Seattle was on the verge of their 2nd consecutive Super Bowl title as Wilson dropped back to pass but their exultation turned to abject anguish. What was he thinking in those crucial moments?
The clock read 2:02 when Seattle received the ball after the New England Patriots erased a 10 point deficit to pull in front 28-24. A field goal would be no good and only a trip into the endzone would give Seattle a very likely second consecutive Super Bowl title and a legacy to be proud of in the Great Northwest.
The first play of the ill-fated drive was a 31 yard strike to Marshawn Lynch who rambled into Patriot's territory. The two-minute warning sounded and the electricity in the University of Phoenix Stadium was palpable. After two unsuccessful pass attempts Wilson found Ricardo Lockette on third-and-ten for an 11 yard pickup on the New England 38. At 1:14 Wilson was in shotgun formation as the Seahawks went into a no-huddle offense. Wilson received the snap and looked down the right side of the field to find a streaking Jermaine Kearse who made a miraculous 33 yard reception reminiscent of the infamous Helmet Catch by the Giants’ David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII that led to the Patriots defeat.
The New England fans and their backers who bet them in their NFL picks were simultaneously stunned and devastated. It was a dire, grotesque case of déjà vu with Seattle now five yards away from the New England endzone and the ending seemed almost scripted if not preordained. The Seahawks immediately called a timeout with 1:06 on the clock realizing they had to be judicious with their clock management. Out of the timeout Wilson handed the rock to Marshawn Lynch who mashed his way for four grueling yards of turf only to be stopped at the one-yard line.
As the clock ticked Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell understood they had three bites at the apple but only 26 seconds to eat it except for one lunch break. The strategy was to try the unexpected and pass instead of turning the Beast loose one more time. Russell Wilson’s job was to shoot to thrill and Ricardo Lockette was the intended object of Wilson’s unbridled affection. Lockette was to sprint through the middle and amidst the chaos while breaking the plane of the endzone. The game plan had been formulated and now it was Russell Wilson’s job to execute.
In the pantheon of elite NFL quarterbacks Russell Wilson has been relegated to second class status everywhere but Seattle despite sporting a Super Bowl ring on his finger. He was a third round pick from Wisconsin noted more for his mobility than a golden arm and that reputation has stuck, many would say, deservedly so.
He is not the fair-haired boy plying his trade in Indianapolis whose towering Stanford IQ matches his illustrious arm. Wilson was not drafted on his impeccable pedigree nor was he slated as a ready-for-primetime candidate with many teams concerned that he was barely 5’11 in a league replete with robo-studs who were his height in middle school. Even though he has already reached the pinnacle of success in only a few short years the critics would suggest that his triumphs are a result of his historic defense rather than his prodigious prowess on the gridiron. The time was now to silence the critics and prove that he is as responsible for Seattle’s ascension as an NFL power as Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman or the Legion of Boom.
Everyone knew what would happen next. Beast Mode was primed and ready to receive the ball from Wilson, pierce the armor of the Patriots goal line defense and ostensibly carry the Lombardi Trophy back to Seattle. Wilson once again was to be a spare part while his more lauded teammate would receive the accolades, adulation and respect that comes with a dive into the record books.
But the threat of a defensive stop and the advancing clock made the coaches change their minds. Calling a run is what everyone was expecting including New England but this time Russell Wilson would get his moment to shine. As with every good soldier, Wilson never questioned the order.
As he set up in the shotgun with Lynch used as a decoy in the backfield, Wilson had to be thinking of every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that turned them from a 6-4 early season disappointment to a soon-to-be two-time Super Bowl champion. It was the stuff of every boy’s wildest imagination and a fantasy repeated ad infinitum among the milieu of backyard ballgames. The kid who grew up in Richmond, Virginia was charged with making this dream come true while the rest of the nation readily anticipated Marshawn Lynch steamrolling into the endzone.
Wilson dropped back and released a missile to a point on the field that would soon be occupied by Ricardo Lockette. The play call was a tribute to the faith and confidence the coaching staff had in their field marshal. Wilson would not disappoint and he didn’t. The ball was exactly where it should have been with Lockette striding to the precise location. The coordinates were locked on and the success of this most unlikely call would reverberate from head coach Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson and Ricardo Lockette all the way down to the most anonymous assistant trainer flying Seattle colors.
But as I always say there’s a fine line between genius and jackass. Pete Carroll and/or the offensive coordinator Darrell Brevell got too cute, overthought this one and ultimately overplayed their hand. What they didn’t know was that there was another overlooked and underappreciated kid on the other side of the ball. But unlike Russell Wilson, this unknown was never even drafted and dare I say the most ardent Patriot fan would have failed to utter his name if asked to recite the New England roster prior to his remarkable performance on the NFL’s biggest stage. The butler did it – Malcolm Butler that is and when he jockeyed for position amidst the behemoths in the middle while outmuscling Ricardo Lockette to secure the interception he caused a seismic shift in emotion leaving New England delirious and Seattle thunderstruck. It was absolutely the wrong call but Russell Wilson is and will continue to be, the right guy in Seattle.