Two years ago today, Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks was going right down to the wire, but many were already convinced they knew how it would end. The Patriots were leading 28-24, but the Seahawks were driving, and after Russell Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for 33 yards and gave Seattle first and goal at the five with 1:06 left, some were convinced it was over. Even the expressions on the New England sidelines weren’t good:
— Scott Williams (@ScottWilliams) February 2, 2015
With the Seahawks in first and goal from the five, and having top running back Marshawn Lynch available, plenty thought this was a lock:
Run it 4 times with Beast mode
— Jake Muasau (@jake_da_uce) February 2, 2015
Oh it's over BEAST MODE
— Aaron Camper (@AARONCamper) February 2, 2015
Two timeouts with beast mode in the backfield you might can go ahead and kiss the baby
— rafael bush (@rbush36) February 2, 2015
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) February 2, 2015
There were also plenty of critics of Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick’s decision not to call a timeout and preserve some clock for New England if the Seahawks did score, including CBS’ Pete Prisco:
Why is Belichick not calling timeout? Dumb
— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) February 2, 2015
Why isn't Belichick calling timeout here?
— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) February 2, 2015
Belichick not gonna call TO here?
— Jay Posner (@sdutPosner) February 2, 2015
Call timeout Belichick!
— Michael Lev (@MichaelJLev) February 2, 2015
Belichick is insane for not calling a timeout here
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) February 2, 2015
Others, including Jason La Canfora (of CBS), Bill Barnwell (then of Grantland, now of ESPN), Tim MacMahon (of ESPN), and Chris Wesseling (of NFL.com) went further, arguing that New England should let Seattle score, especially after Lynch picked up four yards on first down and made it second and goal from the one.
Let them score here right? like right away?
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) February 2, 2015
Now Pats have to take a timeout and let them score.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 2, 2015
Let him score and give Tom Brady a shot.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) February 2, 2015
Take a time out and let them score.
— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) February 2, 2015
LET THEM SCORE!!!!
— Kelley Bydlon (@Kelley1063) February 2, 2015
You have to let them score. #Patriots
— Jeremy Pond (@JeremyPond) February 2, 2015
Should’ve let them score.
— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) February 2, 2015
Keep that timeout in your pocket and let them score, Bill.
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) February 2, 2015
Let them score.
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) February 2, 2015
Pats should have let him score the way they let Bradshaw score three years ago.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 2, 2015
Former LSU and NFL player Terrence Toliver (this is before he started his CFL career) also wasn’t a fan of Belichick’s decision:
Just let him score
— Can't Be Denied (@TToliver80) February 2, 2015
And neither was Boston Globe Red Sox reporter Pete Abraham:
Should have let him score. Now mismanaging the clock.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) February 2, 2015
Of course, Belichick got the last laugh. On second and goal from the one with 26 seconds and a timeout left, Seattle made the playcall that would be debated for years, opting to have Russell Wilson throw a pass for Ricardo Lockette. New England’s Malcolm Butler intercepted it in the end zone (in the play pictured at the top) and returned it to the three, which was moved to the two-yard line after a penalty. Encroachment was then called on the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett on the next play, giving Tom Brady plenty of room to kneel down for the win. Thus, the game ended in very different fashion than these people expected.
Might things have been different if the Seahawks had kept calling runs? Sure. Maybe not using timeouts and letting them score early would have proved to be the wrong move then as well, and arguing for that wasn’t necessarily a bad call based on the percentages. And who knows, if that happens, maybe the Patriots still tie the game on a field goal and win in overtime, or maybe they win on a Hail Mary. Belichick’s move to keep fighting on defense certainly paid off in this circumstance, though. Even more than takes on letting them score or not, though, the real cold take here was saying “It’s over” after the Kearse catch. As Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”