When the Patriots touched down in Arizona last Monday, the story was all about deflated balls. The media and the NFL wouldn't let the story die. The NFL could have properly hyped this game up but tried to use "Deflategate" to take the focus off domestic abuse and other issues the league dealt with in 2014. Apparently that is what the NFL has become, but thankfully the game, which is all that really matters, was so good that it took all the focus off this bogus controversy. Let’s analyze what went down on Sunday and determine how the Patriots ultimately got the job done.
When the Patriots Passed :
Considering that Tom Brady was the MVP of the game, it's pretty clear that the Patriots passing game was successful. Brady was 37-50 for 328 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. The first interception by Jeremy Lane was an AWFUL decision and cost the Patriots at least a field goal, and the second pick was a forced pass to Rob Gronkowski. Seattle has a good defense but Brady needs to stop making throws that aren't available. Julian Edelman (9-109-1), Rob Gronkowski (6-68-1), Shane Vereen (11-64-0) and Danny Amendola (5-48-1) led the way for New England in the passing game, finding open spots underneath all game and taking the punishment that the Seattle defense delivers on every play. Brandon LaFell also contributed four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown, so everyone got into the act on Sunday night.
The Seattle pass rush was able to get to Brady and hit him seven times, but he was only sacked once and did a good job of moving around the pocket to buy time. Michael Bennett was as-advertised and did an excellent job rushing a few of Brady's throws (specifically the Lane interception) and showed great awareness on the stunts Seattle ran. Unfortunately his adrenaline got the best of him when he jumped offside with New England at the one-yard line to end the game, allowing the Patriots to pick up five yards and comfortably take a knee to end the game.
The key to the Patriots having success in the passing game was their slot receivers being able to take big hits over the middle, and they did it all night. Edelman and Vereen stand out for keeping the chains moving and giving the offense multiple chances to score. The offensive line, which struggled at times during the early and late part of the season, played excellent and kept the relentless Seahawks under control. All in all, the New England passing game dominated and was the main reason the Patriots were able to win the game.
When the Patriots Ran :
As we stated in the Super Bowl preview, running the ball was going to be a major challenge for the Patriots offense, and that's exactly what happened. New England ran the ball 21 times for 57 yards, which is an ugly 2.7 yards per rush. LeGarrette Blount led the way with 14 carries for 40 yards, and he did get off to a decent start, but he started running high and the Patriots stopped giving him the ball. Shane Vereen ran four times for 13 yards, Julian Edelman picked up seven yards on one of his patented jet sweeps, and Brady carried two times for negative-three yards. All in all, just an ugly effort in the running game, and most of that had to do with the excellent Seattle front seven. Tony McDaniel did a good jump up front and Bobby Wagner also had a strong game with 12 tackles. The Seahawks swarm to the ball and tackle well, which is a sign of great coaching.
When the Seahawks Passed :
It was a struggle for Seattle through the air in most of the first half, but that all changed when Chris Matthews turned into Lynn Swann. Russell Wilson went 12-21 for 247 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, an interception that will go down as one of the biggest in Super Bowl history. The Patriots came out in man-to-man, as expected, and Seattle simply doesn’t have the weapons to deal with a strong secondary. Matthews became that one weapon that Wilson needed to get the Seattle offense going, mainly due to his size and leaping ability. I’ll admit, I had no clue Matthews had that type of talent and he was not discussed in the preview, but one thing we did discuss in the preview is the “star is born” scenarios that seem to occur every year in the Super Bowl. Matthews was the first star to shine bright, before undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler stole the show.
Darrelle Revis landed the job of guarding Doug Baldwin, another scenario we predicted in the preview, and he shut him down until the third quarter when Baldwin was able to use the ref to pick Revis and escape to make a touchdown catch. Other than that, Baldwin was a non-factor in this game, which typically happens when Revis covers you. Brandon Browner stepped up in the second half and moved over to cover the aforementioned Matthews and shut him down for the remainder of the night. When Kyle Arrington is having a rough night and the Patriots can just move guys around and bring the game hero off their bench, it shows how much depth and ability they have in the secondary.
