The Seahawks' decision to throw a slant route to Ricardo Lockette from the one-yard line -- down four, with 26 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLIX -- will live in football infamy, and is already being described by many as the worst play-call in NFL history. Maybe it is. It feels like it is, right now anyway.
Pete Carroll was first to fall on the sword for the decision to throw, and took the blame right after walking off the field. He said:
What happened down there, really frankly, it's really clear that we went to three receivers, they sent in their goal line people, and we had plenty of downs and a timeout, and really didn't want to run against their goal line group right there.
In other words: When Seattle ran out with three receivers, a tight end, and a running back, and was met by a Patriots' "heavy" personnel grouping, Darrell Bevell called a pass play. I'm assuming Pete Carroll signed off on this.
We would've subbed and done our stuff on third and fourth down.
... had the pass play not worked (i.e., had they not gotten into the endzone).
It was a really clear thought that we would've taken our timeout [if it was caught] and have taken our shots (on the next two downs). That's it. We called the play, and that's a miraculous play the kid makes to get in front of that route, and it's a play that really kept [us] from making that play. I told those guys, that's my fault totally.
It really was an excellent play by DB Malcolm Butler.
You can say, why not just run it? And that's a really good thought, but we had plenty of time to try to win the game. And, in our minds, we would've run it on third and fourth down, and that's how we were playing it - for third and fourth down. We'd have given them no time left, and it would've been just right. But, it didn't work out that way.
You can debate the logic in it, obviously. I understand playing to personnel groupings, but I still fail to see any logic in throwing the ball in that situation regardless. There's more risk in throwing with the field compressed that much, and the decision to throw to the middle of the field was the most mystifying thing about it all.
Here's the video of his concession.
Carroll explained it again in his presser.
"It's not the right matchup for us to run the football, so on second down we throw the ball really to kind of waste that play," Carroll said. "If we score we do, if we don't, then we'll run it on third and fourth down, with really no second thoughts or hesitation in that at all.
"Unfortunately, with the play that we tried to execute, the guy jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that nobody would ever think he could do. Unfortunately, that changes the whole outcome."
"We make these decisions every game all the time. They work out sometimes and they don't other times. This one didn't work out right for us. We could have run it and got stuffed, we could have run it and scored against their goal-line defense as well. I know that could've happened, but it just wasn't a great football thought at the time."
After Carroll had taken the blame, Darrell Bevell did the same, sort of, saying that he was the one that made the playcall. He also said that Ricardo Lockette could've fought for the ball a little bit more (throwing your player under the bus is a bad look for a coach). But, what I figure is that Bevell called the play, and Carroll okayed it.
As to whether Lockette could've fought for it, you be the judge:
To me, this is a confluence of bad for the Seahawks: 1) First, the playcall was terrible, risky, and unnecessary; as Carroll said, they just wanted to waste a play, and it made no sense to throw into such a hot area of the field, 2) the throw was too far ahead of Lockette (whether because of a poor route by Lockette, or a poor throw by Russell Wilson), 3) the defensive back made a masterful play and catch, and 4) Lockette tried to scoop catch it rather than reach out with his arms palm-catch it (hopefully that makes sense). These four factors together sunk the Seahawks on that final drive for the win.
And, if you didn't already feel bad enough, take a look at this angle.
Lockette's hand is in place to catch the ball until the ultimate last second, as he's knocked away by Butler's break on the ball.
The ramifications for this play will be felt all offseason, and likely, for years to come. It will probably go down as one of the all time blunders in NFL history. Seattle was one yard away from punching it in for their second straight Super Bowl win, but instead turned the ball over, and will face a tough psychological battle to bounce back from what feels like the most devastating loss imaginable. Nothing can change that now.
Maaaaaaaan. Sports, man. Sometimes, they suck. The old cliche, "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat," has never rang so true.
Taking a step back from that last play though, it's worth noting that Seattle also squandered a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter, something they, and more specifically, this defense, rarely do. They failed to execute on offense on several key drives, including one that only took a minute off the scoreboard (7:55 to 6:52). The defense failed to tackle well late, failed to cover in the secondary, and failed to pressure Brady when they needed to the most.
Tom Brady stepped up big for his team, leading them to 14 fourth-quarter points. You can debate that final play for the next three months, but keep that little fact in mind.
The Seahawks final, nearly-miraculous drive that could've/should've won the game and would've/could've been an amazing exclamation point to the season, but one play doesn't define a game.
On a personal note, I'm in total agony right now with the rest of you, but creeping around in the back of my mind is the appreciation for what was really a hell of a season. #ImThankful