BY Steve Rudman 03:45PM 02/02/2015

Carroll defends call, history won’t look kindly

The Seahawks had plenty of reasons for calling the play they called, but their decision has already been deemed the worst in Super Bowl history. That won’t change.

The Seahawks declined to feed The Beast from the one-yard line with the Super Bowl on the line Sunday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The world consensus is that Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made the worst call in Super Bowl history by failing to dispatch Marshawn Lynch into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown from the New England one-yard line Sunday night. Instead they opted for a slant pass from Russell Wilson to Ricardo Lockette, generously Seattle’s No. 4/5 receiver.

All 12s will take to their graves the ensuing exploding cigar: Malcolm Butler, suddenly as famous in the Commonwealth as the Old North Church, stepped in front of Lockette, he of 18 career receptions, and became the first undrafted rookie to record an interception in the Super Bowl.

At the same time, Wilson’s interception from the one-yard line was the only such pick in the NFL this season. Worse, Wilson became the first quarterback to throw a fourth-quarter INT from an opponents’ one-yard line in any postseason game in the NFL’s expansion era (since 1960).

Most in the sporting press quickly determined that while Bevell alone made the ill-fated call, it’s Carroll who has suffered a permanent career disfigurement. The following represents only a smattering of the reaction:

Ian O’Connor, ESPN: “Carroll just had to make a decision any Pop Warner coach worth his whistle and drill cones would have made . . . It was over, game, set and match. Brady and Belichick were going to lose. Instead of notarizing his standing as Belichck’s equal, Peter Clay Carroll made the dumbest and most damaging call in Super Bowl history.”

Jason La Canfora, CBSSports.com: “It’s a play, and play call, no one will ever forget, and one that will forever be called up whenever Carroll’s immense imprint on this game is discussed. “

Michael Silver, NFL.com: “Carroll has earned himself a lifetime’s worth of second-guessing from aghast witnesses, some of them inside his own locker room.”

Michael Rosenberg, SI.com: “Losing the Super Bowl is brutal. Losing like this . . .  well, maybe somebody, somewhere, has a good explanation for what happened at the end of this game. But that somebody is not Pete Carroll.”

Bill Barnwell, ESPN: “You will probably never understand why the Seahawks just didn’t hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch in that situation and worry about trying anything else later. Truthfully, neither will I.”

Peter King, SI.com: “That was the dumbest big play-call (it would have been a genius decision had it worked) in Super Bowl history. Maybe Wilson shouldn’t have thrown it. Maybe he should have thrown it out of the end zone. But I’m not blaming Wilson. It wasn’t an audible. The play came from the sidelines, from offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Though coach Pete Carroll took the blame afterward, it’s not his call, and it sounded very much like Carroll falling on his sword for a coach on his staff. Whatever, this was a play you simply do not call. Marshawn Lynch had 102 yards against a heavy New England defensive front in the game to that point. He’d just burrowed four yards over the left side, to the one . . . “

A couple of Patriots and at least one Seahawk chimed in on the play with nothing good to say from a Seattle perspective.

Jamie Collins, New England linebacker: “Why wouldn’t you give it to Beast Mode, right?”

Alan Branch, New England defensive lineman: “You don’t expect a team to pass the ball in the middle of your defense on the goal line.”

Bruce Irvin, Seattle linebacker: “I’m speechless. Best back in the league, and the 1-yard-line? It wasn’t even the 1 — it was like half a yard. I will never understand that, bro. I will never understand it. I will never understand . . . When Jermaine (Kearse) caught that ball, I felt it was meant to be for us. Oh, no doubt — we’re gonna score. Beast Mode. Beast Mode! Best back on the (expletive) planet. That’s crazy!”

A lot of NFL players, current and former, thought so as well, as they explained on their Twitter accounts.

Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins: “Wow! Got to feed beast mode!”

Emmitt Smith: Ex-Cowboy, Hall of Famer: “That was the worst play call I’ve seen in the history of football.”

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers: “QB league my ass . . .  give the ball to your rb and let him run damnit but what do I know I’m watching the game with everyone else!”

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: “Wow why not let MoneyLynch win the game?”

Sidney Rice, former Seahawk: “2nd and goal from the 1 yd line -1 timeout and BEASTMODE IN THE BACKFIELD… I would not have throw that ball to Jerry Rice!”

