Most of the sporting world is in agreement. The decision last night by the Seattle Seahawks to pass on 2nd and goal from the one-yard line is one of the worst, if not THE worst, play call in the history of the National Football League. But could it have worked? SHOULD it have worked? If there were different personnel running it, would we see a difference?
Well if you're going to analyze something, you might as well over-analyze it. So here is my opinion, on what would have happened if the Panthers offense took the field for that fateful play instead of the Seahawks.
Russell Wilson vs. Cam Newton
Russell Wilson and Cam have been compared in so many ways, mostly the "he just wins" variety. But physically, who is better equipped to run this play? Wilson is the more accurate quarterback, generally speaking, but Cam has the cannon to zip a pass in there a lot faster than the defense can react. Cam's size and strength also presents another wrinkle. With Cam, he is a threat to go right up the gut and fly over the pile himself, much less roll out on a playaction boot. Russell Wilson is a perfect threat to run a bootleg, but his size is not advantageous for a traditional QB sneak.
All said, if Cam Newton is throwing, the ball gets there before Malcolm Butler can squeeze himself in there and pick it off. The receiver might cough it up on hard contact, but I think there is no way we see an INT. Combine this with Cam's additional sneak threat, and you see an advantage.
Advantage: Cam Newton and the Panthers
Marshawn Lynch vs. Jonathan Stewart
Jonathan Stewart was absolutely sensational after he finally got healthy in the second half of the season. He amassed some of the highest total yardage after first contact in the league, and if he can stay that way, will be a great back for the Panthers next season. That said, no one is as aggressive a runner as Marshawn Lynch. If I had my picks of any back in the NFL to potentially carry the rock in that situation, I am flipping a coin between Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch.
Ultimately, they were just a decoy. But I think the New England defense would rather worry about a Jonathan Stewart plunge than a Beast Mode one.
Advantage: Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks
Luke Willson vs. Greg Olsen
The play featured no fullback, and one TE, who I could not get a decent look at the number. I am assuming it was Luke Willson. Either way, I think fans on both sides agree that the Seahawks have no answer at Tight End compared to Pro Bowler (finally) Greg Olsen. His presence on the field for this play is an immediate receiving upgrade, and might change the call and target entirely.
Advantage: Greg Olsen and the Panthers
Seattle OL vs. Panthers OL
I think we all know how this one goes. Regardless of the fact you are talking about a pass where the pass rush really shouldn't be a factor, the threat of a run is greater behind the superior Seahawks O-Line. The QB Sneak threat is probably about equal, as I think you get enough push behind Ryan Kalil and Trai Turner, but you absolutely count out the threat of something off tackle.
Advantage: The Seattle Seahawks O-Line
Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette vs. Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, Philly Brown/Brenton Bersin
Of course it all depends on how they configure them, and who the eventual target is, but you've got to think that if Kelvin Benjamin is on the field, you are using his size mismatch in this situation regardless of coverage. In general, both teams need a talent upgrade at WR, but based on the star power of Benjamin alone versus the whole lotta "Meh" as you keep reading, you are throwing to KB, and he catches it because it is a difficult catch. Or you are lining up Olsen in the slot and using that mismatch. Either way, your passing options are greater.
Advantage: The Panthers WR core
How it likely plays out if the Panthers line up as above and go for it:
Cam takes the snap and immediately fires to Kelvin Benjamin on the inside slant. The pass comes in hot, with Malcolm Butler unable to react in time to the rocket, and Kelvin Benjamin is able to use his size advantage to reel in the catch, even if the ball placement is not perfect. As long as he doesn't drop it...
TOUCHDOWN! CAROLINA PANTHERS!
Isn't pure speculation fun?