GLENDALE, Ariz. — NFL quarterbacks and coaches are defined by greatness over time. With a fourth Lombardi Trophy in 14 years, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are champions in the rarest of company.
The 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night gave Brady and Belichick four rings, a claim only Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers) and enshrined quarterbacks Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw can make.
“He is going to go down as the best quarterback to ever play this game,” Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis said of Brady.
Brady completed 37 of 50 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions and was named Super Bowl MVP for the third time. He was 13 of 15 for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots their first NFL title in 10 years.
“It’s hard to win a game in the NFL, and this is one of the toughest we’ve ever had,” Brady said. “It took a lot of mental toughness, but we obviously played until the end.”
The Patriots clinched the win defending their own end zone in the final 30 seconds of the game.
Brady threw a go-ahead touchdown pass on his 50th throw of the game — a 3-yarder to wide receiver Julian Edelman — before the two-minute warning to give quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks one last shot.
Wilson opened with a 31-yard pass down the left sideline to running back Marshawn Lynch from an empty backfield, five-wide shotgun set. After another first-down conversion on a Wilson pass to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse caught a 33-yard bomb down the right sideline. Going up for the ball with Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, Kearse tipped the ball and caught it on a second bobble while on his back at the 6-yard line.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Brady said of the catch.
The Seahawks ran Lynch on first down to reach the 1-yard line, and with 25 seconds left, after the Patriots let more than 35 seconds tick off the clock, Wilson took the snap and fired a slant to Lockette that Butler intercepted to end the game.
“I told the guys, ‘That’s my fault, totally,’” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We had plenty of chances to win that game.”
Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell claimed he called the play but felt Lockette “could have been stronger to the ball” to finish the slant route.
Carroll said the decision to throw the ball on second down came down to the Patriots keeping their goal-line personnel on the field. He said the Seahawks planned to run on third and fourth down.
Butler felt devastated, he said, when Kearse made the improbable grab, but read the pick play and closed for the interception.
“I made a play to help my team win,” said Butler, who entered the game in the second half to slow down the Seahawks’ deep passing attack. “I’ve worked so hard in practice and I just wanted to play so bad and help my team out.”
Players in the Seattle locker room harshly criticized the decision to throw the ball at the goal line. The Seahawks led the NFL in rushing in the regular season with a 5.3-yard average per carry.
“I think it’s a tough pill,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said. “(Lynch) is arguably one of the greatest running backs to play. I know he’s going to feel this one.”
Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin was ejected for inciting a scuffle as the Patriots went to kneel-downs to run out the final 20 seconds.
Brady completed third-down passes of 18 and 21 on a balanced drive culminating with a 5-yard dart to Danny Amendola with 7:55 left in the game to cut the Seahawks’ advantage to 24-21.
“Tom is the best,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said of the Patriots’ rally. “He never got disappointed or discouraged when we had a couple of turnovers. He just kept fighting, demonstrated a lot of confidence on the sideline, a lot of confidence at halftime. I think our players fed off that.”
With 10 points and their second interception of Brady, the Seahawks built a 24-14 lead in the third quarter. Former CFL wide receiver Chris Matthews was the surprising star of the game for the Seahawks with his first four NFL receptions for 109 yards. His 11-yard reception in the final seconds of the second quarter tied the game at 14 and he made a leaping 45-yard grab on the opening possession of the third quarter, which ended in a 27-yard Steven Hauschka field goal and Seattle’s first lead of the game, 17-14.
The Seahawks thrived on big plays, with the six longest plays from scrimmage. New England’s longest gain was 24 yards.
Wilson said he felt like he lost the game for the Seahawks.
“One inch too far, Wilson said. “I thought it was going to be a touchdown when I threw it. I thought it was going to be game over.
“They made one more play than we did.”
Edelman had a game-high nine receptions for 109 yards. Lynch had 102 yards on 24 carries for the Seahawks.
Seattle went right to Matthews for a gain of nine, then got inside the red zone on a thunderous run by Lynch, who broke five tackles on a 14-yard gain to the Patriots 4. On second-and-goal, Wilson had only open grass around wide receiver Doug Baldwin for a 3-yard score and 10-point edge with 4:54 to go in the third.
Seattle answered two touchdown passes from Brady to tie the game at 14-14 heading into halftime.
Lynch powered for his 15th touchdown of the 2014 season to even the score at 7-all just before the two-minute warning.
Brady, who hit a Super Bowl first-half record 20 of 27 passes for 177 yards through two quarters, lofted a 22-yard touchdown to tight end Rob Gronkowski with 31 seconds left in the half to tie Joe Montana’s record for touchdown passes in the Super Bowl with 11. Brady threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon LaFell to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead earlier in the second quarter.
After a personal-foul penalty on New England with six seconds left in the half moved the ball to the Patriots 11-yard line, the Seahawks took a timeout and pulled their field-goal unit off the field. Wilson whipped a fade to Matthews to tie the game at 14.
Wilson was 0-for-1 passing and the Seahawks had only 22 total yards when Seattle started its first scoring drive in the middle of the second quarter. Wilson completed back-to-back passes, with a 44-yarder to Matthews, his first career NFL reception, landing the Seahawks at the New England 11. Lynch carried three straight times in the 4-minute, 51-second drive that was capped by his 3-yard romp.
Brady was intercepted by cornerback Jeremy Lane in the end zone on the 13th play of the Patriots’ second drive of the game, giving the ball back to the Seahawks with 1:39 left in the first quarter. Lane broke his arm on the 14-yard return.
NOTES: Brady increased his NFL record for postseason touchdown passes to 53, and he broke the Super Bowl career record with 13. Montana had 11. … The NFL held a moment of silence prior to the national anthem for New York Giants co-owner Ann Mara, who died Sunday at age 85. … New England played in two of the three Super Bowls in the state of Arizona, including Sunday and the 2008 loss to the New York Giants in the same stadium. Super Bowl XXX in 1996 was played in Tempe. … Wilson became the first quarterback to start two Super Bowls in his first three seasons. Wilson was attempting to become the first quarterback to win two Super Bowls by age 26 since Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. … Seattle lost three starters in the game, two to injury — nickel CB Jeremy Lane and DE Cliff Avril — and linebacker Bruce Irvin, who was ejected with 20 seconds left.