Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been here before, but this time Glendale, Arizona brought good omens to the New England Patriots, as they came out on top with a 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Unsung hero Malcolm Butler, an undrafted rookie, saved the Patriots from falling victim to another spectacular comeback and a third straight Super Bowl loss.
The last time the Patriots were in Glendale, their defense watched helplessly as New York Giants receiver David Tyree leapt up and sandwiched the ball between his hands and his helmet. The athletic play helped the Giants come back from a 14-10 deficit to win Super Bowl XLII 17-14.
The Patriots didn’t expect it to happen again, but there they were, their defense watching helplessly as Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse, lying on the ground, caught the pass that Butler himself initially broke up. The athletic play was the spark of an inevitable Seattle comeback. Shades of New York blue flashed before the Patriots eyes. Butler, who didn’t experience either Super Bowl loss to the Giants, saw none of that. Instead, he saw an opportunity to prove himself.
Both the Patriots and the Seahawks finished the regular season 12-4, landing the top seed in the AFC and NFC respectively, the Seahawks behind their well-established defensive line nicknamed “The Legion of Boom” and the Patriots behind a revitalized defense that may be the team’s best defense since 2004. Key offseason additions included cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, who provided the defense with the spark it needed. The Seahawks didn’t change much since last season, with running back Marshawn Lynch providing the team with his fourth consecutive 1,000 yard and double digit touchdown season. Would he lead Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowl wins, or would New England win its first since 2004?
The first quarter went exactly as one would expect for two teams with defensive muscles to flex. Each team punted once, the Seahawks picked off Brady, and the quarter ended with Russell Wilson getting sacked by Revis. It wasn’t much of a game until the Patriots struck first in the second quarter, when Brandon LaFell caught a touchdown pass from Brady. The second quarter wound down with the Patriots up 14-7, but mediocre defense and poor clock management let the Seahawks go into the locker room tied at 14 at halftime, when Wilson found breakout receiver Chris Mathews in the end zone.
The second half favored the Seahawks, who found themselves leading 24-14 at the end of the third quarter, propelled by a field goal, another interception off Brady, and a touchdown pass.
But the fourth quarter started, and everything seemed to unravel for Seattle. Seven minutes in, Brady found Danny Amendola for a touchdown to make it a three point game. New England needed a field goal to tie it, so in clutch Brady fashion, they ended up with a 28-24 lead with two minutes left when Brady connected with Julian Edelman for a touchdown.
Then the incredible happened. Less than two minutes left in the game. Wilson threw a deep ball to Jermaine Kearse. Malcolm Butler broke up the pass, the ball bounced off Kearse’s foot, and he managed to pull the ball down at the New England five-yard line.
26 seconds left in the game. Patriots one-yard line. All the Seahawks need to do is hand it off to Lynch, who will punch it in to win the game.
Then the unthinkable happened. Wilson passes it. Butler somehow jumps the receiver’s route, intercepts the ball, and wins the game for the Patriots. Both the head coach and the offensive coordinator will defend their decision to pass, but it will continue to haunt them for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, red, white, and blue confetti rains down on the field.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been here before.