GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Super Bowl XLIX, which appropriately featured the best two teams in football, was a pick 'em at kickoff.
The score was 14-14 at the half.
Even when the Seattle Seahawks rolled to a 24-14 lead, you got the gnawing feeling it wasn’t over. The New England Patriots, after all, had come back from two 14-point deficits in the divisional playoff round game against Baltimore.
Sure enough, the Patriots came back, with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Tom Brady, who broke the Super Bowl record for touchdown passes previously held by his idol, Joe Montana. The 3-yard score to Julian Edelman came with 2:02 left on the clock and gave the Patriots a 28-24 lead.
This was the game we imagined, the game we deserved at the end of another rousing NFL season.
Then Jermaine Kearse became David Tyree.
After Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler tipped the ball, Kearse -- lying on his back -- bobbled and reeled the ball in at the 4-yard line.
Game over? Not so much. With one of the best running backs in the league in their huddle, Seattle threw the ball. And Butler intercepted it to preserve the Patriots’ win.
It was one of the most cathartic endings in the history of the ultimate game.
Thus, the Seahawks failed to become the first team since the 2004 edition of these Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
What about New England? After winning three Super Bowls in a span of four years under the stewardship of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the Patriots narrowly lost their next two. Now Brady and Belichick have four Lombardi trophies -- something only Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll also achieved.
Here are the rest of the best and worsts in this zany contest:
Worst parting gift: With the first half winding down, Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril committed an unconscionable act when he lurched into the neutral zone ahead of the snap and was flagged five yards. The problem was it was third-and-3. The Patriots accepted the penalty, and three plays later, Brady dropped in a sweet, 22-yard pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski to give New England a 14-7 lead. Which led to ...
Best milestone: Brady’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Edelman with 2:02 left in the game was his record 13th in a Super Bowl -- two more than his boyhood idol, Joe Montana.
Best roll of the dice: Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, like his Patriots counterpart, Bill Belichick, loves to gamble. With six seconds left in the first half and the ball on the Patriots’ 10-yard line, most coaches (hello there, Mike McCarthy) would have gone for the safe play -- a field goal to make it 14-10. Not Carroll. Russell Wilson fired a pass to Chris Matthews, who beat cornerback Logan Ryan and drew Seattle even at 14. It was a massive momentum-changer. Seattle, which won the coin toss and deferred, could then look forward to getting the ball to start the second half.
Best job cornering the market: With Richard Sherman already ailing with a sprained elbow, Seattle nickel corner Jeremy Lane went out after a hit by Julian Edleman (he lost his helmet on impact) following Lane's first-quarter interception. On the Patriots’ subsequent drive, they twice went after Lane’s replacement, Tharold Simon, who gave up the game’s first score, an 11-yard touchdown from Brady to Brandon LaFell. It was Brady’s 50th career postseason touchdown pass.
Worst decision by a usually sound decision-maker I: Brady, under pressure and pulling away from Michael Bennett's pass rush, let loose a horrific throw that Lane fielded like a punt on the goal line. The interception was Brady’s third in his six Super Bowls, and it was his first postseason, red-zone pick since the 2007 season. The pick ended a 13-play, 58-yard drive that had consumed nearly eight minutes -- a telling swing that cost New England at least three and possibly seven points. That led to the first scoreless opening quarter of a Super Bowl since the Patriots faced the Eagles 10 years ago.
Worst decision by a usually sound decision-maker II: Brady was trying to force a ball to Gronkowski midway through the third quarter, but Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner snatched it for a nifty interception. After Marshawn Lynch got the Seahawks near the goal line, the Patriots likely expected another dose of Beast Mode. Instead, Wilson faked a handoff and floated a nice pass to a diving (and wide open) Doug Baldwin. The play left celebrated cornerback Darrelle Revis pointing fingers after he was screened by an official, and the Patriots found themselves in a daunting, 24-14 deficit. This was the first time Brady threw multiple interceptions in a Super Bowl appearance.
Best 12th-Man moment: During the national anthem, performed by Idina Menzel, the in-stadium video board flashed the dour image of Belichick. The crowd, probably more than 75 percent Seahawks fans, booed lustily and momentarily drowned out Menzel. Even the traditional jet flyover didn’t do that.
Best over-the-top play: Wilson lofted a lovely ball to Matthews down the right sideline, and the wideout reeled it in with Patriots corner Kyle Arrington all over him. The play was good -- OK, great -- for 44 yards, and it put the Seahawks in business at the Patriots’ 11-yard line. It was also the first catch of Matthews’ NFL career. Lynch rushed on the three subsequent plays, including a 3-yard touchdown to tie the score 7-7 with 2:16 left in the first half. To that point, Wilson had just two pass completions, compared to 15 by Brady.