When the officials finally ruled that Marshawn Lynch was down and the play was over, the game clock showed 1:01 left in the fourth quarter.

Lynch had just run behind his fullback for four yards, giving the Seahawks a second-and-goal from the New England one-yard line. Seattle decided to switch from 21 personnel (two RBs, one TE, two WRs) to 11 personnel (one RB, one TE, three WRs).

As the Seahawks shuffled players on and off the field, NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth debated whether Bill Belichick's best option might be to call timeout and allow the Seahawks to get in the end zone.

"Do you let 'em score?" asked Collinsworth. "Do you put the ball back in the hands of Tom Brady? I guarantee you Bill Belichick is sitting here thinking about it right now."

It was a valid question. Allowing a Seattle touchdown would have put the Patriots down 31-28. They could have gotten the ball back with 50-plus seconds left, needing a field goal to force overtime. The alternative, after all, seemed bleak: relying on their defense to stop Lynch, the most physical runner in the league, from one yard out. Or at least that's how the majority of America viewed the alternative at the time.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell saw it differently. They went to 11 personnel, but the Patriots didn't match up. Essentially, Belichick was saying: We don't care who's on the field. We know you're going to run the ball. And we're loading up to stop Lynch.

New England brought in its goal-line package with just three defensive backs -- all corners -- on the field.


"We sent three receivers on the field to go ahead and run the ball in there," Carroll told NFL Network afterward. "They sent goal-line people on the field, so they kind of got a better matchup than we had, so I said, 'Throw it, throw it here.'

"Football-wise, we're coming back, we're gonna run the ball on third and fourth down. … So it's not like we abandoned the run game or any kind of that stuff. The matchup happened. One of those plays, you knew you were gonna have to throw it because you need to stop the clock so you can get the other two plays run."

Carroll's point was that the Seahawks had only one timeout remaining and could not have run the ball three straight times. Of course, that's not really the point. And it sounds like one of two things: either a head coach overthinking the situation or a head coach deflecting blame from his offensive coordinator.

Handing the ball off to Lynch on second down would have been a no-brainer. If he failed to get in, the Seahawks then could have thought about passing it on third down.

Acknowledging that the decision to pass there was highly questionable, the Seahawks actually got exactly what they wanted from the play call. They stacked wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette on the right side. That made it impossible for both Patriots cornerbacks to press at the line of scrimmage.

The play design was simple. Kearse attacked cornerback Brandon Browner, while Lockette ran a slant behind him. The idea was to have Kearse create enough traffic so that corner Malcolm Butler wouldn't be able to get to Lockette.

Here's exactly what Wilson was looking at when he made his read:


Wilson's decision was the right one. Kearse did his job and the slant appeared to be wide open. What made the difference was the unbelievable play Butler made on the ball.

"Preparation," Butler said, describing the play to NFL Network. "We study film, and I knew when the stacked receivers came out, I knew one was coming up and the other one was coming over. Clutch time. I knew we needed it. I just went out and made the play."

This game will be remembered largely for the Seahawks' decision to take the ball away from Lynch when they were essentially one yard away from clinching back-to-back Super Bowl titles. And that topic certainly deserves plenty of attention.

But look at the ground Butler made up to get to the ball:

That's an all-time play in the biggest moment imaginable. Not bad for an undrafted rookie out of West Alabama.

In the end, Patriots fans went from David Tyree flashbacks to a miraculous ending and their fourth Lombardi Trophy in 14 years.

Seahawks fans, meanwhile, are left with an offseason of what-ifs, knowing how close they really were to repeating as Super Bowl champs.