Malcolm Butler and Jermaine Kearse met at the 1:10 mark.
It was then, in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX, that the 2014 undrafted cornerback and the 2012 undrafted receiver both got their hands and legs on a spiral from quarterback Russell Wilson.
Butler dove back, and Kearse followed suit behind him as safety Duron Harmon flew overhead and the ball fluttered below. The improbable end result was a 33-yard gain. And the improbable end result sent the Seattle Seahawks to within five yards of a second Lombardi Trophy in as many years.
Yet it would not be the last of Butler, nor would it be the last of the Patriots.
It just seemed like it at that moment, as the broadcast panned away before Kearse gathered the football off the turf and kept on running.
Butler forced Kearse out of bounds at the five-yard line, but plans changed along with that reality.
The Seahawks turned to the ground on with Marshawn Lynch on the next snap as the clock began to run. The New England Patriots, on the other side, turned to the nine in the box to keep the 5-foot-11, 215-pound running back from running through them.
Lynch came up one yard short of turning the 28-24 game into a 28-31 one, less than one minute after the Patriots had reclaimed the lead after being down by 14 midway through the third.
Preserving the damage was New England’s goal from there on out.
Seattle had New England where head coach Pete Carroll wanted them. He had one timeout left, and his counterpart, Bill Belichick, had two. But from 62 seconds to 26 seconds the time went as the Seahawks gathered for 2nd-and-goal.
And that 2nd-and-goal would decide what time could not.
The Seahawks brought out “11” personnel with Lynch flanking Wilson in shotgun. Tight end Luke Wilson stood inline, while wideout Doug Baldwin stood as the lone target out left and wideouts Ricardo Lockette and Kearse stacked out right.
Seattle was going to pass the ball, only the way the Patriots lined up against them in a manner which suggested they were preparing for otherwise.
Defensive tackles Chris Jones, Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga and Vince Wilfork all huddled on the line, combining for 1,284 pounds of retaining wall, while defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones stood up outside of them.
Yet that assembly would not alter the course of Seattle’s plans with three downs to work with.
Lynch would not handle his 25th carry of the Super Bowl on that upcoming second down. He would be tasked to run an outlet to the flat instead, while Baldwin and Willson would cross inside out on slant and flat routes of their own.
Out right stood a different itinerary, though. Kearse loomed there, prepped to set a pick for Lockette, against 6-foot-4, 221-pound ex-Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner and a 5-foot-11, 190-pound first-year pro in Butler.
Lockette found himself with a six-yard cushion against the rookie corner before the snap. He found himself with room to run laterally behind the grain of New England’s goal-line front if he could get that far.
But finding more than that would hinge on how well the rub concept was executed. It would hinge on how well a 24-year-old rookie from a fellow Division II school would respond to it.
Wilson took the snap and quickly set his feet to his first read to find out.
Kearse and Browner clashed to form a roadblock in the midst of it, opening a five-yard lane for Lockette in the process.
Wilson fired the ball out to lead his intended target into it. But Butler was heading there as well. He read what he saw in practice, and he did not want to get beat to the punch again.
No. 21 drove downhill on a collision course with fringe of the end zone and No. 83.
He lowered his shoulder, raised his palms and braced for impact.
He left it, inhaling the football off his shoulder as he bounced off Lockette. He retained it, bringing New England’s offense back on for kneel-downs just an instant after it appeared there would be no downs left to move the length of the field. And he stole it, taking the game away just inches before the Seahawks could do the same.
Butler’s aggressiveness came to fruition on that 2nd-and-1. And those kinds of moments were seen from him in short glimpses from the season opener to the postseason closer.
An interception was not. His last one came at West Alabama, in front of less than 3,000 spectators, on Nov. 14, 2013.
“Malcolm, he was a rookie tryout,” Belichick said in his postgame press conference. “We’d already finished with the draft, we’d already signed our free agents after the draft. He was part of what he like to call ‘the few, the proud, the free’ that came in.”
Butler stayed in, making the 53-man roster and 46-man active roster on the way to carving his place some nine months after he was signed by New England. He carved his place on special teams and stepped into the Patriots’ secondary for nine games.
“A guy like Malcolm who makes that type of instinctive, quick play, that’s one of his strong suits,” quarterback Tom Brady told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday. “I don’t think it surprised any of us players, because that’s really what his skill set is. A lot of people didn’t get to see that over the course of the season.”
On his 17th snap against Seattle, everyone did.