Patriots’ Goal-Line Interception Keeps Seahawks One Yard Short

Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass by Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks late in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on Feb. 1, 2015.

Photographer: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The New England Patriots collected their fourth Super Bowl title as the Seattle Seahawks’ quest for a second straight championship ended with a goal-line interception in the final minute of the game.

The Patriots erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit behind Tom Brady, then clinched a 28-24 victory when rookie Malcolm Butler intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson with 20 seconds left.

It was a stunning turn of events and emotion for the Seahawks fans, who greatly outnumbered the Patriots faithful in Glendale, Arizona. The fans -- known as the 12th man -- were left befuddled by the play call that ended Seattle’s chance at becoming the eighth franchise to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

“I know there are so many people on the outside, the 12s, our fans and the people that love us so much, I hope they can only imagine how it hurts our players,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “They’re really on the precipice of winning another championship and unfortunately the play goes the other way. There’s really nobody to blame but me.”

Jermaine Kearse’s juggling 33-yard catch while lying on his back on the turf had given Seattle the ball at New England’s 5-yard line in the closing minute. The Seahawks’ sideline erupted in celebration -- owner Paul Allen was shown in his box with his mouth open in disbelief -- while Brady shook his head in frustration. The play was reminiscent of the improbable Super Bowl catch that David Tyree of the New York Giants made against his helmet seven years earlier, on the same field, that helped end the Patriots’ perfect season.

‘Beast Mode’

The Seahawks then gave the ball to Marshawn Lynch, the bruising and media-averse running back who earlier in the game scored his eighth touchdown in the past eight postseason games. Lynch bulled his way to the Patriots’ 1-yard line, pushing his total to 102 rushing yards for the game.

No player in the NFL has run for more yards and touchdowns over the past four seasons than the man nicknamed “Beast Mode,” who was the chief reason the Seahawks had the league’s top-ranked rushing attack this season.

Even though only two of Lynch’s 24 carries in the game were for less than one yard, Carroll said he opted to call a pass play on second down rather than give him the ball again because the Patriots were in a goal line defense and the Seahawks had their receivers spread out.

“I didn’t want to waste a run play against their goal line guys,” Carroll said. “Throw the ball, we’ll come in on third and fourth down and we can match up. It was a clear thought but it didn’t work out right.”

Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette ran a quick slant over the middle and Wilson, seeking the 12th fourth-quarter game-winning drive of his three-year career, tried to zip a pass to him. Butler “jumped the route,” according to Carroll, and wrestled away the pass that clinched New England’s first title in 10 years.

‘Taking Blame’

“He took the blame for it,” Wilson said of Carroll, “but it’s not his fault. I put the blame on me. The guy made a play. We were right there, so I put the blame on me.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he didn’t have a true goal-line defense in because the Seahawks had three receivers. New England stacked eight defenders on the line of scrimmage and used three cornerbacks man-to-man on the wideouts.

“You’ve got Marshawn Lynch, so I think everybody figured it would be a run,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “But we were prepared for either way, then Malcolm made a hell of a play.”

The wild finish was perhaps fitting in a game in which the Seahawks were favored by one point at kickoff, just the third time in the Super Bowl’s 49-year history that the oddsmakers’ point spread was less than two points. Wilson said he wasn’t surprised by the final play call.

Different Options

“You have different options. You hand the ball off to Marshawn -- that’s a great option,” said Wilson, who passed for 247 yards and two touchdowns before making the Seahawks’ lone turnover of the game. “You can also throw it, which is a great option. We thought we had them and I thought it was going to be a touchdown when I threw it. When I let it go, I thought it was going to be game over.”

The Seahawks ultimately failed to score on their final four possessions. They had scored on four drives in a row before that, taking a 24-14 lead before Brady rallied the Patriots in the final quarter.

Brady was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player for a record-tying third time, completing a Super Bowl-record 37 of 50 pass attempts for 327 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw a 4-yard scoring pass to Danny Amendola with seven minutes, 55 seconds remaining and then a go-ahead 3-yard touchdown to Julian Edelman with 2:02 left.

Rookie Hero

It was plenty of time for the Seahawks and Wilson, who completed three passes for 75 yards. Butler almost broke up the pass to Kearse, but could only watch helplessly as Kearse somehow made his tumbling grab. Moments later he intercepted Wilson.

“I just knew they were going to throw,” said Butler. “My instincts, I just went with it.”

The Patriots’ victory marked the sixth time in the past seven years that the Super Bowl has been decided by six points or less. New England, though, is just the fourth team to have more turnovers than its opponent and still win the Super Bowl.

Teams are now 4-36 in that situation, yet the Seahawks’ lone turnover was one they had no chance of recovering from.

“Everything was perfectly in hand,” Carroll said. “We were just talking about the time and timeouts and how we were going to give them no time to come back.”

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