Exorcising The Demons Of Our Super Bowl XL Defeat

February 5, 2006.  We’re coming up on the 8th anniversary of that fateful day in Seahawks history.  Do you remember what you were doing?  Because, I remember what I was doing.  I was in my house in West Seattle, with my roommates and some other friends.  Pretty small gathering.  I was in my rocking chair, with a fridge full of Miller High Life at my disposal.

I drank 18 beers that day.  I want to say that’s a personal high, but then again I’ve never really sat there and counted.  This total was unmistakable though, as I found them the next morning, in a semi-straight line next to the chair I had sat in throughout the entire afternoon.

According to the day-after notes I took, on my old LiveJournal account, I started drinking around noon and was most likely passed out by 8pm.  I had one of the worst hangovers the next day that I’ve ever endured.  How I made it through even PART of a work day is mind-boggling to me now.  In 2006, I would turn 25, so maybe that explains it a little bit.  Couldn’t do that today, that’s for damn sure (which is why I have requested the Monday after this upcoming Super Bowl off of work).

I don’t remember a lot about the experience of actually watching the game, though.  Obviously, I remember seething with hatred.  At the refs, at Jerramy Stevens.  At the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I remember being with friends who weren’t nearly as rabid in their Seahawks fandom as myself (but, then again, I have a real problem, so don’t consider that comment in any way detrimental to their character) and I vaguely remember feeling some of their eyes on me, as if to say, “Who is this crazy person I’ve chosen to make my friend?”

I remember, in an important situation, when the Seahawks were in need of a big play, a long bomb to Jerramy Stevens.  At first, the announcers called it a catch.  It LOOKED like a catch, if only for a moment, because he had his back to the camera when he fell.  In my excitement, I jumped up out of my chair, with a fist raised to the air, unleashing a raucous cheer … and in the process, my fist collided with the ceiling and punched a hole through it.  A moment later, it was revealed that Stevens, in fact, dropped the ball.  Not only did that drive stall, but now I had a hole in the ceiling that would come out of my share of the deposit (the house was a rental).

I remember after the game, when all was said and done, not saying one word to anyone else at our little gathering.  I left the room, called a friend of mine (who happens to be a Steelers fan) to grudgingly congratulate him, and that’s it.  That’s all that I remember.

***

After Super Bowl XL, I avoided any and all highlights of that game.  If it popped up on television, I’d change the channel.  If they talked about it on the radio, I’d turn the fucking thing off.  I also avoided any and all Internet articles on the subject.  I tried my damnedest to pretend the whole fucking thing never existed.  And, aside from a few drunken debates among friends, I did my best to never bring it up.

As a kid, I remember watching TV after a major sports championship and seeing those Sports Illustrated commercials.  You know, they offer a year’s subscription to their magazine, and if you bought RIGHT NOW, you’d get this deluxe, embossed keepsake of whichever sports team just won their respective championship.  I remember watching those commercials and thinking, “One day, a Seattle team is going to win a championship, and I’m going to be the first one to call that number and order that subscription so I can get that keepsake.”  I thought it might happen for me in the mid-90s with one of those Sonics teams.  Then, I thought it might happen for me at the turn of the century, with one of those Mariners teams.  Then, I thought SURELY I’ll get my chance with the Seahawks after Super Bowl XL!  And, every year of my life, I’ve been denied this opportunity.

Just once, I’d like to have that keepsake in my home.  I’d like to buy that DVD of the championship game.  I’d like to be able to reflect back upon just ONE season with joy in my heart.  And not a sense of loss.

I don’t know if there are Seahawks fans out there who bought that Sports Illustrated subscription after the Steelers beat us, just to have something saying that we WENT to the Super Bowl, but I know there are fans out there who are just happy to be involved.  Who would like to see the Seahawks win it all, but are just as satisfied with “having a good season”.  Those people – while maybe they’re not psychotic about sports like I am – make me sick.

It has taken me nearly 8 years to get to the point where I was able to re-watch Super Bowl XL.  Honestly, I’m only just now capable of this feat because my Seahawks have finally made it back.  I figure, if I’m ever going to be able to let this thing go, I’m going to have to sit there, watch the whole thing, and try to keep an open mind.  Maybe not ALL of the calls by the refs were horrid.  Maybe it wasn’t so much the Seahawks making mistakes as the Steelers just out-playing us.  MAYBE, the Steelers actually did deserve to win that game.

So, over the last week, in two separate sittings, I sat there and watched this game.  For the record, the first half was so brutal, I had to give myself a few days before I could come back and watch the second half.  I originally intended to do some sort of Sports Guy Running Diary of this thing, but that flew out the window pretty quick.  Instead, I took copious amounts of notes, which I’ll get into right now.

***

For starters, I pulled this video from the Internet.  It had the ABC video feed, but they dubbed it over with the Pittsburgh Steelers radio announcers.  Right off the bat, I was annoyed.

Before I get into the actual notes of the thing, if you wanted to perfectly sum up Super Bowl XL, I don’t think I can say it any better than this:

To score points in an average football game, normally you have to punch the ball into the endzone (for a touchdown), kick the ball over the goal post (for a field goal), or tackle the quarterback/running back in his own endzone (for a safety).  However, if you scored Super Bowl points based on your effectiveness of driving the football between the 30’s and then failing miserably, the Seahawks of Super Bowl XL would be the greatest Super Bowl team known to mankind.

