GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They'd been in this situation before. Many times. Against the Colts in '06. The Giants in '07. The Ravens in '11. The Giants later in '11.
To win a championship, the Patriots had to stop the opposing team -- in this case, the Seattle Seahawks -- from marching the length of the field for a touchdown in the final two minutes. If they prevented the Seahawks from scoring a TD, they'd win Super Bowl XLIX. If they didn't, they'd lose. Simple as that.
Thing is, they'd failed (far) more often than they'd succeeded in the situation in the past. They lost the AFC championship to Indianapolis by allowing a late touchdown in '06. They lost the Super Bowl -- and a perfect season -- to the Giants in '07. They lost again to the Giants in '11. The only time they succeeded was against the Ravens in the 2011 AFC Championship Game . . . and even at that, it took a shanked field goal by Billy Cundiff to secure the victory.
So no one on the New England side of the field could have felt very confident when the Pats -- who'd entered the fourth quarter trailing, 24-14 -- scored with 2:03 to play on a short touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman. There was too much time on the clock.
And all their worst fears seemed to be realized when -- shades of David Tyree and his helmet -- Jermaine Kearse made a miracle, on-his-back catch after being knocked to the ground on the Patriots' 5-yard line with 1:06 to play, putting the Seahawks in position to snatch yet another championship from New England's grasp.
This time, though, it didn't happen. This time, the Patriot defense rose to the occasion . . . with the unlikeliest of heroes.
Undrafted free agent Malcolm Butler picked off a Russell Wilson pass on the goal line, snuffing out the Seahawks' drive and securing a miracle 28-24 victory that have the Patriots the fourth -- and perhaps most satisfying -- Super Bowl championship in their history.
"I just had a vision that I was going to make a big play and it came true," said Butler, whose last interception came in November 2013 for Division II West Alabama vs. Central State. "I'm just blessed. I can't explain it right now. It's crazy."
It's the fourth Super Bowl Championship for Brady, coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots organization, bridging a ten-year gap between championships. Brady, who threw four touchdown passes, also earned his third Super Bowl MVP award.
"It took everything (we had), all the way to the last play," said Brady. "It's a great feeling."
With a 28-24 lead with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter, the Patriots had Wilson and the Seahawks at third-and-10 from the Patriots 38-yard line. Wilson threw a 33-yard pass to Kearse down the sideline that ended up bouncing off him numerous times before he caught it while lying on the ground.
But, faced with a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line with under 30 seconds to play, the Seahawks inexplicably threw the ball. Butler hauled it in, and the rest is history.
When the game looked to be going off the rails for the Patriots in the second half, Brady put together two fourth-quarter touchdown drives -- his fifth fourth-quarter comeback in the postseason, breaking a tie with Joe Montana for most in history -- to pull out the victory.
Down 24-21 with 6:52 left in the game, Brady and the Patriots began their drive at their own 36-yard line. Ten plays later, Brady hit Julian Edelman in the front-corner of the end zone from three yards out. New England had its first lead since the second quarter -- and held on.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Brady marched the Patriots 68 yards on nine plays, capped off by a Danny Amendola four-yard touchdown catch to bring the Patriots to within three points. After the Patriots defense got the Seahawks to go three-and-out on the next drive, the stage was set for Brady -- and all the events that followed.
While there ended up being enough action in the fourth quarter to last a lifetime, the game got off slow for both teams on the offensive end.
Though New England put together the first long drive of the game, they came up short due to Brady's first interception of the game in the Seahawks' end zone.
But the Pats finished their next drive and struck first in the game during the second quarter. With Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane out after injuring his left arm after intercepting Brady at the goal lins, the Patriots went after backup Tharold Simon. It turned into seven points when Brady hit Brandon LaFell in the end zone with Simon a step behind.
But that's when Seattle's offense, which previously could get nothing going, kicked into gear.
It started with an improbable pass play from Wilson to Chris Matthews down the right sideline for 44 yards. That was Wilson's first completed pass of the game -- and Matthews' first career catch. It also set up Marshawn Lynch's three straight runs, with the third one being punched in for the equalizer.
With the game tied at 7-7, the Patriots put together another strong drive -- 8 plays, 80 yards with Brady hitting Rob Gronkowski on a beautifully thrown 22-yard pass in the end zone over Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright.
The score came with just over 30 seconds on the clock, but that proved to be enough time for Wilson and the Seahawks to not only score, but score a touchdown. A couple of big runs by Robert Turbin and Wilson, plus a 33-yard gain on a pass plus a 10-yard penalty, set the Seahawks up for one more play with six seconds left. Wilson hit Matthews for the 11-yard touchdown, and the Seahawks had tied things up.
And just like that, momentum shifted over to Seattle. It carried the Seahawks well into the second half until New England got its bearings in the fourth quarter.
Seattle would go on two score two more times -- a field goal to start the second half, and a touchdown six plays after Brady's second interception of the night on a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski.
But that Brady was nowhere to be found in a fourth quarter that will define him, Belichick, the Patriots, and --wait for it -- their legacy.