GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — With just over two minutes left in the game, Tom Brady completed a surgical touchdown drive to give New England a 28-24 lead. The Patriots had won the Super Bowl.
Then, one minute later, they lost the Super Bowl — victims of yet another impossible reception on the very same turf where David Tyree helped end their bid for perfection seven years prior. This one came off the hand, and then the shin, and then the chest of Jermaine Kearse, the Seahawks receiver who hauled in a 33-yard pass while lying flat on his back.
The Patriots were stunned. Heck, the world was stunned. The odds of a catch like that being made against you late in a Super Bowl once are astronomical. Twice? Impossible.
With Marshawn Lynch, the most ferocious running back in the universe, and needing just five yards to win the game, and having a full minute on the clock to do it … this one was over. The Seahawks were going to be Super Bowl champions. And the Patriots were once again Super Bowl losers.
But then, it happened. You could call it a miracle, or you could simply call it a great play from an unlikely source. But whatever you’d like to call Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception, it will go down as the play that saved the Super Bowl.
Following an excessive celebration by the Patriots and an on-field fight started by the Seahawks, it was official. There were no more downs to counteract the ups, no more valleys to offset the peaks. The Patriots had actually won the Super Bowl.
For as much as it had fans’ hearts racing back home in New England, the Patriots players and coaches were riding every bump of that emotional roller-coaster as well.
“Aw, man!” Brandon Browner said when asked for his reaction to Kearse’s miracle catch. “They’ve been getting let off the hook all year long, man. And I always felt like their luck’s going to run out. And when he caught that, I’m like, ‘Man! They still got it going!’ But it ran out on the 1-yard line.”
Julian Edelman, who took a hit from Kam Chancellor that nearly left him physically injured, said his emotions nearly knocked him out with a more serious ailment.
“Considering the fact that I almost had like two heart attacks, I mean, it was still great,” Edelman said. “It just shows once again how mentally tough this football team is.”
Rookie center Bryan Stork, who showed poise beyond his years throughout the game, actually felt sorry for the fans watching on TV.
“It’s a storybook ending. It’s amazing,” Stork said. “Sorry for the people at home that had to be on the edge of their seats the whole time. I know I was on mine.”
Despite the circumstances, it’s not surprising that the always-steady Bill Belichick was not quite as fazed as his players. He did admit that the feeling after the interception was “ecstasy,” but the future Hall of Fame head coach quickly noted that even at that point, he wasn’t counting the game as a win just yet.
“Still, at that point, the ball was inside the 1-yard line, we had a celebration penalty,” Belichick said. “So, there’s a lot that can happen. I mean, some snaps get fumbled, or if the ball’s on the half-yard line or whatever and we don’t get it out, then it’s a safety, and then another play, and we kind of went through that in the Baltimore game a couple of weeks ago where we weren’t able to run all the time off the clock, we had to punt and we had to defend a Hail Mary. So, Seattle, there’s no team better or more resourceful than they are. We saw what they did last week against Green Bay, I watched the Tampa game this morning. They were down, what was it, 21-0 against Tampa Bay last year and came back and beat them in overtime. So, nobody plays better situation football than the Seahawks. … So as happy as I was for the interception, there was still, whatever it was, 20 seconds left on the clock and they had one or two timeouts, whatever it was. So we still had … it wasn’t done yet.”
It wasn’t … but it was. The Patriots took care of their necessary business in those 20 seconds that followed, capping one of the most exhilarating finishes in Super Bowl history. And with that, largest collective exhale in history could be felt from the Northeast all the way down in the desert of Arizona.