So, let’s just get into this.  The Seahawks got the ball first and, if you remember anything about Mike Holmgren-coached teams, you remember that he likes to script his first 15 or so plays to start the game.  I don’t know why.  I don’t remember it working predominantly more than it failed; I feel like it’s a 50/50 endeavor.  If you succeed on that first drive, then it’s because you prepared really hard?  But, if you fail, then what?  I don’t understand the rationale behind it either.  Essentially, you’re saying, “We’re going to run these 15 plays in order, regardless of the situation or the defense in front of us.”  Yet, if it works so well, why wouldn’t you script the first 30 or 45 plays?

Whatever.  Anyway, in the first couple minutes of the game, Seattle moved the ball down the field with authority.  Quick passes, quick huddles, quick snaps.  Everything quick, everything in a nice little rhythm.  We got to midfield and on 2nd & 9, Matt Hasselbeck overthrew Darrell Jackson – who was wide open at the 35 yard line of Pittsburgh – which would have given us a first down and a lot more.  We got sacked on third down and that was that.  Tom Rouen punted the ball into the endzone.

As I go along, I’m going to track all the Seattle Mistakes, as well as all the times the Seahawks were screwed over.  In the first drive, we had two big mistakes:

  • Hasselbeck overthrew a wide-open Jackson
  • Rouen punted the ball into the endzone

On Pittsburgh’s first drive, our defense was strong, holding them to a 3 & Out and one net yard gained.

Possession #2 – Started at our own 36 and we quickly moved into Pittsburgh territory.  Again, very quick pace.  It’s startling to watch, after these last two years of the Seahawks slowing things down to a turtle’s pace.  Darrell Jackson caught a ball that would have put us into field goal range, but there was a holding call on Chris Gray.  On a repeated viewing, this looked to be a legit call.  He got there late on a stunting linebacker on the right edge.  This led to 3rd & 16 and a poor throw by Hasselbeck into massive coverage (which should have been picked off).  This was followed by another fucking punt into the endzone.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Legit holding call on Chris Gray
  • Punt #2 into the endzone

On Pittsburgh’s second possession, they ran the ball twice and threw an incompletion for another 3 & Out.  Roethlisberger had all day, but just made a bad throw.

Possession #3 – Booming punt was returned to the 49 yard line by Peter Warrick.  Remember that guy?  I sure as shit didn’t.  Anyway, two plays into the drive and we were in field goal range.  Darrell Jackson was REALLY having a day, tying a then-Super Bowl record of 5 catches in the first quarter.

Next play:  offensive pass interference on Darrell Jackson, which would have been his sixth catch of the quarter AND a touchdown.  If I’m going to be honest with you:  it’s a bullshit call.  WHO calls that?  Did Jackson stick his arm out?  Yes.  Did he push off with that arm?  No fucking way.  Did he gain an unfair advantage by putting that arm out there?  No fucking way.  The Steeler who he supposedly interfered with (known as #28 because I don’t care to learn the man’s name) was in a TERRIBLE position to make a play.  28 got caught standing in the back of the endzone looking into the backfield.  Also:  the ref didn’t even begin to throw the flag until Jackson had secured the ball and 28 started complaining like a bitch.  If the ref sees a foul, fine, throw the flag.  But, don’t let the emotions of the game lead you to throw the flag late.  Either you saw something that should have been penalized, or you didn’t.  If you did, then throw it IMMEDIATELY!

I don’t think that flag gets thrown today.  Even the Steelers radio guys thought that was a ticky-tack call!  I’m not even shitting you!

Nevertheless, we still had 1st and 20.  We were still more or less in field goal range.  There were ample opportunities to get that yardage back and have a reasonable chance at a touchdown.  So, what did we do?  TWO SLOW-DEVELOPING STRETCH RUNNING PLAYS IN A ROW!!!

I like Mike Holmgren.  I think he did more for this city and this franchise than any other head coach, maybe with the exception of Lou Piniella.  But, I’ll be God fucking damned if Holmgren didn’t make some BAFFLING play-calling decisions in his career.  Are you fucking SHITTING ME?  I know our offensive line was good and everything, but why do you run practically the same play twice when it didn’t work the first time AND YOU NEED 20 FUCKING YARDS FOR THE FIRST DOWN???

I’m telling you, that actually makes me more infuriated than the bogus pass interference call.  3rd & 23 (so we LOST three yards on those two runs).  In this situation, there are two things you can do:  go conservative to try to better your position for a field goal, or go for the knockout.  I love me some Matt Hasselbeck, and the next play is exactly why:  fade pass into the right corner of the endzone.  D.J. Hackett actually had two fucking hands on the ball, but couldn’t come down with the catch.  There was incidental contact by the Pittsburgh defender, but he was facing the direction of the throw, so probably a good no-call.  Either way, we ended this drive up 3-0 when we should have been up 7-0.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Holmgren’s play-calling on 1st & 20
  • D.J. Hackett dropping a touchdown

Referee fuckup:

#1.  Lame offensive pass interference on Jackson that should have been a no-call.

Pittsburgh’s third possession ended the first quarter with a third straight 3 & Out.  I’m trembling with rage at this point, considering we ONLY had a 3-0 lead.  Feels like it should have been 21-0, but every drive has seen us shoot ourselves in the foot.

Possession #4 – Another booming punt by the Steelers, which Warrick returned into Steelers territory.  Except … you guessed it.  Holding penalty on #35 brought it back.  This was probably the weakest holding penalty I’ve ever seen, as repeated viewings show he hardly put a hand on the guy.  Cost us a good 30 yards of field position.

