Super Bowl XLIX has came and went, and boy did it deliver.
One of the best Super Bowls in recent memory, this year’s championship finale of course came with history, as Tom Brady and Belichick notched No. 4, bookending a 14-year time span with a fourth Lombardi Trophy.
New England’s fourth-quarter comeback led to a 28-24 victory over Seattle. Here are five takeaways:
1. This one’s for Tom
Fourteen years, four Super Bowls and three times Tom Brady has been named the big game’s MVP. That puts him in the same breath as Joe Montana ahead of the likes of Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, and Eli Manning, who all own two MVP trophies.
For almost a decade and a half, Brady’s Patriots have been a constant contender. Six times the have reached the Super Bowl and four times they’ve left victorious.
It’s truly remarkable that a team and one player can be so dominant for such a long stretch of time. Players like Brady and Montana are once-in-a-generation types of talents, and at 37 years of age, Brady proved he’s still at the top of his game.
Brady has thrived without true No. 1 wide receivers or All-Pro running backs, just players that thrive in this Patriots system, plus a Gronk. It’s a testament to how great Brady is and the magnitude of what Belichick can do.
2. Down, but never out
There was a time in the third quarter where it looked like the defending Super Bowl champions were about to run away with their second title in as many years. But thanks to the heroics of none other than Brady, Super Bowl XLIX delivered a memorable ending.
Seattle was previously 18-0 when leading by 10 points or more at the end of the third quarter over the last three seasons. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Seahawks’ win probability skyrocketed to 86.4 percent at that point — with 6:52 remaining.
But fourth-quarter comebacks are nothing new to Brady, who completed 13 passes in the final frame — more than Russell Wilson had the entire game — before tossing a fourth and decisive touchdown pass to Julian Edelman just before the two-minute warning.
In his career, Brady has engineered 35 fourth-quarter comebacks and 46 game-winning drives. This was his fourth of the season and second of the playoffs. There may not be a player more clutch in NFL history than this year’s MVP.
3. The decision to pass, not run
With a chance to re-take the lead and pull off the win, Seattle called for a pass on second-down at the goal-line, where Wilson threw an interception. By the way, that was the first interception thrown from the 1-yard-line by any quarterback all season.
So why didn’t Pete Carroll call for the run?
On first-and-goal, Marshawn Lynch carried the rock to the half-yard line. But then they strayed away from Lynch in favor of a passing play. New England stacked the box to defend the run, so against single coverage a quick slant made sense.
However, Malcolm Butler made an exceptional break on the ball to nab the pick. Still, in hindsight, it’s difficult to justify why throwing the ball on second down was the right move. If you run it, you probably win the game. Right?
Carroll is already being second-guessed, and rightfully so. But if that play had worked, wouldn’t we be heralding it as a genius play call?
4. The Butler did it
Butler’s first career interception may wind up being the first of many in his career, or it might just be the best play on his resume 10 years from now.
The rookie cornerback out of Division II’s West Alabama was inserted into the game in the second half in place of Kyle Arrington, who struggled to match up with surprise weapon Chris Matthews, who at 6-foot-5 and 218 pounds towered over Arrington and the New England secondary.
Butler, who stands 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds and is usually the fifth cornerback, admitted it made sense for Wilson to target the rookie corner playing in the goal-line defense with the game on the line. But unshaken, Butler — the undrafted player who originally did not make the 90-man roster and was once a part-time employee at Popeye’s — helped decide the Super Bowl.
Butler forced tears of joy into Patriots fans’ eyes by snatching the ball from Ricardo Lockette at the goal line. He joins the likes of defensive stars like James Harrison and Malcolm Smith to made a key pick that helped to decide the game’s outcome.
It’s an incredible story to see how Butler was put into the game and how he wound up helping to decide it.
5. A quick look ahead to 2015
Super Bowl XLIX was a game for the ages, but should we expect next year’s game to feature the same two teams?
There’s no doubting that Seattle could have won this game. Wilson is just in his third season and already has two Super Bowl appearances on his resume. The rest of the team’s nucleus is young, too, including Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, both of whom are locked up for long-term deals.
Still, the Seahawks’ front office must make decisions on key contributors such as Lynch, Smith, James Carpenter, and Byron Maxwell. Will Matthews be a bigger piece of the offense next season? And how will Seattle find ways to lock up Wilson, who’s due for a major payday, while still addressing all of its major areas of need?
As for the Pats, a certain MVP is 37 years old. Clearly he’s still playing some of his best football, but he’ll be 38 at the start of the 2015 season. Belichick is the best at finding personnel around him. Take a look at Edelman and Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen, who wouldn’t be stars anywhere else but in New England.
Defensively, Darrelle Revis could be in line for a pay day, perhaps with another team. Devin McCourty, Vereen and Stevan Ridley are free agents, while Vince Wilfork is going on 34 years of age. The defensive line needed to be adjusted, as does the offensive line.
Could these two teams be back again in 2015? It’s hard to say no. Wilson is one of the most successful young quarterbacks in the NFL while it’s impossible to ever count Brady and Belichick out. Remember when we did back in September?
Still, the offseason brings us plenty of twists and turns, and it’s very rare to see two teams square off in the big game two years in a row.