Golden Tate, former Seahawk currently with Detroit Lions: “If I’m Marshawn I’m livid.”

Deion Sanders, Hall of Famer: “That was the worst play call in the history of the Superbowl!!! Worst QB decision Ever!!!!! Ever Ever! Naw I mean Ever!”

As King noted, Carroll manned up and accepted responsibility, and offered a lengthy explanation for why the play was what it was. The Carroll/Bevell thinking:

With one timeout remaining and 26 seconds to play, Carroll/Bevell wanted to maximize the amount of chances to get the ball over the goal line while also limiting the chances the Patriots would have after the Seahawks scored. Carroll/Bevell saw a stacked front against a power run, a matchup they believed they could better exploit with a short route against a rookie corner who had never made an interception.

If the run was stopped short, they would have had to burn their final timeout. That would have boxed them into a pass on third down against a defense nearly as good as the Legion of Boom. So Carroll/Bevell didn’t like Lynch in that situation, even though . . .

The Seahawks had faced five similar situations earlier in the Super Bowl and had given the ball to Lynch four of those times, with Lynch converting once for a touchdown and once for a first down.

Also, the Seahawks rushed on seven of their nine plays from the one-yard line this season prior to the play that will have people second-guessing Carroll through the Second Coming. The Seahawks scored a touchdown on three of seven rushes and tallied twice in dropbacks. That’s 5-for-9 (.555 percent), a stat worthy of Ichiro in his prime.

On the other hand . . . During the 2014 season, Lynch had five carries from the one-yard and scored on only one:

Date Opponent Qtr. Time Down Loc. Play
Sept. 21 Broncos 1 11:14 3 Den 1 1-yard loss over right guard
Nov. 9 Giants 1 10:26 1 NYG 1 1-yard TD over right guard
Nov. 9 Giants 2 2:16 2 NYG 1 Up the middle, one-yard loss
Nov. 9 Giants 3 5:34 2 NYG 1 Over right tackle, no gain
Nov. 27 49ers 2 12:43 1 SF 1 Up the middle, no gain

One-for-five essentially made Lynch a .200 hitter in scoring position.

However . . . During his Seahawks tenure (since 2010), Lynch had gone 14-for-32 scoring touchdowns from the opponents’ one-yard line, making him a career .437 hitter in that situation. So do you go with Lynch’s career numbers or his recent “at-bats?”

Facing a stacked box, Carroll/Bevell opted against continuing the current trend and had Wilson fling it into the teeth of the New England defense, where Butler of Division II West freaking Alabama seized his moment to become the answer to a future trivia question.

Carroll/Bevell explained, pontificated, rationalized and justified the call in the bleak Seattle aftermath. But as losers, they won’t get to write the history, a fact Carroll, amid eloquent damage control, seemed to instinctively understand even before the locker rooms cleared out.

“I hate it that we have to live with that,” he said.

Conspiracy theory

During a presser Monday, Carroll denied multiple reports that he changed the goal-line play to a pass after Bevell had called a running play. A conspiracy theory made the rounds Sunday night that Carroll wanted Wilson to win the MVP award rather than Lynch.

Carroll didn’t address that rumor specifically, but said the call was not changed and no reservation existed about having Wilson throw it.

“First off, Darrell is an incredible playcaller,” Carroll said in defense of Bevell. “He’s done a fantastic job. We are so lucky to have him. He has been absolutely instrumental in what we have done. He is an awesome guy on our staff and crucially important to our future, as well.

“And let me say this, too. We don’t ever call a play thinking we might throw an interception. I don’t ever think that, just like (the 11-yard TD pass to Chris Matthews) with six seconds to go in the half. We go with what we know. There was not a thought in my mind that we would make a mistake on (the interception play). It was a tremendous play by the guy on the other side.”

Legion Boomed

Tom Brady — you saw a future Hall of Famer at his best — went 13-for-15 for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter Sunday (140.6 passer rating), including 8-for-8 for 65 yards on New England’s game-winning drive. Brady tossed four touchdown passes after Seattle, which ranked No. 1 in the regular season in pass defense, allowed only 17 all season. Brady’s four TDs went to four receivers, the first time that had ever happened in a Super Bowl.

