GLENDALE, Ariz. - Tom Brady had an answer for this kind of pressure.
The Patriots quarterback might not be able to say why the footballs used in the AFC Championship Game were underinflated, but he was cool enough to overcome the suffocating Seahawks defense and orchestrate a comeback from a 10-point deficit while leading the Patriots to a 28-24 win in Super Bowl XLIX Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 3-yard touchdown to cap a 64-yard drive with 2:02 to play to give the Pats a 28-24 lead. Backup cornerback Tharold Simon, playing for injured Jeremy Lane, was beaten on the play.
But then it seemed as if New England was going to suffer more heartbreak in the desert when Jermaine Kearse made a juggling catch at the 5 with 1:06 remaining in the same stadium where the Giants' David Tyree once tortured the Pats.
But on second-and-goal from the 1, with bruising running back Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, the Seahawks inexplicably attempted a pass. Russell Wilson's slant intended for Ricardo Lockette was intercepted by rookie Malcolm Butler with 20 seconds remaining. It was the first NFL interception for the undrafted free agent from Division II West Alabama.
"I had a vision that I was going to make a big play,'' Butler said, "and it came true.''
Oddly, it was Butler who was covering Kearse when the Seahawk caught the ball while on the ground. Butler and Kearse had tipped the ball, and Butler tackled Kearse to save the touchdown after he made the bizarre catch.
Speaking of the play call that led to the interception, coach Pete Carroll said, "I told those guys that was my fault, totally.''
The win gives Brady four titles in six trips to the big game and his first in 10 years. He and the Patriots lost their most recent two visits, to the Giants after the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
With an open NFL investigation into those deflated footballs from two weeks ago, there is still a cloud over the integrity of the Patriots' latest success. But that did not stop Brady, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft from raising the Lombardi Trophy in a sea of confetti in front of 70,288 fans.
"I'm so proud of all these players," Belichick said. "I love these guys."
Brady completed a Super Bowl-record 37 passes in 50 attempts for 328 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. He was voted Super Bowl MVP for the third time, tying his boyhood idol, Joe Montana.
The Seahawks took their first lead on the opening drive of the third quarter, going up 17-14 on Steven Hauschka's 27-yard field goal. After linebacker Bobby Wagner intercepted Brady by jumping a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski, Wilson hit a wide-open Doug Baldwin on a 3-yard touchdown to go ahead 24-14.
Darrelle Revis was in coverage on the TD, but he bumped into umpire Bill Schuster on the crossing route. That prompted Seattle's Richard Sherman to taunt Revis to the television camera and seemingly solidify his claim as the game's top corner.
The 10-point difference represented the largest deficit Brady ever faced in a Super Bowl. Brady found Danny Amendola for a 5-yard touchdown with 7:55 left in the fourth to make it 24-21. It was Brady's 12th Super Bowl TD pass, surpassing Montana's previous record of 11.
The Seahawks went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, after which Brady drove the Patriots 64 yards for the Edelman game-winner.
The Patriots dominated the first half statistically, but it was tied at 14 for the long intermission thanks to some gutsy Seahawks play-calling and a rookie receiver who had not caught a pass in the NFL before Super Bowl XLIX.
With six seconds left in the half, Lockette caught a 23-yard pass, and with a face-mask penalty against Kyle Arrington on the play, Seattle had first-and-10 at the 11. Rather than kick the field goal, Carroll decided to take one more shot at the end zone. Wilson fired a bullet to his left, and Chris Matthews outjumped Logan Ryan to make it 14-14.
It was the 6-5 rookie's second career reception. His first came earlier in the second quarter, when Matthews grabbed a 44-yarder over Arrington to help set up Lynch's 3-yard TD run that made it 7-7.
The Patriots drove to the 10 on their second possession, but Brady was intercepted by Lane in the end zone. That turned out to be as bad a play for the Seahawks as it was for the Patriots. Lane returned the pick and fell on his left arm, gruesomely snapping the bone and costing Seattle one of its key defenders.
Brady quickly went to work on Lane's replacement. He threw three passes in the next possession at Simon, including an 11-yard slant to Brandon LaFell for a 7-0 lead.
The Patriots went ahead 14-7 with only 31 seconds left in the half. Brady hit Gronkowski for a 23-yard touchdown as the tight end was lined up wide right in one-on-one coverage against linebacker K.J. Wright. But Seattle went 80 yards in 29 seconds to tie it on Matthews' TD.