Malcolm Butler’s Final Super Bowl Interception on Russell Wilson

Since not everyone understands what happened on Malcolm Butler’s interception I wanted to do a quick breakdown of the play that ended Super Bowl 49 for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.

Edit [2/4/2015]: If you are interested in reading about all of Russell Wilson’s other plays please click here.

Situation: 2nd and 1 at NE 1
Description: Q4 – (:26) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right intended for R.Lockette INTERCEPTED by M.Butler at NE -1. M.Butler to NE 2 for 3 yards (R.Lockette). PENALTY on NE, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 1 yard, enforced at NE 2

Offense Formation: Shotgun Twins Stack Right Near

Offensive Grouping: 11 (1 RB – Lynch, 1 TE – Willson, 3 WR – Lockette, Kearse, Baldwin)

Defense Formation: Cover 1, Man-to-man coverage across the board

Play Concept: Rub/pick route

Pre-snap, Wilson is in shotgun with twins stack right with Baldwin in the slot. The Patriots have Revis directly over Baldwin and Browner playing shallow on the twins right with Butler directly behind. This is a very standard defensive call against twins stack.

Wilson motions Baldwin across the formation and Revis follows. This signals man-to-man coverage at least where Revis is concerned since none of the other defenders switch or move around they don’t “re-adjust” their zones if they are playing zone coverage here. This is a GOOD sign for a pick play. Pick plays work best against man-to-man coverage and that’s exactly what NE was showing here.

Wilson snaps the ball and Browner immediately jams Kearse on the line of scrimmage. THIS is where the play is won for NE. Kearse’s goal is to interfere with Butler’s man-to-man coverage responsibilities on Lockette, but Browner stops Kearse immediately at the line. This is an amazing jam that set up the play for Butler.

Once Browner jams Kearse, Butler is free to attack Lockette’s route. Lockette steps forward and runs a slant route to the middle of the field. Wilson sees his receiver and leads him too far up the middle allowing Butler to jump over the back of Lockette for the interception.

At the point where Wilson snaps the ball and Kearse can’t interfere with Butler, he needs to throw the ball at the feet of Lockette or throw it low and behind his target so that Butler can’t make the play. Instead he leads him too much on a quick slant route over the middle of the field. Really the worst place for the throw.


The Patriots were ready for this play. Simply by studying the tape they knew a rub route was coming on this goal line play.

This is actually a well-designed play. Some people are instantly throwing Bevell under the bus, but from a pure objective standpoint this is a good play on goal line when you have man-to-man coverage across the board plus a larger WR going up against a rookie undrafted CB. BUT the key here is that Kearse HAS to be able to interfere with Butler’s coverage responsibilities. Remember in a league where the talent disparity is so minuscule that even an undrafted rookie can make an impact.

People are saying that “Wilson telegraphed his throw.” No. This is not true. It’s a designed pick route that the Patriots KNEW it was coming. He took the snap and immediately threw the ball. The fault was the decision to throw it, the physical throw, but not the mental aspect of “looking off a CB” or something.

Give credit to Butler and Browner for making a great play, but more importantly, give credit to Belichick and NE’s DC Patricia for recognizing the play and teaching their defense how to attack it.

Some have argued that “Lynch was open.” He was open for the slightest of moments AFTER the ball was thrown. Chandler Jones was on him from the start of the play and his only role on this play was to clear the linebackers which is why his “shoot” route was on the complete opposite side of the field.

Bevell was quoted in saying that “Lockette could have been stronger through the ball.” – While I agree with this, I don’t personally think this was the game changer here. Maybe if Lockette fought off Butler this would have been an incompletion instead of a INT, but I feel like Butler’s full acceleration and jump at the ball was greater than any additional strength Lockette could have mustered to stop the interception. But that’s just me.

Some have argued that Wilson should have kept the ball and tried to run it or go through his reads. While it’s “possible”, Wilson and the Seahawks were committed to throwing the ball. The ball should have just been thrown low and behind Lockette or at the feet to stop the play and live to fight another down. In my opinion, the decision-making was WAY too quick for him to realize he should have pumped and rolled around or done something else with it, so basically the throw just needs to be better placed to not have the INT happen.

Edit [2/4/2015]: If you are interested in reading about all of Russell Wilson’s other plays please click here.

Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.