Monday, February 02, 2015

Useless Super Bowl XLIX thoughts

Yesterday's Super Bowl pitted the established dynasty of the Patriots versus the emerging potential dynasty of the Seahawks. The latter got to the big game with a remarkable and improbable comeback over the Packers, where they really didn't play that well until the last five minutes.

So if you heard Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson didn't complete a pass until well into the second quarter, that they lost one of their starting cornerback to injury in the first half, and a starting defensive lineman had to leave in the second half due to concussion, you'd think the Seahawks would be well behind when the fourth quarter started. However, they actually had a ten-point lead at that point, and their vaunted defense had not given up more than seven points in the fourth during their past eight games.

So when you hear they surrendered 14 points to New England in that quarter you'd think it was pretty much over, but through a remarkable catch they were in a 2nd-and-goal position at the Patriot's 1-yard-line with about 30 seconds left, where punching it in for a touchdown would almost certainly guarantee back-to-back Super Bowl victories. They were in another improbable situation where they had not played as well as the other team but with last-minute heroics (or dumb luck) they could win.

Then they called a slant but the New England defensive back jumped the route and intercepted the ball to give the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots for the first time in a decade. The decision to attempt a pass rather than give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch was immediately questioned by the announcers, and was lambasted in post-game analysis as the worst call in Super Bowl history.

Because it was a call that resulted in Seattle essentially snatching defeat from the jaws of victory it's something that will be debated for years to come. That is why this will go down as a great game: It will prove an infinite source of discussion, which ultimately is what fans want.

When my toddler had me up in the wee hours I saw the end of the game again on its rebroadcast, and in retrospect one can chalk the Seattle loss to earlier points than their last offensive play. To open the second half they drove down and were in the red zone but settled for a field goal; had they gotten a touchdown there, as the strength of the drive suggested they should have, then at the end of the game they would have been tied with New England and would not need a touchdown but a simple field goal. Or if one considers they had just over two minutes for their final drive and all three timeouts, the fact they were down to only one when they were at the one-yard-line also contributed; that they had to burn their first one back at midfield due to not being ready rather than having it still to use when they were close (and thus making them more inclined to pass—where an incompletion stops the clock) could be viewed as the moment they started on the path to defeat.

Seattle players, coaches, and fans will never completely get over a loss like that. In many respects it would have been better had receiver Jermaine Kearse not made the acrobatic catch that got them to the five, and instead they never were a yard away. It would have been disappointing to have blown a ten-point lead, but their hopes would not have been so up and thus that last moment would not have been so devastating.

Again, they hadn't played better overall, so the fact they had even the chance to win was somewhat undeserved, and thus that they lost was not surprising. And even had they scored the go-ahead touchdown on that play (which would make it seem a brilliant call) if they left time for Tom Brady to get the Pats into field goal range, we could have had overtime and (as Seattle just proved against Green Bay in the NFC Championship) things could have gone either way.

With last year's blowout of the Broncos there was no room for dissecting precisely when the losing side could have had a chance. I have to imagine Denver got over that (to at least the extent that's possible) easier because the game didn't come down to a single play.

Even if that single play in this year's contest was more a function of the defensive back recognizing the formation and anticipating where the ball was going than of whether it instead should have been handed off to the running back (which quite possibly could have been thwarted by a strong goal line stand), that still isn't something the losing team can swallow.


Granted, the Seahawks didn't have much chance simply based on wardrobe; they wore their dark jerseys (as they were the "home" team), but nine of the last ten Super Bowls had been won by the team in white jerseys (now ten of eleven). They could have gone with white (Pittsburgh did nine years ago… when they defeated Seattle).

One can discount the importance of what color one wears, but ten of eleven is way beyond statistically coincidental.


Aren't you glad I pretended to be some sort of NFL analyst for a while there?

No comments:

Post a Comment

So, what do you think?