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Ellwood City, Pennsylvania
Eric Poole is a reporter and columnist for the Ellwood City (Pa.) Ledger, a small newspaper nestled near the Ohio state line in the heart of Steelers Country. He has a wife, a son and a daughter (so there will be some daddy stuff on this blog). A former steelworker and retired rugby player, Poole has a wide range of interests, which was reflected in the 2008 Pennsylvania Newspaper Association awards, when Poole won first-prize honors for best columns and best special project. His upcoming book, "Company of Heroes," due out March 17, 2015, from Osprey Publishing, tells the story of Vietnam War hero Leslie Sabo and his comrades. Sabo was awarded the Medal of Honor May 16, 2012, in a White House ceremony.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Patriots execution, not bad play call, sunk the Seahawks

The most plausible explanation for the Seattle Seahawks' decision to call a pass play with 26 seconds left in the Super Bowl, the ball one yard outside the end zone and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield is that coach Pete Carroll called for a Lynch run up the middle, but New England coach Bill Belichick hacked into the communication system and changed the play.

For the second-best explanation, Vox website wins the prize. The short version is that, by passing on second down, Seattle would, in most cases, either get the game-winning touchdown or an incomplete pass that would stop the clock with about 26 seconds left. Had the Seahawks called a running play with Lynch stopped short of the end zone, they would have had to use their last time out and call a pass play on third down. The long explanation can be found here.

But, I still would have given the ball to Lynch on second down and taken my chances on a possible third-down pass play.

That said, though, all of the people that are pillorying Carroll for the play call to end Seattle's chances of winning a second consecutive Super Bowl title would have been calling it a gutsy and unexpected decision if only had it worked. 

But it didn't work. And - as is usually the case in professional football - it didn't work not because it was a bad play call, but because New England executed at the game's most important moment more effectively than Seattle did. 

And the man who executed most effectively wasn't Patriots' defensive back Malcolm Butler, who made the interception, but fellow New England DB Brandon Browner. As drawn up, the play called for Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse to break of the line and run in front of Butler, which would have given receiver Ricardo Lockette the crucial half step of space necessary to complete the touchdown play.

But Kearse never got anywhere near Butler, because Browner jammed him at the line of scrimmage.

Butler made a hell of a play to be sure, going through Ricardo Lockette for the interception, but Browner - who played for the Seahawks last year but was suspended for the Super Bowl - gave him the space to make that play.

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