Injuries and penalty trend contribute to Seahawks’ loss

Jeremy Lane gets upended on an interception return in the first quarter, suffering a broken armThe Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss to the Patriots was — in so many ways — a microcosm of Seattle’s season.

The Hawks once again forgot who they were on offense, injuries again were key factors, and penalties — both called and not called — played a big role in their 28-24 loss to the Patriots.

We went into detail about the Seahawks’ failures on offense in another post, but injuries and the season-long penalty disparity loomed large in the Super Bowl.

Even before the game started, the Legion of Boom had become the Legion of Booboos. Richard Sherman played with a torn ligament in his left elbow and will have Tommy John surgery; Earl Thomas played with a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum; and Kam Chancellor played on a bad knee (plus wobbly ankles and a bum hip).

And then they lost cornerback Jeremy Lane to a broken arm, meaning Tharold Simon was pressed into duty against New England’s jitterbug receivers. It was a mismatch. On his first drive, he gave up a 23-yard gain to Julian Edelman and an 11-yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell. Edelman scored the go-ahead touchdown against him in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks also lost Cliff Avril to a concussion in the third quarter on the interception play by Bobby Wagner, and their pass rush really struggled to affect Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after that. So, by the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, the Seahawks were without five of their top seven defensive linemen — Brandon Mebane, Jordan Hill, Cassius Marsh and Greg Scruggs all went on injured reserve at various points in the season.

As Sherman said during the week leading up to the game, the Hawks were lucky with injuries last year, when they were almost completely healthy and walloped Denver 43-8. This year, they had the fourth-most players placed on injured reserve (17).

Add to the injuries the insult of the Seahawks once again not getting calls from the officials. The Hawks ended up with seven penalties for 70 yards — all of them seemingly earned. They could have been nailed for a couple more, too: Jeron Johnson avoided a 15-yard flag for roughing the kicker in the first quarter, getting called for running into the kicker (five yards) instead; and Chris Matthews pushed off on a reception in the second half.

But the Patriots got off even lighter. They had five penalties for 36 yards — and deserved at least a handful more.

Most of the non-calls were inconsequential: Julian Edelman picked K.J. Wright on a third-down pass to Rob Gronkowski in the first quarter, but Jeremy Lane ended that drive with an interception on the goal line; a couple of pass interferences went Seattle’s way anyway (Matthews was being held as he caught a 44-yard pass late in the first half and Gronk pushed off Kam Chancellor on an incompletion in the end zone); an intentional grounding by Tom Brady in the third quarter came right before he threw an interception.

But there was one huge miss in the fourth quarter that did matter: New England cornerback Malcolm Butler (later the hero) tripped Ricardo Lockette on a route that would have been a 20-yard gain to the Seattle 40-yard line with 7:48 left and the Hawks up 24-21. Instead, they went three-and-out, and the Patriots went ahead on the next possession.

The Seahawks had plenty of chances to win the game — certainly on their final offensive play from the 1-yard line — but the Patriots, like so many of Seattle’s opponents, got the benefit of a lot of non-calls.

Of course, the Seahawks hurt themselves plenty, especially on the play after the goal-line interception. As the Patriots set up at the 1, Michael Bennett — who led the NFL in offsides penalties in 2014 — jumped again. That bailed the Patriots out of a precarious position.

The Patriots needed to get out of the end zone to avoid a safety, or else the Seahawks would have gotten the ball back one more time — probably with about 10 seconds left somewhere around their 40, trailing 28-26 with one timeout left. A big pass play from there could have set them up for the winning field goal.

The Seahawks overcame so many of their weaknesses throughout the season — the offensive confusion, the injuries, the penalty disparity — but those problems seemed to catch up to them in the Super Bowl and contribute to them losing it.


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