Pete Carroll still couldn’t believe it, 20 minutes after it happened.
The Seattle Seahawks coach looked almost dazed in the lead hallway out of his team’s locker room Sunday night. Then he said, almost incredulously: “How did that just happen?”
Russell Wilson couldn’t fathom it, either. He has just done everything to win the Seahawks’ second consecutive Super Bowl — except hand the ball one more time to Marshawn Lynch.
Two completions by Wilson, to Lynch across midfield then to Jermaine Kearse between his legs while the receiver was on his back, plus a 4-yard run by Lynch had Seattle at the New England 1 with 28 seconds left. The Seahawks trailed 28-24 but had one timeout remaining.
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One yard from winning it all. Again.
Instead, Seattle’s “Comeback Kid” passed one too many times.
Wilson intended to hit No. 3 wide receiver Ricardo Lockette on a slant route, but New England’s Malcolm Butler cut off Lockette and intercepted it at the goal line to end the Seahawks’ season in a crazy, dramatic Super Bowl 49 at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.
When it was over, when the confetti was red and blue this time instead of the green and blue of last season, Carroll and Wilson just looked at each other. Coach and QB needn’t say a word.
“Trying to realize the gravity of what we just witnessed,” Carroll said. “We didn’t say very much.”
Lynch was one of the first out of Seattle’s locker room, hugging friends and singing to himself in a black-and-gold outfit as he walked a stadium tunnel following an ending they’ll be talking about around Puget Sound until the salmon stop running.
“I put the blame on me,” Wilson said. “I'm the one who threw the ball.
“Just when it left my hand, I thought, ‘Game over.’ I hate feeling like I’m the one who lost it, in a way.
“I’m so proud of our guys for making the plays at the end.”
Except for the last one.
After using the run by Lynch to bleed the clock inside 30 seconds so masterful Tom Brady wouldn’t have time to rally New England yet again, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell sent out three wide receivers to the right in a bunch formation.
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The idea, Carroll and Bevell said, was to spread out the Patriots’ goal line defense, pass on second down to either score or be incomplete, then have third and fourth downs to run or pass against a presumably softer defense inside.
“It was a great look, the look we wanted to get,” Bevell said.
But when Wilson threw his 21st and final pass of the tense night, Butler jumped the slant route by Lockette like he knew it was coming.
“I saw Wilson looking over there (toward Lockette). He kept his head still and just looked over there, so that gave me a clue,” Butler said. “And the stacked receivers, I just knew they were going to throw.
“My instincts, I just went with it. Just went with my mind and made the play.”
Bevell implied that Lockette didn’t exactly sprint to the ball to prevent the killer turnover.
“(Butler) drove hard on the ball,” Bevell said. “Our guys have to go hard to the ball, too.”
The jump ball that Jermaine Kearse tapped to himself, put between his legs then cradled while on his back at the New England 5 with 1:06 left had Seattle poised for their second consecutive miraculous comeback, and Wilson’s 15th career fourth-quarter rally to victory.
But game Most Valuable Player Tom Brady’s four touchdown passes with a Super Bowl-record 37 completions in 50 throws trumped Wilson 12 completions for 247 yards, Lynch’s 102 yards rushing with a touchdown and former Canadian League receiver Chris Matthews’ almost-MVP breakout.
And it ruined the 24-14 lead Seattle (14-5) took into the final, frantic period.
The Seahawks were denied becoming the eighth franchise and first team since the 2003-04 Patriots to win consecutive Super Bowls.
Carroll also took blame for the final, fateful decision that will haunt him all spring, summer and beyond.
“We could have run it and got stuffed. We could have run it and scored. We could have scored against their goal-line (D), as well,” Carroll said. “It just wasn’t a great football thought at the time.
“In retrospect, we could have easily run it — and we wouldn’t be talking about this.”
New England (15-4) gained 147 of game’s first 169 yards and had nine of the initial 10 first downs. But Jeremy Lane’s end zone interception of Brady late in the first quarter on which the nickel back broke his arm during the return kept the game scoreless.
The Seahawks’ scored 17 consecutive points from the end of the first half into the fourth quarter. Matthews’ leaping, twisting, 11-yard touchdown catch, Steven Hauschka’s 27-yard field goal Matthews set up with another jumping, 44-yard grab and Doug Baldwin’s 3-yard touchdown catch on which he shrewdly sent the man covering him, New England’s Darrelle Revis, into the umpire on a route across the end zone made it 24-14 Seattle entering the final quarter.
Brady brought New England back with a third-and-14 completion to Julian Edelman for 21 yards, despite a hit by Kam Chancellor that spun Edelman around.
Brady to Danny Amendola from 4 yards out, Brady’s NFL-record 12th Super Bowl touchdown pass, cut New England’s deficit to 24-21 with eight minutes left.
Lockette got tripped in the open field going after a throw by Wilson, then Wilson threw longer than Lynch ran on an improvisation route, and Seattle had to give the ball back to Brady.
He continued his short passing, extending his Super Bowl record with his 36th completion while moving New England to the Seahawks’ 5. Then Brady threw his fourth touchdown pass, to Edelman.
Seattle suddenly trailed 28-24 — but rallied. Yet again.
But only for 79 of the 80 needed yards.
“It’s tough to process in the sense of, I hate losing,” said Wilson, whose 42 victories are the most by an NFL QB over the first three seasons of a career.
“Our goal,” he said, “is to get back next year.”