I’m not a football expert. My only play calling happens in Madden football, but here are six reasons why Pete Carroll made the right call:
1. During the 2014-15 season, Marshawn Lynch was only 1 for 5 in TD runs from the one yard line. Lynch was more likely to fail than succeed.
2. Seattle wasted a timeout early, which meant that they would have needed to pass at least once in that four-down sequence. Passing early in the sequence early could have surprised the defense.
3. Vince Wilfork, at 325 pounds and a five-time All Pro, made running up the gut risky. Failing on 2nd down run would force a timeout and a pass on 3rd down to stop the clock (to ensure the possibility of four downs). This would set up the defense on 3rd down to defend the pass.
4. Out of 109 passes from the 1-yard line in the 2014-15 season, there 66 touchdowns and only 1 interception (the one by Butler in the Super Bowl). Passing meant more than a 60% chance of success, compared to only 20% with Lynch running the ball.
5. A “wasted play” increased the chance of keeping Brady off the field. Because the Patriots did not take a timeout, the wasted play needed to be a pass because the Seahawks only had one timeout. Running out of time was still a concern.
6. A pick and slant is a very safe play; there is little risk of a sack and wasting more clock. Only a magical play could stop the Seahawks. Butler did what less than 1% of other players have done this season.
Criticizing Pete Carroll, in retrospect, only undermines the incredible play made by Malcolm Butler. Fewer plays are more impressive, and play call criticism distracts from an unforgettable moment in NFL history.