by Terri Bey
This blog is dedicated to the late NBA legend Kobe Bean Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven others who perished in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. My thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and friends at this difficult time.
Tomorrow, February 2, 2020, Super Bowl 54 will take place in Miami between the San Francisco 49ers vs the Kansas City Chiefs. Even though this blog is NOT about this year’s contest, I will make a brief prediction. This game is pretty much a contest of strength vs strength. Can the 49ers’ defense, led by DE Nick Bosa and the wily veteran DB Richard Sherman stifle the red hot offense of the Chiefs led by QB Patrick Mahomes and TE Travis Kelce? There is the old adage, “Offense puts butts in the seats, but defense wins championships.” However, as much as a former 49er fan, who still has a sweet spot for them, who would like to see the 49ers take home their sixth trophy, I think that the Chiefs have way too much firepower, unless Andy Reid turns Andy Reid. Reid’s bringing in former Philadelphia Eagles QB Donavon McNabb in for a pep-talk doesn’t bode well, but I think the Chiefs win. Chiefs 35-24.
The Super Bowl that this blog WILL be discussing is Super Bowl 49. Five years ago today, on February 1, 2015, the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks were playing in Super Bowl 49 against the New England Patriots, and lost to the Patriots by a score of 28-24, thanks in part to eventual Super Bowl MVP Patriots QB Tom Brady leading his team back from a ten point deficit and an unheralded and undrafted rookie defensive back named Malcolm Butler making a game saving interception in the endzone, when Seattle Seahawk coach Pete Carroll called for a pass play on 2nd and 1, intended for Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette, sealing the win for the Patriots. The media and fans immediately blamed Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll for what was called “the worst call in Super Bowl history,” for the loss to the Patriots, as many felt he should have had his QB Russell Wilson hand the ball off to star RB Marshawn Lynch.
In this blog, I will be giving some reasons why you can NOT blame Pete Carroll’s decision to not run Marshawn Lynch at the goal line for the loss of Super Bowl 49. I will be using the format of an old ESPN television show called, “The Top Five Reasons You Can’t Blame..” For those who have never heard of the show, before ESPN became what I call a “hot take” machine and a Network which pushed certain agendas, ESPN channels ESPN 2 and ESPN Classics, used to have a show called, “The Top Five Reasons You Can’t Blame, which ran from April 2005 to April 2007.” Brian Kenny was the host of this show, which tackled sports controversies, by examining them in an entirely new light. This show would pretty much challenge conventional wisdom or what we now call “narratives” about people, known for their mistakes and controversial moments, by giving the case against the subject and then lists the top five reasons why the subject is not to be blamed. Reasons that did not make the cut were considered, “the best of the rest.” Such episodes were, “Top Five Reasons You Can’t Blame Steve Bartman for the Cubs 2003 Collapse.” (https://youtu.be/D6RPHVF-mko) and since this subject will be about a Super Bowl loss, “Top Five Reasons You Can’t Blame the Buffalo Bills for Losing Four Straight Super Bowls (https://youtu.be/byITM43MdDA ).
So, I hope you will enjoy this blog, as much as I liked writing it. I hope that you will be able to put what happened into a different perspective. Like the show’s format, I will be giving the case against Pete Carroll, and giving the reasons that didn’t make the cut and the five reasons you can’t blame Coach Carroll’s decision to not run Marshawn Lynch for the Seattle Seahawks’ losing Super Bowl 49.
A Quick Summary of Super Bowl 49 and the Incident Itself.
Leading up to Coach Pete Carroll’s fateful decision, in the middle of the second quarter of Super Bowl 49, the New England Patriots score first with QB Tom Brady throw a touchdown to Brandon LaFell. The extra point is good by Stephen Gostowski and the Patriots lead 7-0. The Seattle Seahawks tie up the game close the two minute warning when RB Marshawn Lynch scores a touchdown. Score is 7-7. With 36 seconds left in the first half, Tom Brady throws a touchdown to TE Rob Gronkowski. Score is 14-7 in favor of the Patriots. Due to defensive break downs by the Patriots, with 6 seconds to go in the first half, the Seahawks QB Russell Wilson connects with WR Chris Matthews with a touchdown and the score is tied, 14-14.
