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John Blanchette: Handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl XLIX turns the Seahawks into an unstoppable dynasty – or he’s stopped short

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) dives into the end zone for a touchdown in front of New England Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner (39) during the first half of Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (David J. Phillip / AP)
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) dives into the end zone for a touchdown in front of New England Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner (39) during the first half of Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (David J. Phillip / AP)

Just 10 bucks on Etsy gets you the coffee cup with Pete Carroll’s image on it and the damning legend:

Win the Super Bowl? Nah, I’ll pass.

Or for $25 on RedBubble, there’s the travel mug that says:

Should’ve just run the ball.

Yeah, that’s the reminder you want every morning when you’re jonesing for your jumpstart.

Not that you need any reminders. It is the wound that won’t scab over, the acid reflux that won’t go away. In this part of the country, it’s the rebuke applicable to every folly – and requiring not a stitch of explanation.

Say you’re driving to an unfamiliar destination. You make a wrong turn and rather than heed your spouse’s advice and stop to ask directions – or at least fire up your phone’s GPS – you motor on and become even more hopelessly lost. And then comes the neener-neener from the passenger’s seat:

Run the ball, Pete.

It’s the overriding sporting shame of the Northwest – worse than the Mariners’ four decades of plodding away from the World Series, worse than losing the Sonics to Oklahoma City, worse than Tyrone Willingham’s 0-12, worse than Mike Leach’s Twitter stylings.

The Mendoza Line, Scottie-Pippen-for-Olden-Polynice, Billy Joe Hobert’s Camaro, Bobby Ayala, hiring Paul Graham – all have passed into the dustbin of Evergreen infamy.

But the Seattle Seahawks not handing it to Marshawn Lynch 36 inches from foiling the New England Patriots and winning Super Bowl XLIX will live on.

Who will ever forget Marshawn’s words to the media after the game?

I’m just here so I won’t get the ball on the 1-yard line.

OK, no, he didn’t say that. What he said was, “It cost us the Super Bowl.” He just didn’t say it until a month or so later, after everyone else from Fairfield to Forks had already said it.

Except Carroll, of course. He’s Mr. Always Com(P)ete, and he’s not going concede a point.

“It wasn’t a bad call,” he insisted. “It was a bad outcome.”

As if the latter were somehow exclusive of the former.

But then, there was plenty of bad to go around in those final moments in University of Phoenix Stadium – some of it every bit as damning as the play call that has defined the franchise since.

Dispense with the blowing of the 10-point lead, and Jermaine Kearse’s crazy-ass catch. Pick it up at the New England 1-yard line, Lynch pulling himself to his feet after a 4-yard gain.

This is where offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, with Carroll’s blessing, sends in a second-down pass play called “19 Force.”

This is the fault line for a fan base’s heartbreak.

Interception. Incredulity. Infamy.

In the NBC booth, Al Michaels rewrites his broadcast signature:

Do you believe in debacles?

No, no, he didn’t say that. But his partner, Cris Collinsworth, did say, “I cannot believe the call! You’ve got Marshawn Lynch in the backfield!”

Carroll would justify the pass call by noting that the Patriots had brought in their goal-line personnel – eight defenders tight – and “I know that we have the advantage on the matchups in the passing game.” He also had just one timeout left, which would have to be burned if Lynch didn’t make it into the end zone – and force a pass on third down. But this only underscored some awful clock mismanagement moments before – calling a timeout after Kearse’s catch (a dead-ball situation) and letting 30 seconds tick off the clock after Lynch’s first run, wiping out the option of handing the ball to him three more times.

Meanwhile, the execution of the called play was a cluster. Kearse couldn’t get off Patriots defender Brandon Browner to make an effective pick on Malcolm Butler, who sold out on Ricardo Lockette running the slant route. Lockette failed to beat his man to the spot. And Russell Wilson’s pass was high and out, not low and in, where Lockette could shield it.

So much for the advantage on the matchups.

Should’ve just run the ball.

Some 3 1-2 years later, there exists a notion that all that has beset the Seahawks since stems from the vibe from this misbegotten pass. There’s no tangible connection, of course. But this was, because of age, personnel and style, seemingly a dynasty in utero, where it’s remained. Some of what’s derailed it has been palm-to-forehead stuff – the injury tsunami of 2016, or kicker Blair Walsh channeling Fernando Rodney in 2017. Other stuff – the bad-fit trade for tight end Jimmy Graham, the spare-parts approach to building an offensive line – smelled of desperation on one hand and arrogance on the other.

But beyond that, it felt as if Carroll lost a piece of his volatile, strong-willed core that day. Sure, they were going to age and break. They were going to want to get paid. They were going to become even more outspoken – and cranky. Not winning XLIX – when their coach didn’t give them the best chance to win – seemed to accelerate any disenchantment, and decline.

Lynch “retiring” to the Oakland Raiders. The giveaway trade of Michael Bennett. Kam Chancellor’s retirement. Richard Sherman and Cliff Avril released. Earl Thomas’ holdout.

So what if they’d run the ball?

Well, if Carroll’s call tells us anything, it’s that football is a fatalist’s sandbox. So either:

A) Lynch scores. Then Tom Brady completes two passes to get the Patriots in field-goal range. Stephen Gostkowski ties the game. Brady strafes the proud Seahawks defense once more in overtime. Or …

B) Lynch is stopped short. The Seahawks have to pass on third down. Bevell calls “19 Force.” Malcolm Butler intercepts.

But you know what really happens.

Lynch plows in from the 1. Sherman intercepts Brady. The 12s return to cloud nine.

And in February 2018, the Seahawks take a knee during Pink’s rendition of the national anthem, then beat the Patriots again as Marshawn Lynch collects one for the thumb – a ring for Seattle’s fifth straight NFL championship in Super Bowl LII.

Unless Pete Carroll decided to call a pass at the end of Super Bowl L. These things can only be undone once.

Run the ball, Pete.


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