Ten Takeaways from the First Half

Super Bowl XLIX is halfway over and with the score knotted at 14, it couldn't be any closer. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are dominating the statistics, but Russell Wilson and the plucky Seahawks (including wideout Chris Matthews) appear to be once again in position to steal the win.

Over the first 30 minutes of Super Bowl XLIX, the dream matchup between reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle and the AFC's top seed New England has been every bit as competitive and breath-taking as it looked on paper. Here are 10 Takeaways from the big game.

10. In a game of this magnitude between two evenly matched teams, coaches just hope that the outcome is determined by the players. Given all of the Deflategate talk prior to the game, the NFL, itself, was surely hoping for clean start. Instead, the first drive of Super Bowl XLIX ended in controversy with Seattle defensive back Jeron Johnson clearly running into the plant leg of New England punter Ryan Allen. As NBC's Cris Collinsworth accurately stated on the telecast, the Seahawks should have been penalized 15 yards for "roughing the kicker" which would have extended the Patriots' drive. Instead, they declined the 5-yard penalty and punted.

9. The Seahawks had a chance to stop New England on third and one on New England's second drive but cornerback Byron Maxwell was pinned inside, failing to keep his containment responsibilities. Doing so gave LaGarrette Blount an easy lane for eight yards that put the Patriots in apparent scoring position.

8. Instead, Tom Brady was intercepted by Seattle's nickelback Jeremy Lane near the goal-line, abruptly ending New England's chance to take an early lead. The interception stole points off the board for the Patriots but the Seahawks but may have suffered the greater loss with Lane suffering an injury while being tackled on the subsequent return.

7. Lane, a third-year pro from Northwestern State, injured his arm on the play and was taken to the locker room in a sling. While All Pro Richard Sherman is certainly Seattle's top cornerback, Lane is their quickest and most physical, making him one of the NFL's elite nickel corners. Not surprisingly, the Patriots quickly attacked Seattle's replacement, the much longer and less agile Tharold Simon, beating him on two big pass plays on their next drive, including the 11-yard touchdown reception by Brandon LaFell.

6. While New England methodically drove down the field on the strength of Brady's quick, precise passes, Russell Wilson and Seattle's receivers were unable to connect often. Wilson completed just 4 of 7 passes for 84 yards over the first half. Barely-used wideout Chris Matthews leads the Seahawks with two receptions for 55 receiving yards over the first 30 minutes, turning the CFL signee into an immediate superstar in much the same way that outside linebacker Malcolm Smith wowed a year ago to be a shocking MVP choice.

5. Wilson's throw to Matthews may not have looked pretty as it forced the 6-5, 218 pound wideout to turn back toward the quarterback, rather than catch it in stride over his shoulder in the more traditional and aesthetically-pleasing away. That doesn't mean that Wilson's throw wasn't accurate, however. In fact, it was the single most impressive pass of first half by either quarterback, giving Matthews an opportunity to make the dazzling reception despite tight coverage.

4. It was appropriate that Marshawn Lynch scored Seattle's first touchdown as he's been most of their offense. Despite New England dedicating nine defenders to stopping him at times, Lynch has consistently bounced off tackles, spinning and driving his way for yardage after contact in typical Beast Mode fashion. Prior to the game, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that the Seahawks offered Lynch a "huge" extension.

3. While Brady and the Patriots outplayed the Seahawks in the first half, the future Hall of Fame quarterback wasn't as dominant as his stat-line suggests. Brady completed 20 of 27 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, but his interception was a terrible decision and the three-time Super Bowl champion had the ball inexplicably slip out of his hand to abruptly end another promising Patriots' drive.

2. Of course, when Brady needed to be pinpoint accurate, he was, delivering a strike on the slant to LaFell for the first quarter touchdown and putting perfect loft on the 22-yard yard lob to Gronkowski with just 33 seconds remaining in the first half to give New England a short-lived 14-7 halftime lead.

1. So too was Wilson, whose gutsy throw to Matthews for an 11-yard touchdown with just :02 seconds remaining tied the game in what is so far appearing every bit the classic it appeared on paper. The pass - which Collinsworth noted was hotter than a typical lob and therefore may have gone incomplete and still given Seattle time for a field goal attempt - unquestionably stole the momentum back for the Seahawks, who will receive the opening kickoff of the second half. Seattle needs it as they have been unable thus far to slow down New England's slot receivers and running back Shane Vereen.

SeahawkFootball.com Top Stories