Super Bowl XLIX- How We Got Here

The day has finally arrived. Super Bowl XLIX is upon us.

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks finalize their preparations for the big game, the final test of the 2014-15 NFL season.

Let’s take a look back at how each team got here:

The Road to the Super Bowl

New England Patriots:

  • Week 1

The Patriots squander a 10-point halftime lead and suffer their first loss in a season-opener since 2003, falling at the hands of the Miami Dolphins 33-20.
On the first drive of the game, the Patriots allow Ryan Allen’s punt to be blocked, which the Dolphins turn into a 4-yard touchdown pass to Lamar Miller just under two minutes later. Tom Brady is sacked four times and fumbles twice, with the Dolphins converting the two turnovers into 10 second-half points. The Patriots defense allows Knowshon Moreno to rush for 134 yards and a touchdown.

  • Week 4

Following wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders, the Patriots drop an embarrassing defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs 41-14.
Tom Brady threw two interceptions, was sacked three times, and lost a fumble, before finally being relieved by rookie backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis combine to rush for 199 yards, while Alex Smith tosses three touchdown passes. With Garoppolo providing quality play in his time under center, many members of the sports media begin questioning if Tom Brady’s age may finally be catching up to him, and if Bill Belichick will re-evaluate the quarterback situation before Week 5.

  • Week 5

It only took a week of heavy criticism from the media, but the sleeping giant that is the Patriots offense awoke in Week 5, as Brady & Co. trounced the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals 43-17. Brady threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns while Stevan Ridley added 113 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Stephen Gostkowski connected on five field goals and the Patriots defense held the Bengals to just 79 yards rushing.

  • Week 9

In a possible AFC playoff matchup preview, the Patriots dominate Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, taking a 43-21 win at home.
The win gives the Patriots five in a row as they head into their bye week. Brady throws for 333 yards, the third game in his last four in which he hits 300+ yards passing, and four touchdowns. Julian Edelman returns an 84-yard punt for a touchdown, his fourth career punt return touchdown, setting a new franchise record. Manning was able to throw for 438 yards against the Patriots defense, but also threw two interceptions- one each to Brandon Browner and Rob Ninkovich.

  • Week 11

After losing starting running back Stevan Ridley for the season to injury in a Week 6 victory over the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots had to find new options to lead the ground game.
In Week 11, third-string running back Jonas Gray emerged. In a 42-20 drubbing of the Indianapolis Colts, Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries. The Patriots defense, without linebacker Jerod Mayo who was also lost for the season in Week 6, stepped up big, holding the Colts to just 19 rushing yards on the game. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright, the latter of whom was acquired at the start of the season when the Patriots traded offensive guard Logan Mankins, each hauled in a touchdown pass from Brady.

  • Week 13

Following a defeat of the league’s best rushing defense of the Detroit Lions, the Patriots entered a possible Super Bowl preview against the Green Bay Packers armed with a 9-2 record, a far cry from that dismal 2-2 start.
In a game of ‘who can do more’, the Packers managed to ring up the Patriots defense to the tune of 478 offensive yards, and outlast New England for a 26-21 win, handing the Patriots their third loss. Packers running back Eddie Lacy rushed for 98 yard and quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 24 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. Tom Brady hit Brandon Lafell with two touchdown passes on the day. A missed 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 2:40 remaining in the game closed the door on the Patriots hopes of coming back.

  • Weeks 14-17

In Week 14, the Patriots received strong defensive play, sacking San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers four times en route to a 23-14 win, their 10th victory of the season.
A week later, the Patriots exacted revenge upon the Miami Dolphins who had beaten them in Week 1, powering past Miami 41-13. Kyle Arrington returned a blocked field goal 62 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring, while Brady threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Week 16 brought a surprising challenge for the Patriots as the division-rival New York Jets matched them on both offensive and defensive, but New England was able to escape with a 17-16 win. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by Jonas Gray gave the Patriots a lead they did not relinquish.
In Week 17, with many starters resting and Tom Brady being removed at halftime, as the Patriots had already clinched a first-round bye week in the playoffs, the Buffalo Bills came to town and beat the Patriots 17-9. The Patriots ended the regular season 12-4, and enter the playoffs the #1 overall seed in the AFC.

