Super Bowl XLIX was an American football game played to determine the champion of the National Football League (NFL) for the 2014 season. The American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots defeated the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Seattle Seahawks, 28–24, to earn their fourth Super Bowl title. The game was played on February 1, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It was the second time the stadium has hosted a Super Bowl, and the third one held in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
The Seahawks made their second consecutive appearance in the Super Bowl, having defeated the Denver Broncos, 43–8, in Super Bowl XLVIII, while the Patriots joined the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers as one of the three teams to have made eight appearances in the Super Bowl. For the second straight season, but only the third time in the prior 21 seasons, the number one seeds from both conferences met in the league championship game. Seattle became the first team to appear in consecutive Super Bowls since New England won two straight (XXXVIII and XXXIX).
After the teams were tied 14–14 at halftime, the Seahawks built a ten-point lead to end the third quarter. The Patriots, however, rallied to take a 28–24 lead with roughly two minutes left in the game. Seattle threatened to score in the final moments, driving the ball to New England’s 1-yard line. With 26 seconds remaining in the game, they decided to pass the ball in a highly scrutinized play that resulted in Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler making a game-saving interception of Russell Wilson’s throw. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was named the game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) after a Super Bowl-record 37 completions on 50 attempts for 328 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.
NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX is the most watched program in American television history, surpassing the previous year’s game. The game was seen by an average of 114.4 million viewers, with it reaching to 118.5 million during the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show featuring Katy Perry, and then peaking to 120.8 million during New England’s fourth-quarter comeback.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots had a rough start to their 2014 season, starting the season with a 2–2 record and hitting a low point with a humiliating 41–14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in week four. By this point, the Patriots faced heavy criticism in the media, especially quarterback Tom Brady. Former Patriots safety and teammate Rodney Harrison declared Brady “looked scared to death” in the pocket and “doesn’t have any confidence in his offensive line.” However, New England recovered with a NFL season long seven game winning streak, beginning with a dominating 43–17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in week five, and went on to lose only two more games for the rest of the year (the latter of which was done while resting the starters the final week of the season), finishing the season with a 12–4 record and the number one seed in the AFC. They finished fourth in the NFL in scoring (468 points) and eighth in points allowed (313), and had the largest point differential in the NFL (with an average margin of victory of 9.7 points). The Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 35–31 in the AFC Divisional playoffs, and then defeated the Indianapolis Colts 45–7 in the AFC Championship Game.
Brady had another fine season in his 14th year as the team’s starter, earning his 10th Pro Bowl selection with 4,109 passing yards and 33 touchdowns, with just eight interceptions. His top target was Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught 82 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who caught 74 passes for 954 yards and seven touchdowns. Wide receiver Julian Edelman was another key aspect of the passing game, with 92 receptions for 974 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for 92 yards and returning 25 punts for 299 yards and a touchdown. Running back Jonas Gray was the team’s leading rusher with 412 yards and a 4.6 yards per carry average, while Stevan Ridley added 340 yards and Shane Vereen had 391. Vereen was also a reliable pass catcher, hauling in 52 receptions for 447 yards. On special teams, kicker Stephen Gostkowski was selected to his third Pro Bowl and became the third player ever to lead the NFL in scoring four times (and the first since the NFL-AFL merger), converting 35 of 37 field goals (94.6 percent) and racking up 156 points. Special Teamer Matthew Slater also made the Pro Bowl for the fourth time.
The Patriots defensive line was led by five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who compiled eight sacks. Behind them, linebacker Jamie Collins led the team in tackles (116) and forced fumbles (four), while also intercepting two passes. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower was also a big contributor with 89 tackles and six sacks. The secondary was led by Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, along with Logan Ryan and safety Devin McCourty, each of whom recorded two interceptions, while Brandon Browner recorded one, and added a physical presence to the secondary.