The second half starts and the Seahawks receive the ball and take a three point lead on a Steven Hauschka field goal, making it a 17-14 score in favor of the Seattle Seahawks. Additionally, with about 5 minutes to go in the Third Quarter, the Seahawks extend their lead to 10 points with a touchdown from Wilson to WR Doug Baldwin, who also got a 15 yard penalty for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. The score is now 24-14, in favor of the Seahawks. In the Fourth Quarter, with 8 minutes to, Patriots QB Tom Brady cuts the Seahawks’ lead to 3 with a touchdown throw to WR Danny Amendola. The score is now, 24-21, in favor of the Seahawks. Brady then put the Patriots in front, by a score of 28-24, with a touchdown to WR Julian Edelman at the 2:06 mark in the Fourth Quarter.
Now, we get to the incident. At the 2:02 mark, at Seattle’s 20 Yard Line, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson completes a 31 yard pass to Marshawn Lynch, who takes it 31 yards. The Seahawks took their first timeout after an incomplete pass to Jermaine Kearse. The next completed pass goes to WR Ricardo Lockette at the 1:49 mark for 11 yards. At the 1:14 mark, Jermaine Kearse catches a pass for 33 yards and the Seahawks take another time out. This particular catch was known as the “basket catch,” and more on this later. At the 1:06 mark, RB Marshawn Lynch runs for 4 yards from the New England 5 Yard Line and gets up to the New England 1 yard line, but is stopped by Donte’ Hightower. Carroll calls for a pass play on second down at the New England 1 and the following happens: https://youtu.be/U7rPIg7ZNQ8
The Case Against Pete Carroll
The case against Pete Carroll that the majority of pundits on shows like ESPN, Youtubers, bloggers and internet fans make can be summed up by the name of one man. His name is Marshawn Lynch. After all, Lynch, or “Beast Mode,” as he is nicknamed, was very dependable and had been virtually unstoppable in the goal-line situation, especially during Super Bowl 49. After all, it took all that Patriots’ LB Donta Hightower had to make that play to stop Lynch from scoring the go-ahead touchdown. Some even suggested that Carroll should have used Lynch as a decoy, so Wilson could run a bootleg and score. No way should the Seahawks have passed. If you had listened to NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth, he immediately condemned the play-call.
Now, my readers, you have read about the game and the incident. You have read the case AGAINST Coach Pete Carroll’s decision to not run Marshawn Lynch at the goal line, causing the Seahawks to lose Super Bowl 49. Let’s examine some factors that are in his favor. These are choices that just missed the cut, and they’re the “best of the rest.”
The Best of the Rest
Repeat that, please?
Not since the New England Patriots, with their 2003-04 and 2004-05 Super Bowl teams, has a team won back to back titles. It is a difficult feat to get to a Super Bowl and harder to win it. It is even a tougher task to get back and win it again, because of various reasons, such as free agency, injuries to key players during the season and many other factors. Also, as defending champion, you are getting every team’s best shot, so if you are fortunate to get to a second consecutive Super Bowl, your opponent is going to give you their best shot. The Patriots certainly did not play like they were scared of Seattle, despite all the media touting the Seahawks as a potential new “Dynasty” and the second coming of the “Steel Curtain.”
The Legion of Boom were Busted Up.
In the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, then Seahawks CB Richard Sherman came out of the game with an elbow injury, but fully practiced during Super Bowl week. Safety Earl Thomas fully practiced with a shoulder injury and Safety Kam Chancellor was a late edition with a knee. Even though they played, I was sure they were not 100% and that was a contributing factor as to why the Patriots offense for about 3/4ths of the game was able to march up and down the field on the “Legion of Boom.” Even when Brady uncharacteristically threw two interceptions, it was bad news for the Legion of Boom. CB Jeremy Lane, who intercepted the first ball, got injured and his backup, Tharold Simon (first name is not a typo) was just abused by Brady and Cliff Avril also suffered a concussion, when he intercepted Brady.
