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Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Instant Classic: Patriots Hang On For Crazy 28-24 Win vs. Seahawks

David Tyree. Mario Manningham. These names of Giants wide receivers that made miraculous catches have haunted the Patriots ever since New York knocked off New England in both the 2008 Super Bowl and 2012 Super Bowl. Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse appeared ready to add his name to that cringe-inducing list as he made an absurd juggling 33-yard grab in the dying moments of Super Bowl XLIX tonight in Glendale, Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium. Fortunately for the Pats and their fans around the world suffering PTSD, they got a major break this time around as Seattle made one of the worst calls in Super Bowl history: to throw the ball at the New England 1-yard line instead of running it in.

Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler made his first career interception count as he picked off Russell Wilson (12 for 21, 247 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 39 yards rushing) in the end zone to clinch a thrilling 28-24 victory for New England. It is the fourth Super Bowl title for the Patriots and their first since 2005. Tom Brady (37 for 50, 328 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs) earned his record tying third Super Bowl MVP in a game that will truly be talked about for as long as we live. Perhaps the best part is that this is one that should leave the many Patriots haters shut up for a quick second. I mean really, what can they possibly say now?

It was a bizarre game to say the least that felt like 2012 when Julian Edelman (9 catches, 109 yards) caught a 3-yard touchdown with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter that put the Pats up 28-24. The Seahawks had gone 80 yards in 29 seconds at the end of the first half to score on a gift 11-yard touchdown catch by something named Chris Matthews (4 catches, 109 yards) that tied it at 14 with two seconds left. We worried that Seattle had too much time left on the clock and another heart-breaking loss looked guaranteed after that circus catch by Kearse.

Nobody even scored a point until Brandon LaFell's 11-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. That opened things up as Marshawn Lynch (24 carries, 102 yards) answered with a 3-yard touchdown run. The Patriots took a 14-7 lead with 31 seconds left in the half when Rob Gronkowski (6 catches, 68 yards) caught a beautiful 22-yard pass from Brady.

Brady was far from perfect, he threw a truly awful red-zone interception to Jeremy Lane (who gruesomely broke his arms on the return) in the first quarter then Bobby Wagner jumped in front of a pass intended for Gronk in the third quarter. It got bleak since the Seahawks outscored the Patriots 10-0 in the third on a 27-yard field goal by Needham's Steven Hauschka and 3-yard touchdown catch by Doug Baldwin (his only target of the game, thanks Darrelle Revis).

That just set the stage for the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history as the Pats rallied from 10 points down with a 14-0 fourth quarter against the defending champs. New England's defense finally stepped up and pitched a shutout. Danny Amendola (5 catches, 48 yards) cut it to 24-21 with 7:55 left thanks to a 4-yard touchdown catch. Shane Vereen also deserves plenty of praise after he caught 11 of 12 targets for 64 yards. The Patriots were forced to basically abandon the run and they eventually found success with some old school dinking and dunking.

This was billed as a legacy game for Brady and New England head coach Bill Belichick (who tied Chuck Noll with his 4th Super Bowl title) so they certainly delivered the goods. Seattle is a fantastic team and it wouldn't be a shock (sorry rest of the NFL) to see them meet again in next season's Super Bowl. At least we know that they are pretty much guaranteed to play each other in regular season, hopefully at Gillette Stadium after the Pats went to Seattle in 2012.

As Boston sports fans, we ran out of things to legitimately complain about since this is our ninth champion since 2002: Patriots (4), Red Sox (3), Celtics (1) and Bruins (1). However, I also realize that the older I get, the more I appreciate these since I understand more and more how difficult it is to do this time and again.

This never gets old; it also doesn't get any better in sports than this to see an unselfish team struggle in the beginning of the season, tune out the critics, listen to their coaches, steadily improve and then peak at the end when it matters most.

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