By Nick Eaton, Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist
It will be the topic of discussion all offseason. It will be remembered as one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history. It will be immortalized in highlight films for ages to come.
We could be talking about Seattle Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse’s wild, bobbling catch at New England’s 5-yard line as the clock wound down, setting up the Hawks for a thrilling victory Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX. “The Catch,” as it could have been known.
Instead, we are talking about the game-sealing interception by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler in the end zone, the pick that dashed the Seahawks’ hopes of a Super Bowl repeat in the most heartbreaking fashion imaginable. “The Call,” as it surely will be remembered.
Seattle was on the brink of football immortality, ready to steal a victory away from the powerful Patriots, who surged from a 10-point deficit against the Seahawks’ lauded defense to take a 28-24 lead with 2:02 left in the contest. Two plays after Kearse’s incredible catch, the Hawks were at New England’s 1-yard line, ready to punch it in with running back Marshawn Lynch.
But with the clock ticking, with under 30 seconds to go, Seattle called a pass on second-and-goal. A dart from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to receiver Ricardo Lockette landed in the wrong hands, and Butler secured the ball to secure the Patriots’ 28-24 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
After the game, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll (left) said he deserves the blame for calling a pass instead of a run, but that the play sequence was part of a gameplan against the defense New England sent to the field on that down.
“We have everything in mind, how we’re going to do it,” Carroll said. “We’re going to leave them no time, and we had our plays to do it. We sent in our personnel, they sent in goal-line (package) — it’s not the right matchup for us to run the football — so on second down we throw the ball really to kind of waste a play.
“If we score, we do. If we don’t, then we’ll run it in on third and fourth down. Really, (we called it) with no second thoughts or no hesitation at all. And unfortunately, with the play that we tried to execute, the guy (Butler) makes a great play and jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that nobody would ever think he could do. And unfortunately that changes the whole outcome.”
Wilson, who threw the interception, said it was simply a clutch defensive play that dashed Seattle’s second-straight title shot.
“That’s really what it comes down to — the guy just made a great play,” Seattle’s third-year quarterback said. “I had a chance, was looking, and then he kind of cut in front of it and made a play. I thought it was a touchdown, honestly. Unfortunate situation, man.”
“(Carroll) took the blame for it — whatever — but you know, it’s not his fault,” Wilson added. “I put the blame on me; the guy made a play. I don’t know what I could have done differently — I need to see it. We were right there, so I put the blame on me. I’m the one that gave him the ball, in a way.”
Lynch, who didn’t speak with most reporters Sunday, told ESPN’s Jim Trotter that he didn’t question the call: “No. Because we play football. It’s a team sport.”
Other Seahawks, however, weren’t quite so understanding about the play call.
“I’m a little bit surprised,” cornerback Richard Sherman said after the game. “It was an unfortunate play. Their guy made a heck of a play and that’s all you can ask for.”
“What I would have done is irrelevant at this time,” he added. “We went with that play. We trusted our quarterback, and unfortunately they made the play.”
Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, who was ejected from the game when a fight broke out after the interception, was even harsher on the decision.
“We had it,” he said. “I don’t understand how you don’t give it to the best back in the league on not even the 1-yard line. We were on the half-yard line and we throw a slant. I don’t know what the offense had going on, what they saw. I just don’t understand.”
“It was meant to be. After Kearse caught the ball, I thought it was meant to be,” Irvin added. “We just didn’t finish it.”