10 other plays that doomed the Seahawks

SEATTLE — The Seahawks called a pass play, Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped the route, and an interception ensured that Seattle’s hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions fell one yard short.

By now you’ve seen the replay a thousand times, heard the play call debated ad nauseam, and asked over and over again, “Why didn’t they give it to Marshawn Lynch? Whhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?”

But when a championship comes down to literally one yard, a lot had to happen besides that final Seahawks pass for the Patriots to emerge from Super Bowl XLIX as 28-24 victors. Great plays, mistakes, injuries, shrewd coaching decisions, penalties and no-calls all played a role in the game getting to the 1-yard line with seconds remaining.

While Butler’s interception was the biggest and most memorable play that led to the New England victory, it wasn’t the only one. So let’s go back and look at 10 plays from the second half, other than the interception, that contributed to the Seahawks falling short.

Third quarter

11:51 remaining, third-and-1 from the New England 8

Lynch runs for no gain.

Rushing Lynch on third-and-short is, by itself, an easy decision, but what was significant is that it was a third straight run just after Russell Wilson had hit Chris Matthews for a 45-yard gain.

After Lynch was stuffed and Seattle settled for a field goal, a mic’d up Wilson would tell offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to “have confidence in me down there.”

8:15 remaining, third-and-9 from the New England 32

Tom Brady’s pass intended for Rob Gronkowski is intercepted by Bobby Wagner.

This turnover set up a touchdown that put the Seahawks up 10 points, but it was also the play on which defensive end Cliff Avril suffered a concussion, the second key injury on an interception along with Jeremy Lane’s broken arm.

Both of these players would be missed in a big way down the stretch as the Patriots overcame a 10-point deficit.

1:12 remaining, third-and-2 from the New England 47

Wilson’s deep pass down the left sideline is dropped by Jermaine Kearse.

The throw was contested by Butler, but it was still a catch Kearse should make. And if he did haul in that long pass, momentum stays with the Seahawks, who likely get at least a field goal out of the drive to extend their 10-point lead. Instead, Seattle punts.

Fourth quarter

10:58 remaining, third-and-14, from the New England 28

Brady climbs the pocket and hits Julian Edelman over the middle for a 21-yard gain.

In retrospect, this might have been the play of the game, other than THE play of the game. Up to this point, Seattle’s defense had been dominant in the second half, and another punt might have done New England in, but instead this was the play that jumpstarted the comeback.

8:46 remaining, third-and-8 from the Seattle 25

Brady again moves up in the pocket and hits Edelman for a 21-yard gain.

Again Seattle had third-and-long, and again Brady came through. Those two third-down throws, along with a 15-yard penalty on Earl Thomas, allowed the Patriots to get down the field in a hurry.

Two plays later, Brady hit Danny Amendola for a touchdown, and suddenly the Patriots were right back in the game.

7:55 remaining, first-and-10 from the Seattle 20

Wilson’s pass to Ricardo Lockette goes incomplete.

Running a crossing route, Lockette was open when Butler fell in coverage, but suddenly Lockette was on the ground too. Replays showed that Butler reached out as he went down and tripped Lockette.

It’s hard to blame Butler; he was beat, and Lockette catching that pass at full speed would have gone for a bigger gain than would a pass interference penalty, but it’s a trip officials should have caught.

The Seahawks would go three-and-out after Wilson missed an open Lynch on third-and-5, compounding the significance of the no-call.

4:47 remaining, second-and-11 from the New England 48

Brady connects with Rob Gronkowski for a 20-yard gain.

Brady would hit Gronkowski again for 19 yards two plays later on second-and-10, two of the most important connections of the day between New England’s best two offensive players.

2:06 remaining, second-and-goal from the Seattle 3

Brady hits Edelman for a touchdown.

Edelman burned Tharold Simon by faking a slant route, then spinning back outside, a move he had also used on the previous drive, only to be overthrown by Brady.

After not giving up a fourth-quarter point in the last six games of the regular season, Seattle allowed 14 to the Patriots.

1:55 remaining, first-and-10 from the New England 49

Wilson’s deep pass to Kearse is broken up by Butler.

The loss of down was less significant than the fact that Wilson, with the clock stopped, had to burn a timeout. The Seahawks would later use their second timeout following Kearse’s 33-yard circus catch, putting them in a position where they had to throw on second-and-goal from the 1.

1:06 remaining, first-and-goal from the New England 5

Lynch rushes for 4 yards to the 1.

In the excitement of the finish, it was easy to miss just how close Lynch was to scoring one play before the interception. The play was well blocked, and when he hit the hole, Lynch looked for a moment like he was going to score, but linebacker Dont’a Hightower dove to undercut Lynch with a shoulder tackle.

If Hightower is a split second later to the tackle, or if he hit Lynch up high and Lynch fought through it, or if any of the above plays had turned out differently, Wednesday’s parade might have been in Seattle instead of Boston.

Herald Columnist John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com

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