Still, Hasselbeck was on point, quickly getting us up near midfield.  Shaun Alexander ripped off a couple of nice runs that got us to 3rd & short.  For some reason, we took Alexander off the field, but that really doesn’t matter, because Matt Hasselbeck was dropping dimes.  He made an excellent throw to Jerramy Stevens about 20 yards down field, who caught it, but got hit immediately and had the ball pop out.  He absolutely should have come up with that play.  Professionals make that catch!  He had it in both hands, tucked it into his right arm, and that’s when the hit came & knocked it out.  It was very nearly a completion and a fumble, but he never made a “football move” in my opinion.  This drive finished with a third punt into the endzone.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Jerramy Stevens Drop #1
  • Tom Rouen Shitty Punt #3

Referee fuckup:

#2 – Phantom holding call on the Seahawks’ punt return.

The Steelers finally got their first first down of the game at 11:15 to go in the second quarter, on a completion on 3rd & 8 with fabulous coverage by the Sehawks.  Considering to this point, the Seahawks have had the ball four times, moved the ball fairly well each time, and only came away with 3 points is more than a little disconcerting.

We ended up biting on an end-around to Hines Ward for 25 yards to put the Steelers around midfield, and on the play Marquand Manuel was injured.  That’s something to keep in mind, because we were already thin as it was in the secondary, and because Manuel would not return to the game.

On the very next play, however, a deep ball by Roethlisberger was badly underthrown and picked off by Michael Boulware.

Possession #5 – 3 & Out.  We were short of converting that by mere inches.  And, of course, when we NEED a big, booming punt out of Tom Rouen, he kicks a low, short line drive.  Fuck me?  No, fuck YOU, sir!

On Pittsburgh’s next drive, we had them in third & long, but somehow lost Hines Ward, who caught a shovel pass and converted.  From there, Roethlisberger hit a seam pass deep into Seattle territory.  Marcus Trufant was lined up a MILE in front of the guy, to allow him to make an easy catch for a big gain.  Remember, this was our BEST cornerback at the time.  If the 2013 Seahawks played corner that poorly, I’d have a fucking heart attack.

Next up, Hines Ward dropped what would have been a highlight-worthy catch at the right sideline of the endzone.  At this point, the second-year Roethlisberger was looking more and more comfortable.  This was a lucky break for the Seahawks, because Hines definitely had a chance to make the catch.  Offensive pass interference followed (didn’t see it, they never showed a replay), followed by a sack back at the 40 yard line.

This led to 3rd & 28.  They were out of field goal range, so we were probably expecting some sort of 10-yard checkdown.  The line flushed Ben out of the pocket to his left, then he unloaded a ball all the way down to the Seahawks’ 3 yard line, which was miraculously caught by Hines Ward for the first down.  MOTHER OF GOD!  What the Hell is going on here???  There were three Seahawks around him, yet not one of them could make a play.  There are no words.

A steady diet of The Bus followed, netting 1.5 yards and running the clock down to the 2-minute warning.  This led to yet another fuck up by the refs:  bootleg by Roethlisberger (designed run) for a touchdown.

Here’s the thing:  like the pass interference call on Jackson earlier, if you see something, CALL IT IMMEDIATELY!  You know what I saw on this play?  I saw the line judge raise one hand in the air, as if to signal fourth down.  As he ran down the line towards the pile, he switched his call and put both hands in the air signifying touchdown.  Do you know what happened in these seconds between the 4th down call and the touchdown call?  Roethlisberger – who landed with the ball in his gut, while half of his torso was over the line – discreetly moved the ball over the goalline.  You can see on the reverse view that shows the ball, the ref ran into the shot, and he only had one arm in the air until Roethlisberger moved that ball.

Of course, in reality, it was as close as a play gets.  I could look at that play 50 times and flip-flop back and forth as to whether that ball crossed the line or not, but that’s not the point.  The point is:  if the ref calls it 4th down, they won’t overturn it on replay.  If the ref calls it a touchdown, they won’t overturn it on replay.  There’s no concrete evidence either way, so that initial call is CRUCIAL.  And that particular ref didn’t stick with what he saw initially.  He pussed out and called it a touchdown after Ben moved the ball.  From how he landed, if you just saw his body and nothing else, you’d think, “Surely he scored on that run.”  Except, when the Seahawks defender stopped him, his helmet knocked the ball down around Ben’s gut.  The ball wasn’t positioned on his body like it normally would have been.  The ref was fooled, he fucked up, and that’s that.

Seattle fuckups:

  • Allowing Pittsburgh to convert 3rd and 28

Referee fuckup:

#3 – Switching his call halfway down the line after Ben moves the ball across the goalline a la Vinny Testaverde.

Possession #6 – 2-minute offense, just after the 2-minute warning.  Pittsburgh squib-kicked and we returned it to the 40 yard line.  But, of course, they called holding.  On #57.  He didn’t hold anyone.  How do I know that?  Because he didn’t BLOCK ANYONE.  I don’t know if anyone else held on that play, but 57 sure as shit didn’t.

Almost immediately, we got the yards back and drove up near midfield.  Our offensive line was holding up well against their blitzes as we moved into Steelers territory.  There was a deep ball up the right sideline to Jackson that would have been a touchdown, but Jackson was careless with his footwork and was rightly called out of bounds.  He got his left foot down, his knee grazed the pylon, but his right foot landed totally out of bounds.