In the Carroll era, the Seahawks have allowed four or more TD passes in a game only four times and not once since 2010 until Sunday:

Year Date Quarterback Team TDs Result
2010 Nov. 21 Drew Brees Saints 4 Saints 34, Seahawks 19
2010 Nov. 28 Matt Cassel Chiefs 4 Chiefs 42, Seahawks 24
2010 Dec. 26 Josh Freeman Buccaneers 5 Bucs 38, Seahawks 15
2015 Feb. 1 Tom Brady Patriots 4 Patriots 28, Seahawks 24

Comebacks and blown Leads

The Seahawks rallied from a 16-0 halftime deficit to defeat Green Bay 28-22 in the NFC Championship game, the largest deficit ever overcome to win a conference championship. Sunday, the Seahawks became the first team in Super Bowl history to allow an opponent to rally from 10 down in the second half to win. Seattle led 24-14 after three quarters and lost 28-24.

The Redskins (XXII) and Saints (XLIV) both trailed by 10 points in their respective Super Bowls, but those were first-half deficits.

Notes

Carroll said Monday that CB Richard Sherman will undergo Tommy John surgery after playing in the Super Bowl with a torn ligament in his left elbow . . . Carroll also said that strong safety Kam Chancellor’s injured left knee might “be worse than originally feared.” Chancellor played with a brace on his knee . . . CB Jeremy Lane, who prevented a New England touchdown with an end zone interception in the first quarter, suffered, according to Carroll, a “significant” broken arm when he was tackled along the sideline after making the play . . . Dan Quinn, who spent the past two seasons as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, will be introduced as the new head coach of the Atlanta Falcons Tuesday. Quinn and the Falcons agreed Monday on a five-year contract.


YourThoughts

  • poulsbogary

    Where is their rings? The Seahawk players want their rings!!!

  • Leo Eamon

    I have just been on cloud nine all day. I could not be happier. If the trash on this team, of which there is beyond a plethora, had not been committing personal foul penalties and the like, the Seahawks might not have even found themselves in a position where they needed to score a touchdown at the end of the game.

    • John M

      You hang there on cloud 9 because your words make no sense whatsoever . . .

  • Topcatone

    I was upset too at the time, but I understand the logic now with the short time on clock. If you run, you burn your last time out and you have to pass on next two plays..everyone expected Lynch, so the pass is a great call…but, never to the inside…that was Wilson’s choice not to throw it away..but, was a great terrific defensive play..personally, I would rather have seen Wilson roll out and pass short or run it in if he was sure he could make it. One play does not make a season. Hawks let NE march down the field twice in 4th Qtr. Great season by Hawks, considering the injuries, and loss of Zach Miller (critical loss IMHO), Harvin, Tate, Richardson, injury to Lane…off season priority is of course, wide outs (Richardson shows good promise). I like our receivers, but face it, they are kinda average, and only Wilson’s great skills (and Bevell’s great play calling) got them this far this year.

    • John M

      Wow, I don’t think you get it. It was a bad play call. Still it might have been a completion if Lockette had shouldered his way in to make the catch. But if you don’t want to run Lynch, it could have been a fake-bootleg-op in the endzone play which would have given Russ two choices and a quick throwaway opportunity if the play wasn’t there. That call against that team at that time was total brain fade . . .

      • Topcatone

        Did you read what I said? I said passing to inside was a mistake, and that I preferred the rollout/bootleg with the 3 options. That said, with out the great defensive play, we wouldn’t be discussing the type of play at all.

      • Eric K

        yeah, the weakest link on the Hawks is their WRs so the last thing you want to do is run a pass play that depends on two of them making a good play. It is also a timing route that doesn’t really give Wilson a chance to opt out, he has to make the call to throw basically as soon as he gets the ball, which if you see the GIF making the rounds with the overhead shot looks wide open, Butler beats Lockette to the spot even though he is further away.

        With a roll out the pressure is on the D to contain WIlson and cover the end zone.

  • Larry

    The thing i don’t get: I’ve heard varying accounts. Some say Hawks could have rushed it 3 straight times. Others say they would have been forced to pass on third down (assuming their rush on 2nd was stopped), presumably because they would not have had time enough for two more rushing attempts. Seems to me, with 26 secs left, if they’d run Lynch on 2nd Down and not made it, they could have called time-out with about 20 secs left. Had they run lynch again and been denied, they’d have had 10 to 15 secs, seems sufficient, to line up and run a 4th Down play. On the other hand, maybe my thinking is off about how much time plays take. If they didn’t have enough time for three rushes, then they had to throw it sometime, and 2nd down was a good time, albeit maybe not a slant right into the teeth of the D. What do others think?

