Super Bowl’s Worst Play Call? Not.

russle-wilson-telegraphed-pass(PCM) It was bound to happen. The Monday morning quarterbacks are in full swing after the sudden twist in fate of the Seattle Seahawks loss in the Super Bowl when it appeared they had it in the bag. It took NBC’s commentator Chris Collinsworth zero time to bloviate how bad the call was. Morning talk shows hailed it as the worst call ever. What? If you missed it, the controversy surrounds an interception by Patriots defender Malcolm Butler at the zero (0) yard line on what would have been the go ahead score for the Seahawks with a few seconds left on the clock in Super Bowl 49. That touchdown score by the Seahawks would have all but sealed their win over the Patriots in Super Bowl 49. Instead the Patriots held on to their 28 to 24 lead after the interception turnover. Immediately after the game, anyone that had any knowledge of football condemned the decision to pass in attempt to win the game. No one put the blame on the Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who is rumored to be the next highest paid quarterback in NFL history. Instead the world could only blame the call to pass and the coach for making the call. But was it a bad call?  The real answer is no. Here is the argument of why passing into the endzone was an acceptable call if not the right call.
  1. It was not fourth down it was second down. There were two (2) more scoring opportunities remaining.
  2. The Patriots expected a run with the formidable back Marshawn Lynch.
  3. Pass plays are no longer high-percentage risks.
  4. Pass plays at the one yard line are common place. Many have been performed in the current season and post-season.
  5. The Seahawks have the most reliable quarterback in the NFL.
  6. A pass play did in fact operate as a surprise tactic.
  7. The defensive alignment was geared to a run, only the compressed playing field changed the dynamic.
  8. A pass play allowed the Seahawks more opportunities to score with little time on the clock.
  9. An incomplete pass stops the clock, a failed run does not.
  10. The Seahawks attempted to both control the clock and score with as little time left as possible. The pass play fit their plan in that if it failed they took some time off the clock but left enough with a pause to plan and execute their next play effectively.
Consider the Seahawks had one remaining timeout. Passing on 2nd down allowed the Seahawks to run on 3rd down, then use their final time-out to plan 4th down most effectively. The Seahawks would not be pressed to hastily execute the final and most important play of the season. The fact is the quarterback made the pass a bit long. Not much, but enough. The defensive back Malcolm Butler read the route early and jumped it. It was a play that is not generally made by defensive backs but in most interceptions it is due as a result of a defender taking a bit of a risk, because if they miss – the receiver has a free run as-soon-as they catch the ball while the defender’s momentum has taken them in the opposite direction. Due to the compressed playing area, the defender had little to risk by attempting to jump the route. Malcolm Butler, the hero for the Patriots answered reporters in the post game stating he too was expecting a run, but his training kicked in once the play started and he recognized the route. He jumped a pick and the route. No easy task. That the undrafted rookie made it look easy may the reason everyone wants to condemn the call. Blaming the Seahawks is a waste. Crediting the Patriots for training and Butler for execution seems a better answer. What could go wrong for the Seahawks, did go wrong. That is sports. That is life.