Then, for some insane reason, we opted to run the ball up the gut for four yards with 40 seconds left.  AND THEN WE LET THE CLOCK RUN DOWN TO 13 SECONDS BEFORE PITTSBURGH CALLED A TIME OUT???  What the tap-dancing FUCK?

Part of that is on Hasselbeck totally not giving a shit about the clock winding down as he’s changing the play at the line, but most of that is on another Holmgren play-calling brain fart.  Seriously?  It’s a 2-minute offense and you’re running the ball up the gut?  And then you DON’T call a time out when Hasselbeck is clearly freaking out about something he’s seeing from Pittsburgh’s defense?  Bad Holmgren.  Bad.

Once again, we aired it out to Jackson down the right sideline, but the pass was offline and led him out of bounds.  Probably not the best decision by Hasselbeck, when just getting ten yards would have been more helpful.  But, what do you expect him to do when his coach doesn’t put the team in a position to succeed by running the fucking ball with 40 seconds to go on the clock?

That led to a 54-yard field goal that Josh Brown pushed wide right.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Some of the worst clock management I’ve ever seen
  • Poor footwork on Jackson’s part on that first deep pass
  • Poor decision on Hasselbeck’s part to not check down for some extra yards for the field goal

Referee fuckup:

#4 – Phantom holding call on the kick return.

Halftime.  7-3 Pittsburgh.  Legitimately, the Seahawks missed out on 10 more points in that half (4 for the bullshit P.I. call on Jackson, 3 on the Jerramy Stevens drop that would have put us in field goal range, and 3 on that drive before half).  Should have been 13-7.  Should have been a lot of things.

Pittsburgh got the ball after halftime and on second down, Willie Parker ran up the gut for 75 yards and a touchdown.  14-3, Pittsburgh.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Linebackers were swallowed whole
  • Safety (Manuel’s replacement) bit ridiculously hard on a cut inside before Parker bounced it out into the clearing
  • Overall shit defense from A to Z on that play

Possession #7 – Good first drive out of the half by the offense.  There was another deep ball to Jerramy Stevens who dropped it again.  This one would have made it first and goal.  The fucking thing hit him right in the chest.

Still, we drove it into field goal range.  On 3rd & 5, Hasselbeck was pressured into throwing quickly, took a shot down field, and it landed incomplete.  Josh Brown, this time, pulled the field goal wide left.  He was 1 for 3 at this point.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Jerramy Stevens Drop #2
  • Poorly kicked field goal

On Pittsburgh’s next possession, on 3rd & 4, Hines Ward totally shoved a defender in the face to get open.  No flag, first down.  They got deep into Seattle territory – 3rd & 7 inside our 10 yard line – and Roethlisberger made the worst throw I’ve ever seen, on a short out route to the right side.  #31 for the Seahawks jumped it and ran it all the way back to Pittsburgh’s 20 yard line.

Referee fuckup:

#5 – No offensive pass interference on Hines Ward on a third down conversion

Possession #8 – We gained four yards on the first two plays, then on 3rd & 6 from the 16, Hasselbeck hit a wide open Jerramy Stevens for a touchdown.  14-10, Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s next possession was a 3 & Out, where they ended up running all three times.  Looked like they wanted to protect Roethlisberger’s ego there instead of giving him a chance to atone for his mistakes.

Possession #9 – First play would have been at least 10 yards if not more, but of course, Jerramy Stevens dropped it again.  This drive ended up as a 3 & Out and Rouen had another short, shitty punt.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Jerramy Stevens Drop #3
  • Tom Rouen Shitty Punt #AllOfThem

Pittsburgh came back with another 3 & Out as Roethlisberger overthrew an open Hines Ward.  Seriously, does ANYONE want to take control of this shitty game?

Possession #10 – Peter Warrick let the punt bounce at the 20 yard line, where it rolled all the way down to our 2.  What’s it like to have a good punter?

It’s really nice to have the best left side of an offensive line in the history of the NFL, though, because the 2 yard line became the 7 yard line on one play.  Ryan Hannam was now in at tight end, because JESUS CHRIST JERRAMY STEVENS SUCK A DICK.  We got all the way back to midfield on some more quality throws.  Then, a third down conversion to Engram took it down to the 30 yard line, followed by a couple of solid Alexander runs taking it inside the 20.

And, like clockwork, after the Seahawks did so well to move the ball down the field, they started shooting themselves in the foot.  This time, the edge rusher for Pittsburgh got an INSANE jump, moving into the neutral zone just as the ball was being snapped.  He happened to be rushing on Sean Locklear’s side, who had no choice but to hold or let Hasselbeck get killed.  The refs saw the hold and called it.  Where this hurt, of course, is that on the pass, Hasselbeck actually completed a ball to Jerramy Stevens down to the 3 yard line.  Instead of first and goal, with Alexander running it in all but certain, it was 1st & 20 at around the 30 yard line.

Next play:  Tobeck got abused and Hasselbeck got sacked.  2nd & 25, we ran a draw play that gained a good 9 yards or so.  Alexander would have had a lot more, actually, but the Pittsburgh defender horsecollar tackled him.  Refs missed it, but the Pittsburgh broadcasters sure didn’t, and wondered why a flag wasn’t thrown.

On 3rd & long, Hasselbeck threw deep again, and this time was bit for it, getting picked off.  He was eventually called for a “low block” on the return, even though he was trying to make a tackle on the play, and even though he hit THE GUY WITH THE FUCKING BALL and not any other Steeler.  #Refs.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Warrick letting punt go down to 2 yard line
  • Holding that negated a 1st & goal
  • Interception, throwing into heavy coverage, not allowing your team a chance for the field goal

Referee fuckups:

#6 – Did not call the horsecollar tackle
#7 – Penalizing Hasselbeck for a low block on an interception return when he went in to make a tackle.