  • AFC Divisional Round

    LeGarrette Blount directing the Patriots to the Super Bowl. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    LeGarrette Blount, a key component of the Patriots Conference Championship round victory, directing New England to the Super Bowl. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In a game that featured the Patriots trailing by 14 points in the third quarter, New England gutted out a hard-fought 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens to advance to the AFC Conference Championship game.
The Patriots befuddled the Ravens defense with strategic trickery, including a 51-yard touchdown pass by former college-quarterback-turned-NFL-wide-receiver Julian Edelman, and offensive formations that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh would later term as “illegal”. (They were not.)
A timely interception by Duron Harmon on the Ravens second-to-last drive of the game, and a failed Hail Mary attempt on the Ravens final drive, handed the Patriots the keys to continue their drive through the playoffs.

  • AFC Conference Championship Round

Following their challenging divisional round matchup with the Ravens, the Patriots had a much easier time with the Indianapolis Colts, dispatching them by a score of 45-7, the second 40+ point effort against the Colts for New England on the season.
Where in the first game, Jonas Gray was the hero rushing for four touchdowns, that job was turned over to LeGarrette Blount in the Conference Championship game. Blount rumbled for 148 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. Brady slung three touchdown passes and the Patriots defense held Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to just 126 yards passing.
And with that, it was on to Glendale, AZ, for the Patriots, on to the Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks:

  • Week 1

The Seahawks opened their season by dismantling the Green Bay Packers defense, running up almost 400 yards of total offense, en route to a 36-16 victory at home.
Running back Marshawn Lynch torched the Packers for 110 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Russell Wilson aired the ball out, passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns. The formidable Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers three times, intercepted him once, and recorded a safety when defensive tackle Tony McDaniel tackled Packers offensive tackle Derek Sherrod in the end zone following a Rodgers fumble.

  • Week 3

After dropping their first loss of the season to the San Diego Chargers, the Seahawks rallied to take a 26-20 overtime victory against the Denver Broncos in Week 3.
Lynch carried the ball 26 times for 88 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 6-yard run in overtime. He also reeled in a touchdown pass from Wilson, the second of Wilson’s two touchdown passes on the day. Manning brought his team back from the brink, throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jacob Tamme with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. Seattle received the ball first in the extra period and Lynch sealed the deal.

  • Week 6

The Seahawks entered Week 6, coming off their Week 4 bye week and a Week 5 win over the Washington Redskins, at 3-1. DeMarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys made sure that three wins is all the Seahawks would have going on to Week 7.
Murray ran over the Seahawks for 115 yards and a touchdown, and a stalwart defensive effort from the Cowboys held the Seahawks offense to just 206 total yards. The Seahawks defense did return a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first half, but their offense struggled to move the ball, a Wilson 9-yard touchdown run marking the only offensive score of the game.

  • Week 10

After dropping to 3-3 with a Week 7 loss to the St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks certainly did not look like the defending Super Bowl champions to begin 2014. They did, however, carry a two-game winning streak into their Week 10 matchup against the New York Giants. And Marshawn Lynch had every intention of making that a three-game winning streak.
Lynch exploited every possible hole in the Giants defense, rushing for 140 yards and four touchdowns, with Wilson adding an additional 107 rushing yards and a touchdown, as the Seahawks beat the Giants 38-17. The Seahawks defense held the Giants to just 54 yards on the ground, while the Seahawks racked up a total of 350 yards rushing as a team.

  • Week 11

The high from their three-game winning streak was short-lived, however, as in Week 11, the Seahawks would lose their fourth game of the season, a 24-20 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles splintered off 159 yards rushing and two touchdowns to lead the way for Kansas City. Lynch and Wilson combined to rush for 195 yards for the Seahawks and Wilson threw two touchdowns, but their effort was not enough to overcome the Chiefs, dropping the Seahawks to 6-4 on the season.

