GLENDALE, Ariz. — The New England Patriots faced a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against one of the most imposing defenses in recent NFL memory. They weren’t fazed.
Their own defense was backed up to the shadow of its goal line as the Seattle Seahawks marched resolutely to within a yard of a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of a memorably great and competitive Super Bowl. No matter.
The Patriots shrugged all of that off. They got a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes by ever-more-legendary quarterback Tom Brady and a game-saving interception by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler to beat the Seahawks, 28-24, here Sunday evening.
“We needed a great play at the end,” Brady said, “and we got it.”
The Patriots secured their fourth Super Bowl title with Brady as their quarterback and Bill Belichick as their coach, and they did so in about the most dramatic fashion imaginable. They trailed, 24-14, until Brady’s touchdown passes of four yards to wide receiver Danny Amendola with just less than eight minutes remaining and of three yards to wideout Julian Edelman with just more than two minutes left.
“Tom’s the best ever. . . . He’s been to six Super Bowls,” Edelman said. “He’s won four with the salary cap. It’s hard to argue against that.”
The Seahawks, trying for a second straight Super Bowl title, drove to the New England 1-yard line, aided by a remarkable juggling reception by wide receiver Jermaine Kearse while he was on the turf. But Butler, the defender victimized by Kearse’s catch, cut in front of wideout Ricardo Lockette to intercept a pass by quarterback Russell Wilson with 20 seconds to go.
“I thought it was a touchdown, honestly,” said Wilson, who called it an “unfortunate situation” and added: “We played lights out, for the most part. We fought so hard. You’ve got to give the Patriots credit.”
The Seahawks opted against handing the ball to hard-running tailback Marshawn Lynch on the decisive play. Coach Pete Carroll said his team planned to run the ball on the following play but did not have the proper personnel grouping on the field to run it on that play against New England’s goal-line defense.
“We decided to call the other call,” Carroll said. “They work out sometimes and don’t other times. This time it didn’t work out. The football thought was let’s make sure we match up right.”
The Patriots managed to run out the clock, but not before the two teams engaged in an on-field scuffle that resulted in the ejection of Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin.
“This is a hard thing to take,” Carroll said.
Brady threw for 328 yards on 37-for-50 passing and was named the game’s most valuable player. He moved past Joe Montana as the career leader in Super Bowl touchdown passes with 13. Brady also threw two interceptions.
Brady had first-half touchdown passes to wide receiver Brandon LaFell and tight end Rob Gronkowski as the Patriots had early leads of 7-0 and 14-7.
Wilson threw two touchdown passes for the Seahawks. Lynch ran for 102 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin had a touchdown catch. None of those contributions came as a particular surprise. The stunner was unheralded wideout Chris Matthews, who had zero NFL catches when the day began, contributing four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
A week filled with talk of the DeflateGate controversy gave way to a compelling game as the Patriots won their first Super Bowl since the 2004 season. They’d lost their two Super Bowl appearances since then, both to the New York Giants.
New England controlled the play in the game’s early going. But just like the Seahawks’ opponent in the NFC championship game, the Green Bay Packers, the Patriots failed to take full advantage of their opportunities and Seattle remained within striking distance.
Brady had success early on by throwing short, quick-hitting passes that enabled him to release the football before the Seattle pass rushers arrived. New England managed a first down on its opening possession before punting, then moved to the Seattle 10-yard line on its second drive.
On a third-and-six play from there, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett managed to put a solid hit on Brady just as Brady delivered a pass. Brady’s throw went directly to Seattle’s nickel cornerback, Jeremy Lane, who made the grab at the goal line for an interception.
But Lane’s left arm was bent grotesquely when he fell on it at the end of his return. His exit from the game quickly had an effect on the proceedings.
The Patriots picked on Seattle reserve cornerback Tharold Simon while driving to a touchdown on their next possession. Edelman sprinted away from Simon for a 23-yard catch and run on a third-and-nine play, and LaFell cut to the inside against Simon’s coverage to catch an 11-yard touchdown throw by Brady.
The offensive production picked up from there. Matthews had a 44-yard catch, on only Wilson’s second completion of the game, to set up Lynch’s three-yard touchdown run.
Brady and the Patriots crafted a nice drive in the two-minute offense to take the lead. The Patriots got a favorable matchup with Gronkowski going one on one against linebacker K.J. Wright, and they exploited it with Brady lobbing a 22-yard touchdown pass to the tight end.
But the Seahawks were left with 31 seconds on the first-half clock, and they took advantage. A 23-yard catch by Lockette, plus a 15-yard face-mask penalty against Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, gave Seattle a first down at the New England 11-yard line with six seconds left.
Carroll gambled and left his offense on the field for one shot at the end zone. It paid off, with Wilson lofting a touchdown pass to the 6-foot-5 Matthews working against 5-11 cornerback Logan Ryan.
Matthews was back at it early in the third quarter, making a 45-yard catch to set up a 27-yard field goal by place kicker Steven Hauschka that gave the Seahawks their first lead.
Brady threw a pass toward Gronkowski in the middle of the field but had it intercepted by linebacker Bobby Wagner. That led to Wilson’s three-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin, who lost Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis when Revis collided with an official in the middle of the field.
A television camera caught Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman signaling Revis’s jersey number, 24, on the Seattle sideline. But the Patriots weren’t done.
“We were down 10 and we said, ‘We’ve got to make one drive and get back in the game,’ ” Brady said.
Summary: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
Jenkins: Brady a worthy MVP
Photos: Scenes from the Super Bowl
Graphic: History of the halftime show