GLENDALE, Ariz. -- This time, Tom Brady's defense made the play we'll remember forever.
Malcolm Butler's stunning interception on the goal line with 20 seconds left gave the New England Patriots a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Bill Belichick and Brady are champions for a fourth time.
Butler's play ended a wild back-and-forth game between two great quarterbacks and two titanic coaches. It was a game worthy of the two best teams in the sport this decade. It was a game that reminded everyone watching why we love football so much.
Brady must have had flashbacks on the sideline just before Butler's play. He had just authored a beautiful fourth-quarter drive to take back the lead with under three minutes left, just like he did in 2008 against the New York Giants. The Seahawks drove right down the field on the back of an improbable Jermaine Kearse catch, conjuring memories of David Tyree. And then Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made the play call that will be debated for decades to come.
The Seahawks trusted Russell Wilson instead of Marshawn Lynch in the biggest moment possible, and Butler made them pay for it. It was reminiscent of the early 2000s Patriots teams that always had role players step up in the biggest moments.
This Patriots dynasty started with controversy (Tuck Rule) and insane Super Bowl endings. Now 10 years removed from their last championship and just days removed from the team's deflated ball scandal, they are champions again. It has to feel especially sweet.
Brady and Belichick have knocked on the door of a fourth title for so long. They have lost two heartbreakers in the big game and squandered four straight playoff byes before this season. They know exactly how hard it is to become champions, and they know exactly how much this title means. They are living legends.
Here is what else we learned in a thrilling Super Bowl XLIX:
1. Brace yourself for a week of legacy questions, specifically Brady versus Joe Montana and this game's hierarchy among the greatest Super Bowls. Brady sailed past Montana's Super-Bowl touchdowns record, shredding a historically strong pass defense en route to an epic fourth-quarter comeback that will still be running on NFL Films 50 years from now. Brady joins Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with four Lombardi Trophies. Along the way, he set a single-game Super Bowl record with 37 completions and walked away with his third Super Bowl MVP award.
2. Coach Pete Carroll will have to answer for the most head-scratching play call in Super Bowl history. Armed with the NFL's best tackle-breaker who excels at pushing through goal-line traffic, the Seahawks called for a pass on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Butler promptly stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette for the game-sealing interception, capping off the most unlikely three-play series in recent memory. Two plays prior, Jermaine Kearse channeled both David Tyree and Antonio Freeman with a ridiculous twice-batted, once-kicked pass that dropped right into his arms after he had fallen to the turf.
3. The bizarre finish robbed the Seahawks of the most unlikely Super Bowl hero since Redskins running back Timmy Smith erupted for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns back in 1987. After one-and-a-half quarters of Seattle ineptitude, former CFL Most Outstanding Rookie Chris Matthews high-pointed a 44-yard pass for the first reception of his NFL career. Over the next six minutes of game action, he beat Logan Ryan for an 11-yard touchdown and hauled in a 45-yard sideline rainbow. Directly responsible for Seattle's first 17 points, Matthews almost singlehandedly turned the game around. A street free agent in mid-November, Matthews had played just 28 snaps all season prior to Sunday. Credit the coaching staff for realizing the 6-foot-5 Matthews was capable of giving this team the big, physical downfield threat that had been missing for two years.
- What we learned from Super Bowl XLIX | Highlights
- Silver: Pete Carroll explains ill-fated call
- Battista: Tom Brady relieved with Pats' fourth title
- Schein Nine: Game proved to be classic, tragic
- Brady brings home third SB MVP | Watch highlights
- Has Brady surpassed Montana as greatest QB ever?
- What went wrong on Seahawks' final play? | Watch it
- Carroll on the pick: "That's my fault, totally"
- Seahawks OC: Lockette could have been stronger to ball
- #WorstCallEver: Twitter reacts to fated goal-line call
- Super Bowl XLIXperience comes to a close
- GameDay Pulse: Relive all moments through game
4. Matthews' third catch set up a Steven Hauschka field goal that extended Russell Wilson's streak of enjoying a lead in all 56 career games. Wilson deserved a better fate. He okey-doked Patriots pass rushers time and again while averaging an eye-opening 11.8 yards per attempt in a highly efficient performance. Rather than castigating Wilson for the game-ending interception, we would prefer to shine a light on his brilliant five-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in 29 seconds to enter halftime with a 14-14 tie. Football's version of Houdini pulled it off with a handful of undrafted wide receivers, best known for their special teams ability.
5. Sunday's effort was an encapsulation of Brady's 29-game postseason career, with a surgical clean-pocket Brady staving off the mistakes of an erratic muddy-pocket Brady. Defensive end Michael Bennett was a monster, hitting the QB four times and forcing both hideous interceptions. Losing fellow pass rusher Cliff Avril to a concussion in the fourth quarter was no small factor, providing Brady with the time to pick a vaunted defense apart. Still, Bennett's game-changing plays would have catapulted him into the MVP discussion along with Wilson and Matthews had the Seahawks won.
6. Despite the loss, Seattle's rabid fan base was a factor. We estimated a 75-25 ratio of Seahawks fans to Patriots fans milling around Phoenix and Glendale this weekend. To the surprise of no one, the 12s were the more raucous crowd throughout the game.
7. It's a shame that Carroll's ill-fated play call will end up overshadowing his aggressive coaching clinic to close out the first half. A lot of coaches would have taken a knee deep in their own territory with just 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Others would have opted to play it safe with a field-goal attempt at the 0:06-second mark instead of taking one shot at the end zone. Carroll went with the high-reward option both times. This isn't your grandfather's hide-bound conservative 1972 football. More often than not, NFL coaches are punished by the 21st century football gods when they play it safe. Turning to Lynch with the game on the line wasn't the safe option: it was the high-reward option.