Three years had passed since New England’s last trip to the Super Bowl; ten years since the team’s last world championship. And early on, the 2014 season did not look as if it would change this. However, after the Patriots’ 41-14 blowout loss in Kansas City in week 4, the team started to hit its stride and show its full potential.
The result was a 12-4 regular season, another division title and the top seed in the AFC playoff race. As such, New England hosted the Baltimore Ravens in a 35-31 divisional playoff thriller. One week later, the Patriots blew out the Indianapolis Colts 45-7.
But despite the controversy stemming from the AFC title game, Bill Belichick’s team entered the Super Bowl well prepared, as the final result shows.
Super Bowl XLIX: New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
Date: February 1, 2015
Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale AZ
Final Score: New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
Super Bowl XLIX started with the defending champions, the Seahawks, winning the coin toss and kicking off to the Patriots. While the game’s opening drive ultimately ended with a punt (on which a roughing the kicker call should have been made), New England was able to establish an early offensive rhythm.
After a Seattle three-and-out, the Patriots again moved the football successfully against the NFL’s best defense. New England drove into field goal range but an end zone interception thrown by Tom Brady abruptly ended the promising-looking series. The Seahawks’ offense was unable to capitalize on the turnover, though, and again – early in the second quarter – was forced to punt.
The Patriots started the next series on their own 35-yard line and went 65 yards in nine plays - two of which 3rd down conversions – to score the game’s first points. Brady connected with wide receiver Brandon LaFell and New England took a 7-0 lead. The teams then exchanged punts before Seattle’s offense came to life.
A 44-yard completion from quarterback Russell Wilson to wideout Chris Matthews set up the Seahawks in the Patriots’ red zone. Three plays later, the game was tied, and New England’s offense received the subsequent kickoff with 2:16 left in the half.
Again, the Patriots used quick passing plays to methodically drive down the field. On 2nd and 5 from Seattle’s 22-yard line, Brady saw a mismatch in the defense’s man coverage and trusted tight end Rob Gronkowski to make a play against the single coverage by linebacker K.J. Wright. Gronkowski did and caught Brady’s pin-point pass to give New England the lead again.
However, the team failed to take its 14-7 advantage into halftime: It took the Seahawks only 29 seconds to drive 80 yards and tie the game again. Thus, Seattle entered the locker rooms with both a touchdown and momentum on its side. And momentum continued to shift even more the Seahawks’ way in the third quarter.
First, Seattle scored a field goal to take its first leas of the day. On New England’s subsequent possession, Brady threw his second interception of the day. The turnover set Seattle up at midfield, and this time the team took advantage: Six plays after the pick, Seattle scored a touchdown to take a 10-point lead. The Patriots failed to answer and instead were forced to punt on their next two drives.
With the team entering the fourth quarter down 24-14, the tide started to turn again, though. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich delivered a 3rd down sack, which forced a quick punt on Seattle’s first possession of the final period. The Patriots offense did initially not fare any better on its next drive. However, on a 3rd and 14, Tom Brady and Julian Edelman made one of the biggest plays of the game: The duo connected for a gain of 21 yards to keep the drive alive.
Five plays later, Brady found Danny Amendola in the endzone to bring New England within a field goal of tying the game. And another quick three-and-out by the defense set them up to do at least that. With 6:52 left in the final period, the Patriots offense were back on the field.
And just like he did one drive earlier, Tom Brady was in total command. Of the Patriots’ ten plays, eight were passes and the future Hall of Famer completed them all. Among them a 3-yarder to Edelman that gave New England a 28-24 lead with only 2:02 left in the game.
Super Bowl XLIX was far from over, though.
Before the two-minute warning, a 31-yard completion from Russell Wilson to Marshawn Lynch set up the Seahawks at the New England 49. With 1:55 left in the game and all three timeouts still available, Seattle was now only 49 yards away from retaking the lead.
Following an incompletion on 1st down, the team struggled to line up in time and had to take its first clock-stoppage. After another incompletion, the Seahawks were able to gain 11 yards on 3rd and 10; setting up what looked like the game’s signature play at the time.
“How many more plays are the Patriots going to have like this?” asked NBC’s Cris Collinsworth after the 1st down play. “David Tyree, Mario Manningham, and now Kearse.” At initial glance, Wilson’s deep pass to Jermaine Kearse appeared to have fallen incomplete; broken up by undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler. But it never touched the ground.
Kearse caught the deflected football, lying on his back, to give his team 1st and goal from the 5-yard line. While Seattle had to take another timeout, the team suddenly was in a prime position to score the go-ahead touchdown. Even more so after Lynch gained four yards on the very next play, barely stopped short of the end zone by Dont’a Hightower.
And then Malcolm Butler made what actually turned out to be the signature play of the 49th Super Bowl.
The Seahawks, with :26 left in the game and only one timeout in the fold, might have had to call a pass at some point. They did on 2nd down and went with a route combination that had worked for them in the past. And Butler knew.
The undrafted rookie reacted immediately, jumped in front of the slant pass intended for Ricardo Lockett and made the biggest interception of his life – and probably Super Bowl history. Patriots football at the 1-yard line with 20 seconds left.
And Super Bowl XLIX was still not over.
With the ball only inches from the goal line, the Patriots offense needed breathing room. To get it, they took advantage of the Seahawks’ aggressiveness. New England faked the snap, which in turn led to defensive tackle Michael Bennett jumping offsides. Five yard penalty, game over.
Patriots 28, Seahawks 24. A game for the ages and, finally, the fourth Super Bowl title for New England.
If Super Bowl XLIX was to be summed up with one word, it would be “perseverance”. Not only because the Patriots were able to overcome two turnovers and a 10-point fourth quarter deficit, but also because of the two weeks leading up to the big game. Despite the media frenzy caused by Deflategate, the team and its coaches were fully prepared to take on the Seahawks – and ultimately to take home the franchise’s fourth Lombardi Trophy.