The conclusion of Super Bowl XLIX spawned overwhelming negative reactions to the Seattle play call that resulted in an interception by New England Patriots’ rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler with 25 seconds left on the clock that sealed the win for the Patriots.
The Monday morning quarterbacks, mainstream media, bloggers, and anyone with a remote knowledge of football threw Seattle coach Pat Carroll , offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and Seattle Quarterback Russell Wilson under any bus available.
Why on Earth, thousands asked in unison, had offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and head coach Pete Carroll dialed up a risky slant pass at the one-yard line? Shouldn’t they have just pounded the ball into the end zone with Marshawn Lynch?
Carroll and Bevell was called every reference to ignorance under the sun for passing vs. running less than a foot away from the goal line facing what could have resulted in the game winning touchdown for Seattle had the ball gotten in the end zone successfully.
Pete Carroll’s post game explanation explaining the decision to pass was acceptable and made plenty sense to me.
“We went to three receivers; they sent in their goal-line people,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “We just didn’t want to run against their goal-line people there”
You, I and the rest of the world are not the only ones that know Marshawn Lynch is capable of running through defensive lines and linebackers like they’re ghost images. The New England Patriots know about Lynch too – and they geared up for a possible run from him by playing the run as well as the pass. Carroll’s response to this was basic coaching – they’re playing a possible run – we’re going with a pass play-one of the safest pass plays in the playbook – the slant.
Half these folks talking about the interception know nothing about a slant play. They don’t know that the stats reveal a goal line slant play has been more successful than the run all season. The slant play has only resulted in one interception all season. Care to guess who and when that was?
The quick slant is a simple pass pattern: run three to five steps, slant toward the middle of the field, and look for the ball as soon as you make your cut.
“Before Sunday, NFL teams had thrown the ball 108 times on the opposing team’s 1-yard line this season. Those passes had produced 66 touchdowns (a success rate of 61.1 percent, down to 59.5 percent when you throw in three sacks) and zero interceptions. The 223 running plays had generated 129 touchdowns (a 57.8 percent success rate) and two turnovers on fumbles.” – Bill Barnwell – Grantland
Stats, and time running out favored the call Seattle made. The Seahawks created a time issue where they felt they needed to pass because they wasted a timeout and then got a little too cute with the clock. It was certainly smart for them to burn some time so New England would not have time to respond if Seattle scored quickly, but they burned too much and ended up putting themselves in a box. With three downs left and the ball on the 1 yard line, unless a Lynch run had been successful on second and 1 the next play would have to have been a pass in the endzone or incomplete to stop the clock. Carroll and his coaching staff calculated all of this into their decision to pass on the most talked about football down in history.
On the other side of the field Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick and his coaching staff anticipated the run and loaded up for it. The defense saw a format at snap time that reeked of a possible pass as well- and one Malcolm Butler decided to defend for a possible air strike. If Lynch runs – he’s going to have to contend with a lot of bodies between himself and the endzone. If Wilson goes to the air, the Patriots would be ready for that too. This is the type of situation a rookie plays close attention to because this situation basically leaves them to make a clutch play and validate themselves as a bona fide NFL player.
Recent fast food employee and undrafted football player turned NFL player Malcolm Butler found himself on a collision course with Seattle receiver Ricardo Lockette in what would become the biggest play of the game. The collision resulted in Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s pass landing in the arms of Malcolm Butler. The aftermath of that collision will forever be embedded in Super bowl history.
Instead of taking the position that Pete Caroll and his coaching staff made a F’d up play call why can’t the reason for the turn of events be Belichek and his staff making a brillant defensive call? Nobody knows if Marshawn Lynch would’ve gotten in the endzone. Nobody seems to want to talk about the receiver Lockett who looked to me as if he was a step or two behind where he should have been alowing Butler to better position himself for an uncontested interception. But then this brings us right back to Butler and the fact covered Lockette perfectly.
What tipped Butler off that a pass was coming somewhere?
He explained it this way.
“They called goal-line three receivers; goal-line usually has two receivers,” he said. “You still could pass either way, but three receivers? That’s kind of letting you know something. I’m a pass defender first, and I just jumped the route.”
And there you have it. Butler came away the benefactor of a well-timed defensive maneuver and should be receiving the bulk of the accolades for assisting his team in securing their fourth Superbowl title.
The pessimism heaped on Carroll, Wilson and the Seattle play callers is unwarranted. Carroll and company did nothing wrong. They called a play that the defender saw through. That’s what good defenders do. We can second guess Marshawn Lynch running in for a Seattle touchdown resulting in a repeat victory all we want. The fact is he never got the opportunity so we will never know.
What I do know is instead of assuming pessimistic opinions that subscribes to a Seattle screw up we should be embracing an optimistic view that applauds Malcomn Butler for rising to the occasion. We shouldn’t be beating up on Pete Carrol and the Seahawks for stupid play calling (if the ball had gone to Lynch and he hadn’t gotten in the endzone the pessimist among us would’ve called that play stupid too).
In short, Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, and the Seahawks didn’t throw away the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick, Malcolm Butler, and the Patriots reached out and grabbed it.
owl. Bill Belichick, Malcolm Butler, and the Patriots reached out and grabbed it.