  • Week 13

Following a Week 12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks pushed their way past the San Francisco 49ers, in an important divisional matchup, 19-3 on the road.
The Seahawks defense was suffocating, holding the 49ers offense to just 164 total yards. They sacked 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick four times and forced him to throw two interceptions- both by cornerback Richard Sherman. Four field goals from kicker Steven Hauschka and a 13-yard touchdown completion from Wilson to running back Robert Turbin was all the offense Seattle needed.

  • Weeks 14-17

After losing their fourth game of the season in Week 11, the Seahawks never looked back, closing out the season with six consecutive wins, with all of their final six wins coming by at least a 10-point margin.
In Week 14, they knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles 24-14 on the road, thanks to another stifling defensive effort. The Eagles managed only 139 yards of total offense, while Russell Wilson guided the Seahawks offense, throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns, and adding a 26-yard rushing touchdown.
Two weeks after defeating the 49ers 19-3, the Seahawks once again beat their divisional rival, this time at home, by a score of 17-7. A Frank Gore touchdown run is all the 49ers offense could muster, as the Seahawks defense sacked Colin Kaepernick six times en route to the win. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown.
In Week 16, the Seahawks demolished a beleaguered Arizona Cardinals team, tallying up 596 yards of offense in the process of a 35-6 victory. Wilson tossed for a season-high 339 yards passing and two touchdowns, adding 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while Lynch rolled out 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries. Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley was sacked four times.
To close out the season, the Seahawks got their revenge on the St. Louis Rams, who had beaten them in Week 7, bolting to a 20-6 win and wrapping up the #1 overall seed in the NFC. Lynch posted 60 yards rushing and a touchdown, while the defense showed their stripes, with linebacker Bruce Irvin taking an interception 49 yards to the house. For the third consecutive week, the Seahawks defense put up at least four sacks.

  • NFC Divisional Round

In a game that remained close through three quarters, the Seahawks ran away from the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter of their NFC Divisional Round matchup, taking the win 31-17.
The Panthers, who finished the regular season with a record of 7-8-1, did not do themselves any favors in the final quarter, with quarterback Cam Newton throwing an interception that Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor returned 90 yards for a touchdown. The Panthers defense also allowed too many big plays, letting Russell Wilson throw three touchdown passes, including a 63-yard connection with wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.
In addition to Chancellor’s pick-six, Richard Sherman also had an interception for the Seahawks, and the defense sacked Newton twice. On offense, Wilson completed 15-of-22 passes for 268 yards and the three touchdowns.

  • NFC Conference Championship Round

    Jermaine Kearse reels in the game-winning touchdown in the NFC Conference Championship to send the Seahawks to Glendale, AZ. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Jermaine Kearse reels in the game-winning touchdown in the NFC Conference Championship to send the Seahawks to Glendale, AZ. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

For the second time in the 2014 season, the Seahawks found themselves in an overtime game, in the NFC Conference Championship. Just like the first time, they prevailed, defeating the Green Bay Packers 28-22.
Through the first half, things were not looking good for Seattle as they trailed the Packers at halftime 16-0. But, as is the case in many an NFL football game, a team can come alive in the second half, and that is exactly what the Seahawks did.
The Seahawks converted for a touchdown on a fake field goal attempt in the third quarter, punter Jon Ryan connecting with offensive tackle Garry Gilliam for the 19-yard score. Marshawn Lynch carried a heavy load, taking 25 carries for 157 yards in the game, and scoring the touchdown that put Seattle on top with 1:25 remaining in regulation. A Mason Crosby field goal for the Packers with 14 seconds to go in the game sent the affair to overtime.
In the extra frame, just like earlier in the season against the Broncos, Seattle received the ball first and put the game away on that opening drive. On the sixth play of the drive, Russell Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse on a 35-yard touchdown completion to end the game. The Seahawks were going back to the Super Bowl.