Super Bowl XLIX: Revisited (Update)

Well, it has only been a week. It seems longer. Super Bowl!!! The New England Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson versus Tom Brady. Legion of Boom. Revis. Edelman. Matthews!! In the end, it was a perfect game to end a perfectly wacky play-off season.

As a whole, I think most people would say the game unfolded kind of like we thought it would. Most people thought it was going to be a close game. Most people thought that the New England Patriots offense would find a way to move the ball through short passing and by using their nearly uncoverable tight end Gronkowski. On one side of the ball, most experts thought that the Seattle Seahawks would have a hard time running the ball but should have been able to make some plays down the field.

For the most part, this game was a chess match between two master coaches. The Seattle Seahawks were able to stop the run without difficulty. Unfortunately, they were extremely vulnerable to short passes. At key points of the game, Ron Gronkowski and Edelman were able to get open and really burn the Legion of Boom (over 320 yrds on the ground). At the same time, Tom Brady made two critical mistakes which killed drives. Interceptions. Tom Brady never throws critical intercerptions; well, almost never. It was surprising. On the other side of the ball, for nearly the first 25 minutes of the game, the Seattle Seahawks continued to try to ram the ball through the Patriots without success. Their third-down efficiency was abysmal.

Before I spend a lot of time talking about “the play” it should be mentioned that Pete Carroll did decide not to kick a field goal with six seconds on the clock and the ball at the New England 11-yard line at the end of the 1st half. Instead, he instructed Russell Wilson to throw a high back shoulder bullet to Chris Matthews, a previously unheard of wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks. It was a brilliant play. Touchdown. The game was tied at half-time.

Now, the play. The Seattle Seahawks have miraculously moved the ball from their own 35-yard line down inside the New England one-yard line. With 26 seconds on the clock, the Seattle Seahawks have one timeout.

New England versus Seattle

If you’re sitting around wondering what really makes NFL football great, it is plays like this. The complexity of football is sometimes mind-boggling. On the other hand, it is really a simple game. It is about putting that stupid football into the end zone.

The New England Patriots have decided that Marshawn Lynch was not going to beat them. They are selling out to stop the run. On the other hand, the Seattle Seahawks have a spread formation in place. Pete Carroll has two options, in my opinion – throw the ball or call a timeout to put goal line personnel in the game in order to run the ball. If you throw the ball, you have to throw the ball quickly because you should expect a massive pass rush. This gives you two choices. You can throw a slant or some type of fade. Doug Baldwin, at the top of the pic, has drawn Darrelle Rivas on one-on-one coverage. This matchup clearly favors New England. You have Kearse and Lockette at the bottom of the picture. In order for this pick play to work, Jerome Kearse needs to drive Browner off the line of scrimmage into the path of Malcolm Butler, which frees up Lockette. This is where the play breaks down. Browner stuffs Jerome Kearse at the line of scrimmage. This allows Malcolm Butler to freely drive on the route as Lockette takes his first step. One wonders if Russell Wilson should’ve checked out of the play as soon as he saw Browner in press coverage because there is no way that I can figure that Kearse will ever out muscle Browner. It ain’t going to happen. Also, I’m not sure about any play at the end of the game in which Lockette is your primary go-to guy. Really? Finally, this is a timing play. Lockette has to be at a certain spot when Wilson throws the ball. He can not get beat. That simply can’t happen if you want to win the game. Lockette didn’t get to the spot and the ball was intercepted.

Update: I was remiss in not pointing out the absolute greatness of Malcolm Butler’s interception. It seems to me that one of the hardest things to learn or to teach in football is play recognition. You need to be able to take whatever you seen on film, quickly recognize it and then quickly act on it. Malcolm Butler stated that he had seen this play in the film room and that they had practiced it several times. There’s a huge difference between seeing and doing. He saw the play coming. He recognized it. He acted by driving on the ball as soon as he recognized the play. He made a fantastic interception which sealed the game for the New England Patriots. Let’s remember, he is a rookie. Simply amazing. Congratulations to Malcolm Butler. I hope that he is not a flash in the pan. I hope that he has a long and prosperous career in the NFL.

This play will be talked about for years. Personally, I really think that the Seattle Seahawks need to have Chris Matthews in the game. His height gives him a significant advantage at the goal line. With Chris Matthews in the game this changes the chess match. The New England Patriots would’ve needed to come out of their goal line defense and do something about Matthews. This opens up the possibility of a bootleg or even running the ball. If you would like to read more on da play, check it out – here and here.

Let me say, in spite of my deep dislike for the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick and even Tom Brady, I must congratulate the New England Patriots for winning Super Bowl XLIX. It really was a great game.