In the aftermath of the New England Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, everyone is focusing on Pete Carroll’s decision to throw the ball from from the one-yard line with 25 seconds left.
Lost in this discussion is the fact that Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler made an exceptionally difficult play on that interception.
Everything is different if Butler — a 24-year-old undrafted rookie — doesn’t jump the route and put himself in a position to make the interception.
It’s not like Seattle’s play call was doomed from the beginning. It’s not like Russell Wilson made a horrible throw. Butler read the play perfectly, jumped the route, and got to the spot on the field where the ball was going before the receiver.
Here’s the breakdown of how he did it.
Butler was almost 10 yards off of his receiver, Ricardo Lockette, and was playing one-on-one with no safety help:
Here’s where Butler was when the ball is thrown. This looks like an easy touchdown for Lockette:
But look how quickly he closes down the space. He makes a bee line for where the ball will end up:
He gets there at the same time as Lockette, but wrestles it away from him:
Butler read the play immediately, took the perfect route to the ball, and was tougher at the point of contact that Lockette. If he’s a hair slower, or lets Lockette bump him off the ball, the Patriots lose and we never even think about the play call.
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