After winning Super Bowl XLVIII the previous season, the Seahawks also struggled to begin the season, floundering near the season’s midpoint with a 3–3 record. However, they went on from there to win nine of their final 10 regular season games, preventing their opponents from scoring any touchdowns in five of them. By the time they finished with a 12–4 record and entered the playoffs, they had earned the number one seed, and not allowed any touchdowns in the previous 10 quarters. Their defense ranked first in the NFL in fewest points allowed (254) and their offense was tied at first in rushing yards (2,762). The Seahawks defeated the Carolina Panthers 31–17 in the NFC Divisional playoffs, and then defeated the Green Bay Packers 28–22 in the NFC Championship Game.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was back in control of the Seattle offense, completing 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, while also rushing for 849 yards and six touchdowns. The team’s leading receiver was Doug Baldwin, who caught 66 passes for 825 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Jermaine Kearse was another reliable target with 38 catches for 537 yards, while tight end Luke Willson caught 22 passes for 362 yards. Running back Marshawn Lynch was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl, ranking fourth in the NFL with 1,306 rushing yards and first in rushing touchdowns with 13. He also caught 37 passes for 364 yards and four more touchdowns. Running back Robert Turbin chipped in 310 yards and 16 receptions. On special teams, kicker Steven Hauschka ranked fourth in the NFL with 134 points and made 31 of 37 field goals (83.8 percent).
Michael Bennett anchored the Seattle defensive line, leading the team with seven sacks, while teammate Bruce Irvin ranked second with 6.5 and intercepted two passes, returning both for touchdowns. Behind them, linebackers K. J. Wright and Pro Bowl selection Bobby Wagner combined for a staggering 211 tackles (107 for Wright, 104 for Wagner), while Wright also forced three fumbles. But the strongest aspect of the team’s number one ranked defense was their secondary. Known as the “Legion of Boom”, they sent three of their four starters to the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row: cornerback Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas, and strong safety Kam Chancellor. Sherman led the team with four interceptions, while Thomas had 97 tackles and forced four fumbles. Chancellor had 78 tackles and also recorded six passes defensed.
New England became the first playoff team to overcome two 14-point deficits to win a game as they defeated the Baltimore Ravens 35–31, pulling ahead for the first time in the game on Brady’s 23-yard touchdown pass to LaFell with 5:13 left in regulation. Then safety Duron Harmon iced the game by intercepting a pass from Joe Flacco in the end zone on Baltimore’s ensuing drive. Although New England only had 14 rushing yards, Brady’s franchise playoff record 33 completions for 367 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with a rushing score, were able to make up the difference.
The Patriots had a much easier time in the AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts. Although the score was still a close 17–7 by the end of the half, New England dominated the game in the second with touchdowns on their first four drives. Brady had another great game, throwing for 226 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception, while Blount rushed for 148 yards and 3 scores. New England’s defense held Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who had thrown for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns during the season, to just 12/23 completions for 126 yards. By the end of New England’s two postseason games, Brady set new NFL records for postseason passing yards and touchdowns, while coach Bill Belichick set the all time record for most playoff wins.
Seattle started off their postseason with a 31–17 win over the Carolina Panthers. The score was just 14–10 at the end of the first half, but the Seahawks took control of the game in the second, scoring 17 unanswered points. After a field goal and Russell Wilson’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Luke Willson, Chancellor put the game completely out of reach by intercepting a pass from Cam Newton and returning it 90 yards for a touchdown.
Seattle had to mount a furious comeback to defeat their next opponent, the Green Bay Packers, as they fell behind 16–0 before Jon Ryan’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal in the third quarter got them their first score. They still found themselves trailing 19–7 with just over 5 minutes left when Wilson threw his 4th interception of the day. But after Green Bay was forced to punt, Wilson led the team 69 yards to make the score 19–14 on his 1-yard touchdown run. Then receiver Chris Matthews recovered an onside kick for Seattle, and they took their first lead on a 24-yard touchdown run from Marshawn Lynch. Now with the score 20–19, the Seahawks managed to go up by 3 points on a dramatic 2-point conversion play in which Wilson was forced to run all the way back to the 17-yard line near the right sideline before hurling the ball to the opposite side of the field, where Luke Willson, who had only been assigned as a blocker for the play, caught the ball and took it into the end zone. Although Green Bay kicked a field to send the game into overtime, Seattle’s comeback could not be stopped. After winning the coin toss, the Seahawks took the ball and drove 87 yards to win the game on Wilson’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Kearse, sending the Seahawks to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row.
Super Bowl XLIX was the first Super Bowl matchup, and the first postseason matchup, between the two teams: while Seattle was part of the AFC before moving to the NFC in the NFL’s 2002 realignment, the Patriots and Seahawks had never met in postseason play.
