The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The play call that costs Seahawks Super Bowl victory wasn’t a bad one

Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll tried to defend his decision to not hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch on second down and a yard to win the Super Bowl with 26 seconds left, but no one was buying it.

The win probability for Seattle was at 84.9 percent after taking a timeout with 1 minute 6 seconds left. That drops slightly to 84.4 percent after Marshawn Lynch ran behind the left tackle for a four-yard gain and no score. Then, Russell Wilson thinks Ricardo Lockette is going to be open in the end zone (green arrow) because

is seemingly not in a position to get to the ball (red arrow).

But Butler can – and does – get to the ball for the interception (red circle).

And with that, New England secures its first Super Bowl victory in ten years.

The Seahawks found themselves in a similar position (down by six points or less, 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, second down and goal to go) just twice before in the past two years. They ran it both times but didn’t score a touchdown on either play. Teams as a whole run the ball two-thirds of the time (66.7 percent) in those situations, but score a touchdown just 41 percent of the time when rushing the ball.

If we look at all downs in those goal-to-go situations over the past two years, the Seahawks have almost an even split between the run and pass, as do the other teams in the league, on average. In fact, no team ran the ball exclusively in those situations, so a pass was going to happen on this series at some point to keep the defense honest.

“[The Patriots] get paid to make plays as well, and Malcolm [Butler] made a play,” NFL Network analyst and former Redskins great LaVar Arrington said on NFL AM. “It happens in football. It just happened to take place on one of single biggest plays on the biggest stage in sports. I don’t put the blame on anybody on this.”

The stats don’t either.