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Random Thoughts: Butler's heroics lead to title

The Patriots captured their fourth Super Bowl title thanks to Malcolm Butler's late interception.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Here are some random thoughts from the Patriots 28-24 win over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX:


Blanket coverage –** The first half was dominated by the Patriots secondary, which gave Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson nowhere to go throughout the first 30 minutes. Wilson enjoyed lots of time in the pocket on his first several attempts but was either forced to scramble or ultimately was sacked because he could not find an open receiver. Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington locked up in man coverage while Logan Ryan did the same when he entered the game in passing situations. Ryan did a tremendous job on a deep fade to Jermaine Kearse to thwart one third down attempt, and Wilson went late into the half without a single completion.

Trickle-down effect -- The Patriots ability to use man coverage allowed the front seven to focus on the Seahawks read-option attack and keep Marshawn Lynch in check. Without having to drop into zones, linebacker Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower were able to fill running lanes and prevent Lynch from making any big plays. Seattle finally opened things up on their last drive before the break, however, as Wilson converted a huge third-and-six with a strike to Kearse in front of Browner. Two plays later Wilson went deep and found Chris Matthews for 44 yards behind Arrington to set up the Seahawks first points of the night. Even on the two Wilson completions the coverage was solid and it took excellent execution on Seattle's part to make the plays.

Huge swing – After all that hard work the defense went to sleep in the final 31 seconds of the half and allowed the Seahawks to move 80 yards on five plays, including a pair of Wilson completions, the second of which was a 10-yard touchdown to Matthews over Ryan. Wilson finished the half just 4 of 7 for 84 yards and a touchdown. Robert Turbin (19 yards) and Wilson (17 yards) shook free for big runs and Arrington tacked on 15 yards on a facemask penalty that occurred during a completion. The Seahawks went 80 yards in five plays to tie the game with :02 left in the half.

Quick change – After the promising start things fell apart over a three-possession stretch. After the late first-half touchdown, Seattle scored on its first two series of the second. Along the way Arrington and Ryan saw their playing time diminish while Malcolm Butler replaced them. Butler was competitive early on with a terrific pass breakup but obviously saved his best work for the end when he sealed the win with his improbable interception.


Dink and dunk –** More than a decade after his first Super Bowl appearance leading a New England offense known for its "dink and dunk" passing game, Tom Brady utilized a similar approach in the first half of Super Bowl XLIX against Seattle's vaunted Legion of Boom secondary. The game plan worked well enough to keep the Patriots even with the Seahawks, 14-14 at halftime. Brady took full advantage of his underneath matchups with quicker, smaller receivers Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen. The New England quarterback completed 20 of 27 (74 percent) passes in the first half for 177 yards with two touchdowns and one interception – on a really ugly throw at the goal line – for an overall 100.4 passer rating. The 20 completions set a Super Bowl record for the first half. Whether it was on the sidelines and making people miss or crossing the field, the smaller Patriots targets found room to work and Brady fed them. 

Lane down – The Patriots attack was aided even more when Seattle No. 3 cornerback Jeremy Lane left with a broken arm suffered on his interception of Brady late in the first quarter. Edelman, Amendola and Vereen accounted for 14 of Brady's 20 first-half completion for 127 yards. All three had decent runs after catches, and it seemed Lane's replacement, Tharold Simon, was often the target. Edelman set up Brandon LaFell's opening touchdown with a 23-yard catch-and-run over the middle. Vereen set up Rob Gronkowski's touchdown late in the half with a 16-yard catch-and-run across the field. The Patriots quick, short passing game is back in business in the biggest game of the year.

Déjà vu – The game opened in similar fashion to Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston when the Patriots beat Carolina, 32-29. Like that night, the first quarter was scoreless before the Patriots scored to take leads of 7-0 and 14-7. As was the case at Reliant Stadium, the Patriots second touchdown came in the final minute of the first half. The Panthers answered with a late field goal to go into the break down 14-10, and the Seahawks did them one better by scoring a touchdown to tie it.

Extra points – Brady's touchdown pass to LaFell to open the scoring was the 50th of his postseason career. He also set a Super Bowl record with 20 first-half completions and finished with four touchdown passes, giving him 13 Super Bowl TD passes, most of all time. … Matthews' 44-yard catch was the first of his career. … The Patriots have still yet to score a first-quarter point in six Super Bowl appearances with Belichick and Brady. … Jeremy Lane's interception was also the first of his career. …

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