Super Bowl 49
Thoughts: Belichick's Signature Moment
Plato probably was laying the points on Bill Belichick when he said, "A
good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers."
The numbers in Super Bowl 48 sure did not add up to a 28-26 win for New England
over Seattle. When the final whistle sounded, the Seahawks were both infinitely
productive and +1 in the turnover battle. That is almost always a winning
Indeed, during the 2014 regular season, NFL teams that were both infinitely
productive (i.e., averaged more than 10 yards per pass attempt) and at least +1
turnover were 46-2 (.958). In both defeats, the loser's kicking game imploded.
In Week 2, Cleveland K Billy Cundiff missed 2 field goals in a 21-17 loss to
Baltimore. In Week 16, Miami blocked a Minnesota punt for safety with :41 to
play to pin a 37-35 loss on the Vikings. In contrast, Seattle suffered no such
special teams calamity.
Almost from the start, Seahawks' OC Darrell Bevell caught Belichick by surprise
by attacking deep against the Patriots third and fourth cornerbacks, Kyle
Arrington and Logan Ryan, with lanky third and fourth wide receivers Ricardo
Lockette and Chris Matthews. Those two combined for 168 of the 247 yards and 1
of the 2 passing TDs that Seattle QB Russell Wilson generated on just 21 pass
Meanwhile, Seattle's defense bracketed a soft second quarter against New
England QB Tom Brady (11-16-129-2 TDs) with stifling first and third quarters
(13-19-75-2 Ints). When the Seahawks sacked Brady with 12:10 to play and a
24-14 lead, it appeared Pete Carroll was well on his way to a second straight
Super Bowl title. But, suddenly, Brady erupted (13-15-124-2 TDs) and his second
scoring pass of the quarter put New England on top and set the stage for what
will be rememberd as Belichick's signature moment.
After Wilson quickly moved Seattle to the Patriots 1-yard line with about 1
minute to play, most so-called experts expected Belchick to stop the clock with
a timeout in order to conserve time for Brady to respond if the Seahawks
scored and took the lead.
But Belchick let the clock run and chose to make his stand on defense.
Backup defensive back Malcolm Butler made that bet pay off big when he jumped
in front of Lockette's slant pattern and intercepted Wilson's pass at the goal
line. After the game, Butler said he knew the slant was coming because
Belichick had prepared him for the precise formation and play that Bevell
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus observed,
"[n]othing in football gives you an edge like knowing what is
Bevell drew immediate heavy criticism for making "the worst call" in
Super Bowl history. But you have to admit that Lockette and Matthews had been
having their way with New England's smaller DB's the entire game. And Wilson
and Lockette made at most token efforts to disguise what was coming and likely
tipped Butler off by looking inside and at one another before the snap.
But thwarting Seattle still required perfect preparation and perfect execution
by Belichick and Butler. Just as the master of the running game, Vince
Lombardi, is remembered for Bart Starr's touchdown sneak in the "Ice
Bowl" and the master of the passing game, Bill Walsh, is rememberd for Joe
Montana's touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, the
master of defense, Belichick, will be remembered for Butler's interception.
"The bottom line in all of this is that this wasn't some embarrassing
debacle, a sad way to end an otherwise thrilling Super Bowl," Monson
wrote. "This was a fantastic play that made logical sense to the offense,
and was just defeated by better defensive play and stellar preparation from the
New England Patriots.
If ever one play was going to define a Super Bowl this is a pretty fitting one
to do so."
QC could not have said it better himself.