Back in January of 1971, the Baltimore Colts pulled off a miracle.
In a game later dubbed by some as the “Blunder Bowl,” the Colts beat the Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V while also committing seven turnovers, the third-highest total in Super Bowl history.
In fact, the game was a monument to mistakes, with both teams combining for 11 turnovers.
But not one of those Colts turnovers was an interception returned for a touchdown. If it had been, Baltimore would have been doomed. In fact, if it happens to either the Seahawks or Patriots Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., history says that team also has no chance of winning.
As ESPN.com’s Gregg Easterbrook pointed out this week, teams that have returned interceptions for touchdowns in the 48 previous Super Bowls are 12-0. It all started when Green Bay's Herb Adderley returned an interception 60 yards in the Packers' victory over the Raiders in Super Bowl II.
“Get a pick-six, win the Super Bowl,” he wrote. “It’s pretty much that simple.”
If that’s the case, give the Seahawks the edge going into the 49th Super Bowl.
The Seahawks – who had the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL this season -- have returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season. The Pats have zero. And in their careers, Tom Brady (2) has thrown more pick-sixes than Russell Wilson (1) – though Brady has played 15 seasons and Wilson is in only his third.
Both teams have been very careful with the football this season, however. In the 16 games of the regular season, the Patriots threw nine interceptions; the Seahawks threw just seven. On defense, New England picked off 16 passes, three more than Seattle.
Both head coaches, Pete Carroll of Seattle and Bill Belichick of New England, are defensive-minded coaches who preach the value of takeaways – but also drum it into their offensive units to take care of the football.
So, seemingly, a pick-six in Sunday’s Super Bowl might appear an unlikely prospect. Brady hasn’t won three Super Bowls by making careless mistakes in big games. Wilson, too, has developed a reputation for strong decision-making and winning close games.
Then again, Carroll’s ball-hawking ‘Hawks in practice and games are always out not only to make stops but “Get the Ball!” – one of the coach’s favorite phrases.
Said Carroll of his defensive philosophy with the Seahawks: “The defense can balance out a mistake or two by an offense by taking the football away. So it’s the No. 1 emphasis in the program.”
If the Seahawks do that Sunday, taking a Brady pass all the way back for six points, figure Carroll's bunch will be in line for their second Super Bowl rings.