After the improbable finish to Super Boxl XLIX, it seems natural to blame Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his team for calling a pass from the 1-yard line with less than 30 seconds to play, rather than handing off to Marshawn Lynch. But while it’s understandable that a Seattle fan might feel Carroll’s was “the worst call in Super Bowl history,” it wasn’t bad. On further reflection, it was New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick’s call on the play before that won the game.
On that previous play, Lynch had run the ball for a four-yard gain. At that point, nearly everyone watching assumed that the Seahawks would score a touchdown on the drive. How could they not, after Jermaine Kearse’s insane catch that had brought the Seahawks to the five-yard line? Giving Seattle 7 points meant that New England would have to get its offense back on the field as soon as possible to drive into field goal range, kick for three, tie the game and head into overtime.
According to that assumption, after Lynch’s run to the one-yard line, Belichick should have called a timeout to preserve the clock. He had two left, after all. But instead, Belichick chose to let the clock run. In doing so, he was opting for a goal-line stand rather than a soft touchdown and a field goal try. In effect, he was saying to Carroll: if you want this Super Bowl, you’re going to have to play for it. And he was placing an uncommon amount of faith in his defense to make the clutch stop.
Carroll and his team still had a timeout of their own that they could have burned to stop the clock. But if they assumed that Belichick would be sending the field goal unit onto the field on the next possession, they may have wanted to preserve that last timeout to “ice” the kicker, who would likely be trying from long yardage. A throw to the end zone offered them the best of both worlds: a catch wins, an incompletion stops the clock for free. And the Patriots defense was likely expecting a run.
So the Seahawks formed up in the shotgun and went for the throw. Malcolm Butler made the pick, and the rest is history (though the Seahawks, if they had kept their wits about them, could have had another possession, by forcing a safety, had it not been for an offsides penalty).
Carroll and his players are certainly regretting that they did not run Lynch. But they did not, upon further consideration, lose on a bad play call. Belichick’s call was simply better–as was his faith in his players, who delivered.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak