Super Bowl XLIX Recap: A Roller Coaster Ride
The game was over.
Down by four with under 30 seconds left, Seattle had the ball on the Patriot goal line, ready to knock it in to take the lead. How they got there? It's kind of tough to put it into words. Two plays earlier, Russell Wilson dropped back to pass and threw it deep to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. The ball was tipped, tipped again, and then tipped again. And then it was tipped again. Kearse was on the ground and somehow, someway, the football ended up in his lap.
That play alone shifted Seattle's win probability by 30.82 percent, making them favorites to win the Super Bowl with about a minute left.
The game was over.
That is until arguably the worst play call in NFL history occurred. On 2nd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, rather than handing the ball to regular season Rushing Net Expected Points leader Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks opted to throw the ball. From the one. With 26 seconds left.
It was intercepted.
The New England Patriots are Super Bowl winners once again.
The path to victory for New England wasn't a cakewalk. It looked as though they were going to roll in the game early on, as Brady and company put together long drives of short passes to offset the Seahawks' strong pass rush. If not for an interception in the first quarter -- one that lost roughly 3.8 points for the Patriots -- this game may not have had the ending it did. The Patriots could have just dominated throughout.
For the first 24 minutes of the game, not a lot happened aside from that pick. But then the world was introduced to Chris Matthews (no, not the political commentator), and the Seahawks started to gain some momentum.
Russell Wilson didn't complete his first pass until there was about five-and-a-half minutes left in the first half. His second completion went to Matthews, though, on a 44-yard deep ball, and it set up a Marshawn Lynch touchdown. Despite not doing anything offensively, the Seahawks were tied 7-7 and had 43 percent odds to win the Super Bowl with only minutes to go in the first half.
Nope. Not in this game.
New England quickly responded with a Rob Gronkowski touchdown, which gave them a 72.65 percent win probability with just 30 seconds to go in the second quarter.
But the half still wasn't over.
In half of a minute, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks marched down the field. Chris Matthews (again, not the dude from MSNBC) was a big part of it, and he capped off the drive with a touchdown as time expired in the half. His touchdown catch added over 9 percent win odds for the Seahawks, and the game entered halftime just as it started -- essentially a pick'em.
Tom Brady was close to perfect in the game (it was his third best contest of the season according to numberFire metrics), but he did make two costly mistakes. The first was already mentioned -- a first quarter interception. The second came at the beginning of the third quarter, when Bobby Wagner -- Tony Dungy's MVP -- picked him off, good for over two expected points.
After a touchdown from Doug Baldwin on the next drive, Seattle's win probability was a strong 83.62 percent.
It actually got even worse for New England. After a few punts, the Patriots had less than a 10 percent chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. But it didn't matter. Tom Brady orchestrated two touchdown drives, putting New England in the driver's seat. The swing in win probability can only be categorized as ridiculous.
But, alas, it wasn't as ridiculous as the play call that sealed the deal.
We knew Super Bowl XLIX was going to be close. We've been writing about it -- talking about it -- all week long. But to predict the twists and turns that we just saw?
This is why we all love sports.