It was notable for featuring the coach of one team who had replaced the other coach at one point. Current Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was hired in 1999 to replace Pete Carroll, who is now the coach of the Seahawks. This is only the fourth time this has occurred. The other three times were in Super Bowl III (Weeb Ewbank’s New York Jets vs. Ewbank’s former team, Don Shula’s Baltimore Colts), Super Bowl XXXIII (Dan Reeves’s Atlanta Falcons vs. Mike Shanahan’s Denver Broncos), and Super Bowl XXXVII (Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Gruden’s former team, Bill Callahan’s Oakland Raiders). The only time that the old coach’s former team had won prior to this was in Super Bowl XXXIII. Therefore, upon winning, the Patriots became only the second team ever to win a Super Bowl by defeating a team led by one of their former coaches.
The Patriots played in the first and latest Super Bowl to be contested in the University of Phoenix Stadium, Super Bowl XLII, when their quest for a 19–0 undefeated season fell short, losing to the New York Giants 17–14.
The betting odds for Super Bowl XLIX initially opened after the conclusion of the conference championship games with the Seahawks favored by 2.5 points, but within hours of opening, heavy betting on the Patriots had moved the line to a pick ‘em at most sportsbooks. Over most of the two-week run-up to the Super Bowl, the line held steady with the Patriots as slight 1-point favorites, but, on the day before the Super Bowl, a surge of large bets on the Seahawks pushed the line back to a toss-up.
After the AFC Championship Game, ESPN reported an NFL investigation discovered 11 of 12 footballs the Patriots had used during it were under-inflated, while none of the balls used by the Colts had been. Patriots coach Bill Belichick denied any knowledge that the footballs his team used were not inflated to NFL standards. The NFL’s investigation into this case, colloquially known as Deflategate, is ongoing.
As the designated home team in the annual rotation between AFC and NFC teams, the Seahawks elected to wear their college navy home jerseys with navy pants, which meant that the Patriots would wear their white road jerseys.
Super Bowl XLIX was the first Super Bowl to be played in a retractable roof stadium with the roof open by league decision (previous Super Bowls played in such stadiums, including Super Bowl XLII, were played with the roof closed). The gametime temperature was 66 °F (19 °C), with clear conditions. It was the second time all season, along with the Pro Bowl, the stadium had its roof open during an NFL game or the College Football Playoff’s Fiesta Bowl. It was the home stadium of the Arizona Cardinals, but all Cardinals home games in 2014 had it closed either because of warm temperatures or to provide home field advantage and hold in crowd noise.
Idina Menzel performed the national anthem and John Legend performed “America the Beautiful”.
On October 9, 2014, Billboard announced that Katy Perry would perform at halftime and the NFL confirmed the announcement on November 23, 2014. At the start of the halftime show, on-field participants held up light globes which created a bird’s-eye view of the Pepsi logo. Perry entered the stadium riding atop a large, golden mechanical tiger, opening her set with a performance of “Roar”. She then proceeded to sing “Dark Horse”, with 3D rendering on the field creating a chessboard visual where the turf constantly turned into “different shapes and sizes”, as acrobats surrounded the singer.] Following this, Perry joined Lenny Kravitz for a duet version of “I Kissed a Girl”, which included her “rubbing up against” Kravitz and flames exploding behind them. During these three songs, Perry was clothed in a “flame-adorned” dress, with her black hair in a ponytail. The costume has been described as the “clothing equivalent of a flame”, and “dress of fire”. The stage and field rendering transitioned into a “breezy” beach setting, with dancers dressed as sharks, palm trees and smiling beach balls dancing around Perry. She underwent a wardrobe change, and progressed into a “campy” medley of “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls”. Rapper Missy Elliot subsequently appeared, performing her songs “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It”, while Perry played “hype-woman” beside her, having now changed once again into a custom Super Bowl 49 jersey. After Perry briefly disappeared, Elliot performed “Lose Control”. Perry returned, now sporting a “star-encrusted gown” for her closing song, “Firework”. She rose out of midfield on a narrow platform that was attached to a shooting star prop, and flew above the crowds. During this performance, fireworks exploded around Perry and the stadium. The star Perry flew around the stadium attached to was heavily compared to The More You Know ’s public service announcements logo.
During Katy Perry’s performance, one of the dancers, dressed in a Shark Costume, did not dance in sync with the rest of the show and became an internet sensation as a result, “Left Shark” was a thing of amusement and a metaphor for not being on the same page for months following the Superbowl.
