Even after blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Seattle Seahawks found themselves in perfect position to win the Super Bowl.
When Jermaine Kearse made a miracle catch that seemed destined to go down in Super Bowl history, the Seahawks had 1st and goal from the five yard line with 66 seconds left.
They were down 28-24, but they had two timeouts and four attempts to score a winning touchdown.
But as miraculous as Kearse’s catch was, the moment he hit the ground was the moment everything started to fall apart for Seattle. Over the next 48 seconds the Seahawks blew it with time mismanagement, poor play calling, and ultimately an otherwordly play from an undrafted Patriots rookie.
Here’s our second-by-second breakdown of how it happened.
1:14 left — Jermaine Kearse made a ridiculous catch off his thigh to give Seattle 1st and goal from the five yard line. He even got out of bounds to stop the clock.
1:06 left — While everyone marveled at the catch, the Seahawks got completely discombobulated and didn’t call the next play in time. They had to burn a timeout out of panic, leaving them with only one timeout in the final 66 seconds.
They just never got lined up:
This was a significant blunder. With two timeouts, you have the flexibility to run any play you want and not worry about the time. But things got trickier once they were down to one timeout, as we saw…
1:06 left — Marshawn Lynch ran it down to the one-yard line, and the Seahawks let the clock run all the way down:
The Seahawks burned a solid 35 seconds between the 1st down play and the 2nd down play. By the time they snapped the ball on that fateful 2nd down play, they’d burned almost the entire play clock:
That meant that they could only run the ball one more time on their final three downs. Why? Because they only had the one timeout. If they ran the ball with no timeouts with under 25 seconds left and didn’t get a touchdown, they risked running the clock down to zero.
The thought process is:
- If you ran the ball on 2nd and goal and don’t get it, you have to call your final timeout with around 20 seconds left. Then you almost have to pass the ball on 3rd down because the game could end if Lynch gets tackled in play. Even worse, the Patriots also know you have to pass.
- But if you pass the ball and 2nd and goal and don’t get it, you can save your timeout and run it on 3rd down. If you don’t get it on 3rd down, you can use your timeout and run it again on 4th down if you want.
Pete Carroll’s explanation came down to this: we didn’t call a running play on 2nd down because wanted to call a running play on 3rd down, when we could get our goal line personnel onto the field and have a more favourable rushing matchup.
The obvious comeback to that logic is: just run it on 2nd down!
The Seahawks have the best rushing attack in the league by a comfortable margin. Marshawn Lynch is the best active running back in the NFL, you need to give him the ball with the game on the line.
Instead, the Seahawks tried to throw it.
0:26 left — Russell Wilson threw an interception to New England’s Malcolm Butler on a slant pass intended for Ricardo Lockette:
The play call was bad. That’s on Seattle. But the pick itself was more of a brilliant individual play by New England than a mistake by Seattle. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel said that Lockette could have been stronger at the point of the catch after the game, but that takes away from how great the interception was by Butler.
He was playing almost 10 yards off of Lockette:
When the ball was thrown, it looked like an easy touchdown:
But then Butler broke on the ball, picked off the pass, and sealed the game:
Sure, the Seahawks should have run the ball. That’s fairly obvious. But they wouldn’t have been in that situation if they had been organised after the Kearse catch and didn’t have to call a panic timeout, or if they had showed more urgency after that first first down run.
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