Butler's big pick saves the Super Bowl for New England
GLENDALE, Arizona (AP):
Pete Carroll made the call. Malcolm Butler made the play. The Seahawks coach chose a pass on second-and-goal from the one instead of giving it to Marshawn Lynch, and Butler made him pay - stepping in for the game-saving interception with 20 seconds left on Sunday to lock down New England's 28-24 victory in the Super Bowl.
Let the second-guessing begin on what surely will be one of the most debated play calls in NFL history.
"Nobody to blame but me," Carroll said.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson shouldered his share, too. Both coach and quarterback also gave lots of credit to Butler, the rookie free agent out of West Alabama who made the roster, then saved the Super Bowl.
"The guy made a great play," Wilson said.
Hard To Explain
But this one was hard to explain away.
Seattle had one timeout left with the clock ticking down when Wilson fired into a cluster of blue and white shirts. Butler dug inside of Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette and made his first career interception.
"I had a feeling I was going to make a big play today," Butler said. "But not that big."
Give credit where it's due. But about that play call again:
"Dumbest play call in the HISTORY of NFL football," tweeted former 49ers receiver Dwight Clark, who made a pretty good grab himself: The Catch.
Worst Play Call In History
And this from NFL career-rushing leader Emmitt Smith: "Worst play call I've seen in the history of football."
It left them speechless in Seattle, too. Well, practically.
"We've got Marshawn Lynch, one of the best running backs in the league, and everybody makes their decisions and unfortunately, we didn't give him the ball," Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
Carroll's explanation: He saw the Patriots bring in a formation with eight big guys and three cornerbacks and didn't think Lynch, who tied for the league lead with 13 touchdowns rushing this season, would be able to bull it in against that defence.
"It's not a great matchup for us to run the football, so we were going to throw the ball, really to waste a play," Carroll said. "If we score, we do, if we don't, we'll run it in on third or fourth down."
Butler saw the stacked receivers on the right side of the field and said Wilson's eyes tipped him off. He ducked inside of Lockette and made the play.
Quite a moment for a player who wasn't drafted, wasn't even signed to a contract right after the draft. He was an "invited tryout" player - offered a chance to show what he could do in May. A long shot to make the roster, though Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner said he's been proving he belongs all year. Browner, a former Seahawk, said Butler leads the team in interceptions during practice.
Patriots rookie backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who spent lots of time working against Butler in rookie camps during the summer, called him "a character".
"And he's fast," Garoppolo said. "I don't know what his 40 speed is, but his play speed is incredible. He broke on that ball pretty well."
In Good Coverage
Only moments earlier, things were playing out much differently for Butler. He was in coverage - good coverage - against Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse and appeared to bat the ball down for an incompletion. But as Kearse was falling, the ball bobbled between his legs and he kept it in the air by batting it twice while tumbling. Kearse made the catch on his back for a 33-yard gain that gave Seattle a first-and-goal at the five.
Butler went to the sideline.
"My teammates were saying, nine out of 10 times, that ball is incomplete," he said. "It was devastating."
A play later, Lynch had bulled the ball to the one.
Seattle had two timeouts and three plays to try to win the game.
Carroll's call ended it all.
But there was blame to go around, and Wilson wasn't letting his coach take the fall all alone.
"I thought it was going to be a touchdown," Wilson said. "But I put the blame on me. I'm the one who threw it."