Analyzing Malcolm Butler’s interception, and why the play went so wrong for Seattle

The Seattle Seahawks lost Super Bowl XLIX on an incredibly awful play call by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell with 26 seconds left on the play clock. Bevell called a pass play on second down that sent Ricardo Lockette on a slant route, while Jermaine Kearse ran a pick on his defender. Patriots safety Malcolm Butler read the play, hit Lockette out-of-the-way, and picked off the pass to secure New England its fourth Super Bowl championship.

Marshawn Lynch had just powered the ball to the half yard line on first down to get Seattle in position on the goal line with 30 seconds left in the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson hurried the Seahawks to the line of scrimmage after the play, in shotgun formation. New England lined up in a goal line defense.

Pre snap read

New England lined up like they were going to send the house to try to stuff the box to prevent Marshawn Lynch from scoring the game winning touchdown. This is when the decision was made to pass the football instead of using two of the more dynamic ball carriers — Lynch and Wilson — in the game to give Seattle a late lead.

Bevell called a pick play with a slant running underneath, an incredibly high risk, low reward type play. Kearse’s job was to block the defender in front of him, and spring Lockette free underneath. And initially Lockette was opened up by Kearse’s pick.

After snap

As you can see in this screen grab from NBC’s highlight video (all of the screen grabs in this article are from that video), Lockette has nothing but end zone in front of him, if he can pull in the pass. It initially looked like the Seahawks were about to score the game winning touchdown off of a really dumb play call. But Butler — sitting right above the pick play in the end zone — read the play and was waiting for Wilson to pass the ball to Lockette.

Butler said after the game, that he had been burned by that play many times in practice and recognized the formation the Seahawks lined up in.

“Preparation, I remembered the formation they was in,” Butler said. “Two receivers stacked, and I just knew they was throwing a pick route.”

The rookie safety tracked Lockette and didn’t let Kearse’s pick play distract him.

Butler recognied the play

This screen shot shows why its a bad idea to run a slant route in such a small area. Because Butler had less space to cover as he ran behind the pick play to get in on the pass.

Pass is a little hight

Lockett and Butler collideButler comes up with the interception because he had all of the forward momentum going into the play, while Lockette was running his slant route. Lockette was put into poor position by the play call, and was unable to properly battle Butler for the ball and it cost the Seahawks a chance at repeating as Super Bowl champions.

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