    • anotherthought

      This is the Carroll/Bevell explanation. And I buy it– to an extent. I doubt they could have rushed the ball three times in a row within the time left. That does not mean that the only two options were Lynch off tackle or the play they ran.

      But how about a swing pass towards the sideline? Fades in the end zone? Either would have either resulted in a TD, an incomplete pass or going out of bounds. That would still leave you with the timeout and two more plays.

  • anotherthought

    A day later and I am still a bit stunned. I don’t consider myself an expert but would make four observations.

    First, this seems like a (too) high risk play. Lots of traffic in the middle means a pass slightly off (or tipped or great play) means an almost certain INT. How about a Lynch run, play option or a fade with a toss to the seats if nothing is open? The risk is elevated with the receiver choice — this was not Baldwin working the slot.

    Second, it seems like Bevell is ducking responsibility for the result. He said it was his call but that the receiver could have broke harder to the ball. Wilson owns the throw and the result. Carroll owns the call and the result. Bevell, not so much.

    Third, I still have no idea what really want wrong. Was the pick poorly executed? Did the receiver not run hard? Was Wilson off on the throw? Was it just a great play that nobody could have seen coming? Some combination? It seems unlikely Bevell would know exactly what went wrong when he is talking to the press right after the game….

    Fourth, NE won the game. They had to make a big play to prevent a likely game ending Seattle TD. They did that. My hat is off to them.

    • Eric K

      two big things went wrong and 1 minor thing,

      1) Kearse is supposed to get about a yard deeper before Browner hits him, that would have made Butler have to go around him, but Browner read the play and hit him right away and Kearse didn’t do enough to fight deeper.

      2) Lockette was really slow and got totally crushed by Butler, he canlt get kncoked down liek that

      3) ideally Wilson should have thrown low so Lockette goes down for the ball and no way Butler gets the INT, but with how open Lockette seemed he tried to lead him into the end zone

      • ll9956

        On the other hand, if Wilson threw it high, so that Lockette, who is 6-2 and 211, had to jump for it, he might have out-jumped Butler, who is 5-11 and 190.

        • Eric K

          You do not throw high right at the goal line in the middle of the field, if he misses it too many guys around to get it. You do the high pass at the side line or back of the end zone

  • jafabian

    Pete Carroll said the line was stacked and that Marshawn was 1-5 on goal line attempts. IMO, when Beastmode smells the goal line he can’t be denied. Big difference than when you’re back on the your 20. Also, if the line is stacked wouldn’t you want to throw over the line? Maybe run a two TE set? Didn’t they do that with Miller once where he faked tripping, ran behind the line and caught a TD? Then have the WR’s do an out route into the corner? I’d think Lockette and/or Matthews could use their height to their advantage then. I thought for sure either Marshawn or Wilson would run it in.

    Could second guess all day and I imagine the offseason will be full of it. This team was really limping in this game and the offseason goal will be to stack its depth. I don’t want to think where this team would have been without Kevin Williams. They need an equivalent for the O-Line. Looking forward to getting back on track in San Francisco in 2016. For now you have to tip your hat to the Patriots and call them daddy.

  • Green Caribou

    I am no football expert. I never played (other than flag football in elementary school a loooong time ago), but here goes:

    I get the idea to pass. Everyone’s expecting Lynch, so maybe you catch someone napping. Maybe a pass to the sideline, corner, or end line. If it’s there, maybe Wilson ends up running it in, but you prefer not to burn the time out if he doesn’t make it. Likely at worst you probably have an incomplete pass with maybe 20 sec. left. You have also planted a seed of doubt in the defense: “We all thought Lynch, but they didn’t do that!”

    In that 20 seconds you still have plenty of time to run 2 plays because the clock stopped with an interception/out of bounds. With the timeout still remaining you have the flexibility to run 2 plays that could be pass again, run Wilson, or run Lynch…twice.

    Not knowing the rules I don’t know how this works (I should from the Green Bay game): does the clock run during extra points and/or 2 point conversions? If you want to burn time to limit Brady, can you get in the endzone, take the lead, then make an extended play going for 2 and running the clock down or out?