Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead
We have all made bad choices. To err is human, they say. Darrell Bevell simultaneously validated his humanity and made all of our bad choices look just a bit better Sunday. His decision to throw from the one-yard line on second down instead of hand the ball to the best running back in football will live in infamy everywhere but New England. How bad of a decision was this? The hash tag #epicfail is being replaced #beveled. This was traveling to Yemen and asking the sweaty guy wearing a thick vest and his finger on a red button for directions. Take one big step forward. That is the distance a man called Beast would have needed to travel in order to win the Seahawks second straight Super Bowl. People in business have a saying: “Nobody gets fired for choosing IBM.” Bevell could have handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch three straight times, been stuffed, and it would have defensible. Instead, he not only made a poor strategic choice, but one that diverged from the identity of toughness this team has forged. It was quite possibly the worst decision in the history of championship professional sports in what may have been the best Super Bowl ever played.
Being Darrell Bevell
There were some who immediately started comparing Bevell to Bill Buckner and Scott Norwood as goats in championship moments. The problem with that comparison is both Buckner and Norwood made physical mistakes. Bevell defied logic, and did so without significant duress. This was not a rushed snap. He had time to consider his options.
Pete Carroll rushed to his defense after the game as great leaders do. Ed Werder, of ESPN, said Carroll corrected him when asked about Bevell’s play call saying, “That was my play call.” It is true that all plays go through the headsets and Carroll could have stepped in to change things. That is not the type of coach Carroll is. He trusts his coordinators to own their sides of the ball. In truth, Tom Cable deserves some criticism as well since he serves as the assistant head coach and collaborates with Bevell on the offense. Still, Bevell owns playcalling on game day. This is his cross to bear. And few men can endure this sort of weight.
He is not off to a good start. While Carroll attempted to give him air cover, Bevell twice intimated after the game that Ricardo Lockette was partially to blame because he was not physical enough in his route. Players will not appreciate that. It also implies Bevell is not owning his decision. If the play was dependent on fourth string receiver being physical enough in his route to win the Super Bowl, maybe it was not a great play.
This whole article could be about vilifying Bevell for a poor choice, but the truth is I feel for the guy. He will be haunted by this for the rest of his life. Every time he looks in the mirror, he will remember that moment. His family will try to console him, but he will see the doubt in their eyes as well. The world is going to be very lonely place.
Coaches have definitely been fired for less. Carroll will not take that step. He will take him on as a reclamation project. The question Carroll has to get the answer to is whether Bevell is ever going to have the nerve to make key call from this point forward. Asking fans and players to place to be patient while he regains his confidence is not fair. They have already paid the highest price.
What a game
The shame of it is the greatness of this game is obscured by that final play call. A Super Bowl is meant to be a showcase for the sport. It more often is a showcase of junk food and excessive commercials. Not this year. These two teams put on a show for the ages.
Tom Brady started off in control. His precision short passing game was giving the Seahawks fits for much of the first half. Only a panicked throw that resulted in a Jeremy Lane interception kept him from putting up 17-21 points before Katy Perry took the stage.
After their first score was followed by a quick three-and-out for Seattle, it felt like the Seahawks were on the ropes. Wilson had not completed a pass yet. There was no rhythm on offense and the defense was barely better. But as they so often do when facing adversity, the Seahawks planted their feet and started to push back.
The defense forced a three-and-out for the Patriots. The offense followed with a 70-yard touchdown drive, capped by a Lynch 3-yard touchdown run on 3rd and 2. It looked like the Seahawks might get away with a tie going into halftime in a game they had largely been outplayed.
Not so fast. Brady took the ball with 2:16 to play in the half and marched his offense 80 yards in 8 plays for a go-ahead touchdown. The Patriots had recaptured momentum heading into the locker room.
Nope. Wilson took Brady’s 80-yard touchdown drive in 1 minute 45 seconds and one-upped him with a 80-yard touchdown drive of his own in just 29 seconds. It was impossible. The Seahawks own impossible. Robert Turbin started the drive with a 19 yard run, and then Wilson kept it for another 17 yards. One incomplete pass and then a big gain to Lockette and a 15-yard penalty on the Patriots. With just six seconds remaining on the clock, the only logical decision was to take the points and kick the field goal. Carroll originally put the kicking team out there, but called a timeout and decided to try a quick attempt at the end zone. It worked.
