He didn’t, did he? Or, did he?
Is it possible Bill Belichick baited Pete Carroll into selecting that pass play, and thus securing the win in the most unusual of fashions? It may sound crazy but, it’s really not that big a mental stretch if you think about it. As my friends and I watched, standing, barely able to contain ourselves, Seattle’s second to last play was a run that the Patriots D is not getting enough credit for stopping.
Immediately as the play ended, my friend Lorcan started preaching ‘Let them score’ like a religious mantra. He, and many others, thought the Patriots should just let Seattle walk the ball in, thus preserving a minute to play with and try and mount one more seemingly impossible comeback for the ages.
Grantland’s Bill Barnwell goes into this in great detail in this excellent post Superbowl article. In the same piece he mentions the following in regards Belichick and the time-out that never was.
If Belichick had really wanted to let Seattle score and conserve as much time as possible, he would have also used one of his final two timeouts after the first-down run. It was downright baffling that he chose not to do so. Given that Seattle had the ball inside New England’s 1-yard line with a minute left, extending the clock mattered far more to New England than it did to Seattle; that’s why the Seahawks were milking as much clock as possible.
Here’s the thing, I believe firmly that Belichick stood firm and didn’t call a time-out because he wanted Seattle to try and pass in that situation. Watch the tape. Belichick doesn’t flinch. As my friends and I stood, jumped and generally acted like bemused chimpanzees, Belichick stands, almost impassive, like a stone-faced poker player. He. Doesn’t. Flinch.
Take a second and imagine you are Pete Carroll, looking over from the opposite sideline. Your are fully expecting New England to take a time-out, at which stage you can setup your nice little running play and basically walk the ball in, potentially against a defence that wants you to do just that (had the Patriots chosen that route). Imagine Carroll’s bemusement as the clock ticked.
Think about it, as New England didn’t call a time-out, Seattle must have thought all their Christmases had come at once. They could afford to try something different and they still had a time-out in the bank. Carroll and his coaching staff must have thought ‘Great, he won’t call a time out, fine, we will pass, if it’s dropped (the most likely worst-case scenario) the clock stops, we still have plenty of time to run the ball twice after that on third-down and indeed fouth down if it comes to it’.
I put it to you firmly, Bill Belichick knew exactly what he was doing as he stood, stone-faced, on the Patriots’ sideline. He deliberately didn’t take a time-out. He wanted the potential chaos of a passing play, and boy did he get exactly what he wanted.
The Patriots rolled the dice as they have done so often under this head coach.
Bill Belichick baited Pete Carroll, and, it worked beautifully.