At long last, Brady finally won his fourth Super Bowl, joining Joe Montana as two of the only three quarterbacks ever to achieve that landmark. He did it by exorcising the demons of one of the darkest days of his career: the last time that Brady and the Patriots played a Super Bowl in Arizona, their dreams of a perfect season were dashed by a Giants team inspired by an extraordinary catch from David Tyree. Eight years later, they entered the fourth quarter of this game against Seattle trailing by 10 points to opponents whose leading receiver had never caught an NFL pass before in his career. Brady led the Patriots to touchdowns on consecutive possessions to turn the story on its head, but even after he had done so there was still time for what looked like another Tyree moment. Unlike Matthews, Jermaine Kearse is an established starter for the Seahawks, but the catch that he made inside the final two minutes of this game was every bit as improbable as the one that was made at Super Bowl XLII. Targeted by quarterback Russell Wilson on a long pass down the right sideline, Kearse saw the ball tipped out of his hands by New England’s Malcolm Butler, only for it to then fall on top of the receiver as he tumbled to the ground at the Patriots’ five-yard line. Somehow, it never hit the turf. Brady looked on aghast. Once again it seemed that the fates were conspiring against him.
This time, though, he would not be denied. Two plays later, Butler intercepted Wilson in the end zone to seal a 28-24 win. It was a stunning conclusion, and also a baffling one that even the best NFL tipster would not fathom. Why had the Seahawks chosen to throw the ball at all when running it would seem more logical on second-and-goal from the one-yard line? Marshawn Lynch had already pulverized the Patriots for 102 yards on 24 carries, and the Seahawks still had 26 seconds and a timeout remaining in case he did not get in. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll took responsibility for the decision afterwards, but also defended it, suggesting that the call had been motivated in part by a desire to take more time off the clock. “We sent in our personnel, they sent in goal line, it’s not the right matchup for us to run the football, so on second down we throw the ball really to kind of waste that play. If we score, we do, if we don’t then we’ll run it on third and fourth down. Unfortunately, with the play that we tried to execute, the guy makes a great play and jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that nobody would ever think he could do. And unfortunately that changes the whole outcome.”
Butler confessed that he too had been surprised that Seattle chose not to run the ball, but said that he had a hunch about the play as soon as he saw the Seahawks line up. “I got beat on that route on Tuesday or Wednesday in practice,” said the cornerback,” who added that it was the Seahawks’ stacking of their receivers which gave him the clue. “Bill told me, ‘they’re going to do that’. And they did that.” Asked why he decided to try and jump the play, Butler added: “We needed it. The ball was on the one-yard line. We needed it. So I had to.”
The defender had won the day, but Brady was a clear choice as the game’s MVP. As well as matching Montana’s haul of Super Bowl wins, this was also a day on which he shattered the former 49er’s record for most touchdown passes in NFL title games. Brady now has 13. “I never put myself in those discussions,” said Brady when comparisons with Montana were put to him after the game. “That’s not how I think. There are so many great players that have been on so many great teams and we’ve had some great teams that haven’t won it. I think you’ve got to just enjoy the moment.”
Not even the ghosts of Super Bowls past could prevent him from doing that on Sunday evening.