On the Steelers’ next possession, they converted on third and short just past midfield.  Then, they ran an end-around pass from Randle-El to Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Safety bit hard on the play-action
  • Linemen didn’t keep contain on the end-around
  • Allowed a fucking WIDE RECEIVER to throw the ball to another fucking wide receiver!

Possession #11 – It’s 21-10 with 9 minutes to go.  We once again got the ball quickly to midfield, then the drive stalled with Hasselbeck taking a sack on third down by an unblocked cornerback.  We opted to punt the ball with 6:30 to go in the game (obviously – AND I MEAN OBVIOUSLY – the punt was kicked into the endzone).  Seattle fuckups:

  • Letting an unblocked cornerback sack your quarterback
  • Punting when you’re down by 11 points with 6 and a half minutes to go in the game

Pittsburgh’s next possession had a real chance to be over with a 3 & Out.  On 3rd & 6, the refs missed a delay of game penalty, opting to give Pittsburgh the time out, even though Roethlisberger didn’t call the time out until the clock had already reached zero.  They converted that on a wide receiver screen and bled more clock.

The Bus ran it down to a 3rd & 2, as the Seahawks were using their time outs, then we fell for another quarterback bootleg keeper for the first down.  The Steelers ended up running the clock down to the 2-minute warning before they had to punt.

Referee fuckup:

#8 – Not calling Delay of Game on 3rd & 6, which would have made the next play much more difficult.

Possession #12 – The Seahawks got the ball into Pittsburgh territory on a couple of plays before clocking it with 1:00 to go.  Hasselbeck missed Engram, who was open down the sideline, for a would-be big gainer.  Not that it matters, but after that Hasselbeck was throwing short outs for some reason.

The final Seahawks play of the game:  a deep ball, near the goalline, which was dropped by Jerramy Stevens.  Because what more fitting way to end this game, except for maybe another shitty Tom Rouen punt?

By my count, here’s the happy totals:

  • 23 total mistakes by the Seahawks
  • 8 bullshit calls/non-calls by the refs
  • 5 of the worst punts you’ve ever seen
  • 4 legitimate, should-have-had-them drops by Jerramy Stevens
  • 3 legitimately huge plays by the Steelers (3rd & 28, 75-yard TD run, 43-yard WR-to-WR TD pass)
  • 3 bonehead coaching decisions by Mike Holmgren
  • 2 critical offensive holding penalties that were good calls by the refs and drive-killers for us
  • 2 missed field goals by the supposed “most clutch kicker in Seahawks history”
  • 1 interception deep in the opposition territory to cost us at least three points

Add it all up, and you’ve got one of the worst Super Bowl performances in the history of the game.

Make no mistake, the Steelers were NOT the better team on this day.  They had a bunch of 3 & Outs, Roethlisberger had some baffling throws, and for this supposedly-vaunted defense, they sure as shit let the Seahawks move the ball up and down the field at will.  We had nearly 400 yards!  Their wide receivers had more touchdown passes than their quarterback!  This was NOT a good Steelers performance.  For as great as they were in the three AFC playoff games leading up to this, they looked like they were lost and overwhelmed in the Super Bowl.

Had the Seahawks capitalized – like they should have – the Steelers would have lost this game, and Bill Cowher would have been The Coach Who Chokes In Super Bowls.  And I’m not even saying the Seahawks needed to play a perfect game!  Just take back a small fraction of those mistakes, and a small fraction of those bullshit referee decisions, and you’re looking at a comfortable win for the Good Guys.  Just about EVERYTHING had to go against us at critical times for us to blow this game.

In the end, there’s not one person or entity to blame.  The refs are to blame as much as Jerramy Stevens, Mike Holmgren, and our own offensive line.  This was truly the perfect storm, and a nasty way to introduce Seahawks fans to participation in the NFL’s greatest spectacle.

So, did you hate reading this as much as I hated researching it and writing it?  Good.  Let’s keep this game in mind as we head into Sunday:  we CANNOT have a repeat of this performance.

Comparing The 2005 Seahawks To The 2013 Seahawks

Last week, we more or less giddily looked forward to the “Big Game” on February 2nd.  This week, I’ve decided to take a step back and review the last time the Seahawks were in a position to give all of our lives meaning.

The 2005 Seahawks didn’t come out of nowhere, per se, but they also didn’t look like a team that would be bound for the Super Bowl.  In 2003, the Seahawks finished second in the NFC West (to the Rams), and lost in the Wild Card round to Green Bay (take the ball, score, all of that nonsense you wish you could forget).  In 2004, the Seahawks won the NFC West, but lost again in the Wild Card round, this time to the Rams (who, sadly, managed to beat us three times that season).

Suffice it to say, these Seahawks were starting to remind everyone of the early George Karl Sonics teams (good enough to win divisions and make the playoffs, but ALWAYS with the first round exits).  In a way, 2005 was a make-or-break year for Mike Holmgren.  Obviously, he had already lost his General Managing duties by this point, but if there was another underperforming finish to this season, you had to wonder how hot his seat would’ve been.  2005 was his seventh season in Seattle.  He had made the playoffs three times in those seven years, and each time he lost in the first round.

