You may not know this but this was the first year that I adopted an NFL team as my own.
I’d spent so much time playing fantasy teams that I lost the desire to really ride with one team. I was all about singular talents at the skill positions. Who could throw the ball well on the move? Who had transcendent talent at their position? And once that was paired up with offensive/defensive philosophies, I’d be able to easily identify who I’d choose in what round for my fake football team.
But this season, I’d made the conscious decision to really roll with Seattle. The seeds were sown when Russell Wilson got the starting job right out of college. He earned the gig in OTA’s and minicamps and Seattle made the right choice, even though it cost them in the salary cap, because it was best for the team. And since then, Seattle was all about developing that team.
I also loved the “process” in Seattle…How they stocked the roster with talented players. By finding players with chips on their shoulders from across the nation who had the talent to play but needed coaching, development, playing time and a chance to succeed somehow. I accepted the fact that , in this era of free agency, the team wouldn’t be able to keep a lot of the star guys long term because the rest of the league wants what made you successful. Whether that be your coaches, your front office personnel or your players, the other teams take and take and take so you’ve got to restock or you’re gonna be out of contention.
So with all that emotional investment, you can imagine how my Sunday night went…
Holy Christ on a crutch.
What. A. Game.
You, me, your mama and your cousin all have an opinion on the game and the final play call…which I will get to in due time…but let’s just get some mild spoilers out of the way.
Wasn’t great. Not a bit.
But like I said…I’ll get back to that.
When New England went up 14-7 on a very good timing pattern from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski with about 31 seconds to go, that following drive from Seattle before the half was crucial. Robert Turbin busting off a 20 yard run on a draw play gave me hope for at least a field goal attempt. Seattle called timeout…then came back on the field for a 15 yard scramble from Russell Wilson, a perfect toss to Ricardo Lockette in stride to get out of bounds with the extra 15 yards tacked on for a face mask penalty…to get the Seahawks to the 6 yard line with 6 seconds to go in the half.
I expected a field goal, especially with the Seahawks getting the ball after Katy Perry’s halftime spectacular…
But Pete Carroll showed the huevos I’d never seen on a coach since Belichick…zipped his pantalones down and bared to the entire viewing public.
Calls a PASS PLAY! A backshoulder fade to a guy who hadn’t even caught a pass before the Super Bowl this season!
WHAT GREAT HUEVOS YOU HAVE, GRANDMA!
Are you kidding me?
I was skeptical of the call but elated at the result, yelling out loud that I never doubted the man when CLEARLY I had reservations (shout out to Dorcia @ 8!)
Second half kicks off and the Seahawks are doing the damn thing on their 1st drive but it stalled out after a weird draw play up the gut got them a 4th and 2 or so.
Considering recent history, I expected Pete to go for it on the 6 again. Even if the Seahawks didn’t get it, it may have shown the team you were going for the W and would’ve backed the Pats up against their own goal line in the process.
But Petey C took the points and I was a little concerned but still happy because Seattle had the lead.
As the 3rd quarter continued, Brady throws a second pick, Seattle scores with Baldwin using the old run-the-CB-into-the-ref rub route and all seems well in my heart.
All Seattle had to do was keep the pedal to the metal and the Patriots would wilt like Denver did a year earlier.
But as Lee Corso once said and has said MANY, MANY times since….”NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND!”
Seattle starts to make a few mistakes….Jermaine Kearse drops a tough catch on 3rd down
And the biggest worry was a wasted series with 2 runs and a sack on third and 7.
The alarms started to ring in my head. Softly but I kept telling myself that I didn’t like that series. Something felt off about how they played it. As if from a position of strength…like “We got this!”
New England keeps pounding the short game and score a TD to get the game to 24-21.
Seattle gets the ball back with about 8 minutes to go and they NEED a drive here to keep New England off their backs. A good 4-6 minute special, run down the clock, hopefully ending with a touchdown to really put these guys away.
First play of the drive, Russell rolls out and lofts a touch pass in Ricardo Lockette’s direction, who is streaking open….
But he trips and falls…
The alarms went off at full blast in my head.
No ignoring of the bells clanging in my head now because I sense danger.
Two plays later, Wilson and Lynch have a miscommunication on a wheel route and Seattle punts.
I’m not doing too hot, as you can imagine.
New England gets the ball with roughly 6 minutes to go and they get it done. A methodical drive utilizing all the skill positions and even though I felt Edelman pushed off for the TD that put them up 4, a few pushoffs were missed earlier in the game so the refs swallowing their whistles on that play was karmic balance or whatever…
Seattle has the chance to take destiny into their own hands, down 4, and even though the alarms are ringing in my head, a part of me feels confident. They’d just scored a TD in 31 seconds to close out the 1st half and we all know what happened in the Green Bay game. So with that fresh in my head, I’m optimistic about their chances of pulling it out (pause, no public nudity)
The slant and go to Marshawn for 31 yards, right before the 2 minute warning. BIG.
A force to Kearse on 1st down? GROSS.
A deep shot to Chris Matthews? Incomplete and broken up by Brandon Browner. CRAP
3rd down. A safer throw on a comeback route to Lockette. FIRST DOWN.
