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Revisiting The End Of Super Bowl XLIX And Seattle’s Decision To Throw


With the recent ESPN report from Seth Wickersham, there’s been a lot of discussion about the Seahawks and the Super Bowl XLIX loss to the Patriots. The ESPN report uses anonymous sources, so of course it could be fake news; but clearly, there is some animosity over the decision to throw the ball at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. Richard Sherman, for example, who’s the center of the ESPN report, was upset over the Seahawks throwing the ball from the one in a Thursday night game against the Rams last December.

 

“I’m upset about us throwing from the one… I’d rather do what most teams would do and make a consciousness decision to run the ball.” […]

 

“Yeah, I was letting [Carroll] know: we’ve already seen how that goes. We’ve seen that—I’m sure you guys have seen that play many times.”

 

It’s clear that Richard Sherman believes the Seahawks would have won Super Bowl XLIX against the Patriots if they hadn’t thrown from the one. It seems almost everyone believes the Seahawks would have won the game if they handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch—I don’t believe this to be true.

 

So why do the majority of people blame the Seahawks’ play calling at the end of Super Bowl XLIX for the loss?

 

For one, people like to make themselves feel better about themselves. They identify the decision throw as one of the worst things you can do—nothing compared to any bad decision they may have made in their life. I believe this is a big reason many media members and fans are so overly negative. They love to degrade those at the highest level of the profession and jump on them at any slightly questionable decision.

 

Similarly, many people can’t stand how great the Patriots are. Basically, instead of giving them credit, people want to undermine the championship and say, “Seattle blew it,” instead of “New England won it.”

 

In reality, the decision to throw the ball was probably the right one—not a bad one. At some point, you have to give Malcolm Butler credit for making the play of his life and one of the greatest and most impactful plays in the history of sports. The media took one of the best sports moments any of us will ever see and turned it into extreme negativity about the Seahawks.

 

They also don’t want to acknowledge the all-time great fourth quarter comeback by Tom Brady and the Patriots. We saw after how biasedly they handled Deflategate.

 

With the team having no choice but to score, Brady led his offense down the field for two straight long touchdown drives against a defense considered by many one of the greatest of all-time. Brady was 13 for 15 for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the most epic comeback in Super Bowl history—until Super Bowl LI.

 

The legendary, cold-blooded performance wasn’t talked about enough, probably because people didn’t want to talk about it—they would rather blame Seattle for “losing” or “throwing away the game.”

 

Bill Belichick also doesn’t get close to enough credit. He forced Seattle’s hand at the end of the game. After a run by Marshawn Lynch was stopped on first and goal, the clock was running and under-a-minute. Seattle had a timeout left. New England had two. While everyone was wondering why Belichick wasn’t calling a timeout to preserve time, he stood with a stone-faced expression on the sideline.

 

The NBC broadcast beautifully displayed the situation, showing Pete Carroll seemingly looking across the field, puzzled at the lack of a timeout call from the Patriots on the opposite sideline, where Belichick was standing in deep thought. Suddenly, there’s 26 seconds remaining, and it’s second and goal.

 

Seattle had three plays left, and—because of Belichick letting the clock tick—they’d only be able to run on one of them. That’s why throwing the ball was probably the right thing to do. New England was expecting run, sending five guys and putting everyone else in tight man-to-man coverage (except Dont’a Hightower, who was ready for the run, keeping an eye on Lynch, then Wilson, from the center of the end zone).

 

 

As you can see, the Patriots were ready to stuff the run. The five rushers were taking up each of the offensive linemen, and they all got quick penetration (yes, it was a pass play, but the New England defensive line came off the ball). Hightower—one of the best run stoppers in the NFL—was freed up and had a chance to make a play; meanwhile, Chandler Jones had Lynch in man coverage. That’s five linemen taking up each of the offensive lineman, with Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones focused on Marshawn Lynch. I don’t like those chances if I’m the Seahawks.

 

If the Seahawks ran the ball there and were stuffed, like it looks like they might have been, it would have brought up two obvious passing situations on third and fourth down. Seattle was going to have to pass at some point, so they tried to catch the Patriots off guard on second down. But as we know, Malcolm Butler made a staggering play to seal the game.

 

Instead of praising a play for the ages, and all that led up to it in a great game, the media—and public opinion—was all over the Seahawks. They talk as if it was a foregone conclusion that Marshawn Lynch would automatically score if he was handed the ball. But when unbiasedly looking at the play, it looks like he would’ve been stopped.

 

Back to the offensive performance by the Patriots. Seattle’s defense had a chance to stop them, but they didn’t. Brady, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and company all stepped up in a huge moment and won the game. Placing all blame on the Butler interception at the end of the game conveniently shifts blame away from the defense—and takes credit away from the Patriots for executing masterfully on offense in the fourth quarter.

 

No doubt, it must be hard to think about losing a Super Bowl game that close, but Richard Sherman—who is one of the best players on Seattle and a team leader—and anyone else still that can’t get over it need to move forward and get better instead of dwelling on it and publicly criticizing coaches and teammates for something in the past.

 

Both teams put in so much work getting to that moment in Super Bowl XLIX. It’s unfair and incorrect to say Seattle blew the game. New England—behind two fourth quarter touchdown drives, chess-like moves by Bill Belichick, and an amazing defensive play, won the game.

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