GLENDALE, Ariz. – Russell Wilson had never dealt with true on-the-field adversity in his NFL career before Super Bowl XLIX.
He had his slumps and tough losses, sure, but he has had one of the great starts to an NFL career. In his only playoff loss, which came his rookie year at Atlanta, he was unbelievable in a second-half comeback. He won a Super Bowl in year two.
He was on his way to a second Super Bowl in a row when New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler beat Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette on a slant route, picked off Wilson and finished Super Bowl XLIX. It will be one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history, and on the highlights it will always be Wilson making the pass.
"I put the blame on me," Wilson said. "I'm the one who threw it."
The immediate aftermath will focus on the play call. To recap, the Seahawks had the ball at the New England 1-yard line with a timeout and the clock ticking down under 30 seconds to go. Marshawn Lynch is one of the best goal-line backs in recent NFL history. But Seattle, which coach Pete Carroll said had a bad matchup with its three-receiver set against the Patriots' goal-line defense, wanted to throw once on second down and then try to run on third and fourth down. Carroll explained all of this in detail. He said the plan was well thought out. It's still strange why they didn't just give it to Lynch.
"There's 20 things going through my mind we could do," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "Obviously you could run it. It doesn't mean you score on that play. We were making sure we were real conscious of the time and didn't leave very much time for them as well."
Bevell said Wilson made a great read and a good throw. Butler just made a play.
"He did it exactly right," Bevell said.
That's all fine, but it won't change that Wilson threw a Super Bowl-ending interception. It's arguably the most devastating interception in Super Bowl history, right up there with Peyton Manning to Tracy Porter and Neil O'Donnell to Larry Brown. Instead of a second Super Bowl ring for Wilson, he'll have a very long offseason. But this is where Wilson's extremely optimistic personality, which causes plenty of eye rolls at times, will help him.
"I'll keep my head up," Wilson said. "I know I prepared, I know I got ready, I know I played my heart out. I know the rest of the guys played their heart out. You do that, you can't worry about it too much. You just have to focus on what you have to do to keep everybody together, in terms of mentally and spiritually. And keep staying after it."
That's just who Wilson is.
"He'll respond the way he always responds," Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung said. "He'll work harder. He'll watch more film, knowing him. So the next time he's put in that situation, he'll come out on top."
Wilson said he thought he had the touchdown to Lockette. Butler made a great play instead.
It hurt to lose, he said, but he wouldn't let it show if he was devastated by the loss. He wouldn't shift the blame to the play call or to Lockette, who got beat to the spot. He spoke with admiration for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. As he went on, it became clear this first real NFL adversity won't have a lingering effect. His politician-like personality is sometimes mocked, but it's perfect for the situation he finds himself in now.
"If I keep working and I think if our team keeps working, I think we're in a great situation," Wilson said. "I'm grateful for the guys around me. I'm grateful for the plays we've made and the plays we'll make in the future. I expect us to win. I expect us to be back here. I expect us to continue to keep our head up and keep moving.
"We have great character, guys that love the game of football, guys that love each other. I'm grateful for everybody, I'm grateful for the Seahawks, I'm grateful for the situation. Disappointing, but I believe that we will be back."
He then leaned in to the microphone before he left his podium.
"Go Hawks," Wilson said, just like he ends every other press conference.
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