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The Seahawks had more than one chance to win the Super Bowl

Yes, there was that call, but the Seahawks had more than one chance to put the Patriots away and claim their second straight Lombardi Trophy. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White goes into the film room for a closer look.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The all-22 game film is available now, and I'm going dive deep into the details from the Super Bowl (while not boring you to tears). My goal is to provide a greater understanding of how the Patriots came to win that game, and enlighten you about some key contributors you may not have heard about and missed opportunities that might have changed the outcome.

Let's start with the play everyone wants to talk about. I hate to disappoint the tin foil hat, conspiracy minded among you, but the play itself was a good play. We all can agree it wasn't the correct call in that circumstance, but the play had a high probability of success had it been run correctly. The correct play was giving Marshawn Lynch the ball so he could grab his nuts as he dove over a host of Patriots defenders into the end zone.

I've heard all of the justifications from the Seahawks about why they called the pass play. The main thing I gathered is that for some odd reason they lost their confidence, their usual swagger at the end of that game when they needed it most. That they were so concerned with the final timeout and when to use it tells me that they didn't have a lot of confidence in that play call on second down. In the past, the Seahawks put everything into scoring on every possible play at the end of a game. I would use the term "selling out" to describe how they attacked opposing defenses when they've found themselves in similar situations. Fuck probability and statistics in that defining moment; you have to believe that your freight train of a running back will get you a yard to put the game away.

For whatever reason head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell decided to play the "what if" game instead of the "lets go ahead and run right down their damn throat to end this" game, and it cost them the Super Bowl.

But back to the play they did run, it was indeed a good play on paper. This is what was supposed to happen after the ball was snapped.

The Seahawks came out with a stacked wide receiver formation. Jermaine Kearse is lined up on the line of scrimmage. Ricardo Lockette is lined up off the line and just outside of Kearse. Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner is lined up on the line, head up on Kearse (yellow circle). Cornerback Malcolm Butler is lined up off the line and outside head up on Lockette (red circle).

The theory of the play is that Kearse will get off the line and run a route that puts him directly between Butler and Lockette, who is running a slant right underneath him. The Seahawks figured correctly that Browner would be so focused on Kearse that he wouldn't think of trying to come off and cover Lockette. If the play had worked like they drew it up on the whiteboard, Lockette would have walked into the end zone.

What the Seahawks could not, wait I can't tell that lie, the Seahawks should have known that Kearse was going to have a hard time getting off the line against Browner. That's especially true since on the play before, a running play to the opposite side of the field, Browner jacked Kearse up at the line like he owed him money. On the fateful interception play on the next down, Browner didn't quite jam Kearse as well as he had on the play before, but it was pretty damn close. It's like he shocked Kearse so badly when he put his hands on him that Kearse momentarily forgot what route he was supposed to run. When it came back to him, it was simply too late as he still could not get loose from Browner's death grip.

That was unacceptable.

The whole premise of the play was dependent on Kearse executing that natural pick. The fact that he couldn't allowed Butler to break right up on the ball. Lockette, whom I'm sure was surprised by the fact that Butler was anywhere in the vicinity, reacted too slow to Butler bearing down him and had no shot of making the catch nor breaking up the pass and keeping Butler from coming down with it.

I know Bevell called out Lockette for not going after the ball harder, which was admittedly bush league by Bevell, but if there was someone who deserved to get called out on that play it was Kearse. He has to get Browner off him. Has to!

seahawks pick

Hell, even Robin Williams got off the line against Dr. Death when the game was in the balance!

Let me reiterate that it was still the wrong play. Not a bad play, but the wrong one all the same.

In fairness, I also have to point out that when the Patriots went to goal line personnel earlier in the game the Seahawks countered by throwing the touchdown to Doug Baldwin off play action. So at the least it was consistent with what they did at the end.

Hightower saved the game first

One thing I definitely want to point out is that the Seahawks never would have had to worry about whether to run or pass on second down if not for an incredible effort play by Dont'a Hightower on first down. The Seahawks gave Lynch the ball on a fullback lead ISO to their left. Left tackle Russell Okung, a damn good tackle in fact, started off double teaming a defensive tackle inside of him with left guard James Carpenter, then worked his way up to the second level to block Hightower. Okung was in perfect position too; he made it look like training tape footwork.

However, when he made contact with Hightower, Okung ended up going a little too far upfield trying to shield him inside. That little mistake allowed Hightower to get full extension with both arms on Okung's chest, then fall back inside of his block to throw himself at Lynch's knees as he came through the hole. Look at this next picture.

Hightower tackle

Tell me what do you think would have happened if Hightower wasn't there hitting Lynch in his knees on this play? Lynch would've been in the end zone telling the commissioner and much of the sports media to taste the rainbow!

Hightower's extra effort ended up saving the game for the Patriots as much as the interception by Butler in my opinion.

