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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 recipe.

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 attempts.

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 showed.

As Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus observed, "[n]othing in football gives you an edge like knowing what is coming."

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.

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