How the IoT could have saved the Seahawks from Super Bowl disaster at the one yard line

Last updated: 14 November 2019

There they were, at the one yard line; they’d driven the length of the field with some jaw dropping plays, plays that defied belief (like this catch from Jermaine Kearse). It seemed they were destined to repeat as champions and were ready to hand Brady his third Super Bowl defeat since 2008. The world, or at least the 114.4 million people watching live, stood still as Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson walked up to the line of scrimmage. It was second down and goal from the one – what play would you run? You all know what happened next. Disaster struck for the Seahawks as Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots surged in front of Ricardo Lockette to snatch the ball away, and with that, the Seahawks’ hopes of a second championship.

Unbeknown to many, this Super Bowl, SuperBowl XLIX, was the first ever to have live player tracking. Sensors, made by Zebra, were embedded in the players’ shoulder pads and beamed statistics, including field position, speed distance travelled, acceleration, and relative proximity to other players—to “receiver tags” placed around the stadium. Thanks to this, TV Analysts, trainers and coaches can all have access to read outs, infographics and images using the data collected from these sensors/trackers. They’re even placing sensors in footballs now, as they did at the Pro Bowl this year. It’s a great use of IoT (Internet of Things) technology and we can’t wait to see it develop further. But how could this have helped the Seahawks? Let’s take a closer look at that final play to see how.

Below you’ll see the formations of both teams. The Patriots came out with goal line defense (meaning they were preparing for a run play – and why wouldn’t you, the Seahawks have Marshawn Lynch, one of the toughest runners ever to play) and the Seahawks came out with three wide receivers and a tight end. The Patriots had eight players (circled) on the line of scrimmage; they were preparing for Lynch. So, was passing the right call? According to some, it was.

The key here, however, is not necessarily whether the Hawks should’ve passed – it’s what pass play they should’ve chosen. This is where IoT tracking could’ve helped; player tracking could’ve led to a better play call/selection. The chosen play saw quarterback Russell Wilson throw to Lockette on what’s called a ‘slant’ route, where the receiver runs at an angle towards the middle of the field. Unfortunately, Butler read it, as you can see in the image below.

A quick out route, explained here (also known as just an ‘out’) would’ve been more effective. Why? Because, as you can see, the Patriots had Brandon Browner (the biggest cornerback in the NFL) matched up against wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. While Browner is an excellent player, his weakness is lateral quickness due to his size. He’s 6 foot 4, 220lbs and runs a 4.63 40 yard dash. Kearse on the other hand is 6 foot 1, 210lbs and runs a 4.43 40 yard dash. Kearse also ran an impressive 7.03 second 3 cone drill (a test that measures agility) at the NFL combine. There’s no way Browner would’ve been able to cover him on an ‘out’ route. Unfortunately, the player trackers in place currently, as brilliant as they are, don’t give read outs on all these extra player bio stats. If they did, coaches could customize their tracking settings to alert them when they sense a potential mis-match like this. It’s probably only a matter of time before all this data is harnessed by these trackers. Perhaps, if the trackers had been calibrated for this type of information that play would’ve ended differently, with Kearse catch the game-winning touchdown. And then The Internet of Things would’ve been heralded as the MVP of the Super Bowl… Ok, I’m probably stretching my imagination a bit too far here, but I’m sure you get the point.

What do you think? Do you reckon the IoT could have actually saved the Hawks? Or have you got a better way for M2M/IoT technology to change the NFL in mind? Or perhaps there’s an IoTMaker out there who’s already working on something like this. Either way, let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @Gemalto.

[Images courtesy of NBC sports]