The old country proverb goes that “when you’re invited to the biggest party of the year, you dance with who brung ya”. The past four seasons have seen Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch morph into one of the best power backs in National Football League history. In his four-plus seasons with the Seahawks, Lynch has 54 rushing touchdowns and it takes a committee of defenders to bring him down on every play. But unfortunately for the Seahawks, their head coach Pete Carroll had a brain cramp and forgot that last night.
With the Seahawks trailing the New England Patriots 28-24 in the waning seconds of Super Bowl 49 last night, there was only 36 inches between a second consecutive Super Bowl Title for Seattle. But with 20 seconds left and one time out at his disposal, Carroll attempted to get to hallelujah land by air instead of on the ground. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson attempted a slant pass to wide receiver Kevin Lockette, but Seattle didn’t figure that Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler would jump the route and secure the interception that would give New England their fourth Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. Carroll and the Seahawks could only watch as the Patriots ran out the clock and Seattle’s chance of joining an elitist group of teams to win consecutive Vince Lombardi Trophies faded into the Arizona night. Now Carroll will be looked at by most observers and armchair quarterbacks alike as far as making the worst decision in Super Bowl history.
This wasn’t a win or tie decision on a two-point conversion like the one that former Nebraska head football coach Tom Osborne made at the end of the 1984 Orange Bowl: this was a moment where Carroll simply out thought himself.
Lynch ranks up there among some of the greatest goal line runners in NFL history and when you’re that close to pay dirt, you have to give him the football and get out of his way. In the early 1980’s, you never saw Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs waver from giving the football to running back John Riggins who had 104 career rushing touchdowns. The same can be said for running back Walter Payton who had 104 career rushing touchdowns and Emmitt Smith who is the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 164. Only two players in Seahawks franchise history have scored more rushing touchdowns than Lynch as Curt Warner scored 55 and Shaun Alexander finished his career with 100.
The Seahawks have great players, but Lynch is the heart and soul of that team. Lynch’s teammates marvel at his runs. The Seahawks offense is always attempting to pick up extra blocks for him while the defense forces turnovers to get the football back in his hands. Lynch’s teammates are always quick to stick up for him when he is criticized for not talking with the media.
The Seahawks have emerged as one of the better teams in the National Football League in recent years by being one of the most physical teams around. Physicality is created by having a smash mouth running game along with a defense that is tough to score on and they also deliver the pain.
In the Seahawks 43-8 victory in Super Bowl 48 over the Denver Broncos, Lynch was limited to just 39 yards, but Seattle was the more physical team as they jumped on Denver and forced four turnovers. This time around the Seahawks defense was able to force two interceptions by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but unlike their game against the Broncos, New England was mentally tougher. In the final 20 minutes of Super Bowl 49, Carroll and the Seahawks got away from what made them 12-4 in the regular season and won them their second consecutive NFC Championship. Late in the third quarter, Seahawks wide reciver Jermaine Kearse dropped a key third-down reception which could have iced the game and instead the Patriots got the football back and they began to gain momentum as Brady would own the fourth quarter. The Seahawks had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and Brady picked apart the secondary that couldn’t be scored upon as he simply punched the bullies right in the mouth. And when the Seahawks were set to punch the football in with a few precious seconds remaining in the contest, everyone in attendance at the University of Phoenix Stadium and watching around the world knew that Lycnh would get the ball; except Carroll.
Now Carroll must face the music; especially from within the Seahawks locker room because he got away from the team’s indentity. In Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, New York Yankees manager Billy Martin didn’t ask Reggie Jackson to bunt as he would hit three home runs that night and be dubbed as Mr. October. Opportunites to win a Super Bowl don’t come around that often and when you get there you must make the most of it. The Seahawks should still be a strong team next season, but Lynch will be a year older and eventually the pounding as a power back will take its toll and the well will run dry. The Seahawks have been fortunate over the past few years that they haven’t been hit with the injury bug that much which could strike at any moment. For all of his accolades as a quarterback, Wilson is not a player that will simply beat you shearly off of passing as he is more of a game manager. Being a game manager is not a slight at Wilson as Troy Aikman road this philosophy to three Super Bowl Championships as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys along with enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wilson won’t beat you with his arm like Brady will and what has made him such a good quarterback so quickly is that he doesn’t make mistakes due to the fact that he always tends to make the right football play. Carroll didn’t put Wilson in the best position to win during the closing moments of Super Bowl 49. The Seahawks thought twice about throwing the football in the direction of Patriots cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and when they decided to pick on the green Butler, they got burned.
The Seahawks will return to Seattle saying to themselves, so close, yet so far. And for the immediate future, Carroll will be remembered by this blunder as the Seahawks are still in quest of their second Super Bowl Championship.