Jermaine Kearse was kept under control for most of the night, but he made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history, a catch that is on par with David Tyree when he was with the Giants vs. these same Patriots. The catch occurred with just over a minute left and New England fans were starting to think the old Red Sox curse had made its way over to the Patriots, but that all changed when the aforementioned Butler made the play of his life. On first down from the five, Russell Wilson handed off to Marshawn Lynch for a four yard gain to set the Seahawks up at the one yard line. On second and goal, the Patriots decided not to call a timeout and force Seattle to call a play. The play- three wide, inside slant from the right; the slot receiver was to set a pick and clear the way for Lockette. Many wonder why the Seahawks would throw in this situation, but on second down, it makes sense; Pete Carroll was thinking throw on second, run on third and if there was a fourth down, run again. Unfortunately for Carroll and Wilson, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler immediately recognized the formation, jumped the route and made the historic interception to give New England their fourth Super Bowl title.
When the Seahawks Ran :
The Seahawks had the best running game in football all year, and Sunday was no different. Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 24 times for 102 yards and one touchdown, Russell Wilson had three carries for 39 yards, and Robert Turbin also contributed two carries for 21 yards. Overall, the Seahawks ran it 29 times for 162 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Those overall numbers are good for most teams, but Seattle actually ran for 181 yards per game during the regular season, so the truth is they didn’t run as well as they did all year. Russell Wilson was able to do some damage, but limiting him to just 39 yards is a victory in itself. New England also had a crucial third-and-one stop on Marshawn Lynch that may have contributed to the Seahawks decision to throw at the goal line.
Ex-Seahawk Alan Branch stepped up and had three solo tackles. Branch has been so good that he earned the start on Sunday, and he did not disappoint. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower also made a huge play when he tackled Lynch at the one yard line on the final sequence in the fourth, preserving the Patriots lead that ultimately led to their win. It was not a banner day for the Patriots run defense, but they made plays when they had to and got the job done.
In Super Bowls, special teams can decide the game, and in the Patriots extensive history of Super Bowls, special teams has decided four games. This past Sunday was much different as the special teams units strictly did their jobs, didn't make any mistakes and allowed the offense and defense to decide the outcome. Stephen Gostkowski didn't get a chance to kick any field goals because Brady threw a pick on third down in the red zone, but he did connect on all his extra point attempts and did a good job kicking off. Steve Hauschka connected on his one field goal attempt and also did a good job on kickoffs. Ryan Allen had his typical good day, punting the ball four times at an average of 49 yards per punt. Seahawks punter Jon Ryan averaged just under 45 yards on his six punts and did a good job of getting hangtime, which allowed the coverage team to keep Julian Edelman under control.
We talked about this being a matchup of the two best coaches in the preview, and we were not disappointed. Belichick and Carroll were the two hot commodities of the early 90's when it came to coordinators becoming coaches, and Sunday night we saw why. The Patriots did dominate this game for three of the four quarters, but Carroll kept his group from getting frustrated and they were 15 minutes away from winning a second ring in a row. Both coaches never wavered from their game plans, which some may not agree with but if you know what you do works, why change?
Carroll is going to get heat from fans and the media for the rest of his life for calling a pass from the goal line at the end of the game, but most of the people ripping him have no clue, so it is what it is. I actually agree with the call because the goal was to avoid giving the ball back to New England, which is always the way to go. I'll give Belichick the nod because he was smart enough to pull Arrington out, put Butler in and move Browner over to cover Matthews. Those personnel adjustments won the game and earned Belichick his sixth ring in the NFL (two as assistant in New York, four with New England) and put him in the same category as Chuck Knoll.
Statistics Provided by www.pro-football-reference.com