Critical call leaves Seahawks dry in desert

The Seahawks were on the losing end of a wildly entertaining finish in Phoenix for Super Bowl XLIX, left to answer questions about a play call that kept the ball out of the hands of their best offensive weapon.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – From an entertainment perspective, Super Bowls don’t get much better than the one Phoenix provided.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll obviously wasn’t happy with the result, a 28-24 loss to the New England Patriots, and incredulous with reporters’ repeated questions seeking clarification on a crucial call with 20 second left.

Why, with Marshawn Lynch in his backfield, would the Seahawks call a pass play on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line instead handing it to the back they relied on with such consistency throughout the season and the Super Bowl?

The Seahawks were hoping to double-cross the New England Patriots, the master tacticians of the NFL. Seattle sent their three-wide receiver package on the field, hoping to lure the Patriots into loosening up the heart of the field. That didn’t happen. The Patriots were sure the Seahawks were going to run the ball and sent out their goal-line defense.

“We were in our goal-line package knowing that they run the ball pretty well, especially that low,” Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “We were expecting them to run it and then switch it, but when they passed the ball I was kind of surprised by it.”

So were plenty of observers, both in the stadium and watching from afar.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, of course, had New England prepared for anything.

“We put in our goal-line defense with just corners. It wasn’t true goal line because they had three receivers in the game,” Belichick said. “So we were in our goal line with all eight guys stacked on the line of scrimmage and we were man-to-man on the three receivers. We prepared for that situation as part of our goal-line package – three corners, two corners, no corners if they have all tight ends and an offensive line in there.”

With a pass play called, quarterback Russell Wilson locked in on receiver Ricardo Lockette, but rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler undercut the route and intercepted the ball.

Malcolm, the man the Patriots call scrappy for his training camp play, was the man of the hour, preserving a Patriots victory.

“Scrap. That’s what we call it, Scrappy, just like the dog, Scooby Doo. Little scrap,” said former Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner, now with the Patriots.

The goats of the game were anyone involved with the call from the Seattle sideline. Pick the villain. There’s Carroll, who apparently wanted that play. There is offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who made the call. And there is Wilson, who made the wrong decision.

“Shoot, it didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would and so of course I am sitting here saying could I do something different?” Bevell questioned after the game. “There are 20 different things going through my mind about what I could do.”

Ultimately, Wilson could have thrown the ball away, too. Or chose the other side of the formation to throw it to, but he said he thought it was going to be the game-winning touchdown after the ball left his hand. But it was supposed to land in Lockette’s hands, not Butler’s.

Carroll would have preferred Wilson throwing it away and living to run the ball on third and fourth down with a jumbo personnel package in front of Lynch. Trickery likely wouldn’t have been part of the plan against Belichick, just the will of two teams fighting over one yard for two downs (if necessary). Turns out, there were no more downs for the Seahawks; Butler made sure of that.

Lynch never got his chance at a 25th carry in the game and the Seahawks will head back to Seattle with back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, but not back-to-back wins.

“We have a mentally strong team, a mentally tough team,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Everybody understands it didn’t come down to one play. “

Ultimately, though, it was the most important play and the most controversial play call.

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