The man everyone would be talking about had things turned out different, Chris Mathews, caught the first touchdown of his career and they even had two seconds left on the clock after the play, proving Carroll’s gambit was the right one.
Every moment in this game screamed “game on!”
Seattle had some problems they had to get addressed at halftime. Tackles were being missed and New England was bludgeoning them with crossing routes. Before the defense got a chance to test out their adjustments, the offense took the field to open the second half and continued where they left off.
Wilson, Lynch and Mathews were back at it with crunching runs and jump ball big passes. Seahawks fans who feel like their team never gets a call might want to watch that Mathews catch a few times as he clearly pushed off to make the catch and was not flagged. But the drive stalled at the 8-yard line when Lynch was stuffed on 3rd and 1, a play that surely stuck in Bevell’s mind. The failure to convert there was just as crucial to the outcome as the interception.
Nonetheless, it was Seattle’s first lead of the game, and they were not about to give it up. The defense came out energized, and picked off Brady for second time. Wilson led the team down the field and threw a touchdown on a beautiful play design by Bevell that left Doug Baldwin wide open for his second Super Bowl touchdown in two games.
Now it was the Patriots turn to be on the ropes. Another three-and-out gave the Seahawks offense a chance for their fifth straight scoring drive, and what would have felt like the dagger. They quickly moved the ball to the Patriots 47-yard line and Wilson lofted a pass to Jermaine Kearse on 3rd and 2 deep down the left sideline. It settled perfectly over Kearse’s shoulder into his arms…and fell to the turf. It was a play he has to make, and one that had every bit as much to do with the final score as the interception.
Seattle would have three more chances to put the Patriots away, but the offense stalled, and eventually Brady got his team moving again. Tharold Simon had a tough game. He missed tackles and was victimized repeatedly on the same route concepts. New England took the lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game on a play they had run the previous drive. Simon misplayed both.
The defenses inability to hold a 10-point fourth quarter lead was just as responsible for the loss as the interception. None of this excuses Bevell’s play call, but any narrative that states one play cost the team the game is just false. Different players at different times had chances to cement this game for the Seahawks, but they were unable to do so.
One player who at least made amends for his earlier mistake was Kearse. After a gorgeous throw to Lynch for 31 yards to start the drive, Wilson threw two incomplete passes. A clutch third down conversion for eleven yards to Lockette put the ball at the Patriots 38-yard line with 1 minute 14 seconds remaining. Wilson lofted another deep pass down the right sideline, this time to Kearse, and he made the most improbable catch ever. David Tyree can have his helmet grab. This ball hit Kearse’s chest as he fell, bounced straight up, carromed off one hand and then the other, before he was able to secure it as he twisted to the ground. Impossible. The crowd was so stunned, they fell silent for the first time the whole game. Did he catch that? Everyone wanted to know.
He caught it. Seattle had the ball at the 5-yard line with over one minute left. Lynch broke a tackle and appeared headed for the end zone before Dont’a Hightower tripped him up at the one yard line. We know what happened after that.
This loss will burn for Seahawks fans. If their first ring had been at stake, there may have been rioting. It was painful way to lose, and for those that wondered what Packers fans felt like last week, now they know.
I exit the game awed by the team’s performance. In many ways, I believe this is the worst Seattle team they are going to field in the next 2-3 years. Most will think that is blindly optimistic. I see a quarterback who will only get better. Compare Brady in his first three years to Brady in his next three. Seattle has eleven draft choices and a first-round pick for the first time since 2012. They made due at receiver and tight end with a group they never intended to play with. Their offensive line remains young and is growing together. The key cogs to the best defense in football remain young and under contract.
It always takes good fortune to return to the Super Bowl. This team is still better equipped than any to compete for a championship every year for the foreseeable future. They must have a great draft. They must make wise decisions with their money.
They fell to a player who will likely go down as the best quarterback in the history of the sport. They should have won. Everyone knows they should have won. They didn’t. The message is the same as it was at this time last year. What’s next?