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
#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
#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.
- Allowing Pittsburgh to convert 3rd and 28
#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
#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.
#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
#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.
#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.