Super Bowl XLIX is in the books, and holy moly, it did not lack for drama. Lead changes, momentum swings, crazy plays — this game had just about everything.
Here are the five best moments from the Super Bowl (not including anything that happened at halftime):
5. Gronk scores
For most of the first half, Rob Gronkowski had been quiet, which really doesn’t fit his style, on or off the field. But with under a minute to go before halftime, Gronk struck.
The Patriots tight end found himself in single coverage against Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, and quarterback Tom Brady was only too happy to take advantage of the mismatch, throwing a 22-yard pass that found Gronkowski in the end zone.
The play led to a 14-7 New England lead that turned out to be quite short-lived, but the important thing was that one of the NFL’s biggest personalities, not to mention one of its biggest players, had put his stamp on the game, punctuating it with a trademark spike.
4. Edelman’s clutch grab
The Patriots were in some real trouble. There were about 11 minutes left in the game, the team was down by 10 points and it was facing a third-and-14 at its own 28.
That was when Brady found his favorite wide receiver, Julian Edelman. The converted college quarterback hauled in a pass for 21 yards and a crucial first down that kept the drive alive.
The pair would hook up again on that drive, on another 21-yard play on third down, before Brady hit Danny Amendola for a touchdown that made the score 24-21. However, that first reception might have been a season-saver for New England.
3. Chris Matthews’s touchdown
There was a lot that was improbable about the touchdown grab made by the Seahawks wide receiver. For one thing, it came with almost no time left in the first half, when Seattle had time for just one more play before it would have been forced to attempt a field goal.
For another thing, the grab made the score 14-14, at the end of a half in which the Seahawks had been decidedly outplayed. And it punctuated an 80-yard drive that began with just 31 seconds left before halftime.
But by far the most improbable aspect of Matthews’s catch was the receiver himself. Matthews had never caught an NFL pass in his life before the Super Bowl, then he burst onto the scene as Seattle’s only noteworthy offensive performer of the first half.
2. Malcolm Butler’s interception
If the Patriots were in trouble before, they were just about in need of a miracle with under 30 seconds left in the game, and Butler delivered. The backup cornerback picked off Russell Wilson at the goal line, preserving the Patriots’ 28-24 win.
Butler was an unlikely hero, given that he was an undrafted rookie out of Division II West Alabama. But there he was, stepping in front of Ricardo Lockette after the Seahawks had driven all the way to the 1-yard line.
The only reason not to put this play at No. 1 is that it came as a bit of an anticlimax, for everyone but Patriots fans, of course.
1. Jermaine Kearse’s catch
Ultimately, it didn’t help the Seahawks win, but it did bring the team to the doorstep of a comeback victory, and there’s simply no denying how amazing the reception was. Kearse was flat on his back, but Wilson’s pass was still in the air, having bounced off both of the receiver’s legs.
Kearse batted the ball once and then hauled it in for an insane, 33-yard play that happened to be what Seattle desperately needed at the time. The unlikely reception immediately conjured memories of similarly improbable Super Bowl catches made against the Patriots by the Giants’ David Tyree and Mario Manningham.
Those previous catches, however, helped New York win a pair of Super Bowls at New England’s expense. This time, fortune was on Seattle’s side only briefly.