GLENDALE, Ariz. – One yard. Three feet. Thirty-six inches.
That's what separated the Seahawks from their second consecutive Super Bowl victory on Sunday night. But instead of scoring from the New England Patriots' 1-yard line with 20 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium, Russell Wilson's second-down pass to Ricardo Lockette was intercepted by Patriots' nickel back Malcom Butler as New England escaped with a 28-24 victory.
Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to erase the Seahawks' 24-14
lead, and dash the Seahawks' valiant effort at another heart-pounding comeback.
The disappointment was etched in the players' faces in the locker room and the fact that most did not want to discuss what had just happened spoke more than any words they could have offered.
Coach Pete Carroll was feeling his players' pain, as well as his own.
"We've got a relationship. There's a deep love in here," Carroll said. "I've watched these guys grow up as pros and we've gone through a lot to get to this point together. It's about loving those guys. So I feel their pain and they feel my pain and that's kind of how it is when you're this close.
"This is a locker room that's very, very close and guys have really committed themselves and given everything they have to this. And so you become connected. We rejoice together. We feel the remorse and disappointed together, as well."
The scene in this Super Bowl locker room was the polar-opposite from a year ago, when the Seahawks won the franchise's first Super Bowl with the rousing 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Sunday night, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, who played wearing a harness to protect his injured shoulder, sat with his face buried in his hands. All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said he just didn't have the words to express how he felt. It was same with right guard J.R. Sweezy.
After battling back in the NFC Championship game two weeks ago to win in overtime and advance to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks' defense was done in by Brady's fourth-quarter magic and the offense was left to wonder why.
"They made the necessary adjustments to get it done and get the lead," nose tackle Kevin Williams said. "It's pretty tough. We came up one yard short. I don't know what else to do."
The offense drove to the 1-yard line to set the stage for yet another improbable finish, only to come up that 1 yard short.
"We've definitely been on the other side of these wins," left tackle Russell Okung said. "We usually come out on top in those situations. Nobody usually finishes better than us. That just wasn't the case today."
The Seahawks took their 24-14 lead because Russell Wilson threw touchdown passes to Chris Matthews and Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch scored on a 3-yard run. Lynch finished with 102 yards on 24 carries, while Matthews had 109 yards on four receptions. And Wilson was 12 of 21 for 247 yards.
But Brady erased that lead by passing for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, giving him four for the game as part of his 37-of-50, 328-yard passing performance.
But even after the Patriots took their lead 2:02 to play, the Seahawks battled back.
Wilson began the last drive by passing to Lunch for a 31-yard gain to the Patriots' 49-yard line. And the play that got the Seahawks to the 5-yard line had to be seen several times to be believed. Butler tipped Wilson pass to Jermaine Kearse. The ball went off Kearse's leg and then his hand as he was on the ground and he was able to control the ball for 33-yard completion.
Then it was Lynch to the 1, only to have Butler made it game-saving interception.
The Seahawks thought they were about to pull off another fantastic – and frantic – finish.
"That's our mentality," Okung said. "We truly believe that we're going to win the game and we're going to finish it playing Seahawks' type of ball. That wasn't the case."