Now, onto the countdown
Reason #5: The Green Bay Packers
The 2014 NFC Championship Game was played in Seattle between the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. Even though Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was still battling a bad calf, the team had plenty of chances to knock off the defending Super Bowl Champions. I mean, this team had the Seahawks on the ropes. They should have beaten the Seahawks. If Rodgers had been healthy, or had then head coach Mike McCarthy called a better game or had Brandon Bostick had done his job with that onside kick, in my view, the Packers would have won, and gone onto the Super Bowl. Therefore, Pete Carroll would not have even HAD to have made that fateful decision.
If reason #5 didn’t convince you, let’s try this one.
Reason #4: The Mirage of David Tyree or Lightning Fails to Strike Twice
Super Bowl 49 took place at the University of Phoenix Stadium. This is the same stadium where in Super Bowl 42, the 2007 Patriots saw their hopes of a perfect season dashed, thanks in part to the famous David Tyre “Helmet Catch,” as shown in the video: https://youtu.be/CxiHMIM4NWI .The “Helmet Catch” put the New York Giants in position for the now retired QB Eli Manning to throw the game-winning TD to WR Plaxico Burress. Likewise, in Super Bowl 49, at least in the minds of the Patriots and their fans, it was deja vu all over again, as Seattle Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse made a similar catch, known as the “Basket Catch,” as demonstrated in the following video: https://youtu.be/fKOLqM-LnA0 . While the “Basket Catch” was able to get the Seahawks in position to win the game, had Malcolm Butler not been able to tackle Kearse, Kearse would have been able to pretty much walk into the endzone. If Kearse walks into the endzone, again, coach Carroll never makes that decision.
Are you starting to change your mind? Let’s try this one for size.
Reason #3: The Final Countdown
I am not referring to that dreadful song by the band Europe. I am referring to what “down” the team was on. When Carroll made that fateful decision, it was only 2nd down. This was a four down situation. They were down by four points. To win the game, the Seahawks had to score a touchdown. The Patriots were in a goal line defense, and just by the skin of their collective teeth had just stopped Marshawn Lynch on the first down play. Why not try a pass?
Reason #2: The Game was not over, yet.
After the Malcolm Butler interception, the Patriots were assessed a celebration penalty for getting on the field. They were backed up on their own endzone with 20 seconds left. The Seattle Seahawks defense could have done some damage in that 20 seconds. DE Michael Bennett, who unfortunately for the Seahawks was penalized for encroachment, could have wrecked havoc on the Patriots offensive line and had gotten to Brady, like he had all game and had gotten to the ball. Bennett and the other defenders could have maybe got possession of the ball and scored for a touchdown or at least get the ball back for Seattle.
Here is Reason #1…
Reason #1: The New England Patriots were the better team.
Patriots players said all Super Bowl week how they had to prepare for the Seahawks. In one of his press conference, Patriots QB Tom Brady said that he “never had to watch so much film in his life.” Brady had a monster game against the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom,” with 4 touchdowns against 2 interceptions and threw for 328 yards. Brady was named MVP of the Super Bowl. TE Rob Gronkowski, wide receivers Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola not only scored touchdowns, but made crucial catches that helped move the chains for the Patriots offense. As I previously mentioned, the Patriots offense just had their way with the Seahawks defense.
The Patriots defense also came through at critical moments, especially LB Donta Hightower in making that incredible stop at the 1 yard line, in preventing Marshawn Lynch from scoring in the first place. As for Malcolm Butler interception, he made a great play. The man made a great play that swung the win probability from the Seahawks’ direction to the Patriots’ direction in seconds. This play is arguably the greatest play in NFL history for that reason alone. You can’t blame Carroll for not running Lynch, because he was up against a better team that day.
So, there you have it. Those are my top five reasons you CAN’T blame Pete Carroll’s decision to not run Marshawn Lynch at the goal line on the Seahawk’s losing Super Bowl 49. I hope that you will consider some of what I said and will give Pete Carroll a break. Feedback is welcome and encouraged.