There are slew of games to pick from when making a list of the greatest Super Bowls of all-time. Will Brinson, a senior writer for CBS Sports, ultimately picked Super Bowl XLIX as the greatest Super Bowl ever in his annual list released prior to Super Bowl LIV.
While there have been several great ones over the years, it's hard argue with Brinson's pick. Simply put, Super Bowl XLIX had it all. On one side, you had the Seahawks trying to become the first team since the 2003-04 Patriots to win back-to-back Super Bowls. On the other side, you had the Patriots, led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, looking to reclaim their spot atop pro football's landscape after a decade-long hiatus. The result was a back-and-forth, roller-coaster affair that was not settled until Malcolm Butler's game-saving interception at the goal line with 20 seconds remaining.
The Patriots prevailed 28-24, and would go onto win two of the next four Super Bowls while cementing their place in NFL lore. Seattle, on the other hand, is still waiting for a return trip to the Super Bowl, a wait that could possibly come to an end this season. The Seahawks, fresh off of their impressive Week 1 win over Atlanta, will look to defeat Cam Newton and the Patriots at home this Sunday night.
Before the two teams meet on Sunday, here's a look at some of the heroes from their epic Super Bowl showdown, and where their careers have taken them in the years after that game.
Malcolm Butler, cornerback
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 3 tackles, 3 passes defensed, 1 interception
Butler was only on the field for 34% of the Patriots' defensive snaps, but he made the biggest play of the game when he stepped in front of Russell Wilson's pass to seal the Patriots' fourth Super Bowl win. An undrafted rookie in 2014, Butler earned his lone Pro Bowl selection in 2015 while becoming a full-time starter on the Patriots' defense. His career in New England ended unceremoniously, however, when Butler was benched for unexplained reasons during the Patriots' loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. That offseason, Butler signed a five-year, $61 million contract with the Titans. Butler, who turned 30 years old this past offseason, recorded five interceptions and 21 passes defensed during his first two seasons in Nashville. He made three tackles in the team's season-opening win over the Broncos.
Ricardo Lockette, receiver
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 3 receptions, 59 yards
A backup receiver and special teams contributor on Seattle's 2013 championship team, Lockette caught 11 of 15 targets for a career-high 195 yards and two touchdowns during the 2014 season. Lockette was Wilson's intended receiver on the pass that Butler intercepted to seal the win for the Patriots.
Midway through the 2015 season, Lockette suffered a concussion while on special teams during a game against the Cowboys. Lockette sustained neck ligament damage that would require surgery and never played football again, as he announced his retirement in May of 2016. The 34-year-old is currently an advocate for spinal cord injury research with the Seattle Science Foundation.
Russell Wilson, quarterback
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 12-of-21, 247 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Despite the Super Bowl setback, Wilson's career continued to ascend in the years following that game. He threw 34 touchdown passes in 2015 while helping Seattle advance to the divisional round of the playoffs. Two years later, he led the league in touchdown passes for the first time while helping the Seahawks return to the postseason after a one-year absence. During the previous two seasons, Wilson threw a combined 66 touchdown passes while leading the Seahawks to 22 wins despite playing in arguably the league's toughest division.
Wilson's success in 2019 kept him in the MVP conversation throughout the year before the award ultimately went to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Wilson is again considered a top contender to win the award in 2020, along with Jackson and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Jermaine Kearse, receiver
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 3 catches, 45 yards
With 1:14 remaining in Super Bowl XLIX, Kearse appeared to make the play that would go down in Super Bowl lore. After the pass was initially tipped by Butler, Kearse, who was falling to the ground, was able to re-locate Wilson's pass before corralling it into his body. The result was a 33-yard gain that gave Seattle the ball on New England's 5-yard-line. Two plays after Kearse's catch, however, Butler abruptly ended the Seahawk's hopes of back-to-back titles.
An undrafted rookie in 2012, Kearse would remain with Seattle for the next two seasons, setting then-career highs in catches (49), yards (685) and touchdowns (five) during the 2015 season. Kearse had a career day in Seattle's divisional round playoff loss to the Panthers, catching 11 passes for 110 yards in touchdowns.
In September of 2017, Kearse was traded to the Jets (along with a second-round pick) in exchange for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. He had a successful first season with the Jets, catching 65 passes for 810 yards and five touchdowns. But after a less than successful 2018, Kearse signed with the Lions during the 2019 offseason. He never played a regular season game with the Lions, however, as he was placed on injured reserve after breaking his leg in a preseason game against the Patriots. Kearse, who turned 30 earlier this year, is currently a free agent.
Marshawn Lynch, running back
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 24 carries, 102 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 31 yards
Lynch, whose second-quarter touchdown got the Seahawks on the board, was in line to be named Super Bowl MVP if Seattle would have chosen to call his number instead of having Wilson try a slant to Lockette from the 1-yard-line. Instead of joining an esteemed list of running backs to win the Super Bowl MVP award, Lynch is instead one of just three running backs to lose in the Big Game despite rushing for over 100 yards.
