Morgan Burnett sliding down after an interception instead of trying to return it with five minutes left is of the many things that went wrong during the Green Bay Packers’ collapse against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Championship game.
The interception gave Green Bay the ball back with a 19-7 lead with 5:04 left. Burnett caught the ball at his own 39-yard-line but slid down a few yards later so that he wouldn’t fumble.
After the game, a lot of people wondered whether he could have gotten a big return and won the game if he hadn’t slid.
It turns out that he probably could have gotten Green Bay closer to field goal range. You couldn’t see it on TV, but on the All-22 tape — which shows the game from a high angle so you can see all 22 players — it’s clear that Burnett had room to run.
Here’s the screenshot (via Nicholas Shoemaker):
Burnett is 15 yards away from the nearest Seahawks player. The only Seattle players in front of him are the five offensive linemen and quarterback Russell Wilson. The five Seahawks receivers are all too far away to catch him. With four Packers players ahead of him, it’s plausible that he could have gotten into field goal range.
Instead he did this:
The Packers went three and out on the next possession, and the rest is history.
It’s not all Burnett’s fault. As Pete Damilatis of Pro Football Focus points out, Packers defensive end Julius Peppers actually tells him to slide. Peppers is giving him the stop sign instead of blocking for him:
Again, it’s unfair to scapegoat Burnett. He should have kept running in retrospect, but at the time everyone thought the game was over. The collapse was too intricate to pin it on one guy.
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