In August 2014, it was reported that the NFL had a shortlist of three potential acts for the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show, including Coldplay, Katy Perry, and Rihanna. It was also reported by The Wall Street Journal that league representatives asked representatives of potential acts if they would be willing to provide financial compensation to the NFL in exchange for their appearance, in the form of either an up-front fee, or a cut of revenue from concert performances made following the Super Bowl. While these reports were denied by an NFL spokeswoman, the request had, according to the Journal, received a “chilly” response from those involved.
After the first two drives of the game ended in punts, New England got the first scoring opportunity with a drive to the Seattle 10-yard line. But on 3rd and 6, Tom Brady threw a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Jeremy Lane and returned to the 14-yard line. Lane broke his wrist on the play when he tried to break his fall with his arm extended after being tackled by Julian Edelman, and subsequently missed the rest of the game.
The game remained scoreless until New England’s first drive of the second quarter, which began with Brady’s 17-yard completed pass to Danny Amendola. Brady later completed a 23-yard pass to Julian Edelman on 3rd and 9, and eventually finished the drive with a 11-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon LaFell.
Seattle began to make progress when Russell Wilson completed his first pass of the day, a 6-yard completion to Jermaine Kearse on 3rd and 6 and with 5:36 left in the second quarter. After a 5-yard run by Marshawn Lynch, Wilson completed a 44-yard pass to receiver Chris Matthews on the Patriots 11-yard line, setting up Lynch’s 3-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Only 2:16 remained in the half after Lynch’s touchdown, but the scoring was far from over. Brady completed 5/6 passes for 59 yards on New England’s ensuing possession, the last one a 22-yard touchdown completion to tight end Rob Gronkowski with 31 seconds remaining. Taking the ball back on their own 20, Seattle started off their drive with a 19-yard burst from Robert Turbin and a 17-yard scramble by Wilson. Then Wilson completed a 23-yard pass to Ricardo Lockette, with a facemask penalty on defensive back Kyle Arrington adding additional yardage that gave the team a first down on the Patriots 11-yard line. Only 6 seconds remained until halftime at this point, but coach Pete Carroll decided to take a shot at the end zone rather than kick a field goal, a gamble that paid off as Wilson threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Matthews on the next play, tying the game at 14 with just 2 seconds showing on the clock.
Seattle took the second half kickoff and drove 72 yards to the Patriots 8-yard line, featuring a 15-yard run by Lynch and a 45-yard reception by Matthews. After Lynch was stopped on third-and-1 in the red zone, Steven Hauschka finished the drive with a 27-yard field goal, giving Seattle their first lead of the game at 17–14. Then on New England’s next possession, linebacker Bobby Wagner’s interception of a Brady pass and 6-yard return gave the Seahawks the ball at midfield. Just as with their last interception, Seattle lost a player for the game on the play due to injury, this time defensive end Cliff Avril, who departed with a concussion. But the offense was able to take advantage of the turnover, driving 50 yards in 6 plays and scoring on Wilson’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, who was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct for an improper end-zone celebration. This made the score 24–14, and it would remain this way going into the 4th quarter. Up to now, no team in Super Bowl history had ever overcome a 4th quarter deficit of more than 7 points.
With 12:10 left in the game, New England mounted a 68-yard drive to cut their deficit to 24–21 on Brady’s 4-yard touchdown toss to Amendola. The drive included two 21-yard completions from Brady to Edelman, the first one converting a 3rd and 14 from the Patriots 28-yard line. Following a three-and-out for Seattle, New England got the ball back on their own 32 at the 6:52 mark. Brady started off the possession with two completions to running back Shane Vereen for 13 total yards, and followed it up with a 9-yard pass to Edelman. Following a penalty against New England, Gronkowski caught a pair of passes that moved the team up 33 yards to the Seattle 19. Then Vereen rushed for 7 yards, Brady passed to LaFell for 7 more, and Blount ran the ball 2 yards to the 3-yard line. Finally with 2:02 left in the game, Brady gave his team a 28–24 lead with a 3-yard touchdown toss to Edelman.
