It was ten years in the making, but the New England Patriots have their fourth Super Bowl title of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick-Robert Kraft era.
The Patriots started out with a dominating first half, but could not put together a significant lead. They drove into the red zone in the first quarter, but Tom Brady threw his first of two interceptions, throwing off his back foot into the end zone with pressure in his face.
New England's offense would answer against the "Legion of Boom" with two second quarter touchdowns. The first came on a nine play, 65 yard drive that was capped by an 11-yard Tom Brady to Brandon LaFell slant. After a Marshawn Lynch touchdown that tied the game at seven with just over two minutes to go in the half, we got our first Super Bowl Gronk spike. Matched up with a linebacker, Gronkowski went up and caught a beautiful touchdown fade from Tom Brady.
With 31 seconds remaining in the first half, the Patriots had several breakdowns defensively. Robert Turbin went 19 yards up the middle on the first play of the drive. Russell Wilson scrambled for a big gain on the second. Three plays after that, Wilson found rookie free agent Chris Matthews for an 11-yard touchdown with two seconds remaining.
The momentum had shifted heavily to Seattle at intermission.
New England allowed a quick three points after a long Chris Matthews catch to start the second half. The Patriots got the ball back down 17-14, and Tom Brady made his second big mistake of the game, throwing another interception in the face of pressure - this one to Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks would quickly capitalize on the short field with a three yard Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin touchdown (Baldwin's only catch on Darrelle Revis all game, and he was assisted by a referee pick).
The Patriots entered the final period down 24-14. It felt as if a third straight Super Bowl loss was closing in on all sides.
But then Tom Brady solidified his legend.
The first drive didn't start well. Brady was sacked on the opening drive, pushing the Patriots to second and 18. Two plays later, the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 14. An incompletion could end the game. The Patriots would answer. Brady found Julian Edelman over the middle for a 21 yard game. The referees missed an obvious helmet-to-helmet hit from Kam Chancellor, but held onto the ball and bounced back up.
The Patriots were off. Six plays later, Tom Brady found Danny Amendola in the end zone to pull the Patriots within three.
Four plays after that, the Patriots had the ball back thanks to a three and out forced by the Patriots defense. Brady was back at work again. On the game winning drive, Brady went 8/8. He continued to release the ball exceptionally quick. He was precise. The big gainer was a 20-yarder to Rob Gronkowski. The drive was capped with a Brady touchdown to the incredibly tough Julian Edelman.
Edelman's touchdown came with 2:02 remaining. The Seahawks had all three timeouts. Considering the way the last two Super Bowls had ended for New England, fans knew this one was far from over. And for a minute, it seemed like a repeat. The Seahawks had the ball bounce their way in a once-in-a-lifetime lucky tipped catch from the ground by Jermaine Kearse.
It was like David Tyree, but perhaps even worse. It was all too familiar. The Seahawks had the ball on a first and goal from the Patriots' five with a minute remaining. On first down, Marshawn Lynch brought the ball to the one yard line. The second and goal play will be talked about for football eternity. The Seahawks inexplicably decided to throw the football. They tried a "pick and slant" to Chis Matthews. Rookie free agent Malcolm Butler read it the entire way, jump in front of the route and caught the interception for the dramatic reversal that sealed the Patriots' fourth Super Bowl title.
Now, we can begin the legacy talk. Tom Brady, four Super Bowls. A ten touchdown postseason. A third Super Bowl MVP. Down ten in the fourth quarter and throwing two touchdowns against an iconic defense. Bill Belichick. Four Super Bowls in the free agency era. Darrelle Revis. Arguably the best cornerback in the league now goes down as an all-time great now that he has a Super Bowl ring. Vince Wilfork, getting a second Super Bowl ring a further solidifying himself as a franchise great. Malcolm Butler, the undrafted free agent who came up with one of the biggest plays in franchise history.
Tonight, we celebrate. The New England Patriots are once again Super Bowl Champions.