BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 11/12/2016

Seahawks have learned from SB XLIX botch

The Seahawks, who botched their final play with 20 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLIX, haven’t made a mistake from the one-yard line since then.

The nightmare moment: Before QB Russell Wilson releases the ball, New England Patriots CB Malcolm Butler (21) is already moving to intercept. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

No one who saw it will ever forget the determining play of Super Bowl XLIX: 20 seconds to play, Seattle at the New England one-yard line, second and goal. It seemed the perfect setup for RB Marshawn Lynch, the NFL’s top battering ram who had 102 yards on 24 carries. But either head coach Pete Carroll or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, to their everlasting mortification, opted instead for QB Russell Wilson to throw the ball.

“If I’m Marshawn Lynch, I’m livid,” tweeted former Seahawks WR Golden Tate immediately after the play unfolded.

The Seahawks never have lived down that play, nor will they, given the moment, the stage and the stakes. Wilson tossed the ball over the middle, thinking he had WR Ricardo Lockette for an easy touchdown. But WR Jermaine Kearse couldn’t make the block he was supposed to make, boxed out as he was by New England CB Brandon Browner, a former Legion of Boom member.

Knowing Wilson’s intent, rookie CB Malcolm Butler, a spare part out of West Alabama, jumped ahead of Lockette and picked off the pass, sealing a 28-24 New England win that denied Seattle a chance to win back-to-back Super Bowls.

Carroll and Wilson tried to shoulder the blame.

“I told our guys, ‘That’s my fault, totally,’” Carroll said. “But we had plenty of time to win the game . . . we were playing for third and fourth down, give them no time left . . .  but it didn’t work out that way.”

“I thought it was going to be a touchdown,” Wilson said. “But I put the blame on me. I’m the one who threw it. But give the guy (Butler) credit. He made a great play.”

A season and a half has elapsed since the play that won’t go away. Bevell, who initially blamed Lockette, saying, “He could have done a better job of staying strong on the ball,” re-addressed the epic mishap this week ahead of Sunday’s Seahawks-Patriots rematch at Gillette Stadium.

“Of course it’s a terrible memory,” he said. “Every time it comes up, it just sticks in your gut. It’s a new season now. That was two years ago. It’s something that’s always there, and it’s something I’ve grown from, something that I learned from. But that isn’t going away. It’s always going to be there.”

The Seahawks have played 26 games (regular season and playoffs) since losing to the Patriots at Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium. In those contests, they have run 11 plays from the opponent one-yard line without a turnover. The 11:

Year Date Opp. Qtr. Play Result
2015 Oct. 18 Car 2 Run Marshawn Lych left guard, 1-yard TD
2015 Oct. 22 SF 1 Run Lynch over left guard for no gain
2015 Oct. 22 SF 1 Pass Russell Wilson incomplete to R. Lockette
2015 Oct. 22 SF 1 Run Lynch up middle, 1-yard TD
2015 Nov. 15 Ariz 2 Run Will Tukuafu up middle, 1-yard TD
2015 Nov. 29 Pitt 3 Run Thomas Rawls up middle, 1-yard TD
2015 Dec. 20 Clev 1 Run Derrick Coleman over RT, -2 yards
2016 Jan. 3 Ariz 1 Run Christine Michael up middle, no gain
2016 Jan. 3 Ariz 1 Run Wilson over right tackle, no gain
2016 Jan. 3 Ariz 1 Run Bryce Brown up middle, 1-yard TD
2016 Oct. 16 Atl 4 Run Michael over right tackle, 1-yard TD

Only one of the 11 plays was a pass, ironically from Wilson to Lockette Oct. 22, 2015 in the first quarter against San Francisco. That didn’t work either, but at least it wasn’t an interception. The other 10 plays were runs, six resulting in touchdowns, including a pair by Lynch.

Carroll and Bevell, regardless of which one called for a pass instead of a run, earned a painful lesson.

Patriots nearly flawless at Gillette

New England is a 7½-point pick to defeat the Seahawks Sunday night (Seattle’s largest dismissal by oddsmakers since 2012) in large part because the Patriots play superbly at home (and abetted by Seattle’s inability to get off the field defensively). Since 2012, they have lost only five times at Gillette Stadium (no lossesin the 2013 and 2014 seasons) when Tom Brady has started at quarterback, four in the regular season, once in the 2012 AFC Championship game.

The most persistent theme running through those five losses: New England’s opponents forced turnovers and created big special teams plays. New England’s last five home defeats with Brady under center:

Year Date Result Skinny
2012 Sept. 16 AZ 20, NE 18 Ariz 4 sacks vs. Brady, blocked punt set up TD
2012 Nov. 6 NYG 24, NE 20 Patriots 4 turnovers, Brady 2 INTs
2012 Dec. 16 SF 41, NE 34 49ers forced 4 turnovers, NE 2-for-7 3rd down
2013 Jan. 20 BAL 28, NE 13 Brady 2 4th-quarter picks in AFC title game
2015 Dec. 6 PHI 35, NE 28 Eagle TDs on a blocked punt, INT, punt return

In his 17th season, Brady is 98-15 as a starting quarterback in home games. His .876 win percentage is the best in NFL history by a QB with at least 40 home starts. Following Brady are Terry Bradshaw (67-12, .848),  John Elway (77-23, .770) and Peyton Manning (74-26, .740).

Russell Wilson should soon join the list. He’s 31-5 (.861) in 36 starts at CenturyLink Field.


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YourThoughts

  • osoviejo

    “Carroll and Bevell, regardless of which one called for a pass instead of a run, earned a painful lesson.”

    What was that lesson, exactly? You don’t say. Was it “execute better?” Has Carroll or Bevell ever conceded what the lesson is?

    After-the-fact, results-based criticism is a waste of energy. It’s about process. Plays will sometimes succeed, and sometimes fail–but a sound process will win out over the long haul. It’s not an inoculation from failure for any particular call. Nothing is.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to draw conclusions from the results of subsequent 1-yard attempts–other than perhaps to show the success rate for runs is far less than the knee-jerk critics are aware.

    The Super Bowl context mattered. 26 seconds, one time out. Lining up a bunch of other 1-yard attempts for comparison isn’t especially meaningful without that consideration.

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