Using the New York Times animation of Marcus Butler’s interception, I have attempted to try to understand the rhyme and reason behind the play call. The call was not as bad of a call as it is being made out to be. I still do not think Seattle should have given up on the rushing option; but the called play was there if Lockette would have ran a good route. The Patriots were playing run all the way. When professional players are put in a position to succeed, they should be able to execute without misstep.
In the animated photo, I have drawn the numbers “1” and “2” to represent two of the likely routes or open areas that Butler could possibly have to defend. The number “3” represents the mesh (pick) or distraction route that creates the space for the 1 on 1 matchup between Butler and Lockette.
There is no way that Butler should be able to defend both routes/areas of the field.
However, at the snap, Lockette immediately takes number 1 off the table when he plants his right foot and turns inside. Butler never had to move or pause to worry about the fade or defend the corner. The mesh did not have an opportunity to develop and Butler had a direct route to the ball. If Lockette presses the outside, Butler has to at least wait; giving the mesh an opportunity to obstruct Butler on his way to the inside route.
There is just no way that Butler should have been able to make that play as easy as he did.
From the snap, it is a foot race to the ball. Butler never had to think about the area marked in red below. Lockette shrunk the end zone and handed Butler a freebie, a free unobstructed path to the football.
There was time for Lockette to make a good effort to the outside and give the inside receiver a chance to set up the mesh point. Below is a frame immediately after the snap. Butler’s feet have not moved. Lockette has already planted to turn inward. When Butler feels Lockette move inside, he does the right thing and jumps inside.
Here is how it played out on television.
If there is fallout from this play, it will be Lockette who takes the fall. Lockette was ejected earlier in the season after throwing a punch in a game against the Chiefs. Wide receivers don’t get much negative performance related media. They show up, jog around and basically exercise for four quarters. They rarely take the blame for interceptions but always get credit for the touchdowns. I do not think the Seattle coaching staff feels beholden to Lockette and there have already been quiet remarks about how he did not go “strong” to the ball.
I long for the day that the Bengals can make offense look this easy.