The Seattle Seahawks’ decision to throw a slant pass from the New England Patriots’ 1-yard line with time running out in Sunday’s Super Bowl will go down as one of the most-talked-about play calls in NFL history. It didn’t work, with Malcolm Butler stepping in to intercept Russell Wilson’s pass to seal the Patriots’ title, so many will call it a gigantic blunder. That includes the Seahawks themselves.
“How do you throw the ball when you got Marshawn Lynch?” Seattle cornerback Tharold Simon asked incredulously afterward.
“I have no idea why we would throw the ball there,” linebacker Bruce Irvin said.
Others, like Post stat guru Neil Greenberg, take the opposite view: That the call itself wasn’t bad, with Butler simply making a standout play to intercept the pass.
So would it have been better for Seattle to simply give Lynch the ball from the 1? Maybe not. This season, Lynch got the ball five times at the opponent’s 1-yard line. He scored just once.
Seahawks vs. Broncos, Sept. 21: Lynch loses one yard.
Seahawks vs. Giants, Nov. 9 (first quarter): Lynch touchdown.
Seahawks vs. Giants, Nov. 9 (second quarter): Lynch loses one yard.
Seahawks vs. Giants, Nov. 9 (third quarter): Lynch no gain.
Seahawks vs. 49ers, Nov. 27: Lynch no gain.
Over his career, Lynch has had 36 carries from the opponent’s 1-yard line. More often than not, he didn’t reach the end zone. He scored on 15 of those carries, or 41.7 percent of the time. On 12 of those carries, he did not gain a yard. On nine of them, he lost yardage.
How do Lynch’s numbers from the 1 stack up against other running backs in the league? Not all that great. “Among 39 running backs with at least 10 carries from the 1-yard line in the past 5 seasons (incl. playoffs), Lynch’s touchdown percentage (45 percent) ranks 30th,” reports ESPN Stats and Info.
So maybe the play call — remember, Seattle only had one timeout left — wasn’t all that unreasonable, when you consider that Beast Mode doesn’t work all the time from the 1. But how has the Patriots’ defense performed at the 1? Since 2000, Coach Bill Belichick’s first year, New England’s defense has been on the field 165 times with its opponent at the 1-yard line. Of those plays, 89 ended in a touchdown (53.9 percent). Four of those plays, including Sunday night, ended in an interception (before Butler, the last Patriots defensive player to make an interception from the 1 was Junior Seau vs. the Browns in 2007). Four other plays ended in a fumble (the last time that happened for New England was against the Colts in 2004).
This season, New England’s defense faced 10 plays from the 1. Seven went for a touchdown (five rushing, two passing). The last one was infamously intercepted.