The Patriots had just marched down the field on another late game heroic effort from Tom Brady, culminating in a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 2:02 remaining in Super Bowl XLIX. New England fans cheered as Brady had orchestrated another late game victory, ending their Super Bowl drought.
But Russell Wilson had some magic left.
Beast Mode, out and up, for 20 yards.
A bomb to Jermaine Kearse who, channeling his inner Antonio Freeman, focused on the tipped pass while on his back, hauled it in and got up and got out of bounds.
Seattle fans rejoiced. Pats fans were shocked, and even a little “deflated” (Sorry. Couldn’t resist).
Beast Mode took the ball to the 1 yard line, and Cris Collinsworth began the debate. Should Belichick call a timeout? Should he let them score to save some time? To Seahawks fans, and anti-Pats fans, it didn’t matter because everyone knew it was Beast Mode time and the Vince Lombardi trophy was theirs.
The ball was hiked and Wilson stepped back to pass. Wait. What?
Interception by undrafted West Alabama rookie Malcolm Butler.
Stunning. Shocking. Exciting. Thrilling. Redemption. Just some of the words that many were using at that moment, at least the ones that I can print here.
But I choose “dumb.”
That was the dumbest call I have ever seen in any sport that I can recall. It was dumb for every reason you could fathom- Beast Mode was in the backfield, they had a time out, the clock was running down, it was only second down, an incomplete pass stops the clock. But the biggest reason is the first one I mentioned- Beast Mode was in the backfield! No disrespect to Ricardo Lockette or any Seattle receiver, as they all played good games and made the catches they needed to make. But there were only three plays to call in that situation:
Beast Mode left.
Beast Mode middle.
Beast Mode right.
That’s all they needed to do, give Lynch the ball. That was common sense.
That was the ONLY call to make.
But Carroll, or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, or both, put common sense to the side and made a call that will haunt them for the rest of the lives no matter where they go, what team they coach for or what street they live on.
Said Carroll after the game, “I made the decision. I said, ‘Throw the ball,’ and we went with the play that we thought would give us a chance to get in the end zone. We had great matchups for the call that we made, and it didn’t work out. They made a better play than we did.”
Actually no. You made the best play, just not for your team.
Coach Belichick, for all the negative things people might say about him, knows what to do in pressure situations. He creates plays to get his money players in the right situation, and he goes to his big play guys when a crucial play is needed. That’s why Gronk scored. That’s why Edelman scored the go ahead touchdown.
That’s why giving Lynch the ball was the ONLY call to make.
There were other plays in sports history, and in championship games, that come close to this one. Greg Popovich leaving Duncan on the bench in the closing seconds of Game 6 against the Miami Heat a few years ago. Neil O’Donnell throwing basically the same pass twice to the same side against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX, resulting in two interceptions by Larry Brown (earning him game MVP, a huge contract from the Raiders and then disappearing from football after failing to live up to the expectations after that game). But the only one that comes close is Pat Riley letting John Starks shoot the Knicks out of the NBA Championship in Game 7 against The Rockets; Knicks fans watched helplessly as Starks shot 2-17, screaming for Riley to let Harper and Hubert Davis shoot instead.
But even that can’t compare to what Carroll did last night by running Marshawn Lynch to the flat and calling a pick play for Lockette. Said Lynch to ESPN.com’s Jim Trotter when asked if he was surprised that he didn’t get the ball at the end of the game “No. Because we play football. It’s a team sport.”
Lynch said the right thing. He did the right things.
Carroll said the right thing, and he did the right things for a little over 59 minutes last night
But football is played for :60 minutes, and in the final few seconds in the 2014-2015 season, Carroll made the worst call ever.