Seahawks offense stayed true to form on last Super Bowl pass
Pete Carroll’s decision to pass instead of run on Seattle’s final play wasn’t totally out of character from what the team had done in similar situations this season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PHOENIX — No one on the Seahawks has ever publicly questioned Marshawn Lynch’s status as the pulse of the team.
“As an offense, we know everything goes through him,” running-backs coach Sherman Smith said in a familiar refrain two weeks before the Super Bowl. “He’s the heart and soul of our team. I truly believe that.”
And yet, in the biggest moment of the season, in need of a yard to win a second consecutive Super Bowl, the Seahawks passed instead of handing off to Lynch.
Quarterback Russell Wilson threw an interception with 20 seconds left, the Patriots ran out the clock, and the decision to throw instead of run Lynch likely will go down as the most talked about play call in Seahawks history.
But what have the Seahawks done in similar situations this season? It is impossible to offer apples-to-apples comparisons, because each team offers different challenges, and each game unfolds in different ways.
But here’s what we can look at: The Seahawks ran 19 plays from within their opponents’ 3-yard line this season before the Super Bowl against the Patriots on Sunday.
Of those 19 plays from 3 yards or in:
• Lynch carried the ball 11 times. He scored touchdowns on five of those carries.
• Wilson carried the ball twice. He scored touchdowns on zone-read plays in which he faked a handoff to Lynch, then pulled the ball back and took off running. He scored untouched both times.
• Wilson and the Seahawks attempted six passing plays. Wilson completed three of five passes and was sacked one other time for a 1-yard loss. He threw two touchdown passes. One went to Robert Turbin out of the backfield for a 3-yard touchdown, the other to tight end Tony Moeaki after faking the handoff to Lynch for a 1-yard touchdown. One of the incompletions was on fourth-and-two against the Chiefs when Wilson floated a pass to Doug Baldwin in the fourth quarter that fell incomplete.
Lynch is renowned for his power and for his ability to drag three or four defenders. He had rushed for more than 100 yards against the Patriots and had looked as difficult to tackle as ever. The Seahawks opted to pass instead, and though the merits of doing that certainly are questionable, it wasn’t totally out of character from what they’d done in similar situations this season.
Monday, Carroll stood by the play and once again laid out the logic for making the call: The Patriots had brought in their goal-line package, and Carroll thought it was a good time to stay with three receivers and try to take advantage of that.
“We easily could have gone otherwise,” Carroll said outside the team hotel in Phoenix on Monday, “but when they sent their goal-line guys in, I know that we have the advantage on the matchups in the passing game, so let’s throw it.”
Carroll also remained consistent in the decision that went into the play call.
“It’s really easy to look at it that way from the outside, but we were very confident in the sequence, and we were going to use every play,” Carroll said. “The idea is to always have all your plays available and not run the clock out and there’s another down left, and so we had that organized to do that.”
Last summer, Carroll spoke to season-ticket holders at a town-hall meeting when someone asked about passing the ball more this season.
“Who was asking about the passing stats?” Carroll asked. “Who was that guy? Who was that?...This game of football has always been about the physical side of it, the aggressive, physical, take-care-of-the-ball mentality. We close the loop on toughness by being a running team. The circle of toughness wouldn’t be there if we were throwing the ball.”
It is hard not to think back on those words when thinking about what had just happened in Arizona on Sunday. The Seahawks hadn’t always turned to Lynch this season when they could sniff the goal line, but he has been their beating heart for three-plus seasons, and his specialty is in picking up the tough yards.
“We had prepared so hard for those situations,” Carroll said. “We were clear-thinking. We understood what was going on, and then the change of their personnel hit me that this is the time to take advantage of that. Let’s not try to stuff it at a goal-line defense. And it just didn’t turn out right.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org