Super Bowl XLIX Review: Patriots vs. Seahawks
By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Date: February 1, 2015
Site: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Point Spread: New England -1
Score: New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
MVP: Tom Brady (Patriots)
Super Bowl XLIX featured the top two seeds from each conference with the AFC’s Patriots taking on the NFC champs and defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. It was the top two teams in the league playing each other and the game was a doozy--a nail-biter that came right down to the end.
After a slow first quarter, the game took off, with both offenses having their share of success. And the intensity also picked up throughout the game, eventually reaching a fever-pitch by the 4th quarter. Entering the final quarter, the Patriots were down 24-14, before a 4th-quarter explosion, punctuated by a huge play late to seal Seattle’s fate. At the end, a lot of the attention was surrounding the iffy goal-line playcalling of the Seahawks, but the Patriots did an awful lot right to win this game.
Both teams overcame tough starts in the 2014 regular season, before kicking it into gear. The Patriots looked lost in the first quarter of the season, before whipping it into shape to finish the season as the class of the conference. And for a while, it looked like the Seahawks were in the haze of a Super Bowl hangover. But by the end of the season, however, they were back on top, with their vaunted defense fully rounded into form.
Neither team was able to sail into the big game, with both teams scratching and clawing their way into the Bowl. The New England Patriots had to overcome a double-digit deficit in their divisional playoff game to beat the Ravens, 35-31. They had an easier time in the AFC title game, smashing the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7 in a game characterized by messy weather. It was later found that Pats’ QB Tom Brady used balls that were deflated beyond what the rules dictate. The ensuing “Deflategate” controversy unfortunately comprised a bulk of the build-up for the game.
Seattle, meanwhile, had their own issues getting to the Super Bowl. All was well in the divisional round of the playoffs, with Seattle beating the Carolina Panthers, 31-17. But in the NFC title game, Seattle relied on a miracle comeback to beat the Green Bay Packers in overtime, relying on a slew of dramatic late-game plays to notch the unlikely comeback win 28-22.
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First Half: A game that would eventually become known as a barnburner began in earnest. After some punts with minimal positive plays, New England got the ball down to the Seattle 10-yard line, before an errant Brady pass found the arms of Seattle’s Jeremy Lane. Lane broke his wrist on the return and was taken out of the game. His absence would soon be missed, as Brady exploited his replacement in the second quarter.
On New England’s first second quarter drive, Brady completed some passes, including a 11-yard pass to Brandon LaFell for the game’s first score, as the Pats took the lead 7-0. Seattle would answer. Boosted by the play of previously unheard-of receiver Chris Matthews, the Seahawks got into the red-zone, with Marshawn Lynch pounding it in from 3 yards to tie the game.
With just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter, there would be two more touchdowns in a furious finish to the first half. New England moved down the field, with Brady spraying the ball around to different receivers. A 22-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski gave New England a 14-7 lead. But with time running out, Seattle and QB Russell Wilson went to work. Another big pass play got the Seahawks close. With time running out, the Seahawks went for it and Wilson connected with Matthews from 11 yards to tie the game at 14-14 going into the locker room.
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Second Half: Seattle looked to be taking over the game early in the second half. The opening drive saw the Seahawks move down the field with ease. Their drive stalled, but Steven Hauschka kicked a field goal to make it 17-14. A Tom Brady interception on the next drive gave Seattle the ball at midfield. They moved down the field, culminating with a 3-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin to make it 24-14.
The Patriots came back with fury in the final quarter. Facing a double-digit deficit, Brady started connecting big-time with his cabaret of playmakers. With Julian Edelman catching a few big passes, the Pats were set up close, with Danny Amendola catching a 4-yard TD pass to narrow the gap to 24-21. On their next drive, the Patriots were clinical, as Brady connected with Shane Vereen, Edelman, and LaFell to get close. A 3-yard TD pass to Edelman made it 28-24 with just a little over two minutes to go.
The Seahawks’ final drive will be remembered for a long time. Facing crunch time, a 31-yard completion to Lynch put the Seahawks in business. In an unusual play, a Wilson pass found Jermain Kearse, who made a circus catch on his back on a deflected ball that somehow found its way into Kearse’s grip. Seattle was now on the 5-yard line. Lynch ran it to the 1-yard line. But then, with 26 seconds left, Wilson dropped back to pass and New England safety Malcolm Butler stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette and intercepted the ball. Most viewers were left shocked--namely by the fact that Seattle chose not to win the game with Lynch from such a short distance.
The interception return landed just outside the end zone and with an unsportsmanlike penalty, New England could not kneel down to kill clock, being at the 1-yard line. But a Seattle encroachment penalty gave the Patriots all the room they needed. A fight broke out, with a flustered Seattle defense losing their cool. But Brady eventually kneeled down and ran out the clock, notching his 4th Super Bowl win in a game that will be remembered for its late-game drama.
New England gets full credit for the win, as their 4th-quarter comeback brought them back from a 10-point deficit late. But for those who feel the Seahawks should have won, it’s difficult to argue. Sure, it’s not often that a pass from the one-yard line is picked off and if Wilson completed the throw, no one would have said anything. But it’s hard to get away from the fact that Seattle should have run the ball. For that reason and all the late-game theatrics, it’s a game that will live on in the memories of all involved.