After a touchback gave Seattle the ball on their 20, Wilson started off the Seahawks drive with a 31-yard completion to Lynch. Then after two incompletions, he picked up another first down with an 11-yard pass to Lockette. The following play gave Seattle a golden opportunity to win the game. Wilson threw a deep pass down the right sideline to Kearse, who was covered by reserve rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler. Both players dove through the air for the ball, and Butler managed to deflect it with one hand, but the pass fell right into the hands of Kearse, who tipped it to himself and caught the ball while he was lying on his back. Butler managed to recognize the catch and recover in time to shove Kearse out of bounds as he got up, preventing a Seattle touchdown, but the play netted 33 yards and gave the Seahawks a first down at the Patriots 5-yard line with 1:05 left in regulation. Announcer Cris Collinsworth compared the play to two other unusual receptions by Patriots opponents that had defeated them in prior Super Bowls: David Tyree’s Helmet Catch in Super Bowl XLII and Mario Manningham’s sideline catch in Super Bowl XLVI. Al Michaels also compared it to Antonio Freeman’s famous Monday Night Football catch known as “he did what?” (a play that Michaels had himself called).
On the next play, Lynch ran the ball four yards to the Patriots one-yard line. Since New England did not call a timeout, Seattle was able to run the clock down to 26 seconds before taking the snap for the next play. The Seahawks called a pass play in which Kearse would run a pick on the right side of the field to draw defensive backs away from Lockette as Lockette ran a slant to the middle, but Brandon Browner blocked Kearse at the line of scrimmage, preventing him from reaching Butler. Lockette appeared to be uncovered at the one-yard line when Wilson threw him the ball, but before the ball arrived, Butler correctly read the play and rushed into position to make the interception. The turnover—after an unsportsmanlike conduct call for excessive celebration—gave New England the ball on their own one-yard line with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
The game was not quite over for Seattle at this point. Since New England was backed up against its own end zone, having Brady take a knee was risky because if he went back too far before kneeling, the Patriots would give up two points and have to kick the ball back to the Seahawks, who would simply need to get into field goal position for a chance to win. This, theoretically, would force the Patriots to try and advance the ball forward while the Seahawks would try to strip the ball. This was rendered moot, however, as Brady’s count drew defensive lineman Michael Bennett across the line of scrimmage. Bennett was thus flagged for encroachment and the Seahawks were penalized five yards, which moved the ball to the New England six-yard line and ended the Seattle comeback hope. Brady then took a knee, Seattle called its final time-out, and Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin rushed some of the Patriots players, starting a brawl involving players from both teams that resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Seattle. Irvin received the first ejection in Super Bowl history for throwing a closed hand punch at Rob Gronkowski. With the ball now at the New England 21-yard line after the second penalty was marked off, Brady made one final kneeldown and the Patriots were victorious.
In winning Brady became the third quarterback in NFL history with four Super Bowl victories and was named MVP for a third time. The Seahawks became the first defending champion since the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII to lose in the Super Bowl the next year. This also marked the tenth consecutive Super Bowl without a repeat winner.
After the game, Seattle faced heavy criticism for their decision to call a pass play on second and goal from the 1-yard line with 26 seconds and one timeout left instead of a rushing play. “I can’t believe the call,” Collinsworth said after the play was run. “You have Marshawn Lynch. You have a guy who’s been borderline unstoppable. … If I lose this Super Bowl because Marshawn Lynch can’t get into the end zone, so be it. So be it. I can’t believe the call.” Sports Illustrated writer Peter King called the play one of the worst calls in Super Bowl history, as did retired Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. Retired running back Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all time leading rusher, went even further, calling it the worst play call in the history of football. Others, including University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath defended the call, crediting Butler for the play he made. Writing for Grantland, Bill Simmons said the Seahawks “took too much heat for the final play call” and noted Carroll opted to run the ball on fourth down at the end of the 2006 Rose Bowl, costing his team the game.
In the game, Lynch had gained at least one yard on 22 of 24 carries. While the Patriots in 2014 were ranked fifth-worst (28th overall) in the league in holding opposing backs for no gain or less, they had stopped him for a no gain on both a third-and-2 and a third-and-1, the latter in the red zone. On the season, Lynch had scored just once on his five attempts from the opponent’s 1-yard line. Over the previous five seasons, he scored 45 percent of the time from the 1-yard line, ranking 30th out of 39 running backs. He had been successful on 15-of-36 attempts (41.7%) in his career.
Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell acknowledged making the call, but also remarked that Lockette could have been more aggressive on the play. Wilson said the play was a “good call”, and lamented throwing the interception and “not making that play.” Carroll, though, said the last play was “all my fault”, and called Bevell “crucially important to our future.” The head coach added that Seattle would have run the ball on a subsequent play. “We don’t ever call a play thinking we might throw an interception.” Butler’s interception was the only one against all 109 pass attempts during the 2014 NFL season from the 1-yard line.
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