Bill Belichick elected not to call a timeout under one minute to play in Super Bowl XLIX. On Tuesday afternoon during his radio appearance on WEEI’s Dale & Holley, the New England Patriots head coach explained why.
“We knew that Seattle didn’t mind running the ball in the two-minute situation. We knew that going in, and certainly saw it right at the end of the first half that the running game. Whether the handoffs or the quarterback as part of the option-keep was running the ball, that’s part of their two-minute,” Belichick said.
Down by a score of 28-24, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson connected with receiver Jermaine Kearse for a 33-yard pass down the right sideline instead. And that turn of events brought Seattle down to the goal line before calling a timeout.
“They’re not just a throwing-every-down type of team. So when they got down there around the five-yard line, I mean our first thought was not to let them run it in,” Belichick added.
Running back Marshawn Lynch had broken into the end zone earlier in the game against New England. He would get one chance to do so again with just over a minute remaining in it. And he would come up just short, as Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower grabbed him low and edge-rusher Akeem Ayers grabbed him high.
It was a waiting game from there. From the 1:06 mark, the clock ticked down.
“They certainly had plenty of time at that point,” said Belichick. “Lynch got down there around the one, and we put our goal-line defense in, probably around the same time they were sending in their multiple-receiver group. And that’s kind of what we wanted to be in there, to make sure they didn’t run the ball in.”
Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia sent three defensive backs, four defensive tackles, two defensive ends and two linebackers onto the field to keep Lynch from harnessing his 103rd rushing yard of the night.
But handing the ball off to Lynch for his 25th carry of the night wasn’t in the cards, either.
“I’d like to think had they tried to run the ball against our goal-line defense, with three receivers on the field – we couldn’t ask for any more than that in terms of trying to stop the running game,” Belichick reflected. “We saw that matchup and we certainly gave some consideration to taking a timeout there and leaving some time on the clock. I don’t know if that would have been a bad thing to do. It might have been a good thing to do. But it just seemed like in the flow of the game that we were OK with where we were.”
A total of 26 seconds remained in the game. A total of one yard remained for the Seahawks to take the lead back. But when the ball was snapped, what happened next couldn’t have been written.
Wilson dropped back and made his throw to receiver Ricardo Lockette. Undrafted cornerback Malcolm Butler dropped in and made history.
“Malcolm made a great play on the two-under-three route. That’s pretty much what happened from our end,” Belichick said.