The New England Patriots not only deflated the Seattle Seahawks' chance at football immortality, but they also out-Seahawked the Seattle defense when it mattered most to earn a thrilling 28-24 victory in Super Bowl XLIX.
Sure, it appeared that the Seahawks gave away the game when they incredulously decided to throw the ball on second-and-goal from the Patriots' 1-yard line, only to see rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler pick it off and secure the win. But the fact the Patriots had so much faith in the relative unknown and were able to hold the Seahawks without another point after watching them stake a 10-point lead entering the final quarter is a testament to just how good -- and perhaps underrated -- New England's defense really is.
It's easy to get overshadowed by the better -- and louder -- "Legion of Boom" defense, but when it came down to making the necessary plays to win, it was guys like Butler who stood tall.
- Celebrity deaths 2018: All the stars we lost too soon 44 Pictures
- 10 finalists for TIME Person of the Year 2018 10 Pictures
"I just had a vision that I was going to make a big play and it came true,'' Butler said. ''I'm just blessed. I can't explain it right now. It's crazy.''
What was also crazy was the way the Seahawks eschewed the opportunity for Marshawn Lynch's potential game-winning 1-yard touchdown run -- while also managing to forever erase wideout Jermaine Kearse's Super Bowl moment.
Kearse's spectacular juggling 33-yard catch with 1:06 remaining got Seattle down to the New England 5-yard line. And when Lynch (game-highs of 102 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown) rushed four yards to the 1, it had all the makings of a storybook ending for the team that was seeking tobecome the first repeat NFL champion since New England a decade ago.
Alas, Butler,who was victimized on Kearse's reception, made the biggest play of his career andjumped the inside slant one play later, as the Patriots put a stamp on one of the wildest endings in Super Bowl history.
The moment wasn't too big for Butler, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady acknowledged such.
"Malcolm, what a play,'' Brady said. ''I mean, for a rookie to make a play like that in a Super Bowl and win us the game, it was unbelievable.''
It wasn't unbelievable that Brady'simprint was all over the Patriots' sensational fourth-quarter rally, but it was rather unfathomable that it would be the fabled Seattle defense that allowed a 10-point cushion to dissolve, as the MVP led scoring drives of 68 and 64 yards, respectively.
The Patriots' defense then made sure there'd be no unbelievable game-winning drive for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Carroll explained the reasoning for the ill-advised pass play, and placed the blame at his own feet.
''There's really nobody to blame but me, and I told them that clearly and I don't want them thinking otherwise," Carroll said, falling on the proverbial sword after the game. "They busted their tails and did everything they needed to do to win this game, but it just didn't work out right. It's a very hard lesson, and I hate to learn the hard way ... For it to come down to a play like that, I hate that we have to live with that, because we did everything right to win the football game.''
Seattle did almost everything right, except count on an undrafted rookie defensive back to react to his game-film keys and recall how to defend a play that had given him fits all night.
Carroll and Co. obviously didn't account for the Butler to do it to them like that, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick never wavered and had full confidence that someone would make a decisive defensive play.
"You have to be ready for anything when they're that close,” Belichick said. "It's all in Seattle's goal-line offense. We have it, too. We just were fortunate to have a guy at the right place when Wilson threw it. They do a lot of things down there, things they feel you won't expect, and we just had to be ready for all of it."
Brady, who could be seen hysterically jumping up and down on the sideline upon Butler's pick, was very appreciative that his defense saved the day.
''I've been at it for 15 years and we've had a couple of tough losses in this game,'' Brady said. ''This one came down to the end, and this time, we made the plays.''
Yes, the golden-boy quarterback rightfully walked away with the Super Bowl MVP trophy, but this game should also be remembered as the contest in which the overlooked Patriots' defense outplayed their once-invincible Seahawks brethren.
- Brady has equaled Joe Montana with four Lombardi Trophies and three Super Bowl MVPs. He also stands alone with 13 Super Bowl touchdown passes.
- He went 37-for-50 for 328 yards against the NFL's top-ranked defense.
- Bradywas also picked off twice, or as many times as he was intercepted in the five previous Super Bowls combined.
- The 10-point comeback tied for the largest erased deficit in Super Bowl history.
- Patriots wideout Julian Edelman had nine receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown; tight end Rob Gronkowski tallied six receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown; and even the once-forgotten wideout Danny Amendola chipped in with six catches and 48 yards and a touchdown.
- The Seahawks had an unlikely star in their own right in wideout Chris Matthews, who up until Sunday night, was more famous for the recovered onside kick that helped the Seahawks beat Green Bay in overtime for the NFC crown. Matthews, who nevercaught a pass in the NFL prior to this game, grabbed four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.