GLENDALE, Ariz. – When the two best teams in football meet to decide the championship the last thing anyone expects is major blunders from the head coaches. But that's exactly what transpired in the final minute of the Patriots scintillating 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
The Patriots drove 64 yards in 10 plays to take the lead with 2:02 remaining but Seattle quickly marched into position to regain the lead. A 31-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Marshawn Lynch got things going, and thenJermaine Kearse made a circus catch to move the ball at the Patriots 5.
With 1:06 left the Seahawks had first-and-goal and that's when the coaches had some lapses in judgment. First, Bill Belichick chose not to use a timeout out after Lynch plowed his way down to the 1 on his first-down carry, allowing the clock to run. The Patriots had two timeouts remaining and by not using one Belichick basically put all his eggs in one basket.
The Seahawks snapped the ball with :26 left, meaning a touchdown would have given the Patriots almost no time to mount a comeback. For a coach like Belichick, who is often thinking several steps ahead it seemed to be very curious decision-making.
But that paled in comparison to what his counterpart did next. Pete Carroll said he didn't like the personnel on the field for the fateful second down play so he chose to change things up. Malcolm Butler's brilliant interception abruptly ended the game, but not the questions.
"All of the events before the final play are meaningless," Carroll began. "We sent in our personnel with three wideouts and they were in their goal line package and we didn't like that matchup. We were going to run the ball to win the game but not on that play. We figured we'd throw the ball on second down and run it on third down if it wasn't there.
"The guy made a miraculous play and things didn't work out. It was a very hard lesson."
The analysts on NBC were quite critical of Carroll's decision to throw when Lynch was plowing his way through and around the Patriots defense all night.
"You have to give Marshawn Lynch the ball in that situation," former Colts coachTony Dungy said. "There's no excuse, you have to run the ball," Rodney Harrison added. "There isn't a defense in the league that keep Lynch from getting 1 yards."
Wilson did his best to explain the situation but despite his calm demeanor he seemed to be shell-shocked at what had just transpired.
"There was a chance to catch it and a chance to make a play, and the guy made a great play," Wilson said. "The guy just barely cut in front of him and you have to give Butler credit on making that play."
But the logic behind the whole sequence seemed flawed, and that's what Carroll and the Seahawks will be thinking about the entire offseason.