Let me say this too: If Lynch does score that would have given him 103 yards and two touchdowns. That would have been nice, but no guarantee that would have earned him MVP honors. If there is one thing that is unpredictable, it's who gets voted MVP in a game where the winning team's quarterback didn't have impressive statistics. Then remembering that it's sports media folks who vote on the MVP award anyway, it just isn't very likely Lynch was going to get it with those stats. I bet they would have given it to the linebacker Bobby Wagner before they gave it to Lynch. Quit trying to make it seem like the Seahawks or the NFL or the Tooth Fairy called that play just so Lynch wouldn't get MVP. It probably wasn't going to happen either way.

star divide

Now that we got that out of the way let me say this, Patriots fans aren't likely to enjoy this review of the game. It's not that the Patriots didn't do a lot of good things. They definitely hung in there and eventually beat a defense that I thought would give them fits. Their defense also held up against the run much better than I would have thought they would.

The problem I see, looking at the all 22, are missed opportunities by the Seahawks, plays where I feel like the offense left tons of yardage on the field. I just didn't see many of those same kind of plays by the Patriots. They did about the best they could have done, all things considered and still were faced with losing their third Superbowl in as many tries after having won all three that they participated in during the early 2000s. That's not really good nor bad, it just is.

Why didn't Russell Wilson run more?

I said before the game that Russell Wilson needed to run the ball eight to 10 times for the Seahawks to really be able to exploit the Patriots defense. He didn't, and that was a major reason why Lynch had a hard time getting loose into the secondary. I cannot for the life of me understand why a guy as athletic as Wilson allowed Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich to shut him down from pulling the ball and running on read-option plays. I swear I was damn near pulling my hair out reviewing the film and seeing all that green grass. Wilson passed up so much green grass over and over and over again with only one man to beat to the outside.

Here are a few illustrations of my frustrations.

Run russ

Same play, seen from the end zone.

Run Russ

run russ

run russ

run russ

This was third-and-1, for crying out loud, and Lynch did not get it!

Wilson finally decided to pull the ball on first-and-10 with 24 seconds left in the first half. Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins had him dead to rights on a blitz until Wilson gave him a stutter step and got around him for 17 yards. That play helped the Seahawks get in position to eventually score the game-tying touchdown with six seconds left in the half. And yet, that was the first time he did that all game and damn near his last.

Not only did Wilson pass up opportunities to gain yardage with his legs off read option, but he also seemed loathe to try to gain yards when he scrambled from the pocket. Instead of getting up the field, he kept going side to side. He did have the one scramble for 15 yards that helped set up a third-quarter touchdown, but there were at least two other times when he could have and should have at least tried to move the sticks with his legs. The Seahawks needed to keep the chains moving as much as they could in the second half once they had a 10-point lead. With Wilson damn near refusing to run, they had a hard time converting on third down because the defense didn't have to worry about that threat. If Wilson had just two or three more first downs with his legs, it would have opened up the running game for Lynch by creating bigger cut back lanes and wear down the Patriots defense.

But if "ifs" were fifths, we would all be fucked up.

Two key injuries

On the Patriots side of things, I did not see them being able to win with Brady throwing the ball 50 times against that defense. Two things allowed them to do so. One was an injury to starting nickel back Jeremy Lane. The second was an injury in the second half to defensive end Cliff Avril. As soon as Lane went out with that broken arm, Brady pulled out his blowtorch, aimed it at Lane's replacement Tharold Simon and commenced to roasting his ass.

Time and time again Julian Edelman was able to break away from Simon to make a big catch. The poor kid might as well have had a "kick me" note taped to his back. Not to kick him when he is down, but I think everyone would agree that the Seahawks would have likely been better in coverage with Lane rather than Simon. But shit happens and you just have to move on.

Avril's injury was big because he is by far the best pure speed rusher on that team. His get off and quickness forces tackles to bail out when trying to block him, which also gives Michael Bennett more room to operate inside against the right guard. With Avril out, right tackle Nate Solder was at the least able to stay closer to right guard Ryan Wendell which slowed down Bennett's rush and gave Brady the time needed to get hot in the second half.

With all that the Seahawks found a way to pick him off twice. Bennett pressured Brady into the first one, but what many may have missed is that the Seahawks played Tampa 2 on that play, something they hardly ever do. I don't think Brady had any idea that Lane would still be in the seam because he assumed he would be in cover 3 playing the flat instead. One the second pick, Gronk ran a hook route and Wagner just made one hell of a break on the ball to come up with the interception. Neither one of those interceptions were gifts; the Seahawks earned those.

The Seahawks limited running back LeGarrette Blount to just 40 yards on 14 carries. They also limited Rob Gronkowski to 68 yards and a touchdown on six catches, pretty damn good in my book.

They gave up the 14 points in the fourth quarter, but I think they finally just got run down with the guys being out and the offense not milking the clock. I would still feel good about that defensive performance if I were a Seahawks fan. In particularly Bennett, Wagner, and Kam Chancellor had really big days.

On the other hand, twice when the Seahawks decided to go with a three man rush they ended up giving up pass plays to Edelman that totaled 32 yards. Both times the three man rush allowed Brady to step up in the pocket away from the rush. I'm starting an online petition to ban three-man rushes unless it's against a real Hail Mary play. I'm not joking either!

