The often-misunderstood scandal, now embedded into the fabric of this Patriots dynasty, has been tied to the Rams due to a false report of the Patriots taping the Rams’ walkthrough before Super Bowl 36.We revisited all of the real details of the incident.SUPER BOWL 53 PICKS:Rams-Patriots predictions from SN’s expertsHow did Spygate start?On Sept. 9, 2007, New England video assistant Matt Estrella’s camera and film were seized by NFL security staff during the Patriots’ game against the Jets. It was determined Estrella had been filming New York’s defensive signals.Later that week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick admitted to the misconduct via a team statement, writing, “I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players.”How did the NFL react to Spygate?The line between what is fair game and what is cheating can be unclear in professional sports — see sign stealing in baseball, for example — and on which side one viewed the Patriots in 2007 likely had to do with preconceived biases. While establishment coaches like then-Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said filming opposing team signals was “going on forever” and would continue around the league, many others didn’t see New England’s actions as benign, publicly calling for harsh punishment.On Sept. 13, 2007, four days after the Jets game, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fined Belichick the maximum amount under NFL bylaws ($50,000), fined the Patriots organization $250,000 and docked the team a 2008 first-round draft pick. No one was suspended.Then, of course, there were the tapes. This isn’t a great American conspiracy story without the destruction of evidence.MORE: Sports’ most stunning conspiracy theoriesWhat were the Spygate tapes, and why did Roger Goodell allow them to be destroyed?When the NFL looked into New England’s practice of filming signals, it discovered the Jets game was not an isolated incident. Rather, the Patriots had been stealing signals for years. According to ESPN, officials found handwritten diagrams of the defensive signals of the Steelers at New England headquarters, including the notes used in the 2001 AFC championship game, won by the Patriots, 24-17.Instead of simply confiscating all the tapes, the NFL destroyed the evidence on the spot.Confused? So were many team owners and officials around the league. Not only had the punishment been handed out less than a week after the Jets game — hardly enough time for a thorough investigation — but the evidence teams around the league were interested in had been swiftly destroyed.Goodell reportedly told team owners he ordered the tapes obliterated so they couldn’t be used again, but people around the league struggled to accept that explanation, according to ESPN.MORE: Top 10 Super Bowls of all timeWait, but how does the Rams-Patriots Super Bowl relate to Spygate?This is where Spygate really went off the rails, and why it remains largely misunderstood.The Boston Herald published a report on Feb. 2, 2008, that alleged the Patriots taped the Rams’ walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl 36 — a much more serious offense than filming in-game signs. The report, which was eventually deemed false and led to a retraction by the paper, forever colored public perception of Spygate.Soon after the Herald’s report, New England denied the allegations. “In my entire coaching career, I’ve never seen another team’s practice film prior to playing that team,” Belichick said. “I have never authorized, or heard of, or even seen in any way, shape, or form any other team’s walkthrough. We don’t even film our own. We don’t even want to see ourselves do anything, that’s the pace that it’s at. Regardless, I’ve never been a part of that.”For four months, though, the Herald stuck by its reporting, allowing the false notion the Patriots had filmed a Super Bowl walkthrough to gain traction. On May 14, 2008, the Herald acknowledged in a written apology the report was false, and that no tape of the walkthrough ever existed.The damage was already done. Who is Matt Walsh?Matt Walsh was a former Patriots video employee who had taken tapes and memorabilia from the team during the Spygate years. In 2008, Walsh spoke publicly about his time with the franchise and suggested Belichick’s actions were part of a scheme to deliberately break league rules and were not a misunderstanding. Some wrongfully suspected Walsh’s stash included video of the Rams’ Super Bowl walkthrough. After the NFL agreed not to pursue legal action against Walsh, he handed over his tapes to Goodell in May 2008.”I don’t know what his agenda is,” Belichick told CBS. “He was fired because of poor job performance. There’s not a lot of credibility. He’s tried to make it seem like we were