GLENDALE, Ariz. — Butler did it.
But before he did it, the Patriots almost didn’t get out of University of Phoenix Stadium alive.
Butler, an undrafted rookie out of West Alabama, sat out most of the first half and felt like he was going to be The Goat just two plays before sealing the Super Bowl deal.
With Seattle and Russell Wilson driving down the field trying for the go-ahead score, the Patriots caught a flashback to a previous Super Bowl right on this same field.
In the championship game following the 2007 season, David Tyree made arguably the most famous catch in Super Bowl history when the New York Giants wide receiver caught a ball off his helmet to lead the G-men on the winning drive that send the Patriots packing.
This time, it was Seahawks QB Russell Wilson who — with the clock winding down to a minute — heaved a pass to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse who knocked the ball all over his falling body, using both knees to keep the play going, before ultimately coming down with the catch.
“I just had a jump ball on that play,” Butler said. “I made a great play on the ball and when I deflected it, it remained in his hands. Just like any other play, I feel like the game was on me if we lost, but we had another play.”
Poor Butler played Kearse tight and appeared to have broken up the pass, but the miracle catch had the Seahawks ready to pounce in for the winning score.
After the 33-yard grab by Kearse, the Seahawks moved the ball from the five to the one yard line behind monster running back Marshawn Lynch with just 1:06 and one yard to go for victory.
But on the next play — second and goal — Pete Carroll’s Seahawks did the unexpected and went to the air instead of handing off to Beast Mode one more time. The high-risk move did not pay off.
The ill-fated slant pass by Wilson intended for Ricardo Lockette was not only broken up by Butler, but the 24-year-old undrafted rookie picked off the pass and Tom Brady & Co. successfully ran out the clock in the game.
“I just had a jump ball on that play,” Butler said. “I made a great play on the ball and when I deflected it, it remained in his hands. Just like any other play, I feel like the game was on me if we lost, but we had another play. It was goal line, three [corners on the defense] and the formation they were in with the two receiver stunt, I just knew they were doing a pick route. I knew it was on the line and we needed it, so I just beat him to the route and just made the play.”
Butler saw the offense stacked to one side and stepped in from of Ricardo Lockette and made the interception heard ’round the world.
“I knew they were going to throw it,” he said. “Our defensive coordinator is real smart and with a goal line, three cornerback [formation], we knew they were going to throw the ball… I saw [Russell] Wilson looking over [toward the receivers]. He kept his head still and just looked over there, so that gave me a clue, 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.”
Butler was asked if he was surprised that the Seahawks did not hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch in that moment.
“Yeah I am a little bit, but like I said, we were in a goal line, three corners (formation),” Butler said. “Usually in goal line there are two corners, so with three corners you know they’re going to pass.”
Butler said preparation and practice were keys to seeing what was coming his way.
“It was goal line, three [corners on the defense] and the formation they were in with the two receiver stunt, I just knew they were doing a pick route,” he said. “I knew it was on the line and we needed it, so I just beat him to the route and just made the play.”
Suddenly, everyone on earth knew how much this big play meant to Patriots Nation.
“I was so emotional,” Butler said. “I had a feeling I was going to make a big play, but not this big.”