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Monday, 2 February 2015

Guts Vs. Vanity: A Tale of Two Halves For Seattle

I have to start off by saying that this Super Bowl definitely met expectations, maybe even exceeded, depending on who you ask. Following last year's 43-8 debacle the Denver Broncos suffered at the hands of these same Seattle Seahawks, we all knew that this particular New England Patriots team would pose a much greater challenge. I couldn't even attempt to pick a winner until about three hours before kickoff, because everytime I made a case for Seattle, I came up with an equal amount of reasons that the Patriots could win. Though I found all the Deflate-Gate jokes funny, I always stood behind my belief that it unnecessarily detracted from New England's greatness, and the mere thought of this ruining their legacy would be an insult to a model franchise. They win with hard work and finding talent in places most other teams could never even attempt to. Fast forwarding to today's Super Bowl 49, New England definitely played well enough to win. Despite Tom Brady's two interceptions, he was definitely the better quarterback today. Russell Wilson did not complete a pass until more than halfway into the second quarter and only completed 12 the whole game. Seattle's defense and the powerful Marshawn Lynch were the only factors in keeping the score close. 

With under a minute left in the second quarter, the Seahawks seemed content with running the ball out to end the half. However, Rober Turbin eluded the front seven of the Patriots for 19 yards, and then Russell Wilson rushed his troops down the field. With six seconds left at the New England 11 yard line, the conventional choice would be to take the field goal and cut the deficit to 14-10, especially with Seattle getting the ball to start the second half. When Pete Carroll decided to go for a quick touchdown and hope there would be enough time for a field goal if they were unsuccessful, it was understandable to question the call, but in order to win a game of this magnitude, risks have to be taken. Virtual unknown Chris Matthews, who had not caught a pass all season, all of a sudden became the go-to guy to make it happen. He made a spectacular catch earlier on a deep pass and the Patriots perhaps didn't think he'd make another meaningful play. Alas, Matthews was isolated against Kyle Arrington on the left side and Wilson threw a great pass. Tie game and momentum were in Seattle's favor. Their championship meddle started to shine. Wilson came into the game 10-0 against quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl. Russell Wilson is no Tom Brady, but he is certainly writing his own Hall Of Fame story one big play at the time. The pass was thrown quick enough that if the pass was incomplete, there would have been one or two seconds left and the risk would be justified. Even if not, you roll with the punches and at least you get the ball right back. 

Tom Brady might have gotten the MVP, Julian Edelman led the team in receiving yards and Rob Gronkowski definitely made some big plays, but Shane Vereen was definitely the difference maker. Vereen had 11 catches on 12 targets for 64 yards. He found the open spots and gave Brady a nice security blanket en route to a Super Bowl record for completions in a game with 37 as well as four touchdown passes and was only sacked once. Seattle never adjusted and it opened up the field for the Patriots. Edelman's three yard reception with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty, wonderfully working in a play that was tried earlier in the game but Brady overthrew. The whole world was looked on with wide eyes and baited breath to see how this nailbiter would end. I predicted the first overtime in Super Bowl history, but with a four point advantage, it was touchdown or bust. Marshawn Lynch's 31 yard catch before the two-minute warning gave the Seahawks a real shot at being able to go down the field, especially still holding all three of its timeouts. 

Without the amazing catch by Jermaine Kearse, the Patriots more than likely would not have let the last minute of the game get so interesting. For all the talk of Seattle's defense, New England has what could be argued as equal cornerback play with Darrelle Revis & Brandon Browner. The rest of the Patriots defense is no joke, ranking 8th in the regular season. Getting back to that catch, when I was first watching it, it seemed like the ball hit the ground, but the referees did a good job of not blowing the whistle and seeing that it bounced off his body. This surely was destined to be among the greatest catches in Super Bowl history. Through some bad time management, Seattle had to use two of their timeouts, but having first and goal at the 8 yard line erased that fear and turned out to have no bearing on the outcome of the game. On first down, Marshawn Lynch did what he usually does in crunch time, he bullied his was down to between the one yard line and the goal line. The crowd of 61,946 as well as the hundreds of millions of those viewing on television assumed Lynch would get the ball the very next play to finish what he started. His 102 yards rushing could very well have put him in the Super Bowl MVP discussion. He made the big catch earlier in the drive also. Marshawn has also been overshadowed somewhat by his one word/phrase answers to the media. He also was up for a new contract. After detractors said he isn't worth the money because of his attitude as well as the brutal wear and tear his body is taking with his wreckless style of running, Lynch had another stellar year, racking up 1,307 yards on 4.7 yards per carry and a league leading 13 touchdowns. Russell Wilson is awesome, but he certainly has Marshawn to thank for taking some of the pressure off of him and being an absolute workhorse for a team thin on wide receivers. This was the perfect opportunity for Lynch to seize the moment, make the game-winning score, earn his new contract and be celebrated for his excellence on the field.

With one bad play call by Pete Carroll, that was all taken away from him. The first half Wilson to Matthews throw with six seconds left was risky but made sense. This made no sense. With the game on the line, you go with who and what got you there. Marshawn Lynch has many late game runs where he is bringing half the field on his back to the end zone. If I am the Seahawks, I live and die with Marshawn Lynch. If the Pats can stop him three times from the half yard line, you just tip your cap and say "Good Job." Something was wrong from the Seahawks casually making their way to the line of scrimmage. It looked like something you would do playing Madden. I understand any time on the clock is enough for Tom Brady, but with less than a minute left, if you want to hold on to your timeout then the 2nd down play has to happen quicker. There was no urgency, which made me wonder if this was going to be anything other than a run down the heart of the Patriots defense. To try and get cute against a Bill Belichick defense is vanity at its finest. If the play did work and Seattle scored to win the game, the media would be calling Pete Carroll a genius and praising the play call. In reality, even if the pass was caught, this would be one of those moments when you did something dangerously dumb as a kid and your parents ask "What were you thinking" while thanking their lucky stars that you are ok. The one play does not at all define the Seahawks season and should not put a damper on all they have done this year. I can truly appreciate an underdog and unlikely heroes, but between Chris Matthews' making a name for himself and Jermaine Kearse's catch, no more unpredictable factors needed to happen. This was Marshawn's time to shine and bring it home for Seattle. Pete Carroll made it more about himself than he did the team and Malcolm Butler, the rookie cornerback for the Patriots, instead got to become the hero. I don't believe it was done intentionally and in no way am I attempting to attack character, as Carroll has been a great leader for this team. Just this once though, it would have been nice for a game as unpredictable as this to have a predictable ending. This was an amazing game and a real treat to the fans. Thank you to both teams for giving us a magnificent game. Congratulations to the New England Patriots on a fine job. 


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