buddies and belonged to the same book club. All of that is really a long, long stretch.”How was Congress involved in Spygate?Around the Herald’s false reporting in 2008, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) called for an independent investigation into New England’s practice of taping signals. He met with Walsh for three hours to gain insight into the Patriots’ operation.”I have documented the strong factual case that a NFL investigation was neither objective nor adequate,” Specter told ESPN in May 2008. “If the commissioner doesn’t move for an independent investigation, then there will be a permanent black mark on the NFL, and the Patriots’ record will be historically tainted. Depending on the public reaction, I may ask the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the NFL antitrust exemption.”But by June, Specter had given up on his desire to have Congress look further into Spygate, considering the matter played out.MORE: Strangest moments in Super Bowl historyWhat have former Rams players said about Spygate and the Super Bowl?Over the years, former Rams players have helped keep the Herald’s false report alive by questioning New England’s integrity during Super Bowl 36. In particular, running back Marshall Faulk has spoken out, accusing the Patriots of filming the Rams walkthrough without evidence.”Am I over the loss? Yeah, I’m over the loss,” Faulk told CSNNE.com in 2013. “But I’ll never be over being cheated out of the Super Bowl. That’s a different story.”Quarterback Kurt Warner has also weighed in, albeit less forcefully, in recent years. While he never outright said New England cheated, he did say he harbored doubts about the outcome.”I don’t want to believe that there was anything outside of his team beat our team,” Warner told the New York Daily News in 2015. “That’s what I want to believe. Yeah, there’s a sliver of a doubt. … Was there any advantage they gained in any game?”Former Rams coach Mike Martz said an ESPN report, which claimed Patriots coaches had observed the Rams walkthrough (but not filmed it), made him suspicious of New England.”If the report is accurate and Patriots employees were allowed to watch our walkthrough,” Martz told CBS, “then shame on the NFL, shame on NFL security, shame on our security. Then they didn’t do their job … I have my suspicions about it, but I’m not sure how you would really prove something like that now and there’s nothing you can do about it now and it’s not something I really worry about or think about.”Did Spygate influence the Deflategate ruling?In 2015, ESPN wrote a feature story offering an inside look at how the NFL’s handling of Spygate influenced how it dealt with allegations New England had deflated footballs to gain an advantage in the 2014 AFC championship game. According to ESPN, Goodell wanted to appease NFL team owners who felt he had let New England get off easy during the Spygate incident. The NFL’s decision to suspend Brady for the first four games of the 2016 season, among other penalties, was met by harsh criticism from the Patriots, who deemed the entire matter a farcical overreaction by the league. In fact, Brady challenged his suspension all the way 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before finally opting to sit out the start of the campaign.Of course, there’s no way to know for sure to what extent Spygate influenced Deflategate, but the consequences for the latter certainly seemed more forceful.ESPN also reported that, in addition to stealing signals, Patriots staff members would sneak into visiting locker rooms to take play sheets. The Patriots denied those reports. MORE: Top 10 Super Bowl-winning teamsHow has Spygate impacted New England’s legacy?Spygate solidified New England as one of the most reviled teams in the league. The Patriots had already claimed three Super Bowl victories by 2007, and following the NFL punishment that year, they went undefeated in the regular season before losing in Super Bowl 42 to the Giants.For fans who needed an extra reason to hate the most dominant team in the league, Spygate provided perfect fodder. Even if the details of what Spygate actually entailed have seemingly eroded over time, the visceral emotions from the incident have endured. The Rams and Patriots meeting in Super Bowl 53 prompted reflection on their divergent paths since they played in Super Bowl 36. For New England, most of the reminiscing leans positive, the organization having now won five titles in the Tom Brady era. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has only just regained relevancy after spending much of the past two decades out of playoff contention before relocating back from St. Louis.Amid the retrospection, a specific incident likely will be brought up repeatedly: Spygate.