The 49th Super Bowl will pair up the New England Patriots with the reigning champions, the Seattle Seahawks, the latter side winning a potential all-time classic to secure the NFC title after a dramatic comeback on Sunday.
Overtime was needed to separate the Seahawks from the Green Bay Packers who let slip a commanding 16-0 half-time lead to ultimately lose 28-22 in a bizarre turn of events that Seattle somehow managed to take advantage of.
Green Bay dominated the majority of the opening three quarters in Seattle, taking advantage of an error-strewn Seahawks display to open out a 16-0 half-time lead, their hosts only managing to register their first score with just under 20 minutes remaining.
There were only four minutes left when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson began to click with his offense and that’s when everything fell apart for the Packers.
Wilson ran in a touchdown, the Seahawks regained possession from the resulting offside pick ultimately allowing Marshawn Lynch to run through another score and then a two-point conversion gave Seattle an improbable three-point lead, 22-19.
Green Bay then drove back down at the Seahawks in the dying seconds, settling for a Mason Crosby field goal which levelled the game. Two big Wilson passes in overtime ended the contest, Jermaine Kearse sudden death touchdown making the Packers pay for an inexplicable collapse.
“You have the belief these guys have in one another, there is nothing you can’t do,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said as his team became the first defending champions in 10 years to make it back to the Super Bowl.
The defining image of the post-game celebrations was that of Wilson who wept uncontrollably as he reflected on a personal showing that was inept for long stretches before his composure and creativity inspired an unforgettable turnaround. “Just making the plays at the end and keep believing,” said Wilson. “There was no doubt ... we had no doubt as a team.”
“It’s going to be a missed opportunity that I’ll probably think about for the rest of my career,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted. “We were the better team today, we played well enough to win. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves.”
The Patriots were the last team to return to the big show as defending champions and they will travel to Arizona in full confidence after their AFC title game hammering of the Indianapolis Colts.
Running back LeGarrette Blount was in scintillating form in their 45-7 victory, ensuring that quarterback Tom Brady — who threw three touchdowns — and coach Bill Belichick will contest their sixth Super Bowl, a record for the NFL.
Blount scored the other three TDs and ran for a gruelling 148 yards in tough conditions as the Colts were overwhelmed by the lopsided domination of the home side.
“I know we’ve had some ups and downs this year,” Brady said afterwards.
“But right now we’re up and we’re going to try to stay up for one more game.”