First down, Russell drops back and arcs a pass to Jermaine Kearse and it looks like it’s broken up but somehow, Kearse comes up with the pillbox a la Antonio Freeman and stumbles out of bounds with about 50 seconds to go.
And the clouds part, the trumpets play and optimism feels restored.
I’m on a cloud and nothing can harm me and my team because once a play like that happens, whether it be a fluke or an amazing effort on the part of the QB or the receiver, the successful side feels a surge of energy and adrenaline. The other side feels like they just got hit in the solar plexus with a sledgehammer.
If I repped for New England, I would’ve been DEVASTATED. I would’ve thought my day was done in just like the Giants did them in with the Tyree catch…
It was if the chorus to that Kanye West song was blasting at full volume in my head…Jeezy laugh and all
Next play, after Marshawn runs the ball ahead for 4 yards down to the half yard line… Seattle takes a time out. And with 26 seconds and a time out in the back pocket, I’m super confident here. I had no idea what play was going to get the final seven points but I knew they’d be scored somehow. My money was on Marshawn doing it, him grabbing his nuts for the cameras because it’d be the game clincher and I would have SO MUCH GOOD STUFF to say about Marshawn and how the media needed to get off his back because what matters most is what he does on the field if he ain’t doing anything wrong OFF the field…
But, the next play, Wilson drops back to pass, throws a slant to Lockette that’s picked off by New England and from there, my night faded to black.
I saw the rest of the game, the post game interviews of Kraft, Belichick, Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman and the brand new episode of The Blacklist that followed…but it was as if a dark cloud hung over me and obscured my vision.
I was hurting.
Because the team I’d chosen to get into a real emotional relationship with had gotten me to half yard line with victory practically given to the team and it ends in a horrible, mind-numbing fashion.
So let’s talk about the play. Because it needs to be talked about.
First things first, Darrell Bevell and Pete Carroll should never have called that play at all.
I’m only surmising at this point because I have no clue what was really said until the NFL Films audio comes out…but I think Pete and Darrell were drunk off that confidence from the Kearse catch so they figured that they’d end off the game with a TD pass instead of a run. Since Russell’s arm had gotten them down the field on that drive, let Russell finish the job.
(I’ve heard the conspiracy theory about propping up Russell and de-emphasizing Marshawn at the most critical moment but I can’t subscribe to that being the thought process in the heat of the moment. Because that would imply that it were pre-meditated and that would make no sense in this circumstance. I know it make look that way postgame when you analyze everything on a deeper level but to me, Petey C and Darrell B were high off life, riding that Kearse wave and they rolled the dice off sheer adrenaline.)
Secondly, if you HAD to pass, why not run the back shoulder to Chris Matthews again? Why not throw a fade route to the back pylon for Matthews or Kearse? Why not run a play fake to Marshawn and then roll out to the side with 3 receivers to burn clock (that Bevell said he was so AWARE of) and either throw to an open man, run it in by the pylon or throw it out the back of the end zone?
And lastly, even with me feeling that running was the best option, straight up the gut with Marshawn in shotgun would’ve been a terrible idea. Absolutely terrible. Because New England would’ve eaten that play for a late night snack. There weren’t enough bodies there to block the New England goal line package. (pause)
A run in that instance ideally would be a power set with a fullback and Marshawn and you punch it right up the middle or off tackle (whatever the preference). But with that formation on the field, the zone read would’ve been the best bet there. Stick the ball in Marshawn’s gut, read your keys and either hand it off or scramble to wherever you needed to scramble to get that final seven.
I applaud the effort and the execution I saw from the New England Patriots this past Sunday. They made adjustments as the game wore on, they picked on the backup corners and linebackers like I expected with the short and shifty receivers, pitched the ball to Shane Vereen to keep SEA honest and made the plays that needed to made WHEN they needed to be made. Those back to back drives in the 4th really showed how well coached they were and how resilient they were as an opponent.
Seattle did what they could for 59 minutes and 30 seconds. And considering some of the adversity they ran up against with two key defenders being knocked out during the game (I WILL not link Jeremy Lane’s arm injury here. Too reminiscent of Paul George’s leg…too soon, man…too soon!). Avril’s loss hurt more so because the Seahawk pass rush lost just enough mojo to give Brady some space to operate. The Seahawk receivers were on milk cartons for much of the day until Chris Matthews showed up out of NOWHERE. The man was at Foot Locker and he was putting foot in asses. Carroll found ways to attack sub package guys all night long. The huevos he showed @ halftime, the throw to Lynch before the 2 minute warning…the team gave you the highs and lows and everything in between
Yet it all came down to that one play.
Shoulda run the damn ball, Pete! It was right there! Zone read if you wanted to really style on ’em but a slant pattern? What kinda offense is this? Denver’s? UGH.
I’d ridden that emotional rollercoaster Vivian Green sang about
and I was not feeling all that great when I got out of my cart, because that game left me feeling so down.
But I’ve slept on it, shoveled some snow, read some articles, eaten some vittles and found a way to articulate my feelings on the matter. Couldn’t have it sit on my soul for too much longer.
Hope you enjoyed the read, enjoy the offseason and get ready for plenty of talk about Tom Brady’s legacy now that he’s got 4 superbowl rings in 6 total attempts…
Just how I wanted to start off Black History Month…