So, it was more than a little disconcerting to see us go into Jacksonville – where we expected to be the better team, given the Jags’ questions at quarterback – and lose to kick off the season.  Granted, those Jags would end up 12-4, but we had no idea they’d be that good going in.  The Seahawks bounced back with a couple of home wins over a couple of mediocre teams (Falcons & Cardinals), before losing on the road once again (this time to the Redskins).

By this point, it was the same boring storyline:  the Seahawks can’t win on the road (and they especially can’t win on the road at 10am Pacific time).  The very next week would, once again, put this theory to the test, as we faced off against our most bitter rival (at the time), the St. Louis Rams.  After they’d beaten us three times the previous year, we knew there was a dragon left to be slain.  Having it on the road, in the morning, made it all the sweeter when we won 37-31.

This kicked off an 11-game winning streak that was only broken in Week 17 when we rested many of our starters (as we’d locked up the #1 seed).

Looking back on it, the NFC was VERY weak in 2005.  The Rams & Packers were both in the midst of down seasons.  The Bears had a great defense, but were led by Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman of all people.  The Seahawks drew the Redskins in the Divisional Round, with the aging Mark Brunell, and easily dispatched them.  That led to an NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.  We made mincemeat of Jake Delhomme (probably the beginning of the end of his career, with three interceptions against only one touchdown) and Steve Smith (at the height of his powers, held to a trivial 5 catches for 33 yards).  These were not teams to fear.

For sure, all the talent was in the AFC in 2005.  The 14-2 Colts were the best team in football.  The 13-3 Broncos were surprisingly effective with Jake Plummer at the helm and the 3rd ranked defense by points scored.  The 10-6 Patriots were still, more or less, the same team that had won three of the last four Super Bowls.  The 11-5 Bengals were a surprising division winner, with Carson Palmer looking to really make his mark on this league.  The 12-4 Jaguars were one of the better 5-seeds in the history of the league to that point (boxed out by the aforementioned 14-2 Colts).  Leaving the 11-5 Steelers, in the 6-seed.

Had things gone according to plan (or according to the 2013 blueprint), the Seahawks would have played Peyton Manning and his Colts in the Super Bowl.  Of course, nothing goes the way you want it to.

The Steelers started out their playoff run by killing Carson Palmer’s career.  He thew one pass for 66 yards.  On his next attempt, he was hit at the knees by a defensive lineman and was out for the game (Palmer would make it back, but he was never as good as he was in 2005).  A promising Bengals team was defeated, with Jon Kitna at the helm.  The Steelers continued their run by going into Indy and playing the top team in the league.  They came away with a 3-point victory.  That led to them going into Denver to play the Broncos (who somehow managed to defeat the Patriots), where they won easily.

To be honest, the run couldn’t have gone more perfectly for the 6-seeded Steelers.  It was a harrowing feat to say the least.  You want to talk about steel sharpening steel?  Compare that run of three straight road games to the charmed life the Seahawks had, with one of the easiest conference regular seasons in recent memory, followed by two home games where we enjoy the best Home Field Advantage in the world.  Pretty much, the Seahawks were flying first class to the Super Bowl, while the Steelers had to survive a death march over steaming hot coals.

In any other year, against any other team, I would have been cheering on the Steelers like nobody’s business.  Instead, I came out of Super Bowl XL with the Steelers as one of my most hated teams of all time

***

I’ll have more on Super Bowl XL tomorrow.  Right now, let’s take a look at those 2005 Seahawks, and how they compare to the 2013 version.

As a general overview, the 2005 Seahawks were (unsurprisingly) quite successful on offense and not so much on defense.  In fact, they led the league in points scored and were second in yards gained.  However, on defense, they weren’t quite the trainwreck I seem to remember.  They were 7th-best in points allowed and 16th in yards given up.  Of course, I would contend their schedule had something to do with that, but the point is, we’re not talking about the 2012 Saints or anything.

The 2005 Seahawks had the MVP of the league in Shaun Alexander.  He scored 27 rushing touchdowns which, at the time, was the NFL record.  It would be beaten by LaDainian Tomlinson the very next season, but it was still an amazing achievement.  Alexander also ran for 1,880 yards, which was a career high for him.  You can say what you want about his running style, but the man got the job done for us and should be appreciated as the greatest running back in Seahawks history.

The 2005 Seahawks were led by Matt Hasselbeck.  He was in his seventh year in the league, fifth year with the Seahawks, and third year as the Seahawks’ unquestioned starter at the quarterback position.  Remember, when he first got here, we were jerking him around with Trent Dilfer on the roster.  As if winning that Super Bowl with the Ravens (and the greatest defense of all time) somehow made Dilfer competent at the quarterback position or something.  Anyway, I made the point at the time (and stand behind it to this day) that the 2005 Seahawks were as good as they were because they had Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.  Shaun Alexander might have been the league’s MVP, but Hasselbeck was the team’s MVP.  Had we played that season with a replacement-level quarterback (or, Seneca Wallace, as he’s formally known), we would have had replacement-level results, no matter how many yards and touchdowns Alexander ran for.

Then again, the heart and soul of the 2005 Seahawks resided along the offensive line.  It was EASILY the best in football and EASILY the best line we’ve ever seen in Seattle.  It also probably rivals some of the best offensive lines in the history of the league, but I’ll leave that argument for people smarter than me to make.  All I know is:  with Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson on the left side of that line, the rest of the offense’s job was made a lot easier.

So, let’s start there.  Let’s make the rest of this post a position-by-position breakdown, starting with the offensive line.  For the record, I’m going to try to pick the player who played the most games at his given position (or, who is known as that team’s “starter”).  The better player is highlighted in blue.

