In years to come when people talk about the New England Patriots winning Super Bowl XLIX 28-24 over the Seattle Seahawks inevitably the play that will immediately come to mind will be Malcolm Butler’s clutch interception of Russell Wilson’s pass on the goal line. The lucky catch Jermaine Kearse made on the bouncing ball deep in Patriots territory becoming just a humorous footnote in the story as opposed to the knife in the heart that David Tyree’s helmet catch turned into in New England’s Super Bowl XLII 17-14 loss to the New York Giants.
Soon the highlights of Butler’s interception will join Adam Vinatieri’s 48 yard field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, Bobby Orr’s flying goal to win the Stanley Cup in 1970, Keith Foulke throwing out Edgar Renteria at first base for the Boston Red Sox World series win in 2004, and John Havlicek’s stealing the ball in the Boston Celtics 1965 NBA Championships as being so ingrained in our minds we no longer need to see the video as we remember every single part of it.
But there’s a play in Super Bowl XLIX that played a bigger role because it allowed Butler the opportunity to make his big play.
It looks innocuous enough when listed in the play-by-play of the game: “3rd and 6 at SEA 10 (1:50) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short left intended for J.Edelman INTERCEPTED by J.Lane [M.Bennett] at SEA 0. J.Lane pushed ob at SEA 14 for 14 yards (J.Edelman).” While it took at least three points away from New England and more likely a touchdown despite it being a big play for the Seahawks it inevitably lead to their downfall because after being pushed out of bounds by Julian Edelman Lane crashed down on his left arm, breaking it. There are photos of the injury, but you won’t see them here. Trust me, it’s ugly.
With their best nickel back out of the game Seattle was forced to move cornerback Byron Maxwell over to the nickel spot and then had Tharold Simon replace Maxwell in the outside corner position. It took no time for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to start targeting Simon, who was beaten for three of Tom Brady’s four touchdown passes. Say what you want about McDaniels occasionally mismanaging the Patriots offensive play calling–and trust me, I have said a lot–one thing he continually gets right is attacking when he senses blood in the water. And the Seahawks were bleeding heavily with the little-used Simon playing the corner.
Every game is full of big plays where someone can say “this is the reason they won”, and many have a clear demarking point where the action changed so much as to have a tremendous impact in the game. You could probably point out two of three other plays in Super Bowl XLIX that had huge impacts, but there is no bigger issue for a team that’s based on defense when they develop a hole in their armor. If Lane doesn’t get hurt who knows how much success Brady and the Patriots offense would have had.
But luckily for New England fans we do know what happened when he didn’t play.