A Pro Bowler each season from 2011-14, Lynch endured an injury-plagued 2015 season in Seattle before announcing his retirement via Twitter during the Broncos' win over the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. He made a comeback in 2017, joining his hometown Raiders for the next two seasons. Lynch rejoined the Seahawks after Seattle's backfield was decimated by injuries late in the 2019 season. He scored three touchdowns during the postseason while helping the Seahawks upset the Eagles in the wild card round. The 34-year-old Lynch is currently unsigned. He is currently 29th on the NFL's career rushing list and 16th in touchdown runs.
Dont'a Hightower, linebacker
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 5 tackles, 3 solo stops
On the play following Kearse's catch, the Seahawks handed the ball to Lynch, who was stopped a yard short of the end zone by Hightower, setting the stage for Butler's pick on the ensuing play. If not for Hightower's tackle, the Patriots would likely have one less Lombardi Trophy to display at their team facility.
A 2012 first-round pick, Hightower's forced fumble of Matt Ryan helped spearhead the Patriots' historic comeback in Super Bowl LI. A Pro Bowler for the first time in 2016, Hightower briefly tested the open market in the spring of 2017 before re-signing with the Patriots. After an injury limited him to just five games in 2017, Hightower regained his starting status in 2018 while winning his third Super Bowl with the Patriots. The 30-year-old veteran earned his second Pro Bowl selection in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season.
Bobby Wagner, linebacker
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 12 tackles, 10 solo stops, 1 interception, 1 pass defensed
Along with Lynch, Wagner also likely would have received MVP consideration had the Seahawks prevailed in Super Bowl XLIX. A Pro Bowler for the first time that season, Wagner led both teams in tackles. His third quarter interception set up Wilson's touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin that gave Seattle a 24-14 lead.
Wagner, who turned 30 in June, has earned five more Pro Bowl selections and four more All-Pro nods since Super Bowl XLIX. In 2019, Wagner led the NFL with 159 tackles while helping Seattle make the playoffs for the seventh time over the past eight years.
Chris Matthews, receiver
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 4 receptions, 109 yards, 1 touchdown
Matthews and Julian Edelman were the only receivers who eclipsed the 100-yard receiving barrier in Super Bowl XLIX. Matthews, a former undrafted rookie who toiled in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League before joining the Seahawks, spent most of the 2014 season on the practice squad before being added to the 53-man roster in December. He recovery of an onside kick late helped the Seahawks come from behind to defeat the Packers in the NFC title game.
Matthews' first NFL catch, a 45-yard pass from Wilson, set up the Seahawks' first touchdown. His first touchdown catch, an 11-yard reception, tied the game at intermission. Mathews, like Lynch and Wagner, would have received MVP consideration had the Seahawks prevailed.
Matthews was unable to parlay his Super Bowl success into a stable NFL career. After being released by Seattle midway through the 2015 season, Matthews spent two years with the Ravens before the team released him midway through the 2017 season. Matthews signed with the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders in 2018, helping the team capture the Grey Cup that season. He started the 2019 season on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before ending the year with the Montreal Alouettes.
Julian Edelman, receiver
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 9 receptions, 109 yards, 1 touchdown
Trailing 24-14 in the fourth quarter, Edelman's 21-yard catch on third and 14 set up Tom Brady's touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. On New England's ensuing possession, Edelman's 3-yard touchdown reception gave the Patriots the lead for good.
While he has never made the Pro Bowl, the former college quarterback and seventh round pick has become one of the most prolific playoff receivers of all-time. The MVP of Super Bowl LIII, Edelman's 1,442 career receiving yards is the second highest total in NFL postseason history. His fingertip catch late in Super Bowl LI -- a catch that helped force the first overtime in Super Bowl history -- is regarded as one of the greatest catches in NFL history.
Tom Brady, quarterback
Super Bowl XLIX stats: 37-of-50, 324 yards, 4 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Brady joined Joe Montana as the only player to earn three Super Bowl MVP awards following his performance in Super Bowl XLIX. Brady, who endured the "Deflategate" controversy in the weeks leading up to the game, has continued to add to his laundry list of achievements in the years following that game. From 2016-18, Brady led the Patriots to three more trips to the Big Game that included wins in Super Bowls LI and LIII. Brady, who won his fourth Super Bowl MVP after helping lead the Patriots' improbable comeback win over the Falcons, won his third league MVP award in 2017. He threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards in New England's loss to Philadelphia in Super Bowl LII.
After 20 years in New England, Brady signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. The 43-year-old quarterback has been reunited in Tampa Bay with former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught the second of Brady's four touchdown passes in Super Bowl XLIX.