Seattle’s goal-line gaffe punctuates NFC futility


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Seahawks join Dallas, Green Bayalong painful postseason exits
Run the football.
If only the Seahawks hadn’t outsmarted themselves at the most critical moment of Super Bowl XLIX, Seattle likely would’ve made history.
Instead, they are the NFC’s final team to fall on its facemask, their pain, frustration and agony beginning with Dallas’s non-catch, continuing with the Packers’ five-minute meltdown and last – but definitely not least – escalating to the Seahawks’ inexplicable decision to throw the football within a yard of destiny’s doorstep.
But why not hand the football to Marshawn Lynch, or employ the read option with Lynch-Wilson when it’s been unstoppable all season, and decide to throw it?
Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell – who took the football out of Lynch’s hands and put it into New England’s – explained that it had to do with the clock. He wanted to be able to get off two more plays if necessary in the remaining 26 seconds. Seattle still had one timeout.
His explanation made as little sense as the decision. Clearly, the Seahawks lost sight of the big picture at the key moment. Much like the Packers took the football out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands in the second half of Green Bay’s 28-22 overtime loss in the NFC Championship game, so too did Bevell with Lynch. The Seahawks’ offense amassed the most rushing yards in NFL history this season. To elect to go out of a shotgun formation, on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and then throw a slant into the middle of the field was beyond ridiculous.
Bevell got too immersed in the matchup – the Seahawks’ Ricardo Lockette versus the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler – and forgot the obvious. Lynch was the reason the Seahawks were standing three feet away from an incredible victory over the Patriots, only to use him as a decoy.
It isn’t the first time an otherwise very exceptional football coach will outsmart himself. It happens. When it happens on the NFL’s greatest stage it’s especially painful. It hurts only slightly less if it’s the NFC Championship.
In the Packers’ haste to get the second half wrapped up, it forgot to stick with what got it there, which was Rodgers’ right arm, the receivers’ hands and the offensive line’s ability to protect. Everything was working but Packers head coach Mike McCarthy took the football out of Rodgers’ hands precisely when he should’ve been riding it to victory. It’s the same with the Seahawks.
Despite everything else, including an entertaining Super Bowl, the Seahawks were in position to win but failed. It’s no different than the Packers’ tough breakdown at Seattle.
Which raises a critical question: What should the Packers’ philosophy, offensive identity and overall mentally be going into 2015. Their search for balance, in the wake of Rodgers’ calf injury, was understandable but ultimately overstated and overplayed.
Balance suggests a 50/50 proposition, and that’s one bet I wouldn’t take if I was the Packers’ offense moving forward. This is a pass first, run second league. The exception is teams such as Seattle, which is a run first, pass second team that forgot who it was at New England’s 1.
McCarthy’s attempt to protect Rodgers was borderline magnificent, and that includes everyone who blocked, ran routes and called plays for the NFL’s MVP. However, in the process the central theme to the Packers’ greatness – a wonderful quarterback and terrific receivers – were benched even though the offense showed it could protect the QB. That’s old news. What matters is how McCarthy chooses to proceed. Clearly, the defense needs an inside linebacker, a nose tackle and a defensive back. Bringing back Julius Peppers should be automatic.
The offense presents the greater question: Should Green Bay look to throw it, play fast and look to pile on the points? Or should it seek a more conventional, time-consuming style that includes Eddie Lacy in something more of a 60-40 ratio of pass-to-run.
Ideally, the Packers’ offense should acquire a game-changing tight end. Then, the term balance would apply to Green Bay’s ability to attack the middle of the field and along the perimeter through the air.
Adding a tight end should be near the top of GM Ted Thompson’s offseason “To Do” list. Meantime, McCarthy needs to hire a special teams’ coordinator and decide how he’s going to cast his team this upcoming season.
The first, best way to proceed is to add explosiveness to the offense. That and a couple of hard-hitting defenders should give Green Bay an excellent chance to be playing in Super Bowl 50 at Santa Clara.
Once there, McCarthy has to learn from a difficult lesson this season, which is, “Dance with the girl that brung ya!”
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.