picking off Russell Wilson at the goal line and preserving a 28-24 win.
That was probably the best birthday gift that Ninkovich, who turned 31 on Super Bowl Sunday, has ever received – and he’s been partying ever since.
As much as his wife will allow, anyway.
“The last couple days just getting back, getting settled, it’s been fun,” Ninkovich said. “Yesterday was the parade. The thing that’s helped me out is having a baby at home and a wife. She doesn’t want me out all night long like most of my teammates are doing. So the wife at home is definitely helping (me get some sleep).”
Unlike, say, Rob Gronkowski, who is always the life of the party. And if there is no party, Gronkowski will make it one.
“Gronk is enjoying some good times with his teammates,” Ninkovich said. “You don’t win a Super Bowl too often, so why not go Full Gronk?”
Gronkowski had a stellar day against the Seahawks, finishing with six catches for 68 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the first half.
As great as Gronk played, though, it was New England’s defense that won the game. The Patriots held Seattle scoreless in the final 19+ minutes of action.
“Well, Bill (Belichick) came and talked to us all and just said, ‘Hey, we got to give our offense the ball,’” Ninkovich said. “‘We got to give them more opportunities. It’s going to take everybody. It’s going to take one play at a time.’ You can’t think ahead too much in those types of games. You just got to focus on your job and doing your job to the best of your abilities and everyone working together. That’s when you can get those comebacks. With an offense like ours, the more chances we can give them, the more opportunities we have to win the game. That’s exactly what happened. Tom took control of that fourth quarter. A tremendous MVP performance form him. (He) won us the football game.”
Brady finished 37-of-50 with 328 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He was named MVP.
Butler, however, had the most important play in the game. In fact, he might have had the two most important plays of the game, given that he prevented Jermaine Kearse from scoring a touchdown on Seattle’s final drive.
“I didn’t miss a snap in that game, so I was on the field,” Ninkovich said of Kearse’s miraculous 33-yard catch. “That particular play was kind of a quick-hitting play. (Wilson) just threw the ball up. I saw Malcolm go up, (and) swat it away. Great play, tremendous defensive play. The football gods wanted to keep it interesting. So it went straight up and straight back down into the receiver’s hands.”
Ninkovich looked at the Jumbotron to see if the ball hit the ground. It didn’t.
“We had to make a stand,” he said. “We had to bend but not break.”
Mission accomplished. Not even a David Tyree-like or Mario Manningham-like catch could deny the Patriots their fourth Super Bowl win of the Belichick/Brady era. Ninkovich said the Patriots weren’t thinking about those infamous catches following Kearse’s juggling act.
“Well, everything’s going so fast,” Ninkovich explained. “Really, you’re just trying to get to the next play. Get the call, get your assignment and go out there and play. Really, I wasn’t thinking about any previous Super Bowl catches. I just knew that was a crazy catch and we got to stop them. The only thing in my head was, ‘Let’s get off the field. Let’s make a big play.’ And Malcolm did that for us. He made a tremendous play.”