My goodness. I'm still in awe. I don't think I was dreaming.
That was truly an instant classic -- one that provided arguably the single wildest Super Bowl finish ever.
Drama. Controversy. Amazing and improbable plays. Legacies defined. An epic, 28-24 win for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Here are the nine biggest takeaways from an all-time great sporting contest:
1) The worst call ever
I don't want to fall victim to hyperbole or be a prisoner of the moment, but I must say it: The Seahawks' decision to throw the football from the Patriots' 1-yard line -- despite the fact that they employ the unstoppable ground force that is Marshawn Lynch -- was the single worst, most illogical, mind-numbing play call ever in a Super Bowl.
There are 26 seconds left in the game, it's second-and-goal from the 1 and Seattle has a timeout.
Feed the Beast!!
It's that easy. The Patriots weren't going to stop Lynch multiple times -- I don't care what kind of personnel they had on the field. Heck, I was wondering why Belichick didn't stop the clock to save time on the back end for Brady after the inevitable Lynch touchdown.
Carroll took the blame after the game, and it does fall on him as the head coach. His postgame explanation: "We sent in our personnel, they sent in goal line. It's not the right matchup for us to run the football, so on second down, we throw the ball, really, to kind of waste that play."
To waste that play? I don't even know what that means.
Was Carroll being too aggressive? Was he spooked by the genius of Belichick? Did he outsmart himself?
However you want to slice it, he blew it. It was backward. It was goofy. It was illogical. Russell Wilson in the shotgun, back to pass? Crazy talk. Kinda like leaving Reggie Bush on the sideline for fourth-and-2 in the fabled USC loss to Texas.
Doug Baldwin, when asked about the play call, said it best: "I think we all were surprised." Yes, Doug -- we certainly were. In fact, shocked is probably a more appropriate characterization.
Pete Carroll is a fantastic head coach who has won in the NFL and in college. But he just cost his team a title. That will never leave him.
While the finger of blame rightfully is being pointed in Carroll's direction, be sure to save some criticism for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Make no mistake: Bevell calls the plays. Carroll is on the headset and can change the call, but Bevell makes it initially. And after the game, Bevell twice insinuated that receiver Ricardo Locketteshould've fought harder for the football on the ill-fated play. Save it, dude. That was an all-time gaffe of a play call. And for you to even go there -- throwing a player under the bus to cover for an illogical strategy -- is a really bad look. At least Carroll took responsibility. In a late-night text conversation with my NFL Media colleague Michael Silver, the head coach further explained his thinking, but also reiterated honorable resiliency: "I can take a punch." And that's true. As for Bevell ... That was insecurity, a passing of the buck. And it was weak.
What a flat-out mess for Seattle. The 'Hawks were three feet away from winning another Super Bowl, knocking on the door of back-to-back immortality. But they refused to knock with the right guy. Insane. Nobody will ever forget it.
2) The Butler did it
He's a rookie! An undrafted one, to boot.
The call by Carroll is the story. But the play by Malcolm Butler was a true "wow" moment. That's coaching. That's film study. If that's an incomplete pass, Seattle is going to win the Super Bowl, with Lynch running it in on third or fourth down.
Brady was majestic (more on that later ...), but Butler saved the game. He legitimately snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Butler read Wilson and stepped in front of the intended receiver. It was a brilliant play; heady and athletic and obviously timely. If you factor in time, score and situation, it is one of the biggest defensive plays in Super Bowl history.
3) Jermaine Tyree ... or not
Jermaine Kearse had his David Tyree moment. And it felt like the Patriots were going to lose another Super Bowl in gut-wrenching fashion. Kearse fell to the ground, then kicked and tipped the football, which seemingly hung in the air forever ... before settling into the receiver's arms for a 33-yard gain. It was fluky, genius and incredible rolled into one. And it was destined to be forever mentioned in the same breath as Tyree's helmet catch, once Lynch scored to cap off the game-winning drive.
Two plays later, Wilson was picked by Butler -- and Kearse's acrobatics became a footnote in NFL history.
4) Tom terrific
Tom Brady has now won four Super Bowls, as well as three Super Bowl MVP awards. He's thrown the most touchdown passes in Super Bowl history. He set a record with 37 completions in a Super Bowl. Brady led a majestic comeback against the best defense in the NFL.
Let it all sink in.
Brady's Patriots were down by double digits entering the fourth quarter and didn't flinch. He led them down the field on a nine-play, 68-yard drive to cut it to a 24-21 deficit with just under eight minutes remaining. And his drive to put the Patriots ahead was perfect. On the 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive, Brady went 8-for-8, completing passes to four different Patriots, eventually hitting Julian Edelman for the score.
Brady is the greatest big-game quarterback in NFL history. And you certainly can make the case he is the single greatest quarterback in NFL history.
5) The best coach ever
Yes, I'm talking about Bill Belichick. And no, this is not merely a reaction to Sunday night. I wrote this column last Tuesday.
But now, Belichick has four Super Bowl wins as the Patriots' head coach. And yes, he has now won a championship after "Spygate" -- which can officially end that lazy and agenda-driven racket (even though he has a better winning percentage since 2007 anyway).
Bill Belichick is simply the best. Six Super Bowl appearances since 2001 with four wins. It's an out-of-this-world accomplishment in the salary-cap era, considering the league is set up for teams to be average, for everyone to experience ups and downs.
6) Edelman's a stud
Often times, we throw around the word "great" too loosely. I'm guilty of it, for sure. But Julian Edelman doesn't get enough credit for being a great football player.
He was Brady's security blanket all night. Edelman chalked up nine catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, despite continually feeling the wrath of Seattle's hard-hitting "Legion of Boom." This guy is tough. This guy is talented. This guy is a truly impactful weapon in today's game.
7) Bennett's a force of nature
If Seattle would've held on and won, you could've easily made the case for Michael Bennett as Super Bowl MVP. The Seahawks defensive lineman is a premier player who consistently terrorized and spooked Brady and the Patriots. The fact that this dude originally went undrafted is pretty hard to fathom. And speaking of undrafted players and things that are hard to fathom ...
8) Chris who?
The former University of Kentucky and CFL standout didn't have a catch in the NFL entering the Super Bowl. Suddenly, he was fueling Seattle's passing attack, notching four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was massive, too: The end-of-half back-shoulder deal, when Carroll went for the jugular with just six ticks remaining on the clock. (For the record, I disagreed with the decision watching it live. I was wrong.)
Matthews showed off his range and athleticism and hands. Pretty special game for an undrafted unknown.
9) Packers' pain
You know who had to be sick Sunday night? The players, coaching staff and fans of the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers should've held on and beaten Seattle on Championship Sunday. And then they could've had a great chance to beat New England.