GLENDALE, ARIZ. – Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots might or might not have purposely deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game, but they sure as heck inflated their legacies in a wild come-from-behind fourth-quarter victory in Super Bowl XLIX.
On the same field where Giants receiver David Tyree made his famous catch to help derail New England’s perfect season seven years ago, the Patriots this time survived an even more unbelievable catch in the closing seconds to unseat the defending champion Seattle Seahawks 28-24 at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night.
“We just keep fighting, and that’s why we’re the only dynasty in the NFL,” said Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty, a reference to the Seahawks’ quest to win a second straight Super Bowl with a defense that has ranked No. 1 in scoring the past three years and destroyed Peyton Manning and the Broncos 43-8 in last year’s Super Bowl.
Brady, the MVP in his record-tying fourth Super Bowl victory in the past 14 seasons, led the Patriots back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. After 17 straight Seattle points, Brady’s offense put up 14 unanswered points. He went 8-for-8 for 63 yards and the go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left.
Then he waited nervously on the sideline as Belichick’s defense clung desperately to the lead through a Tyree-esque déjà vu moment before making a clinching interception at the goal line with 20 seconds left.
On first-and-10 from the New England 38-yard line, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson launched a high-arcing pass down the right sideline. Rookie defensive back Malcolm Butler leaped high in front of receiver Jermaine Kearse. Butler got a hand on the ball, but it proceeded to rattle off the falling Kearse’s legs and hands before Kearse finally plucked it out of the air at the Patriots 5.
But after a 4-yard run by Marshawn Lynch put the ball at the 1 with less than a minute to go, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll amazingly went away from Seattle’s “Beast Mode” running back and attempted a slant pass to Ricardo Lockette on the goal line with players packed tightly in the box. Butler read the play, jumped the quick route and made the interception.
“With the throw, one thing you’re thinking is going to happen is it’s going to be incomplete or it’s going to be touchdown,” said Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who formerly held that role with the Vikings. “Either way, we have a chance to stop the clock there, save our timeout, and we could still end up getting all four of our downs.”
Wilson tried to remain upbeat after his costly turnover and an emotional loss that included linebacker Bruce Irvin being ejected for inciting an ugly brawl in the final 20 seconds.
“I don’t question the call,” Wilson said. “We’ve done it before. You have to credit the Patriots and Tom for what he’s done. I want to be like that one day. I just keep working and our team just keeps working. I think we’re in a great situation. I expect us to be back here and to win.”
Brady completed a Super Bowl-record 37 of 50 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns while having to overcome two ugly interceptions. He tied boyhood idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most Super Bowl wins by a quarterback (four). He also tied Montana in Super Bowl MVPs (three) and moved past Montana in Super Bowl touchdown passes (13-11).
Asked if he’s thought about where his legacy fits in NFL history, Brady made it clear that he’s more concerned about pursuing a fifth trophy.
“No,” said the 15-year veteran. “I’ve got a lot of football left.”
Belichick, meanwhile, tied Don Shula for most Super Bowls as a head coach and Chuck Noll for most victories (four).
“Tom’s the best ever,” Edelman said. “And he and Bill are the best coach-quarterback team ever. I’m a big Joe Montana fan. Love him to death. But they didn’t have a salary cap back then. He had some great players around him. Tom’s won four with the salary cap. It’s hard to argue against that.”
Wilson’s record against Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks fell to 10-1 as he completed only 12 of 21 passes.
Meanwhile, Brady and the Patriots managed to put the “Deflategate” distractions aside well enough to win another exciting Super Bowl. All six of Belichick’s Super Bowls have been decided by three or four points.
“It’s been a long journey,” Brady said. “It’s just a great win.”
Asked what the key was to the whole week and the win was, Brady offered just two words that probably sum up the dynastic “Patriot Way”: