Home Anatomical view of the worst play call in Super Bowl history

Anatomical view of the worst play call in Super Bowl history


SuperBowlXLIXLogoSeattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell are trying to make sense of their nonsensical goal-line call that led to the Malcolm Butler interception that sealed Super Bowl XLIX for the New England Patriots.

Bevell on the call: “We were conscious of how much time was on the clock, and we wanted to use it all.”

And then Carroll: “We were going to run the ball in to win the game, but not on that play. I didn’t want to waste a run play on their goal-line guys. It was a clear thought, but it didn’t work out right. The guy [Butler] made a play that no one would have thought he could make.”

So now if you screamed like mad at your TV last night some version of, What the eff were they thinking?, yeah, you’ve got your answer.

And feel free to scream even louder now. That’s what the eff they were thinking?

Because those answers make even less sense, and I say that having tried to let the rationale sink in. OK, it’s second down and goal at the 1, clock counting down inside 40, 35, 30 seconds left, and yes, New England is in goal-line defense, stacking the line to prevent Marshawn Lynch, “Beast Mode,” from waltzing into the end zone.

Seattle has one timeout. Run the ball there and fail to get in, and you have to use your last timeout to kill the clock around 25 seconds left, and you’ve got two plays left, and you have to think here: Run? Pass?

You might be able to run, but if you come up short on third down, you’re left scrambling on fourth down. You could call two plays in the huddle coming out of the timeout, and of course New England would be scrambling to get aligned on a potential fourth-down play as well.

You’re more likely to pass on third down in this scenario, and if the pass fails, then on fourth down you can run or pass without concern, because that’s the ballgame.

That’s what I see being the realm of considerations on this, but that’s not what Carroll or Bevel highlights as being at the forefront of their mind.

Bevell talks about wanting to bleed the clock, which, OK, good plan, why not take a knee at the 1, run the clock down inside 10 seconds, then pass on third down? You fail on third down, you still have a fourth-down play with four to five seconds left, and that’s the final play of the game.

What Carroll had to say really didn’t contribute much to the discussion. He talked about not wanting to waste a run on the Pats’ goal-line D, but, um, hello, it’s not like Bill Belichick is going to go nickel on third or fourth down at the 1.

What’s clear here is that Carroll and Bevel, in their pre-game preparations, hadn’t thought through what they wanted to do if they faced anything resembling this scenario, and when the opportunity presented itself, they flinched.

Whereas across the stadium, Belichick and his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniel, even had a plan for what to do on the rarest of rare plays, the kneeldown inside the 1. Forty years of watching football, and I’d never seen a team need to kneel down inside the 1, a scenario fraught with issues – a botched center-QB exchange, a fumble on the sneak, a safety that forces a free kick.

New England had a ready play: a hard count that drew an offsides penalty. Ballgame.

As much as Russell Wilson is a goat for not throwing back shoulder, and Ricardo Lockette is a goat for not boxing out Butler to at least knock the ball down, this one is clearly, clearly, clearly, on Carroll and Bevell, for not having thought the scenario through pre-game, and then not getting it right in the heat of the moment.

– Column by Chris Graham



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