Left Tackle
2005 – Walter Jones
2013 – Russell Okung

Left Guard
2005 – Steve Hutchinson
2013 – James Carpenter / Paul McQuistan

Center
2005 – Robbie Tobeck
2013 – Max Unger

Right Guard
2005 – Chris Gray
2013 – J.R. Sweezy

Right Tackle
2005 – Sean Locklear
2013 – Breno Giacomini

Overall, when you consider the offensive line as a whole, you give the overwhelming nod to the 2005 Seahawks.  The 2013 Seahawks have no one NEAR the calibre of Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson of 2005.  Max Unger gets a marginal nod over Tobeck.  Chris Gray was like 2005’s version of Paul McQuistan (savvy veteran, able to play multiple positions along the line, helps more than he hurts).  I never did like Sean Locklear.

Quarterback
2005 – Matt Hasselbeck
2013 – Russell Wilson

I’m not gonna lie to you, before I looked at the stats, just going off of memory, I REALLY wanted to pick Hasselbeck over Wilson.  I just thought, given the style of offense (West-Coast, heavy on the passing and the completion percentage), the Seahawks would have required more out of Hasselbeck than they do out of Wilson now.  But, look at these numbers!

Hasselbeck:  294/449 (65.5%), 3,459 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 98.2
Wilson:  257/407 (63.1%), 3,357, 26 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 101.2

First of all, I thought Hasselbeck would have attempted WAY more passes than Wilson, but it turned out to only be 42 more passes (or a little over two and a half passes per game).  As it turns out, Wilson was the more efficient quarterback, who still managed to best Hasselbeck in touchdowns thrown.  When you tack on Wilson’s rushing yards, it’s pretty clear who’s the better quarterback.  It’s NOT Year 7 Hasselbeck; it’s Year 2 Wilson.  Soak that in as you daydream about the next dozen years with Wilson at the helm.

Running Back
2005 – Shaun Alexander
2013 – Marshawn Lynch

Listen to me, now.  I know how much you love Beastmode.  Hell, I love myself some Beastmode as much as anybody!  I wouldn’t trade his hard-nosed, rugged running style for anything.  It isn’t even really a question of who would you rather have.  I’m not posing the notion of putting 2005 Alexander with 2013’s offensive line to see who would be the better guy.  Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander WITH 2005’s offensive line is just a better running back than 2013 Lynch with 2013’s line.  I’ll kindly refer you to the numbers:

Alexander:  370 attempts, 1,880 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, 27 touchdowns
Lynch:  301 attempts, 1,257 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns

Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander’s numbers are Looney Tunes!  You just don’t see running backs like this very much anymore.  They’re a dying breed.  Alexander was 28 when he had this season.  Lynch is 27, but considering the pounding his body takes, you’d have to think he’s in a similar boat.  When Alexander hit 30, he fell off the cliff.  I would expect nothing less out of Lynch.

Also, 2005 Alexander had 69 more attempts!  In what is supposed to be a pass-oriented offense.  Now, granted, those Seahawks won a lot of games and leaned on teams late with that rushing attack.  But, the 2013 Seahawks ALSO won a lot of games, but weren’t putting up numbers like this.

It boils down to those 2005 Seahawks being a fast-paced offense vs. the 2013 Seahawks slowing the game down.  Of course you’re going to get better offensive numbers if you’re going to be running so many more plays.

Wide Receiver 1
2005 – Darrell Jackson
2013 – Golden Tate

The numbers don’t bear out that Jackson was the team’s #1 receiver – because he missed a good ten games in the middle of the season before returning for the playoff run – but it’s pretty obvious who the team’s top target was.  Jackson’s early career was mired by drops, but he managed to get his shit together starting in 2005.  And, in that playoff run (where he caught 20 balls for 268 yards in three games – and it would have been more in the Super Bowl had things gone a little differently), Jackson really took a step forward.

Nevertheless, Golden Tate gets the nod.  He draws the lion’s share of the coverage (usually with the other team’s best cover corner), and still managed to catch 64 balls for 898 yards.  What puts Tate over the top is his talent, his versatility, and his ability in the punt return game.

Wide Receiver 2
2005 – Joe Jurevicius
2013 – Sidney Rice / Jermaine Kearse

I resisted the urge to put Doug Baldwin here, mainly because I want to save him so I can compare him to Bobby Engram.  In his stead, I put the duo of Rice & Kearse.  Rice was obviously this team’s #2 receiver when he was healthy, but of course, he went down after 8 games and Kearse picked up some of the slack.  You’ve got to ding Rice for not being reliable with his health.  But, aside from all that, Jurevicius was rock solid in 2005.

He caught 55 balls for 694 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns!  He was the type of big body that Pete Carroll has been spending his entire Seahawks career trying to bring in.

Wide Receiver 3
2005 – Bobby Engram
2013 – Doug Baldwin

Bobby Engram was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin was even a twinkle in the Seahawks’ eye!  Engram was Hasselbeck’s 3rd Down security blanket just as Baldwin is that for Wilson today.  And, when other receivers went down – as they seemingly always did – Engram was able to pick up the slack, just like Baldwin has this year after Rice went down.

I’m giving the nod to Baldwin for a couple reason.  Even though Engram caught 17 more passes, they caught the same exact number of yards:  778.  Doug Baldwin is the more explosive receiver.  He can go downfield and make a big play FAR more regularly than Engram ever could.  While he may play in the slot, Baldwin isn’t just a traditional slot receiver like Engram was.  Baldwin can play all over, yet still be that security blanket on third down who finds the hole in the zone or makes the diving sideline grab.

