The day after looked really bright, despite the torrent of snow coming down in Boston. The day after felt even worse than the gray skies in the Pacific Northwest. Such was the end result of Super Bowl Sunday, the New England Patriots last second win against the Seattle Seahawks.
Explanations abounded as to why the final pass play, that resulted in an interception, was called. And everyone was being called out for the final call too.
The headlines screamed across the country, about the all time worst call in a Super Bowl game at the worst moment. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was adamant ‘blame me”. Russell Wilson maintained “it was on me”. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was saying “it was intended as a wasted second down play”, just to see if they could get it in the end zone.
In retrospect you have to look at the play closely to understand what was called and what happened. Using the NFL pet phrase ‘upon further review’, this is the storyline.
The Seahawks were 2nd and goal at the one. They sent in their wide receiver contingent, that included young wide receiver Ricardo Lockett, not a regular, but someone getting more playing time towards the end of the year. New England countered with its ‘big boy’ goal line defense.
Bevell called down for a pick-play slant-screen with Wilson in the shotgun, and Lockett stacked behind another receiver on the right hand side.
Wilson took the snap, held the ball. Lockett had to wait for the lead receiver to head to the right to pick off a DB. The Lockett flashed left to what appeared to be an open seam at the goal line.
But the play took too long to develop; Wilson in the gun; Lockett standing for a full tick before starting his slash run.
The Patriots recognized the pass from past video study. A linebacker jumped into the open seam; cornerback Malcom Butler jumped the route, muscling his way infront of Lockette and caught the ball.
And then the second guessing on the second down call came from everywhere. Why didn’t you run Marshawn Lynch, especially since you had timeouts? What would you take Wilson and the football off the line of scrimmage? How can you throw a slant on the goaline with no separation from defenders, with a crowd of people around.
Three bad things could have happened. An incompletion, a completion with a likely tackle for loss, or the worst of all, a pick.
Play over, game over, Super Bowl hopes over.
The shockwaves are everywhere. On the Seahawks sidelines, two veteran DBs shouted “WTF-why did you not run the ball”. Pete Carroll, crestfallen, waited for Wilson to come off the field, only to have the QB say he needed to get the ball off quicker. Bevell was upset that Lockett needed to be “stronger to the ball”, in essence fighting for the position to catch it.
Darrelle Revis told reporters “you don’t run the ball”? Brandon Browner asked “what were they thinking”. Patriots star Tom Brady heard a weird explanation of “playing for the next down” that it was a throwaway play. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth kept mumbling “I can’t believe the call.”
Words like stupified, shocked, speechless were all part of Monday’s opinion columns. Headlines raged “Trophy stolen” and “Beast mode to brain dead”.
It was a phenomenal Super Bowl. The ultimate Chess match between the two mad scientists, Bill Belicheck and Pete Carroll. It was a game of momentum, and changes, big plays and adjustments.
Brady came out throwing to the flanks and underneath crossing routes. He put together drives, rang up yards, and forced Seattle to start to go to press cover. That opened up deeper passing routes, which led to the Patriots ‘yards after catch’ game. Stuffed in the second half, falling behind 24-14, and held to one first down on a three possession sequence, Brady rallied the troops. TD drives of 62-and-64 yards got them the lead. The quarterback legend threw for 328-yards and 4-scores, and this was against a defense that had allowed just 6-TDs in 8-games.
Wilson struggled in the pocket, and went 25-minutes without a completion. Lynch had to fight for yards against blitz runs. But Seattle changed up, kept an extra blocker in, got Wilson to roll out, and suddenly he was hitting men on the move, in open seams, and big plays resulted. They had 202-yards in a 3-possession time frame.
Seattle also quit trying to up inside, and started running counter gap runs to the left, running away from the state of Rhode Island sized Vince Wilfork. End result, big gains for Lynch.
It was electric, it was exciting. And the faces on the sidelines were an example of all the mood swings. Tom Brady looked downcast after the Jermaine Kearse four bobble catch at the 5-yard line. Richard Sherman shook his fist. Two plays later, Brady was jumping up and down, Sherman was shaking his head left to right, starting into the ground.
It was a great Super Bowl, that went to the final :20 before someone ended it. Pete Carroll could have by feeding the beast. Malcom Butler did with his act of thievery.
Today Boston feels elation, Seattle feels devastation. Someone always wins the Super Bowl game, but few have victory come this way and defeat feels so horrible that way.