GLENDALE, Ariz. — Who didn’t think they had just seen the dumbest play call in Super Bowl history?
Even a couple of Seahawks players were mumbling among themselves, with one saying as he walked into the shower, “We run the ball all day and we’re on the 1-yard line and we throw it . . .?”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll tried to defend not handing off to Marshawn Lynch on second down and a yard to win the game with 26 seconds left. He could have handed off for three plays to the best running back in football.
Carroll tried to take the blame for it, but it was offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who made the call.
Three tries to get 1 yard.
Scoring the winning touchdown was a formality. Winning a second straight Super Bowl was just about guaranteed.
After all, Lynch, the best money runner in the game, who had run for 102 yards on 24 carries, was back there.
“Well, you know, I’m calling the plays and I make the calls and I wish Carroll would tell me to do something different, but we communicate, we talk, and I make all of the play calls,” Bevell said.
Bevell reiterated Carroll’s concern about running down the clock.
“There are 20 different things going through my mind about what I should do. I might see who could run it. Doesn’t mean that’s a score on that play but we were just making sure we were conscious of the time,” Bevell explained.
The Seahawks had gained all of their energy from Lynch, who started to run hard in the second quarter after a slow start.
The Seahawks even had a timeout left.
So what do they do? They pass.
Russell Wilson tried to groove one inside to the speedy Ricardo Lockette, but Malcolm Butler jumped the route for the interception. Game over. Patriots win.
“We have everything in mind,” Carroll explained. “How we’re going to do it. We’re going to leave them no time and we had our plays to do it. We sent in our personnel and they sent in goal line. It’s not the right matchup for us to run the football so on second down we throw the ball, really to kind of waste that play. If we score, we do, if we don’t then we’ll run it on third and fourth down.
“And unfortunately with the play we tried to execute the guy [Butler] makes a great play and jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that nobody ever thinks he could do,” Carroll said.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the world who wasn’t surprised by the call.
“I’m a little bit surprised,’’ Seahawks corner Richard Sherman said of the play call. “It was an unfortunate play. Their guy made a heck of a play, you’ve got to give him all the credit.”
He added, “What I would have done is irrelevant at this time. We trusted our quarterback and unfortunately they made the play.”
Wilson also credits Butler with making a great play.
When told Carroll took the blame for the loss, Wilson said, “It’s not his fault. I put the blame on me — the guy made a play. I don’t know what I could have done differently — I need to see it. We were right there, so blame me.”
Wilson, in fact said when it left his hands, “I thought I had a touchdown honestly.”
Sure he thought that way. He had had an efficient and effective game throwing the ball down the field, with four passing plays of more than 30 yards.
“We could have run it and got stuffed,” Carroll said. “We could run it and scored. We could have scored against their goal line as well. I know what could have happened. It just wasn’t a great football thought at the time,” he said.
“Great football is let’s make sure we match up properly so we can have our best chance to run it and score,” Carroll said. “In retrospect, we could have easily run it and we wouldn’t be talking about this right now. We might have got stuffed on third and fourth down, I don’t know. This is what happened,” Carroll said.
Patriots corner Brandon Browner, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks last year even though he was suspended for the game, said what everyone was thinking.
“I’m just as surprised as everyone else. Marshawn Lynch, hands down, is the best running back in the game. I just really feel like sometimes these coaches are so intelligent they out-strategize themselves. I think that’s what that case was. It’s simple. You turn around and give it to the best back in the game.”
Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin agreed with Browner.
“We had it. I don’t understand how you don’t give it to the best back in the league on not even the 1-yard line. We were on the half-yard line and we throw a slant. I don’t know what the offense had going on, what they saw. I just don’t understand.”
This seemed like the easiest decision in the world. Twenty different things floating through Bevell’s mind? It was a simple decision made so complicated.
As for Lynch, who didn’t speak to the media all week, when asked if he was surprised he didn’t get the ball, told ESPN’s Jim Trotter, “No. Because we play football. It’s a team sport.”
The Seahawks could have been special with back-to-back Super Bowl wins.
Now they’ll be remembered for their crazy decision.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.