Super Bowl XLIX: What if

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From Glendale, Arizona

Seahawks Fan1It rarely happens — a Super Bowl that lives up to the hype. Super Bowl XLIX was everything fans want in the game: two great teams battling it out, with the final score unknown until the final moments of the game.

But to get a sense of this, Super Bowl XLIX, we should start 24 hours before fans even started entering the gates of The University of Phoenix Stadium for the game.

In the past the center of Super Bowl-related activity was “Super Bowl Boulevard.” Everything was centered around this temporary boulevard, except for the game, which is often a few miles away. This year the NFL just calls it “Super Bowl Center.”

FoodiesHere at the Phoenix Convention Center the area is bigger than what we had in Manhattan last year, which makes getting from one event to the next easier because it isn’t as crowded. Plus, this is Phoenix, Arizona, which is not covered in a foot of snow, like New York is today. Here you could watch a display by Wilson sporting goods that shows NFL footballs being assembled. And there is food, lots of food: restaurants behind food vendors behind Super Bowl fans and crowd gawkers eating all that food in the Tostitos Party.

Did you notice Pepsi is sponsoring a big part of Super Bowl XLIX? How far do you have to go to find a Coca-Cola? Not too far actually.

Mex-PatIt looked like there were more Seahawks fans than Patriots fans and with every turn there were people in the colors of the Super Bowl teams. Then there were the odd Packers fans. This being Phoenix, some people were sporting the colors of the Cardinals. But mostly, it was Seahawks and Patriots being celebrated at Super Bowl Center.

Everyone joked about the same thing of course. Their inflated and under-inflated balls, the Patriots are cheaters or the Patriots are just getting picked on because they are the best team in the NFL for the past 14 years.

They’ve been to six Super Bowls since Tom Brady got his big break in 2001 when Drew Bledsoe left the second game of the season due to an injury. The Patriots went on to Super Bowl XXXVI, February 3, 2002, and beat the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, 20-17. Tom Brady was just 24 years old and suddenly he was the best quarterback in the league that year.

Since then, with Tom Brady as the starting quarterback and Bill Belichick as their head coach, the Pats made five more trips to the Big Game, including back-to-back wins in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady

In his 14 seasons as the starter for the New England Patriots, Tom Brady has become what many consider the best quarterback to ever play the game. Before Sunday’s game Brady had been named the Super Bowl MVP and NFL League MVP twice. He holds the record for consecutive passes without an interception (358). He also holds the record for most touchdown passes thrown in Super Bowls — 13 as of Sunday.

Regardless of any controversies, Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Everyone on the Seattle Seahawks team will tell you that, especially starting QB Russell Wilson.

Some people just wish Wilson had given the ball to Marshawn Lynch …

It was a tough first half for both teams. Just as it started in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, the Seahawks offense didn’t play well. They could barely move the ball and Wilson didn’t complete a pass until well into the second quarter.

The Patriots offense played well, but the Seahawks defense was better, holding the Patriots to just 14 points, both touchdowns coming in the second quarter.

Hot ChicksSeattle scored it’s two first half touchdowns in that same quarter so they were tied at the half, 14-14. Chris Matthews — no, not the MSNBC anchor — the young receiver for the Seattle Seahawks had never caught a pass in the NFL — until Super Bowl XLIX when he caught an 11-yard pass from Wilson to score the final touchdown of the first half, with just two seconds left on the clock. He would go on to catch three more passes before the game was over.

The Seahawks had a big third quarter jumping out to a ten-point lead on a 27-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka and then a three-yard pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin.

fieldThe New England Patriots responded in the fourth quarter with two touchdown passes, the first to Danny Amendola for four yards and the second to Julian Edelman for three yards. That put the Patriots in the lead, 28-24.

And then the Seahawks made their final drive of the game, getting down to the New England one-yard line. Like he did in the NFC Championship game’s overtime, Russell Wilson marched his team down the field, primarily with a miraculous catch by wide receiver Jermaine Kearse that is now one of the most popular gifs floating around the internet. It looked like it would be another incomplete pass, but Kearse kept the ball in the air, bouncing it off his hands until it dropped into his chest and arms. He got up for a brief moment and brought the ball to the New England five.

Seattle followed with a run by Marshawn Lynch that got them on the one-yard line.

Russell Wilson just after his last pass of the game was intercepted by Malcolm Butler. (YouTube)
Russell Wilson just after his last pass of the game was intercepted by Malcolm Butler.

For years there will be endless discussion about “What if” because this game could have gone to either team. Some will tell you it should have gone to the Seahawks and others will simply say, it wasn’t meant to be. But the one big question will linger, at least until the Seahawks win another Vince Lombardi Trophy: “Why did the Seahawks throw that final pass? Why didn’t they give the ball to Marshawn Lynch, one more time?”

These are questions that will be debated forever. We will never know if the New England defense would have held had Lynch been given the ball. That’s not what happened.

What we do know is that with 26 seconds left in the game Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass to Ricardo Lockette and Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots intercepted it, preventing the Seahawks from scoring and winning the game.

Looking at the slow-motion replay you can make the case that Butler committed pass interference, but it doesn’t matter because there weren’t any penalties called on that play.

Super Bowl XLIX ended with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady kneeling down, waiting for the last few seconds of the game to tick away as he won his fourth Super Bowl and third Super Bowl MVP trophy.

Claudia with “Twelvis” and his friend.
Claudia with “Twelvis” and his friend.

It was one of the most thrilling Super Bowl games in history.

After the game Russell Wilson didn’t have any bitterness over the ending, no enmity for the New England Patriots, he just expressed gratitude for having gotten so far in his short career. He thinks Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever play the game and a lot of people agree with him.

It was a great week in Arizona and we look forward to Super Bowl 50 — no Roman numerals next year! — which will be at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, home of the San Francisco 49ers.

From Glendale, Arizona, this is Claudia Gestro, for the Los Angeles Post-Examiner.

(All photos by Claudia Gestro, unless otherwise noted.)