By Steve Kallas
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It was one of the greatest Super Bowl’s ever played.
What went down on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona, had it’s share of surreal, spectacular and head-scratching moments.
Here’s a look back at some pivotal plays, and the players that made them happen.
PATRIOTS’ MISTAKE RIGHT BEFORE THE HALF
While it’s hard to believe that the Seahawks were able to go 80 yards in 31 seconds to score a touchdown before the half, the Patriots had it in their power to keep their 14-7 lead heading into the break.
Bill Belichick should have ordered all of his defensive backs on the field to mug any wide receiver who could catch the ball in the end zone. It would have been fascinating if, for example, an intentional pass interference was made on that TD throw (to the unheralded Chris Matthews, see below), to see whether Pete Carroll would have gone for it on the final play of the first half or whether he would have kicked the field goal to be down by four.
Had the Seahawks won the game — as virtually everybody thought they were going to after the latest miracle catch against the Patriots — by a score of 31-28, some intelligent football people would have looked back at the potential four-point differential as the difference in the game. While we will never know, I believe Carroll would have kicked the field goal had there been pass interference in the end zone right before the half.
CHRIS MATTHEWS … WHO?
As the Pats are currently constructed, having a receiver come out of literally nowhere might have been the only way to truly move the ball against them through the air.
If you followed the Patriots this season, it was clear that the plan was to have their excellent corners take Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse out of the game, and stuffing seven or even eight in the box to contain Marshawn Lynch. And that’s exactly what happened. Baldwin had one reception — that 3-yard TD where he played chicken with an official in the end zone — and Kearse had three receptions for 45 yards, of which 33 came on that ridiculous sideline grab during the game’s final drive. In addition, tight end Luke Willson was totally shut out.
All of this paved the way for Matthews, a relative unknown until Sunday (although he did recover that huge onside kick against Green Bay in the NFC Championship game). Maybe the Seahawks had seen how the Packers had beaten the Patriots, with Aaron Rodgers completing passes to receivers way down on the depth chart like Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers.
But with all his usual wide receiver and tight end targets taken away, Russell Wilson did well to find Matthews, who finished with four receptions, 109 yards and a touchdown. And while Cris Collinsworth mistakenly said that the Patriots switched the 6-foot-3 Brandon Browner over to guard the 6-5 Matthews “early,” the reality is it took the Patriots awhile to make the switch. But Bill elichick and company are great at taking things away. They didn’t stop Lynch — Carroll did that on the final play — but they did contain him.
THE GREAT JULIAN EDELMAN
It was pretty obvious to me back in 2009 that Edelman was going to be a very good NFL player. My son and I went to “The Linc” down in Philly in August to watch Tom Brady play his first game back after missing the 2008 season. But it was Edelman who was the best player on the field that day.
Towards the end of my article on that game, I wrote, after discussing Edelman’s brilliant 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, “I think you’ll be hearing from this kid. He can play.”
Edelman has arguably surpassed Wes Welker as a Patriot. He’s a little bigger, a little stronger, can split out wide and is just as tough. Plus, as we found out in these playoffs, the former Kent State QB can throw the ball. He had an amazing Super Bowl, with his third-and-11 reception to keep a Patriots TD drive alive — and that was despite taking a tremendous, maybe helmet-to-helmet hit.
THE FINAL SEATTLE PLAY
There’s not a whole lot more to add to the throngs of people who have lambasted Carroll for that pass down at the goal line that was intercepted by Malcolm Butler to win the Patriots their fourth Super Bowl title. Carroll seemed to think that he might be able to explain it and people would view it as an intelligent call. No such luck, as he will be a punch line for years to come and maybe even a verb. Perhaps something like “don’t Carroll us next time we are on the goal line.”
Despite these supposed stats — Lynch was said to be only 1 for 5 in scoring from the 1-yard line — and despite the article written in The Economist (yes, The Economist), this call was one of the dumbest calls ever. If you watched the game, it was amazing how virtually every time Lynch touched the ball he was able to absorb a hit and always go forward. We’ll never know what would have happened, but it’s hard to believe that the Patriots could have kept Lynch out of the end zone for (at least) two more runs from the 1.
BUT IF YOU ARE GOING TO PASS IN THAT SITUATION …
If anybody, including Carroll, really, really, REALLY thinks that it was a good idea to throw a pass there, then they made another gargantuan mistake. Since 99.9 percent of people probably thought that Lynch was going to run it, if you ARE going to throw it, then you HAVE to go play-action.
Again, we’ll never know what would have happened, but you’ve seen it numerous times this season, and in seasons’ past, where the fake is made to the back into the middle of the line and the quarterback goes back to pass and has one (or sometimes two) receiver waving his hands wide-open in the end zone.
To throw it was a terrible idea; to throw it without a fake handoff to Lynch, when everybody on both sides of the field thought that Lynch would get it, was a huge mistake on top of a huge mistake. It doesn’t seem like anybody asked Carroll the obvious question, and to his credit, he stood there and answered the same question a number of times: If the same situation arises in next year’s Super Bowl, would you call the same play again?
Good luck answering that question.
FINALLY, WHAT EVERY KID SHOULD BE TOLD …
It’s hard to get many young players in any sport to really focus in practice, to mentally prepare in practice, to understand how important it is to concentrate and work hard in practice. Well, every youth sport coach, as well as high school and college coaches, should immediately put into their early season talks to their respective teams the following: a replay of Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl-winning interception, along with Butler’s postgame comments.
Butler praised the coaching staff, discussed how he had practiced against that very play, how he was beaten by it in practice and how he recognized the set right away when the Seahawks came out in that double stack to the right. Because of his preparation, Butler was able to anticipate the throw, jump the route and win the Super Bowl.
If you show that play and those comments to young kids, they will see, clear as day, the results of good preparation and hard work.
You won’t find a better example anywhere.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @NYSportsPlus