Super Bowl 49 Last Words: Credit, Blame and Luck

The reaction to the finish of Super Bowl 49 has failed to give credit to the Patriots on a job well done and also has heaped far more criticism on Coach Carroll than he deserves.

Credit:  The Patriots Won, More Than the Seahawks Lost

I am a little frustrated hearing all the talk about how Seattle blew a certain win and not enough credit being given to the Patriots doing what it took to win.  To Seahawk fans, the Patriots are just plain lucky, to which I have three responses:

(1) You’re Calling Us Lucky?

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(2) We Know a Thing or Two About Luck . . . 

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(3) Give Credit Where Credit is Due

The goal line stand was a poker game between Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll and Belichick won.  Belichick’s refusal to call time out forced Carroll to consider the pass and Belichick was prepared for it.

From the Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post

It’s possible, if not likely, that Carroll passed on second down because he didn’t want to be in a position where the Patriots knew they would pass on third down. And that reality arose because Belichick kept his timeouts holstered.

Belichick would have known that Carroll didn’t want to box himself in on a possible third down, which is how the Patriots could have anticipated that second-down pass that Malcolm Butler intercepted to ice the game. Even with the ball on the goal line, the Patriots used three cornerbacks on the field. The third? Butler.

Listen to how Malcolm Butler described his game saving play in USA Today:

“Preparation, I remembered the formation they was in,” Butler said. “Two receivers stacked, and I just knew they was throwing a pick route.”

Butler said he also saw Wilson’s eyes darting his way. He lined up a good 4 yards off the line against Ricardo Lockette, with Brandon Browner jamming Kearse inside, and beat Lockette to the spot on the slant route for the pick.

The same play had beaten Butler in practice earlier in the week, with Garoppolo running the scout team and receiver Josh Boyce playing receiver. Instead of “begging back” as he had then, Butler said, “I just charged the ball.”

As Bill Simmons brilliant explains in Grantland:

You know what really happened? Belichick trusted seven months of practice and two weeks of scouting, and he trusted the fact that he’d already prepared a 24-year-old undrafted rookie to react perfectly, historically and remarkably if that slant was coming. He’ll never get credit because the whole thing seemed too improbable. After all, how could a coach behave THAT differently from every other coach in that exact same spot?

Blame: Go Easy on Coach Carroll

Pete Carroll’s decision to pass was not that unreasonable despite the punditry that has been crucifying him.  Consider the following:

Also consider the following from Five Thirty Eight Sports:

In 2014, prior to the decisive play, there had been 315 plays from the 1-yard line and over a third were passes.  Of the passes, 70 resulted in touchdowns (either completed passes or QB scrambling and running it in) and there were no interceptions – yielding a success rate of 60.9 percent.  The run plays had only a 57.1 percent success rate as:

  • 125 led to touchdowns
  • 94 failed to score
  • Of those, 23 were for loss of yardag
  • Two resulted in lost fumbles.

Finally, consider the fact that of  the 14  defending Super Bowl champions this century only two have returned to the Super Bowl to defend their crown – the 2005 Patriots and the 2014 Seahawks.  Carroll has done a remarkable job with the Seahawks and doesn’t deserve the ridicule he has received.

That being said, some of the memes are quite funny.


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