GLENDALE, Ariz. – On the ropes, down 10 points in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady engineered a comeback to give the New England Patriots a 28-24 lead over the Seattle Seahawks with a little more than two minutes left in Super Bowl XLIX.
Brady and the rest of the Patriots couldn't exhale until defensive back Malcolm Butler picked off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line with 20 seconds left to secure a dramatic championship in what will go down as one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played.
Butler’s pick came soon after his deflection of a Wilson pass wound up in the hands of Jermaine Kearse on an acrobatic catch that would’ve been one of the greatest in NFL history. It also came on a questionable play call by the Seahawks, who decided not to give the ball again to powerful running back Marshawn Lynch.
"I made a play to help my team win," Butler said. "I've worked so hard in practice and I just wanted to play so bad and help my team out. I got out there and did exactly what I needed to do to help my team win."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Seattle opted to pass on second down – with plans to run on third and fourth downs, if necessary – because New England's defensive scheme was geared to stop the run.
"I'm a little bit surprised," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. "It was an unfortunate play."
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New England looked beat after a disastrous run from just before halftime through early in the fourth quarter when its offense stalled and its defense got torched by unheralded wideout Chris Matthews. Seattle led 24-14 with 7:55 remaining in the game.
However, as is the franchise’s personality, New England rolled with the punches, never lost faith in the plan and leaned on its Hall of Fame quarterback.
Brady shook off two critical interceptions to lead two big-time scoring drives with the game on the line. He capped the first with a touchdown pass to Danny Amendola, the next to Julian Edelman with just 2:02 remaining.
Brady, who was named game's MVP, finished with 328 yards passing and four touchdowns.
This is a classic championship game full of massive momentum swings. New England looked like the better team early, despite building just a 14-7 lead. Then Seattle rolled back to score 17 unanswered points and build what looked like a commanding lead. Then back came New England.
The various runs weren’t just about one team playing well, but the other suddenly becoming futile offensively.
The game is expected to record monster ratings and perhaps beat the record of 49.1 set in 1981 with the San Francisco-Cincinnati Super Bowl. There are more entertainment choices now, but the game was filled with big-name stars and a huge snowstorm swept across a number of major television markets in the East.
This is New England’s fourth Super Bowl as a franchise, all of them under the coach-QB tandem of Bill Belichick and Brady. It helps ease the sting of two Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants and allegations over the last couple of weeks they played the AFC title game with purposefully inflated footballs.
Unlike in those losses to the Giants, the Patriots were able to withstand a late Seattle drive by Russell Wilson to close out the game.
The loss ends Seattle’s dream of winning consecutive Super Bowls, an accomplishment last achieved by New England.