Tight End
2005 – Jerramy Stevens
2013 – Zach Miller

I probably shouldn’t let my emotions get the better of me, but in this case I can’t help it.  2005 Jerramy Stevens’ numbers absolutely dwarf Zach Miller’s, and if he even REMOTELY lived up to the hype coming into his pro career, Jerramy Stevens would be a beloved individual around these parts.  Instead, he sucked dick, and is beloved in Pittsburgh for handing them the Super Bowl.  So, Zach Miller gets the nod (plus, Miller is actually a true tight end who blocks well and does the whole thing; Stevens was a glorified, overweight wide receiver and not a very good one at that).

So, if you add it up for both sides, 2005 gets the edge on Offensive Line, Running Back (an extension of the offensive line), and one of the three wide receivers.  2013 wins on Quarterback play, Tight End, and 2/3 of the wide receivers.  If I’m weighting things as I should, it’s pretty neck and neck.  Offensive line is the most important part of any football team, so they factor in pretty heavily.  QB comes next.  And, I figure the receivers and tight end equal out the Shaun Alexander MVP factor.  I’m calling it a wash across the board.  But, you can’t just call it a tie, so let’s go to the numbers:

2005:  452 points, 5,915 yards, 1,020 total plays, 5.8 yards per play, 17 turnovers
2013:  417 points, 5,424 yards, 973 total plays, 5.6 yards per play, 19 turnovers

Look, by the slimmest of margins, I’m giving 2005 the nod over 2013 on offense.  There are pieces there to cobble together the greatest offense of all time (2005 O-Line with 2013’s skill position players), but if you want the truth, I’m going to go with the offense that scored more points.  It’s kind of as simple as that.

***

Let’s hop right into the defenses.

2005 Defensive Line
Bryce Fisher (DE)
Grant Wistrom (DE)
Rocky Bernard (DT)
Marcus Tubbs (DT)
Chuck Darby (DT)

2013 Defensive Line
Red Bryant (DE)
Chris Clemons (DE)
Brandon Mebane (DT)
Cliff Avril (DE)
Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
Tony McDaniel (DT)
Clinton McDonald (DT)

This goes without question.  I mean, LOOK at that rotation!  The 2013 Seahawks can come up with any number of fronts, whereas the 2005 version pretty much ran out the same four guys play-in and play-out.  I would argue that Mebane was just as disruptive up the middle as Tubbs.  Michael Bennett can do just as much as Rocky Bernard on the inside (as far as pass rush is concerned), as well as have the ability to slide outside and rush on the edge.  Grant Wistrom was less of a joke than a nightmare I’m still trying to wake up from.  No contest.  Next song.

2005 Linebackers
Leroy Hill
D.D. Lewis
Lofa Tatupu

2013 Linebackers
K.J. Wright
Malcolm Smith
Bobby Wagner
Bruce Irvin

In 2005, you had Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu as rookies, and therefore at the height of their powers and physicality.  But, Tatupu was never good enough to hold Bobby Wagner’s jock, and the combination of Wright & Smith is WAY more versatile than Leroy Hill ever was.  Hill was great at run-stuffing, and he managed 7.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, but there’s more to linebacker than simply running forward.  You’ve got to run laterally, and backward.  You’ve got to play in coverage, and that’s where the 2013 crew has it all over the 2005 crew.  Which is odd, because those Holmgren defenses were known for their speed.  Here’s the thing:  2013 HAS that speed, but they’ve also got size and versatility.  Again, no contest.  Next song.

2005 Secondary
Marcus Trufant
Kelly Herndon
Michael Boulware
Marquand Manuel
Jordan Babineaux
Ken Hamlin
Etric Pruitt

2013 Secondary
Richard Sherman
Byron Maxwell
Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Brandon Browner
Walter Thurmond
Jeremy Lane

I could have stopped after just Richard Sherman – with he alone covering all of the other team’s receivers – and he would have beaten out the 2005 secondary.  I was going to split them up by cornerbacks and safeties, but what’s the point?  It’s laughable how terrible that 2005 secondary was.  Luckily for the 2005 team, they were frequently playing with a lead.  It’s a lot easier to play defense with a lead than it is from behind.

On the whole, it’s not even close.  2013 defense in a landslide.  In fact, I don’t know if there are any guys on that 2005 team would would even PLAY on the 2013 version!  I don’t think anyone turns down a 2005 Rocky Bernard.  And I know 2005 Bryce Fisher had 9.0 sacks, but does he have the ability to stuff the run like Chris Clemons does?  I mean, maybe Fisher cracks the defensive end rotation, but most of those 2005 guys are backups at best on the 2013 team.  I’ll tell you this much:  I’m starting Byron Maxwell over Marcus Trufant every day of the week.

***

In conclusion, the 2013 Seahawks are the better team.  You pit them against the 2005 Seahawks, one game, winner takes all, it’s the 2013 team by a comfortable margin.  2013’s defensive line might struggle to get pressure on the quarterback, and it’s 50/50 whether or not the 2005 team runs the ball well.  But, there’s no way 2005 is throwing all that well against 2013’s secondary.

For the record, nothing would bring me greater joy than to see Kam Chancellor knock the shit out of Jerramy Stevens.  I don’t even mean in any hypothetical matchup between these two teams.  I mean in real life.  Kam Chancellor hunts Jerramy Stevens down, wherever he’s living, and he fucks his shit up.  For real.