The 2014-2015 season was over in the National Football League. The New England Patriots had thoroughly destroyed the Indianapolis Colts, albeit in a game that was marred by accusations of ball tampering which became to be known as deflategate. At the time of the Superbowl the NFL was still investigating accusations that the game was swayed by some equipment tampering leading to balls being under the regulation pounds per square inch. The last report, unsubstantiated, is that only one of the 13 balls provided by the Patriots was in any way meaningfully underinflated, and most were regulation pressure or off by a hair.
The Seattle Seahawks on the other hand barely won at the last minute in a game the Green Bay Packers threw away, and given the state of affairs, the betting in Las Vegas was pretty much even odds with no clear favorite. On game day most of the jerseys in the stands were in Seahawk neon green and blue, and there was a good chance of a two-peat.
The game had started with New England outplaying Seattle in almost every way, except that Tom Brady had thrown two interceptions, one at the end zone that had killed an opening drive. Still, Russell Wilson had managed to pull off two excellent throws to an undrafted Chris Matthews, the sleeper hit of the game. They were even at the half, 14 - 14.
Katy Perry came out and did a medley show more memorable if anything for the "left shark" meme that occurred as a result of the dancer to her right (screen left) in a shark costume forgetting the choreography and simply moving randomly. But during that half-time, both teams made adjustments.
Momentum seemed to swing Seattle's way. With Seattle now ahead with 24 points, cornerback Richard Sherman started showboating, as was his wont, flicking two and then four fingers at the screen as Seattle pulled further ahead. It would prove to be the last points Seattle would score.
Victory seemed pretty clear for the Patriots, if only they could hold the 28-24 lead they had gained by virtue of coming back with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately they left a bit too much time on the clock, and some fierce moves by running back Marshawn Lynch and an absolutely heroic catch by Kearse on the four yard line (the pass was initially incomplete with Kearse on his back, but by juggling the ball with his foot and then catching it before it hit the ground, he made the catch) the Seahawks had the ball on the four yard line, then the one yard line as Lynch was stopped with the run. Kearse's catch in GIF form is here.
Less than a minute remained, with Seattle one yard away from victory.
They could not have won with a field goal, as it would have left them a point behind New England. They had to score a touchdown. The clock continued to tick, and Bill Bellichick did not call a timeout to stop the clock.
This proved crucial to the New England win.
The thought process on the Seattle bench was to recognize that Lynch's success rate from the one yard line was one in five. They knew full well New England would expect Beast Mode to run the ball and would send every man jack to flatten him. As a result, they made a fateful decision. If Lynch tried the run and failed, they would not have had enough time to reasonably attempt a second run, whereas if they tried a pass if it was incomplete the clock would stop and if it succeeded, they'd win anyway, giving them two chances at the touchdown as opposed to one.
So whereas everyone was expecting Lynch to take the ball, Wilson stepped back several yards and threw a short slant pass to his right to Lockette.
Unfortunately for Wilson, his relative youth and inexperience proved fatal. Telegraphing his throw with his eyes gave New England's Butler the opportunity to charge through Lockette and catch the ball for an interception before being downed at the one yard line, giving New England the ball back just before the game was over.It can be seen here in animated GIF format
While the entire country shouted at the television - in the Pacific North West expletives and shouts of complete disbelief, in the North East and in other Patriot enclaves it was cheers of joy.
The game however was not over, Seattle had one precious chance left. With the ball on the one yard line if they charged Brady for a safety, that would give them two points, and the ball back. It would be a long shot, but it would be a shot. So New England, showing insane levels of discipline, stayed stock still while the only movement was the allowed head movement from their center. Seattle's defensive line, on adrenaline and desperation - took the bait and encroached, running forward before the ball was snapped, trying to jump the snap. That incurred a five yard penalty against Seattle, moving the ball five yards away from the New England end zone.
That put the ball on the six yard line. More than enough space for Brady to safely take a knee and end the game.
As a result, the Seahawks started throwing punches, possibly in response to New England player taunting, but starting a brawl on the field. Though Gronkowski and a couple of other Patriots hit some players, one of the Seahawks punched Gronk in the face resulting in an ejection and a fifteen yard penalty and a new set of downs for New England.
Now, the game was over. Tom Brady took a knee, and the remaining Seahawks dejectedly walked off the field as red white and blue confetti fell from the sky. The Lombardi Trophy was going to Foxborough.
The memes were fast and furious. The ludicrous to most decision to do anything but give Lynch the ball led to any of a number of jokes, from "Want another Superbowl? Nah, I'll pass" to Carroll being lampooned as "stupid Rob Lowe" (from the DirecTV commercials) and so forth. Richard Sherman's look of despair was also meme fodder, as mock Madden 15 cases (the real one carrying his likeness) sported the now famous screen capture. "The look on your face when you smell the sh-t you've been talking all game" was another one. Sherman making the "four" finger gesture from his "twenty four" taunt was captioned "hey Sherman, how many Superbowl rings does Tom Brady have?" All of this stemmed from Sherman badmouthing Brady on the field after a previous meetup (in which the Seahawks won) also known as the "U MAD BRO?" picture, and the bad blood between the two teams was confirmed when during the victory parade players carried placards mocking the Seahawks, and carrying a Seahawk jersey with Lynch's number but bearing the name "B-tch Mode".
Although initially it was a game many fan bases didn't want to see, as it featured two of the most hated franchises in the NFL - the PED-heavy rule breaking "Cheathawks" vs the football deflating, spygate-guilty "Cheatriots". But the ending was epic, it was truly a magnificent adrenaline rush right at the end and a fantastic advertisement for the game.