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February 2, 2015 at 12:25 AM

Post-game impressions of a true heartbreaker

Here are some post-game impressions from Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta of a loss that is about as much of a punch in the gut as one can be.

First, from Jenks:

1. Let’s start with what everyone is going to talk about: the Seahawks’ final offensive play from the 1-yard line. I listened to the Seahawks’ explanation of it, which went something like this: The Seahawks saw New England in a goal-line defense and decided to throw the ball. Their thinking was that even with an incomplete pass, they would still have two plays and a timeout to try to score, and that scenario would allow them to more comfortably run Marshawn Lynch two times. My take: It was overthinking and wrong. Lynch had just picked up four yards. He had more than 100 yards in the game. He is the unquestioned heart and soul of the offense, a designation given to him by offensive teammates, defensive teammates and his coaches. It just doesn’t make sense to go away from him in that situation. I’d rather take two chances with Lynch running the ball — if he doesn’t get in on the first try, burn a timeout and then try it again. I don’t typically like questioning play-calling because second-guessing is too easy. But in this case I think it’s fair.

2. One of the subtle but key plays in the game was Jermaine Kearse’s dropped pass at the end of third quarter. The Seahawks faced 3rd-and-2 and Wilson floated a deep pass down the sideline to Kearse. Kearse got his hands on the ball but couldn’t haul it in, and the Seahawks had to punt. That happened with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter and had Kearse caught that pass the Seahawks would have not only been able to eat more clock but they also would have been in good position to score either a field goal or a touchdown. Kearse had a tough game in the NFC Championship until he didn’t when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. That’s one pass I’m sure he would like to have back.

3. The Seahawks played more zone in the second half which was partly a response to the way Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made plays against man coverage in the first half. All things considered the Seahawks did a good job against New England’s explosive offense for most of the game, but the Patriots solved Seattle’s defense late in the game. Both of New England’s final two touchdown drives lasted at least nine plays — the kind of methodical marches the Seahawks require but that most teams don’t have the patience for. Brady did, and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and his crew struggled to find answers. “At the end they really lit us up and got hot,” Quinn said. We tried a number of different things during both those scoring drives, so we tried a number of different things, and they hit all of them.”

And from Condotta:

1. So my thought on the last play? Shock, and not awe. We’ve seen the Seahawks call passing plays in situations like this before. I’m reminded of this same stadium last year when Lynch somewhat famously flipped off Darrell Bevell when Seattle called a pass at the 1-yard-line — on the other end of the field — a play that turned out successfully when Wilson hit Kellen Davis for a touchdown. Some of the explanation makes some sense — time was running down and it’s not as if the New England secondary had colored itself in glory all night. But boy, the way things were going it’s hard not to think you just run it to Lynch even if the matchups weren’t favorable and then if it doesn’t work, call time out and take it from there. We had seen Lynch get stuffed on two third-and-shorts — maybe that played into their thinking. But simply put, that call will be debated and second-guessed and picked over for as long as football is played.

2. Ricardo Lockette being in that spot showed Seattle’s issues at receiver. Much will be made of Seattle calling on Lockette for the key play of the game. That’s a valid point. Another is that Seattle’s issues at receiver finally caught up to the Seahawks at the worst possible time. Lockette was in that spot because Percy Harvin was traded and Paul Richardson was hurt. Darrell Bevell is getting ripped on social media for saying that Lockette could have fought harder for the ball — Bevell saying that is a separate issue here. It is valid to point out that Seattle didn’t have a lot of options at receiver — Chris Matthews had an amazing game at the most opportune of times and will sort of become a footnote now. One could argue that the fact that Seattle had the confidence in Matthews to throw to him at those times is indicative of the way Seattle does things. And one could argue that’s the same confidence that led to throwing the ball to Lockette in that situation. As Carroll said, it didn’t work out here.

3. The injury to Cliff Avril was a pretty big deal. Jayson noted what a subtle factor the Kearse drop was in the game. Another might have been the injury to Avril, who left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. The Patriots went on two long drives in the fourth quarter to take the lead, with Seattle getting a minimal pass rush. During that time, the Seahawks often were playing with O’Brien Schofield, Landon Cohen and Demarcus Dobbs up front. Not what they had a year ago against Denver, and not what they would have even imagined in October.

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