It was third and six on the Seahawks’ ten and Tom Brady had been on an impressive drive. With a minute fifty left in the first quarter, the Patriots’ quarterback saw receiver Julian Edelman in the back of the end zone. Eyes wide and arm ready, Brady hurled the ball at Edelman, only to have Jeremy Lane step up and intercept it at the goal line.
Determined to get more yards, Lane headed to the Seahawks sideline, but Edelman wouldn’t let the ball thief get too far away. With an impressive burst of speed Edelman got to Lane and took him down on the 15 yard line. This was the hit that lost the Seahawks the Super Bowl.
While Edelman took down Lane, he also fractured a bone in Lane’s wrist, and tore the ACL in his knee. Lane is very doubtful for the start of the next season and will likely be put on the reserve/PUP list, costing him six regular season games. All Seahawks fans should devoutly hope that’s not the case.
Rewind to the start of the game. Both teams were hopeful and ready to make this year the year their team takes home the championship trophy to their city. They both started out slow with a zero to zero score throughout the entire first quarter. The Seahawks held arguably the best passing team in the league to no touchdowns after two possessions.
Everything should had been fine and dandy for Seattle, but Lane was being taken to the locker room and it didn’t look like he was going to return. This meant the Seahawks had to deploy third string corner back Tharold Simon.
The switch that led to the Seahawks’ downfall ensued. Byron Maxwell moved to Lane’s fallen position while Simon entered covering the other half of Richard Sherman’s backyard. The stage was set and Simon did not deliver.
On the Patriots’ first drive of the second quarter Brady hooked up with receiver Brandon LaFell for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Simon got burned by LaFell and gave up the first of two touchdowns you would see him allow during the Bowl — the other coming in the fourth quarter. Julian Edelman yet again spoiled the Seahawks chances of Super Bowl greatness by beating Simon on the three-yard line with a brilliant spin move.
Edelman’s touchdown was the last of the game and forced Seattle to make one final push. That push would end up floundering with Patriots rookie corner back Malcolm Butler making the interception of his life at the goal line. With only twenty seconds left Tom Brady took a couple of knees and, after some fisticuffs and an ejection, the game was over. The Patriot’s won 28-24 knocking off the reigning Super Bowl champs.
All eyes have focused on that final play, but imagine with me a game where Jeremy Lane remained the nickel cornerback and Byron Maxwell stayed on the outside, presumably covering LaFell and Edelman on those two touchdown passes.
Maxwell is an elite level outside corner but rarely switches to nickel back. Lane had been playing nickel back exclusively since the season began. Even with missing some games in 2014, Lane was better suited at that nickel back role than Maxwell was and his absence crippled the Seahawks. Tharold Simon couldn’t hold his receiver at bay and the Patriots made sure to take every chance they could to let him know that.
The Super Bowl with Lane would have been a game in which the Patriots faced drastically lowered chances of scoring through the air. Without him, it ended in shock and disbelief for a good number of the viewers.
We tend to focus much more on the seen than the unseen, and so squabble endlessly about Pete Carroll’s call, Russell Wilson’s throw, and Marshawn Lynch just standing there on the sidelines. But at that moment it was the guy that nobody was looking to whose absence had made all the difference in the world.