Superbowl XLIX: A look at the deciding factors & MVPs
It is rare that an event as hyped up as the Super bowl lives up to expectation. When we are left to over analyse 1 game for 2 weeks it’s understandable that the actual product we are presented with can be something of a let-down. So when we are faced with the most evenly matched Super bowl that I can remember, it felt like a for gone conclusion that we’d be watching a game that couldn’t possibly live up to what we had built it up to be…
But it did.
Okay so the intro there was a little over dramatic, but the message behind it is true, this was one of most entertaining Super bowls we’ve had since David Tyree was using his head as a method to bring in a pass & to us neutral fans it lived up to every expectation I think we had.
Anyway let’s look at some key points in the game & pull out some of the top players.
Jeremy Lane goes down injured with a broken wrist: Lane had probably been one of the most vocal members of the Legion of Boom prior to the game, claiming that Gronk was “an okay player”. Well with 2 minutes left of the 1st Quarter, Lane made a big impression, picking off Brady targeting a heavily covered Edelman in the end zone. At this point Lane had been on the field for 10 snaps & targeted once, which went for 10 yards. The pick in the end zone was a momentum shifter, but after taking a massive hit from Edelman during the return, which was almost certainly a helmet first tackle, Lane became the victim of a particularly gruesome injury, leaving him with a broken wrist, missing the rest of the game. So in steps Tharold Simon, who then became Tom Brady’s favourite corner. If it felt like Edelman was catching everything thrown at him, it’s because he pretty much was. Simon allowed about 11 yards per catch when covering Edelman. The slot receiver became the go to chain mover as Tom Brady took advantage of an unexpected weakness in the secondary.
The rise of Chris Matthews: There was a period of this game where it looked as if the undrafted free agent walk on was not just going to be the star of this game, but was in with a legitimate chance to pick the MVP award. When we broke down this game earlier in the week, our major complaint about the Patriots was a lack of players with ability to cause mismatches at Receiver. In steps a player that had not only not caught a Touchdown pass, but had flat out not caught a pass. Matthews was perfect lining up against the slot corner Kyle Arrington, having a 7 inch height advantage over him. The Patriots only managed to slow him down when they put their giant corner Brandon Browner on him. Chris Matthews might not have been on the winning team but he was instrumental in keeping the Seahawks in the game, becoming a Receiver that Wilson can just throw the ball up to where no one else can catch it. It will be interesting to see what happens to him next year.
The curious case of Russell Wilson: Not so much something the Seahawks did, but something they didn’t do. Marshawn Lynch had a solid game managing 4.3 yards per carry, despite the Patriots Defence concentrating heavily on stopping him, so it makes sense to go to him over 20 times. Where I’m confused is how rarely they used Wilson’s running ability. Wilson ran the ball 3 times, averaging 13 yards per carry. Without the stats in front of me, just by watching the game, it became obvious how much the Patriots were struggling with Wilson, who when given the chance was breaking tackles & gaining yards. Let’s be honest though, it wasn’t the only baffling decision from the Seahawks offence in this game.
That catch: There was no denying that the Seahawks made it to the Super bowl with the help of a little luck (as well as an ability to take advantage of a team determined to lose the game). Well it seemed the Seahawks luck would continue towards the end of the game, when a bobbled pass would be caught by Kearse lying on his back. I say luck, but that would do Jermaine Kearse a horrific injustice. Malcolm Butler did a great job of getting in front of Kearse & batting the ball away. However it dropped to Kearse & after hitting his legs several times he manages to catch the ball. Whilst it is lucky that the ball dropped to him, Kearse will not get the credit he deserves for not taking his eye off the ball & turning a dead play into a catch that got the Seahawks into the Redzone. Surely at this point it’s only a matter of time before the Seahawks make it into the End zone…
That interception: This is the big talking point of the game & by now it will have been analysed over & over again so I will keep this short. I have seen arguments for the play that back up Pete Carroll & Darrell Bevell’s decision to make that pass at the one yard line. The big one seems to be to do with clock conservation. Well if that was the case, why did every play seem to look like they were trying to run down the clock? Meaning that it would have been poor clock management that led to that point. Whilst I find the call hard to defend, I think Wilson should be relatively blameless. I always hate bringing up his height, but in this instance it seems relevant. From every angle that we’ve seen, it looks obvious that Butler is going to make a play on that ball. With everything packed in tight on the one yard line, from where Wilson is standing Lockette looks wide open. Not enough credit will be given to Butler as well, who had read the play perfectly, this from a player who has only had just over 200 snaps. Bevell’s belief that Lockette should have tried harder to get the ball is something that I am sure is born out of frustration, but still no excuse for throwing him under the bus. Finally this wasn’t the only time they took a risk in this game. In the 1st half they took a chance going for the touchdown instead of taking 3 pts., which paid off. This was considered a genius gutsy, move. It’s worth remembering risks are…well, ‘risky’.
I’ve already gone on too long, but there has to be a conversation about whether Brady was the true MVP. After having a little time to think about it, these are the players that I believe would have had a fair shot at driving a truck to Disneyland.
Michael Bennett: The MVP being on the losing side seems to be a rarity. But in a game this close it’s perfectly believable that the best player on the field might not be on the winning side. Michael Bennett is proof of this. When Cliff Avril went out with a concussion, it felt like the line lost some of its potency. But Bennett continued to dominate, getting QB pressure no less than 5 times against one of the top Offensive Lines in the League. Bennett is the no. 1 player on that line.
Chris Williams & Malcolm Butler: Chris Williams I’ve already talked about, but he should have been in with a legitimate shot of winning it. Butler was a friends choice, someone I poo poo’d as I only believed him to making that one important play. Then I watched the game again. Butler had 2 completions against him for 6 attempts with 39 yards. 33 yards came from the freak Kearse play, which he played exactly as he should. So if that pass drops to the ground, he finishes the game with 1 completion of 6 attempts for 6 yards & an interception, from just 17 snaps. That’s crazy.
Julian Edelman: Throughout a chunk of this game the Patriots were behind, during which time it felt like the Patriots had 1 legitimate weapon, which was Edelman. Okay so he had a soft match up against Tharold Simon, still he had a great game.
Marshawn Lynch: This is where I go against my belief that it shouldn’t matter whether the MVP is on the winning team. If the Seahawks win I think he should be given the keys to the car. Lynch was up against it in this game. The Patriots were going out of their way to stop Lynch & he still dropped 100 yards & a touchdown on them. It gets crazier when you break down his 100 yards, of which 67 of them were after contact. If the Seahawks win this, were talking about how he is the obvious MVP.
Tom Brady: Yup he won it & I did suggest there were better choices, but he still has to be in the conversation. There is no denying the 2 interceptions were terrible, both were bad throws & almost entirely on Brady. However, he did lead the biggest 4th quarter comeback in Super bowl history against a Defence that a lot of people, including myself to be one of the greatest of all time. That’s not easy to do.
So that’s that. The Seasons over, but we’re not going anywhere. The podcast will go on right the way through to next Season & the writing won’t stop. Let’s get this NFL support group going.