Earlier this afternoon I was standing in line at the Providence bus station, passing the time by eavesdropping on a conversation going on to my right. Two girls and a guy - I took them to be UConn students - were chatting about how they'd spent the weekend, and how they weren't looking forward to getting back to school. It was a pretty generic, nondescript conversation, but just as I was about to shift my attention to the people at my left, one of the girls casually mentioned that, one weekend during first semester, she didn't have anything to on Saturday night so she decided to up and walk to Providence. From Storrs. Apparently, she didn't have enough money to take the bus. For those of you who aren't familiar with the area, that's 50-odd miles, and she said it took her something like eight and a half or nine hours to do.
The point? People do stupid things. And right now, I'm no exception. Although it's not quite at the level of going outside on a chilly Connecticut evening and walking consecutive marathon lengths on a whim (or letting Bill Leavy ref the Super Bowl), It's against my better judgment to write about something when I'm angry, and yet here I am, alternating keystrokes with curse words when I know I'll regret doing this in the morning.
I'll say this: last year hurt me worse. After Engram dropped that would-be touchdown at the end of the game, I collapsed on the floor and didn't move or speak for 30 minutes. Seattle had no business losing that game, and I couldn't believe it. This time around, I think part of me saw it coming, so the inherently pessimistic section of my brain was able to prepare the rest of my body for the inevitable letdown. The urge to become a silent, motionless heap of agony was conspicuously absent in the aftermath, although instead of yielding to serenity, I found that the feeling was replaced by a burning desire to issue an angry breathless rant to anyone who would listen.
That game sucked. Although I'm obviously not an impartial observer, it seemed to me like the Seahawks were the better team on the field for most of the day, which makes this a tough pill to swallow. And, yeah, as much as I hate to be one of those people, I think you do have to look at how the refereeing job by Bill Leavy and the rest of the crew influenced the game. Seattle lost a touchdown in the first quarter on an incredibly weak offensive pass interference call. In the fourth, what could've been a first-and-goal situation from the Pittsburgh two turned into a first-and-twenty from somewhere around the 35 after Leavy called Seattle for a hold that even John Madden couldn't spot in the slow-motion replay. Mind you, this is the same John Madden who never stops repeating "holding happens on every single play" in his line of EA Sports video games. If John Madden can't see a hold, there probably wasn't a hold. It doesn't help that, on top of all of this, the Steelers were offsides on the play. Oh yeah, and there was also a Roethlisberger rushing touchdown sandwiched in between those two questionable calls, a play during which the ball never really appeared to break the plane.
This game wasn't about Seattle failing to cash in its opportunities - it was about them failing to cash them in twice. After the first call, they wound up settling for a long field goal; after the second, Hasselbeck made a Favre-esque pass to a group of yellow jerseys, returning possession to the Steelers and eventually leading to a back-breaking touchdown. Sure, you can make the argument that the Seahawks should've done more with the ball after each of the calls, but I don't think that's fair. Hasselbeck had two of the best passes he threw all day go for naught due to a pair of controversial flags, and the result is that he has to spend another offseason dealing with the reputation of being someone who can't step it up on a big stage, even though he clearly outplayed his adversary. Matt could've made some better throws, but it's hard to stay in a rhythm when two of your biggest plays get erased for reasons you don't understand. And besides, "Big Ben" finished the day 9-21 with a pair of interceptions. Roethlisberger's a hell of a quarterback, but one play aside, he didn't look real good today, and it sucks for Matt that he'll have to answer dozens of difficult questions over the coming weeks while everyone forgets that he was the better QB on the field in the biggest game of the season.
It'd be great if people would ease up on Josh Brown, too. The guy missed kicks from 50 and 54 yards. They weren't exactly chip shots.
I guess what hurts the most is that, on a day when the Steelers clearly weren't at their best, the Seahawks weren't, either, and they weren't able to snap out of it before time expired. Now they're going to be "that team who totally sucked in the Super Bowl" for God knows how long, even though Pittsburgh is every bit as deserving of that distinction as Seattle. Both teams could've done some things a lot better - from the Seahawks' point of view, for example, they could've managed the clock more efficiently at the end of the first half, and Jerramy Stevens could've brought his hands to the stadium. It's hard to believe this was the same team we saw roll Carolina two weeks ago. There were definite similarities, but this was a different group, one that seemed more intent on proving how good it is to the audience than on just playing with the confidence that it can do whatever it wants against any team in the league.
When the Seahawks are firing on all cylinders, they're the best team in the NFL, a team that probably could've beat today's Steelers by a pair of touchdowns. And yet, where they were nearly flawless against the Panthers two weeks ago, they didn't finish the season playing their best football. This was the friggin' Super Bowl, and for whatever reason, the Seahawks didn't play to the best of their ability at a time when some questionable calls absolutely demanded that they do so. More than anything else, I think that's what stings so bad. And it's going to sting for a while.