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The last offensive play by the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX

Published by marco on

The article The Corruption of Football by Joshua Sperber (CounterPunch) offers a far better analysis of the final offensive play by the Seahawks—the one that led to an interception—than I could ever have hoped to make.

Sperber starts off by dissecting Emmitt Smith and Dave Zirin’s supposition that foul play must have somehow been involved. That is, “[t]he theory of foul play of course presupposes that Carroll made not only the wrong call but a completely nonsensical one that could only be attributable to corruption […]”. The NFL is certainly not a shining beacon on the hill and it’s very easy to suppose that something shady was going on—especially when the alternative is to suppose that everyone in the Seahawks organization is a moron and that even a relative tyro like yours truly could have made a more sensible call—namely, to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch, as Seattle had done on nearly every other play that game.

Sperber makes a strong case that passing on that play seemed stupid only to people who weren’t actual students of the game.

“Seattle had three plays to score a touchdown and, with 26 seconds remaining in the game, lacked the time (with only one timeout) to run on all three plays. The only question was when the Seahawks would pass, and it was entirely correct to pass on second down, as a second down run, assuming it was unsuccessful (as was Lynch’s earlier 3rd and 1 run), would have dictated a third down pass forfeiting any element of surprise. By passing on second down against a Pats’ defense playing run, Seattle had an excellent opportunity to win the game. And the odds were astronomically high that the pass would have ended in either an incompletion (stopping the clock, as they needed to do) or the game-winning touchdown. In fact, this season it has been statistically riskier to run from the one-yard line than to pass.”

Ok, fine. But he could have chosen a better passing play, couldn’t he? That is a valid point, apparently. Here’s Sperber addressing the kind of passing play Seattle chose.

“Insofar as Carroll should be criticized, it is not that he elected to pass but that he should have called for a relatively safer pass, for instance either to the corner of the end zone or out of a bootleg. Nonetheless, the interception did not result from a coach’s decision but from a weak play on the ball by Seattle receiver Ricardo Lockette and a remarkable (and devastating if he had been wrong) gamble and play by Patriot rookie defender Malcolm Butler […]”

Seattle just got very, very unlucky whereas, at the same time, the Patriots got very, very lucky. Maybe Seattle had just used up all of their luck two plays previous where Kearse managed—against nearly all the laws of physics—to keep the ball bouncing only on himself and to finally catch it while lying on the ground.

If you want outrage, be outraged that “Seattle’s Jeremy Lane gruesomely broke his arm” and “Patriot receiver Julian Edelman stayed in the game after receiving a vicious and illegal (but not penalized) helmet-to-helmet hit”, neither one of which was even mentioned during the broadcast.

Instead, the NFL announcers conspicuously drew attention to the concussion that Seattle’s Cliff Avril sustained and for which he was removed from the game. Lane and Edelman’s injuries weren’t obvious, so they were quietly taken away, while Avril was blown across the field, his case could not be ignored and was instead taken as an example of the NFL’s focus on safety.