This is the Super Bowl, what youth football coaching lessons can be gleaned from this game? There may be a few. Pete Carroll will be probably be suffering some sleepless nights and maybe even a recurring nightmare about his play call that resulted in the Patriots interception at the goal line at the conclusion of this years Super Bowl. The call on a second and goal from about the one yard line seemed to snatch a loss out of the jaws of near certain victory.
First of all, let’s get his out of the way, none of us have the coaching pedigree or abilities of Peter Carroll. He is an amazing coach and from what I hear a fantastic person. What he did with USC and now Seattle is nothing short of miraculous. To even get to the Super Bowl let alone be in the game until the last twenty-six seconds is a great feat.
Let’s try and figure out how Seattle got to where they were and maybe why they called that ill-fated interception. Seattle was down 28-24 with about two minutes to play and had all three of their time-outs. They drove the length of the field, but twice during that drive the play clock got down to less than five seconds and they had to use their timeouts.
So they didn’t have to use up their timeouts to stop the clock from running, they had to use them so they wouldn’t get a flag for delay of game. This may have played a part in the debacle. Had Seattle had all three timeouts left they may have felt more comfortable punching the ball in from the one with Marshawn Lynch. Lynch had been nearly unstoppable, rushing for over 1,300 yards with a 4.7 yards per carry average over the season and he had over 100 yards in this game.
With twenty-six seconds left on the clock and one timeout still available Seattle could have easily called two plays in the huddle, got them both off and probably still have time to call a timeout to get off a fourth down play. If they wouldn’t have squandered their second timeout, we may not be having this discussion today.
Instead Seattle sees the Patriots aligning with goal line personnel, so they go to a three wide receiver personnel. New England is in man coverage with everyone pressed up. My guess is Pete Carrol liked the matchups of his receivers and Russell Wilson against a goal like package. Backside Seattle ran a mesh concept, which is a great call against press man and playside they called a rub or pick style play. Again, usually a good play call against man coverage.
The rub had Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse #15 drive the Patriots #39 Brandon Browner while Seattle’s #83 Lockette came underneath on the short slant. Was it a classic slant/arrow concept? Not sure Kearse was pressed up and there was immediate contact. My thought it was a rub/pick all the way but Kearse just didn’t get enough movement on Browner to make Malcom Brown have to run over the hump. Brown recognized the concept early and made a great play on the ball. He was able to pursue to the ball on a straight line path, thanks to Browner jamming Kearse at the line and not giving up any ground. That is great fundamental play and excellent pattern reading and reaction by both Browner and Brown. Hats off to them and their coaching staff, they were well prepared.
Could the ball have been thrown better? It wasn’t a poorly thrown ball, the play looked like it had potential early. But in the NFL, the windows are tiny and they don’t stay open for long. A perfect back shoulder throw probably would have resulted in a score. If the pattern was run a little flatter creating additional space, the play may have resulted in a score. If the Seahawks would have play actioned Marshawn Lynch away from the play, it may have created a bigger window with Patriots Linebacker #54 Donta Hightower flying away from the play. It wasn’t a poorly run play, but it wasn’t a perfectly run play either, thanks in large part to how the Patriots played it.
In any event, I’m guessing everyone at the Seahawks is thinking had they had the chance to replay this one, they would have given Lynch at least one or two shots at the end zone. Pete Carroll is a coaching genius, but could he have out thought himself on this one. He showed is moxie by playing Chris Matthews an unheralded Wide Receiver who hadn’t caught a pass all season. The 6’4” Matthews who was selling shoes for a living last year turned out to be a matchup nightmare for the Pats. Matthews had 109 yard receiving and a touchdown.
Did Carroll throw the ball instead of having Lynch carry on that last play to confirm he was the “smartest guy in the room?” What history would have been make if unheralded Ricardo Lockette who had just 13 catches in 4 NFL seasons ended up being the Super Bowl hero with two touchdown catches and the game winner. That would have been an iconic Super Bowl moment.
What youth football coaching lessons can be gleaned from this game? Fundamentals rule and games are won in practice. Maybe don’t always go with what the numbers and keys tell you to do. The goal is to win the game, not for the head coach to be the smartest guy on the field. Dance with the one that you brung.