GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tom Brady and the Patriots made this Super Bowl all about football, not footballs.
Clutch football, spiced by a sensational fourth-quarter rally and a goal-line, game-saving interception.
The record-setting Brady threw for four touchdowns, including a 3-yarder to Julian Edelman with 2:02 remaining Sunday night as New England rallied from a 10-point deficit to win its fourth Super Bowl in the Brady-Bill Belichick era, 28-24 over Seattle.
But the Patriots (15-4) had to survive a last-ditch drive by the Seahawks (14-5), who got to the 1, helped by a spectacular juggling catch by Jermaine Kearse.
Rookie Malcolm Butler stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette and picked off Russell Wilson’s off-target pass to complete one of the wildest Super Bowl finishes.
Brady leaped for joy on the Patriots sideline after Butler’s interception.
“It wasn’t the way we drew it up,” said Brady, who won his third Super Bowl MVP award.
Brady surpassed Joe Montana’s mark of 11 Super Bowl touchdown passes with a 5-yarder to Danny Amendola to bring the Patriots within three points.
Seattle, seeking to become the first repeat NFL champion since New England a decade ago, was outplayed for the first half, yet tied at 14. The Seahawks scored the only 10 points of the third period, but the NFL-leading defense couldn’t slow the brilliant Brady when it counted most.
It didn’t matter how much air was in the balls, game Brady was unstoppable when the pressure was strongest. While pushing aside the controversy over air pressure in the footballs stemming from the AFC title game, the Patriots toyed with Seattle in the final 12 minutes.
Seattle didn’t quit — it never does — and Kearse’s 33-yard catch with 1:06 remaining got it to the 5. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 4 yards, then backup cornerback Butler, who was victimized on Kearse’s reception, made the biggest play of his first NFL season with 20 seconds remaining.
“I just had a vision that I was going to make a big play and it came true,” said Butler, an undrafted rookie from West Alabama. “I’m just blessed. I can’t explain it right now. It’s crazy.”
Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin was ejected in the final seconds for instigating a near-brawl, delaying the celebration for the Patriots.
Soon they were mobbing one another on the same field where their 2007 unbeaten season was ruined in the Super Bowl by the Giants. They also fell to the Giants for the 2011 title.
But thanks to superstar Brady and the obscure Butler, they are champions again.
Brady now has equaled Montana with four Lombardi Trophies and three Super Bowl MVPs. He stands alone with 13 Super Bowl touchdown passes. He was 37 for 50 for 328 yards against the NFL’s top-ranked defense.
He also was picked off twice. Brady had been intercepted a total of two times in his previous five Super Bowls.
Yet, he picked apart the Seahawks on drives of 68 and 64 yards, solidifying his legacy as one of the greats of the game.
His heroics offset those of Chris Matthews, one of Seattle’s least-used players before the postseason. Matthews recovered the onside kick that helped the Seahawks beat Green Bay in overtime for the NFC crown, and had a breakout performance Sunday.
Having never caught a pass in the NFL, Matthews grabbed four for 109 yards and a touchdown. Lynch ran for 102 yards, but didn’t get the ball at the 1 on the decisive play — a decision the Seahawks will rue.