Analyzing the Seahawks disastrous final play

February 2, 2015

It’s only been about 24 hours since the epic battle between the Patriots and the Seahawks for NFL supremacy ended with the Patriots pulling out a narrow 28-24 victory over the Seahawks. Even so, one can safely assert that Super Bowl XLIX will be remembered in the annals of NFL history for its infamous conclusion more than anything else.


The Seattle Seahawks, trailing 28-24 in the final minute of the fourth quarter, drove down to the Patriots 1-yard line. On second-and-goal with 20 seconds left, QB Russell Wilson, trying to hit WR Ricardo Lockette on an inside slant, was intercepted by Pats rookie safety Malcolm Butler. Game Over.

Let’s get a few details out of the way first.

(1) Wilson made a poor decision and a bad throw, leading his receiver into defense traffic, which he apparently never even saw, when perhaps he would have been better served to throw back shoulder.

(2) Lockette could have been more aggressive running his route and going after the football.

(3) It was a great play by Butler to jump the route.

Everyone knows all of this. 

Yet still the post-game discussion has focused almost exclusively on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s decision, endorsed by head coach Pete Carroll, to call that pass play in the first place. Some are calling it the worst play call in Super Bowl history. 

Is that really fair considering the play of Wilson, Lockette, and Butler also impacted the outcome?


It. Was. That. Bad.

Here are 10 reasons why.

1- 10.     Beast Mode

Duh? Marshawn Lynch is the best power running back in the NFL. He had already run for 102 yards on 24 carries on the day. On the previous play, he had just powered ahead for 4 yards to get it inside the one. Nothing is a guarantee in life, but almost every ounce of common sense would indicate that Lynch was the best option to score.

While the Seahawks players as well as nearly all football fans and media members can tell just how valuable Lynch is to his team, Sunday’s ludicrous play call has to make one wonder: Do Bevell and Carroll realize this?

Sadly, some of the absurd comments of Bevell and Carroll, ludicrously arguing the merits of throwing the football, suggest that they somehow still don’t get it. Anybody who seriously debates this play call in their minds does not truly realize what they have in Lynch.

But okay, here are 10 more reasons if you want to do that extra bit of unnecessary thinking.

10. Turnover Possibility

It can clearly be agreed that the worst possible scenario on that second-and-goal from the 1-yard line for Seattle would be to turn the ball over.

The odds of Lynch fumbling in that situation are extremely remote.

In contrast, not only is a Wilson interception more likely than a fumble by Lynch, but so is a fumble by Wilson! It is just as possible that Wilson could have gotten stripped while throwing the football.

It’s not complicated. There is a reason team’s run the ball in short-yardage situations.  All of that applies even more when holding on to the ball is an absolute premium.

9. Possible Loss of Yards

Other than turning the ball over, the second most damaging outcome would be to lose yards.

While it is possible Lynch could lose yardage, it is also extremely unlikely he could lose more than a couple of yards.

On the other hand, a typical sack loses far more yardage than your average stuffed running play.

Finally, an offensive lineman is also more likely to be called for holding on a pass play.

8. No run/pass option

If you are going to call a pass, wouldn’t you want to play to your QB’s strengths? The pass play called did not utilize Wilson’s ability to maneuver in the pocket or take off running. A rollout would have served better.

7. The Quick Throw

The inside slant route that was called by the Seahawks required a quick decision from Wilson, making it more likely he could make a mistake and not see a defender (as was the case).

6. Over the Middle

But more importantly, Wilson was firing a bullet over the middle in traffic.

The odds of the ball being tipped in the air by a defensive lineman or linebacker are substantial enough, especially considering Wilson is only about 5-feet 11-inches tall.

Furthermore, even a pretty good pass thrown with some heat at such close quarters might conceivably bounce off the hands of receiver and get picked off via the deflection.

If you were going to insist on passing the football, a pass towards the sidelines was a safer play.

5. Interference/Holding

Assume Seattle runs the perfect play, but the Pats defender holds or interferes with his man to avoid getting beat. So? All that happens is that seconds went off the clock and you still just have it inside the one-yard line.

On the other hand, if the offense does something fishy…

4. Risky Pick Play

For God’s sake why is Seattle running a pick play from the one-yard line?

Yes, it is true that many times it doesn’t get called. But sometimes it does. It is a totally unwarranted risk that could very possibly cost 10 yards.

3. Ricardo Lockette?

Seattle chose to throw to Ricardo Lockette on the biggest play of the season.

The Seahawks are known to have below-average wide receivers, and among them Lockette was probably the worst option.

Although neither are world-beaters, both Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are better and more proven players. Furthermore, previously-unheard-of wideout Chris Matthews was having the game of his life.

Throwing to any of these other three players would have made more sense.

2. Time was not really a factor.

The clock was running in the final minute of the game and, according to Bevell and Carroll, in order to get off three plays (the maximum they might need) they needed to throw the football which would stop the clock (assuming it was incomplete and didn’t result in a TD).

Carroll even went so far as to suggest that it was some sort of throwaway play. If we score, great. If not, no big deal because we stopped the clock and now have the option to run on 3rd and 4th down.

Here’s the problem.

There was a full minute remaining in the game when Lynch was tackled at the one-yard line.

Despite the clumsy wasting of two timeouts by the Seahawks earlier in that final drive, they still had one more in their pocket. As such, assuming they had handled the clock competently, they could have called three straight running plays without running out of time if they wanted to.

1.  The needless 3-WR formation

Carroll also suggested that he thought that passing was a good option because he didn’t like the matchup of his 3-Wide Receiver set against New England’s goal-line defense. (The Patriots, using common sense, had assumed Seattle would run the ball.)

He almost sounded as if Seattle was somehow stuck with the 3-WR set and, confronted with a New England defense geared to stop the run, they had to waste the play in order to get in a more run-friendly formation for 3rd and 4th down.

Of course that’s totally absurd.

The Seahawks chose to go with a 3 WR set. (And no, it’s not that they were racing against the clock and had to hurriedly leave out whatever players were on the field from the play before. They took almost a full 35 seconds between the 1st and 2nd down plays. The plan was to have three wide receivers in the game.)

So the real question was why Seattle sent out three wide receivers to begin with.

Bevell and Carroll surely may continue to provide their "answers" to that question, but it’s hard to ever see them ever providing a good reason.

By Manish Pandya

Staff Editor for

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