Zero was the number of catches Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews had in his NFL career coming into Super Bowl 49. And it was also close to the level of concern the New England Patriots had about him being a factor in the game.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty said his team was a “little bit” surprised that the Seahawks would look to the 6-foot-5 rookie, who was best known as being the guy who recovered the onside kick in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers.
“He had not shown up on any film,” McCourty said. “About the only thing we knew about him is that he is tall.”
Seahawks fans barely knew any more than the Patriots did about the player signed out of the Canadian Football League, who was cut at the end of August and then released twice more from the practice squad before being signed to the active roster on Dec. 6. Matthews played in three regular season games, mostly on special teams, but was active for the postseason.
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If not for Malcolm Butler’s game-saving interception in the Patriots’ 28-24 victory, the world might have known Chris Matthews as the Super Bowl’s most valuable player. He had a team-best four receptions for 109 yards, including a touchdown with two seconds to go in the first half that allowed the Seahawks to tie the game at 14.
Matthews even admitted after the game he didn’t know he was going to be one of Russell Wilson’s favorite targets.
“I wasn’t even expecting to get a ball,” said Matthews. “I was expecting to go down there and do special teams and make plays as a special teams player.”
Matthews was special, though. His first catch, a 44-yard gain in the second quarter, gave the Seahawks a first down at the Patriots’ 11. Three plays later Marshawn Lynch ran it in to tie the game at 7.
“He was huge,” fellow Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of him.”
At the half, McCourty said the Patriots even decided to switch some coverages up in order for the 6-foot-4 cornerback Brandon Browner to match up with Matthews. He caught two more passes in the third quarter: a 45-yarder on the team’s first possession that ended in a field goal and then another for a 9-yard gain.
Matthews said despite his limited NFL resume, he felt he was ready if needed.
“I know it is nothing compared to the NFL, but throughout high school and college I’ve always been the player, one of the main players,” he said. “So just stepping up and being there was nothing new to me.
“I just think the coaches prepared me in the best possible way they can in practice, making sure that I was well prepared for what was to come regardless of whether it was this year, next year or the year after that.”
Matthews was a star for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, earning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie Award in 2012 by catching 81 passes for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. He would like to think more big numbers are in his future given what he accomplished in the Super Bowl.
“Oh this is huge,” Matthews said. “This is huge for me right now, just being able to finish the game and do what I did. Now I feel like I should come back and work extremely hard (for next season) ...
“It’s been an amazing journey.”