Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception to seal Super Bowl XLIX was a masterclass in preparation.
Football research director Ernie Adams notified the coaching staff of a particular tendency from the Seattle Seahawks’ offense, head coach Bill Belichick drilled the team with the formation in practice and Butler executed the plan to perfection on the field. The interception was instantly unforgettable for the rookie cornerback, the New England Patriots and the man on the national radio call.
Kevin Harlan gave one of the most iconic deliveries of his broadcasting career while on play-by-play duty for Westwood One in that Super Bowl, which you can revisit at the 5:08 mark of the video below. Looking back on the play, Harlan said the Patriots’ attention to detail is something he tries to incorporate into his commentary.
“The thing that consistently makes them a difference-maker and so consistently good and the same is that these players are so well taught and believe so much in the detailed game plan and never try to go outside the parameters of what they’re supposed to do,” Harlan told Michael Holley and Jim Trotter on “Brother From Another.”
Harlan knows that all begins with Belichick. He even uses one of the coach’s most recognizable lines in his broadcasting preparation.
“I write on the top of my boards every game, ‘Do your job,’” Harlan said. “There are easy ways to [apply] it for me because there are so many things a play-by-play guy should do. Yeah, tell the occasional story, but most importantly, the down and distance, who is in and a statistical update.”
Belichick is not the only one who preaches the “Patriot Way.” Harlan hears Patriots proverbs from other locker rooms while getting ready for games across the NFL.
“I’ve got a lot of sayings Belichick has made, and I get a lot of those from former players who are elsewhere,” he said. “Each of them has the same basic message, but they have different words when they describe it. I always jot them down because there is always something to be learned.”
Harlan is one of the most recognizable voices in sports with his play-by-play calls for NFL games on CBS and Westwood One, along with NBA and college basketball for Turner Sports. Still, like Belichick, he isn’t satisfied with complacency.
“I am so far from being what I want to be, but I like the challenge every time I put on a headset to try to be better than the last time,” Harlan said.
Harlan’s next opportunity will come on Sunday when the Patriots visit the Cleveland Browns. With another close look at Belichick’s team, expect the longtime commentator to follow the head coach’s lead by mastering the little things.
“No detail is too small and all the smaller details lead to bigger ones,” he said.
How to stream Patriots vs. Browns live online
Free streaming option: FuboTV (free trial)
Live stream: NFL+ , Paramount+
Mobile app: NFL mobile app, Paramount+ app