Poor playcall gives Pats SB

For a game full of firsts (two career first interceptions and a player who has been on an NFL roster for less than two months getting his first catch, touchdown, and hundred yard game), it was sad to see it all end on what will be one of the most scrutinized play calls in NFL history. Down by 4 with under a minute to go, the Seattle Seahawks faced a 2nd and goal from the 1 yard line. With one of the best running backs in the league in Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, Seattle made the inexplicable decision to try and pass the ball for the touchdown.

As famous University of Texas coach, Darrell K Royal said, “Only three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad.” Royal was referring to the good, a catch, the bad, an incompletion, and the ugly — an interception. Sadly for the Seahawks, this throw was ugly. Patriots Rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler pulled in his first career interception as he sold out to cover the quick underneath route, putting a quick end to the Seattle comeback.

Two plays earlier, Seattle wide out Jermaine Kearse made what would have been the catch of the century, having the ball tipped away by Butler only to have it bounce off his legs as he laid on the ground, off one hand and finally corralled at the 6 yard line only to get up and pop out of bounds to stop the clock at the 5 yard line. This catch would have been an all-time great, right up there with New York Giants’ wideout David Tyree’s helmet catch to end the Patriots’ undefeated season in 2007 and the immaculate reception by Steelers’ fullback Franco Harris in 1972. But it will be forgotten because of a bad play call, a bad read and a correct sell out play by a rookie in the biggest game of his life.

The game started slow, with both defenses dominating. The Patriots completely stonewalled the Seahawks, allowing only a few rushing first downs and a complete lack of a passing. The Seahawks held more of a “bend, don’t break” philosophy, letting the Patriots drive but getting a crucial interception from nickel corner Jeremy Lane in the red zone. The euphoric high Lane experienced from getting his first career interception during the Super Bowl was quickly smashed as he broke his arm getting tackled as he tried to gain better field position.

Undrafted Chris Matthews was the next unheralded player to leave his mark on the game as his first career catch was a spinning leaping grab over New England nickel corner Kyle Arrington on a long bomb by Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson. His second career catch was a touchdown to culminate a 30-second drive after the Patriots scored a touchdown to break a 7–7 tie with 32 seconds remaining.

There was another interesting play call made during this drive as the Seahawks were sitting at the 11 yard line with 6 seconds remaining. Many were calling for the chip shot field goal to guarantee points leading into half, but Seattle thought they could fire one shot into the end zone before settling for 3 points. Wilson threw nearly instantaneously after the snap (similar to the end of the game) but this time found an open Matthews, again leaping and spinning around Arrington to land in the end zone to knot the game at 14.

Coming out of half, the Seahawks got the ball and were determined to keep up their momentum, scoring another 10 points to jump out to a 24-14 lead as the fourth quarter begin. While most teams would be left for dead down double digits against the league’s best defense, the Patriots (who had two separate 14-point comebacks against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs) just kept fighting. With a short pass to former quarterback-turned-receiver Julian Edelman, Tom Brady and Patriots took the lead back with 2:06 remaining in the game, and we already discussed what happens next. Brady’s fourth passing touchdown was enough to overcome his two interceptions and earn him Super Bowl MVP honors, although that honor probably deserved to go to the Seahawks offensive play caller.

With the Patriots 28–24 victory, Brady and longtime coach Bill Belichick get their fourth title, and first in the last decade, but the game was tarnished. No one likes to see a game decided by the referees, but to see one decided by one over thought play call makes the game feel tarnished. The Super Bowl is supposed to decide the best team, not the best coaches. While coaches certainly have a large role in how their team plays on the field, they should not be the ones deciding games.

Congratulations to the Patriots, but maybe next year they should focus a bit more on the running game — They of all people know best, “that only 3 things happen when you pass, and two of them are bad.”