Russell Wilson vs Patriots – Super Bowl XLIX

Russell Wilson threw the final interception to Malcolm Butler to end Super Bowl XLIX, but does that one play tell the full story? Many critics are using that play and his overall statline to project and his criticize his performance in the Super Bowl. In this breakdown, you will see that looking at only one of his plays, even though a very negative play at that, is not enough data to justify these claims as Wilson actually performed very well against New England’s underrated defensive unit.

Wilson – 12/21, 247 yards, 11.8 y/a, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 3 sacks for 13 yards, 3 rushes for 39 yards

Before we begin dissecting some of Wilson’s plays, I am going to forewarn you by saying that this breakdown will not cover the game ending interception by Malcolm Butler as I already broke down that specific play in depth in a previous article. Please click here if you would like to read that breakdown. With that in mind, let’s begin:

The game started slowly for Russell Wilson. The Patriots defense was playing tight man coverage across the board not allowing Wilson any place to throw the ball. In this first half, Wilson actually only threw the ball four times before the two minute warning. Patriots’ Tom Brady, for comparison, threw the ball 27 times in the same amount of time.

First, let’s take a look at Wilson’s two touchdown passes in Plays 11 and 15.

Play 11
Situation: 1st and 10 at NE 11
Description: Q2 – (:06) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to C.Matthews for 11 yards, TOUCHDOWN. S.Hauschka extra point is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.

Offense Formation: Empty-set Shotgun Double Twins Near
Offensive Grouping: 11
Defense Formation: Cover 5, two LB zones underneath, Revis in man-to-man coverage on WR89 Baldwin

With six seconds left in the half, the Seahawks are down by 7. Pete Carroll wants to take a quick shot to the endzone before kicking a field goal if unsuccessful. The Patriots and DC Patricia are gambling that Wilson is going to throw a backshoulder fade route to the corner of the endzone. This is the reason why I’m not a fan of this play call at all by the Patriots.

Wilson only has six seconds to catch and throw a fade route, which is what this defense is designed to stop. Fade routes are typically short plays which is why it’s the obvious call in the situation to use the size advantange of Matthews. The key here is the adjustment by Wilson and Matthews. Wilson instantly notices that the Patriots are in zones across the goalline to prevent the deep throw which means that an underneath or purposely underthrown ball is ideal here.

The Patriots secondary is already in deep zone coverage meaning they are expecting a jump ball situation. This begs the obvious question: Why is a 5’11” cornerback (Ryan) covering an obvious fade route against a 6’5″ wide receiver like Matthews? This is a clear mismatch from the start.

If you combine these two scenarios (deep goalline zone coverage with a size mismatch) you have an easy read and adjustment by Wilson to throw a short fade route only to Matthews for a touchdown. Which is exactly what happened on this play.

Click here for more of Chris Matthews plays during the Superbowl.

Play 15
Situation: 2nd and 3 at NE 3
Description: Q3 – (5:00) R.Wilson pass short right to D.Baldwin for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN. PENALTY on SEA-D.Baldwin, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced between downs. S.Hauschka extra point is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.

Offense Formation: Power I-formation Twins Stack Left
Offensive Grouping: 21
Defense Formation: Goalline, Three Zones, man-to-man coverage across board

From I-formation, Wilson motions WR15 Kearse across the formation to drawing CB39 Browner. This shows Wilson that Browner and Revis are in man-to-man coverage on the two wide receivers. Next, Wilson snaps the ball and fakes the hand-off to Lynch drawing the linebackers in zones across the goalline to crash the line. The fake hand-off is the reason why this play works. If there was no fake, and the linebackers were left in their zones then one of them might (Hightower) might have been able to interfere with the easy touchdown throw. Instead, Baldwin is left wide-open.

Revis is covering Baldwin and gets picked by the referee standing in the endzone. This is an excellent play set-up to use the referee to score the touchdown.

The next thing we are going to look at is Russell Wilson’s deep ball accuracy. In my two previous post-season breakdowns (Divisional vs Carolina; Conference vs Green Bay), Wilson seemed to struggled with accuracy tending to underthrow his passes. His deep ball accuracy will be analyzed in the following plays:

Play 5
Situation: 3rd and 8 at SEA 22
Description: Q2 – (8:24) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to J.Kearse (L.Ryan).

This is Wilson’s second throw of the day and it didn’t come until the second quarter. In this play, Wilson from shotgun has WR15 Kearse on the right outside running a go-route against CB26 Ryan. Wilson’s footwork on this throw is excellent as he steps fully into his throw, but he leaves the ball too far inside of his receiver. Ryan also deserves credit for the pass breakup, but this ball should have been closer to the sideline for Kearse to have a better shot at it.

Play 7
Situation: 2nd and 5 at SEA 45
Description: Q2 – (4:19) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep right to C.Matthews to NE 11 for 44 yards (K.Arrington).

Wilson from shotgun takes the snap and moves to the right after the play-action to RB24 Lynch. WR13 Matthews is running a go-route and instantly beats CB25 Arrington almost immediately off of the the line. Once Arrington is beat, he can’t turn and locate the ball giving Matthews a clear shot at the reception who pulls it down for the 44 yard gain. Excellent footwork to step into the throw and great placement on the throw to put it where only Matthews could come down with it.

Play 12
Situation: 1st and 10 at SEA 38
Description: Q3 – (13:48) R.Wilson pass deep left to C.Matthews pushed ob at NE 17 for 45 yards (D.McCourty).

Another go-route to Matthews from shotgun formation, OC Bevell is clearly targetting CB25 Arrington early in this game to take advantage of the mismatch with Matthews’ physical prowess. Arrington actually turns to locate the ball, but he can’t out jump the massive 6’5″ wide receiver. Wilson again places the ball perfectly like in Play 7 just so Matthews can have a shot at the ball. Unlike Play 5 where the ball was placed too far inside, this ball was placed right on the sideline which is the ideal location for the jumpball in this situation.

Play 18
Situation: 3rd and 2 at NE 47
Description: Q3 – (1:12) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep left to J.Kearse (M.Butler).

After CB25 Arrington was benched in favor of CB21 Butler, things started to change for Wilson’s deep ball. In this play, Wilson’s throw was actually in the right place for WR15 Kearse to come away with it on the wheel route, but Butler made the excellent pass break-up to stop this third down conversion. Give full credit to Butler here. Please continue reading on the next page.

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.