As often happens in a game of the greatest magnitude, the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX hung in the balance with 30 seconds left. The Seattle Seahawks had quickly the ball 79 yards down the field in 90 seconds with an aura of inevitability. Russell Wilson had calmly completed three of his four passes during the drive for 75 yards. It was second down and the ball rested on the Patriot’s one-yard line. A Seattle go-ahead score appeared imminent. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rested his head in his hands. For the third Super Bowl in a row, his team was going to fall victim to a remarkable last second touchdown drive by the opposition, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Wilson took the snap from center Max Unger and threw in the direction of wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. Patriot’s cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped the route and intercepted the ball to give New England the victory, 28-24.
Brady won his third Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award, tying Joe Montana for the most all-time. He broke the record for most completions in a Super Bowl by completing 37 of his 50 attempts for 328 yards and four touchdowns. With his team down by 10 points in the fourth quarter, Brady led two straight scoring drives to put the Patriots back on top by four points. Also deserving special notice is wideout Julian Edelman, who caught nine passes for 109 yards, including two crucial catches in the game’s final stanza. The first came on a 3rd and 14 from the Patriots’ own 28 with less than 11 minutes to play. New England was down by 10 and their opportunities were dwindling rapidly. They needed a first down immediately and Edelman delivered, hauling in a 21-yard pass from Brady to move the chains. Later, with 2:02 remaining in the contest, Edelman faked out Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon to give the Patriots a 28-24 lead.
Late in the first quarter, the Patriots’ offense methodically advanced down the field and seemed poised to score. Brady threw a poorly-timed pass, however, and Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane intercepted the ball. The takeaway came at a price, though. On the interception return, Lane injured his arm and had to leave the game. With Lane sidelined, the untested Simon entered in his relief. Sure enough, New England scored on two of its last three possessions to end the first half. Seattle, not far behind, scored on its final two drives of the second quarter, and the two teams went into halftime with 14 points apiece.
At the beginning of the third quarter, Seattle drove into New England territory on its first two possessions, scoring 10 points to take a 24-14 lead. It looked like Seattle was going to get their second consecutive Super Bowl win. The offense was moving the ball seamlessly. The defense had deflated the air out of the masterfully balanced offense of Bill Belichick. The Patriots rapidly approached their breaking point, one big Seahawks play away from certain defeat. The Seattle offense sputtered, though, punting on its next three drives, and the defense finally yielded to one of the greatest coach-quarterback combinations football has ever seen.
Until Wilson’s final throw, Seattle’s offense played well enough to win the game. Wilson took advantage of the miscues of the Patriots’ secondary, completing several deep passes to set up scores. In addition, he made good decisions and avoided the rushed throws into tight spots that nearly lost the Seahawks the National Football Conference Championship game two weeks ago. But, it will be the final two passes he threw that everyone will remember. First, the deep tipped ball that wide receiver Jermaine Kearse snatched out of the air to put the Seahawks in position for a go-ahead score. Then the game-ending interception happened.
For his part, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch ran 24 times for a game-high 102 yards, bulldozing his way through the Patriots’ front line. But, perhaps it is the carry he didn’t get on 2nd and goal from the one-yard line with 30 seconds remaining that will leave Seahawk fan wondering what could’ve been.
With Darrelle Revis locking down on wide receiver Doug Baldwin, practice squad addition Chris Matthews took center stage, snagging four passes for 109 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown at the end of the first half to tie the game at 14. What makes his performance so remarkable is not that he led the Seahawks in receiving in the Super Bowl, but it’s that those were his first four catches ever in the National Football League.
For the Patriots, running backs LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen struggled to run past a charged up Seattle defensive front spearheaded by linebacker Bobby Wagner, who made 12 tackles and intercepted Brady in the third quarter to set up a Seahawk touchdown. The two rushers combined for just 53 yards on 18 carries, much less than the Patriots had hoped. Tight end Rob Gronkowski pulled in six of his 10 targets for 68 yards, however, and Vereen added 11 catches out of the backfield for 64 more yards.
The ending to Super Bowl XLIX was undeniably great. Malcolm Butler’s interception will go down as one of the top five defensive plays in the history of the big game. For New England, it is a long-awaited return to prominence, and a testament to their continual excellence. For Seattle, it means months of bitter despair and sleepless nights knowing what might’ve been, perhaps even what should’ve been. The end of a long journey that started five months ago is here, and the New England Patriots are once again the last team standing.