A three-yard touchdown from quarterback Russell Wilson to wideout Doug Baldwin gave the Seattle Seahawks a 24-14 lead with 4:54 remaining in the third.
The margin stood on its own. Only the Washington Redskins against the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts had overcome a 10-point first-half deficit to win, with those two glimpses coming in Super Bowl XXII in Super Bowl XLIV, respectively.
But the New England Patriots would soon join them in the second half, even if it brought them to within one yard of a loss in Super Bowl XLIX.
The Patriots were forced to punt after a three-and-out, before forcing a three-and-out of their own on defense to close the third quarter of action at University of Phoenix Stadium. And thenceforth, the Patriots had to punt the ball back to Seattle after another three snaps to quarterback Tom Brady transpired with less than 15 minutes remaining.
New England returned the favor, containing running back Marshawn Lynch on two runs and forging through for a sack by defensive end Rob Ninkovich as the offense got the football back with 12:10 of game clock to go.
Brady was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, yet the 37-year-old three-time Super Bowl champion would soon recover. He went 4-for-6 for 55 yards with a two-yard handoff to halfback Shane Vereen, though on the seventh pass and eighth play of the drive, Brady connected with receiver Danny Amendola for a four-yard touchdown.
It brought the game to 24-21.
Seattle held the rest in their grasp. A deep pass to slot target Ricardo Lockette fell incomplete, then a carry to six-time 1,000-yard running back Marshawn Lynch picked up five. But an incompletion to the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Lynch would follow as the Seahawks were forced to punt the ball back to a team that had inspired little vertical confidence to that point.
It would arrive in time Sunday night. In short, succinct, methodical time.
Brady hit Vereen for two passes netting 13 yards. He then hit wide receiver Julian Edelman for nine before a six-yard toss was wiped out by offensive pass interference from fellow pass-catcher Danny Amendola. With that, the Patriots faced 2nd-and-11. And with that, No. 12 went on to find first-team All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski on a 20-yard catch down the seam opposite Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor, before going 4-of-4 through the air for 27 yards and a two-yard exchange to power back LeGarrette Blount.
One three-yard strike on a pivot route to Edelman later, New England found themselves back in the lead. They found themselves back in a game they once claimed, after starting the game 7-0 and landing a 14-7 lead in the second.
The advantaged was shortlived, however, as Wilson set his sights on Lynch against Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins for a 31-yard spiral. The former fourth-round QB via Wisconsin and N.C. State went 1-of-3 from there with an 11-yard completion to Lockette.
His fifth pass of the drive was what changed the complexion of it all.
Wilson dropped back and took a shot in the vicinity of receiver Jermaine Kearse. The ball rattled off his hands and legs and fell back into his hands as Patriots safety Duron Harmon dove overhead and undrafted cornerback Malcolm Butler dove underneath.
It gained 33 yards. It gained disbelief, drawing semblance to Mario Manningham and David Tyree moments in New England Super Bowl history. It sent the Seahawks to the five-yard line with 1:06 to play, and a five-yard rush with Lynch followed to make it 2nd-and-1 with goal to go.
But it was on that 2nd-and-1 with goal to go that the game shifted hands.
Head coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle offense turned to the pass on a slant to Lockett, and Butler turned into the player of the moment with the interception of a lifetime. The West Alabama product picked off Wilson and the Seahawks’ chances as a repeat Super Bowl victory, heading to the sidelines before the Patriots kneeled twice to run out the clock on a game that wasn’t over.
And when it finally was, head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots were champions for the fourth time since February of 2002. An improbable 28-24 victory in Glendale was what did it.
1. Brady Resilient in Sixth Super Bowl: Brady saw his first interception arrive from 10 yards out of the end zone with 1:50 left in the first quarter. He saw his second arrive from 68 yards out with 8:15 left in the third. But the 14th-year Patriots starter ultimately averted the trend by going 15-of-19 with two passing touchdowns over the final quarter and a half. And in the process, Brady finished 37-of-50 passing for 328 yards, four touchdowns and the aforementioned two picks, being named Super Bowl MVP for the third time in his career. Brady now resides alone with 53 postseason touchdown passes, and he now resides alongside Joe Montana and Terry Bradyshaw as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls.
2. Edelman Rises to Top: A bulldozing hit over the middle in the fourth quarter would not keep Edelman from leaving his own mark. The sixth-year Patriots wideout finished with nine receptions for 109 yards and the go-ahead touchdown Sunday night, with four receptions coming after the four quarter was underway. Edelman was influential on quick outs and over the middle, maintaining chain movement when pass rush generated a different kind of movement.
3. New England Moves Past Running Game: The Patriots’ offense forged its way from the backfield to the line of scrimmage, but the Seahawks’ defense that had allowed 3.4 yards per carry during the regular season met them there. The 6-foot, 250-pound Blount gained 40 yards on 14 attempts, while Vereen spelled for 13 yards on four attempts and Edelman added seven yards on a jet sweep. Yet in all, excluding a loss of three from Brady, New England netted 60 yards on 19 rushes, as the Seahawks’ front consumed gaps and limited the team’s backs to 12 runs of two yards or less.
4. Seahawks Make Room: Wilson was 0-for-2 passing midway through the second quarter, but the third-year pro was able to recover by buying time in the pocket and out of it against a Patriots defense that fought to contain him. Wilson finished 12-of-21 passing for 247 yards and two touchdowns to receivers Doug Baldwin and former Iowa Barnstormer and former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Chris Matthews. Yet he also added three scampers for 39 yards, while Lynch added 24 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown, and No. 2 back Robert Turbin added two for 21.
5. Butler Intercepts the Moment: Down at the goal line, Butler secured his first career interception in a moment that makes a career. The lone rookie cornerback on New England’s roster assumed a larger role in place of nickelback Kyle Arrington in the second half. And over the duration, he played as aggressive and instinctive as a first-year pro could, whether it was versus the run, Kearse or Lockette.