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Patriot gains

Let me also give props to the Patriots defense. While it's true that I believe Russell Wilson largely let them off the hook by not pull the ball on read option, the fact remains that the Patriots did a damn good job of limiting the damage Lynch could do. If you just look at the stat sheet, you might say 102 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown was pretty good. And you would be wrong. It wasn't bad, but the Seahawks needed a lot more out of Lynch if they wanted to put that game out of hand in the second half. The problem is Lynch needed Wilson to get loose and keep the Patriots honest against the read option. For whatever reason, Wilson wasn't about that life last Sunday.

I also want to give props to Edelman for the game he had against the Seahawks. I said before the game that I thought the Seahawks would limit Gronk and that would put pressure on the Patriots receivers to take up the slack. I just didn't believe they would pull it off. Edelman made me eat my words. Nine catches for 109 yards and a touchdown was a lot more than I thought possible.

On the other hand, I don't know what happened to the sure-tackling Seahawks team I'm used to seeing. Edelman got quite a bit of extra yards just by ducking and making defenders miss. A few of those plays were on Tharold Simon so that's what you would expect Edelman to do to a raw kid like him. Expectations don't mean much when the whistle blows, so I give him props for showing up the way he did on pro football's biggest stage. Edelman was definitely an unsung hero for the Patriots offense all night Sunday.

"Bear" fronts & 4-6 schemes

Before the game, I started a discussion on Twitter about whether the Patriots might employ some "Bear" fronts and/or some 4-6 zone schemes to help themselves out against that vaunted Seahawks running game. They did, and I found a few examples of each.

Bear front

bear front

4-6 zone

4-6 zone

This third example is Belichick getting jiggy wit' it and using different personnel to still end up in a 4-6 zone scheme.

It's the Seahawks' first play of the fourth quarter, first-and-10 from their own 36-yard line at 14:17.

4-6 zone blitz

Hightower lines up to Marshawn Lynch's side and the Patriots start off their D tackles in both B gaps (yellow circles). This has the look of a 4-6 zone, especially with Browner coming over to cover the tight end (blue) with an inside shade, except they are missing the zero nose tackle. Or are they?

4-6 zone blitz

Belichick lines up Collins opposite Lynch, and he has him blitz the center and cross his face into the defensive right A gap. That is the same action you would likely get with a nose tackle sitting there. Collins running through the right A gap forced Lynch, if handed the ball on read option, to keep the run front side instead of cutting back. It also allowed Hightower to track Lynch across the formation without any lineman coming to the second level to block him. The result? A gain of 1 yard.

I actually noticed the Patriots running this linebacker cross blitz scheme during the game, but it didn't hit me until I watched the film that it just turned them into a Bear or 4-6 zone front depending on the coverage. Sneaky, Belichick, really sneaky.

The Patriots defender who surprised me the most was defensive tackle Sealver Siliga. It was Siliga who took a lot of the zero nose reps when the Patriots went with a Bear front or 4-6 zone look. That kid actually played a helluva game too. I thought they would put Vince Wilfork in there at nose to control the center, but Siliga more than held his own from as far as I can tell, especially against the run.

Missed opportunities

There were at least two other missed opportunities from the Seahawks that I feel like may have changed the complexion of the game. The first play is one I bet most people didn't notice as much of a big play. I know I didn't when I watched the game live. It was first-and-10 on the Seahawks' last drive of the first quarter.

Lockette motions across like he is running a speed sweep, Wilson fakes the ball to him then rolls out, kind of like a bootleg. Wilson eventually jukes a few guys and gains seven yards after pump faking down field then deciding against it.

Lockette (yellow arrow) kept running after the fake and took off down the left side line of the field. Hightower (yellow circle) -- a linebacker, remember -- ended up matched up on Lockette but was well behind him after the play fake. Unfortunately, for the Seahawks, Lockette completely dogged the route for some reason. He ran so fucking slow after initially showing burst through the line that he ended up running a damn comeback instead of continuing down the field on a go route. That shit should be personally embarrassing to him.




That should have been a big play, if not a touchdown, but Wilson (red circle) couldn't trust Lockette, a receiver, to run fast. What in the entire fuck?

This next play should have been a nice long pass to Kearse on a post route.

marshawn chip

The Seahawks had Lynch (white circle) check through the line to help with pass blocking, and he had a chance to chip Chandler Jones (blue circle) going against left guard James Carpenter. Instead, he chose to check through the gap inside of Carpenter. This proved to be particularly disastrous because Lynch nudged Carpenter on his way inside of him and kinda knocked him off of his block of Jones.

Marshawn chip

While this is going on, Kearse (red circle) is coming wide-ass open up the left seam.

Marshawn chip

He might as well have been doing jumping jacks in place because Wilson (yellow circle) never had a shot to get that pass off before Jones was all over him for a sack. All because Marshawn didn't chip Jones initially.

Hey, great players fuck up too!

If there is anything watching the all 22 of this Super Bowl has reinforced for me, it's the fact that football truly is a game of inches. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, they came up just a hair short this time. That's kinda what happens when you over-think everything instead of just feeding the Beast.