The play — or more accurately, the play call — will be talked about until Super Bowl C. The Star Tribune sports staff didn’t do anyting Monday except just that: talk about it, analyze it, second-guess it, appreciate it. (OK, there was a little talk about Tom Brady’s excellent fourth-quarter, too, but certainly not as much). Let’s review:
The situation: Seattle, trailing 28-24, had second-and-goal at the Patriots’ 1-yard line with 26 seconds and one timeout remaining.
The play: Quarterback Russell Wilson’s slant pass intended for Ricardo Lockette was intercepted by New England’s Malcolm Butler.
The quick reaction: Seattle had momentum and star running back Marshawn Lynch. Why not just give Lynch the ball? Or, if you do pass, why not have Wilson roll out with a pass/run option?
The guilty parties: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll took the blame for the play, which was called by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Butler read it: Butler said he saw the stacked receivers on the right side of the field and said Wilson’s eyes tipped him off. He ducked inside of Lockette and made the play.
Carroll’s explanation: He saw the Patriots bring in a goal-line formation with eight big guys and three cornerbacks and didn’t think Lynch, who tied for the league lead with 13 touchdowns rushing this season, would be able to bull it in against that defense. “It’s not a great matchup for us to run the football, so we were going to throw the ball, really to waste a play,” Carroll said. “If we score, we do, if we don’t, we’ll run it in on third or fourth down.”
Bevell’s reasoning: “I mean, shoot, it didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would, and of course I am sitting here saying, ‘Could I do something different?’ There are 20 different things going through my mind about what I could do. I might see who could run it. Doesn’t mean that’s a score on that play, but we were just making sure that we were conscious of the time. We were making sure that we weren’t leaving much time for them as well. But we wanted to make sure that we got all of our options on the play.”
Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon: “I was like, ‘How do you throw the ball when you’ve got Marshawn Lynch?’”
Seattle’s linebacker Bobby Wagner: “We’ve got Marshawn Lynch, one of the best running backs in the league, and everybody makes their decisions and unfortunately, we didn’t give him the ball.”
Vikings fullback Jerome Felton’s reaction on Twitter (@jfelton45): “That has to go down as the worst play call in Super Bowl history, hands down!!”
Stats to ponder: In five rushes from the 1-yard line this season, Lynch scored only once. He also had only five fumbles in 343 carries this season.
An understanding Seahawks fan might be thinking: This league these days is about out-smarting, not over-powering. It was worth a shot. Wilson vs. an undrafted 5-foot-11 rookie who has never picked an NFL pass? That’s a good gamble gone bad.
An unsympathetic Seahawks fan might be thinking: Hand the ball to No. 24 one, two or three more times and we go home champs — or with a loss we can live with.
And finally ... What. A. Play. Malcolm Butler, welcome to history.