Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Game, Seriously

Ok, now that I've fallen on my sword (see immediate post below), I can talk a bit about the game and how I really feel. In a phrase? We got screwed!

Well... we did get screwed by the refs, but we still could have (and should have) won the game. I don't have anything against Pittsburgh, and have rooted for them on several occasions. But they just did not play better than the Hawks. I'm sorry, it just didn't happen. Still, they scored more points and that's usually enough to get you the trophy.

Pittsburgh had 3 great offensive plays: (1) the pass to Ward that put the ball on the 1; (2) the 75-yard touchdown run by the little running back; and (3) the TD pass to Ward. Take away those 3 plays, and their offense really did nothing. The Seahawks defense owned them for the first 19 minutes. Some of that was probably due to poor Pittsburgh execution, but despite what Cowher said at halftime, Big Ben did not have that John Elway look in his eyes (for those of you who witnessed the debacle of Bronco Super Bowl visits in the '80s and early '90s you know what I'm talking about), and they weren't making many mistakes. They were just getting beat.

To be fair, Pittsburgh had 2 great (successive) defensive plays. The first was the sack on Hasselback after the ill-fated "holding" call on Locklear. The second was the interception on the next play. (Accuracy note: I'm talking from memory here; I remember the plays being back-to-back, but they might not have been). Both were huge for Pittsburgh because a team can overcome a penalty (even a bad call like that), but when you follow the penalty up with a sack and an interception... well... that's gonna take the wind out of your sails. But as with the Pittsburgh offense above, that was about it for the defense. That was the only turnover, and one of only two sacks (I think). There weren't any other "big" plays by the defense. In fact, the offense pretty much owned the defense. The Seahawks could definitely run throughout the game, and they could definitely pass. A number of drives that got bogged down because of Seahawk miscues (dropped passes, penalties). To a large extent, the Seahawk offense thwarted itself more than the Pittsburgh defense did.

But on both sides of the ball, the Seahawks definitely had an edge. The only difference comes down to the 3 great offensive plays Pittsburgh had, and really only 1 great offensive and 1 great defensive play for Seattle (the Herndon interception followed by the Stevens TD).

Now, the Seahawks HAD at least 2 other great offensive plays, and one great defensive play. They also had a terrible offensive play that got made worse. You know what I'm talking about. The Jackson TD and the Stevens catch at the 1 (both wiped out by penalties), the Big Ben TD (ruled a TD for reasons that escape me), and the penalty on Hasselback's "low block" on the ball carrier. I don't mean to be hard on the refs because I know their job is not easy, and no matter what they do, someone will be unhappy. But a bad call is a bad call, and a questionable call is, well, questionable. Let's take these in chronological order:

Jackson's TD. Now there clearly was contact from Jackson to his defender on that play, and it may be technical violation. But it's also a call that refs let go because the spirit of the rule has not been violated. The offensive pass interference they called is meant for situations where the receiver creates space between himself and the defender by pushing the defender away. That's just not what happened. The most that Jackson gained out of the contact was perhaps some stabilization has he changed directions. The defender was not "interfered" with in any real sense. I'd rate this call as questionable, but not bad or out of bounds.

Big Ben's TD. I think the call on the field was wrong, but I think the call on the replay was correct. I know that sounds weird, but when you understand that a call can only be overturned if there is incontrovertible evidence that the call was wrong. No matter how many times I saw the replay, I just couldn't say with any certainty whether the ball broke the plane or not. However, I think the ref on the field should have ruled him down. I just think it's better to leave the game in the players hands, and ruling it 4th down would have done that. Look, Pittsburgh could have challenged the call then (but given how ambiguous the replay was, the call would have been sustained). But more importantly Pittsburgh still had another down to make the TD. You weren't taking the ball away from Pittsburgh, and you weren't giving them points that couldn't be taken off the board. By calling the TD, the ref takes the game out of the players hands. Nothing can be done about it because its so close the replay can't tell you one way or the other. Still, this is only a questionable call. It honestly could have gone either way, and I'm probably biased in how I saw it.

Stevens catch at the 1. They say that you can call offensive holding on just about any play. Which raises the question why do you call it when you do? I have no idea. I also have no idea why Locklear got hit with a holding call. The "hold" just wasn't there. What's really sad about this is that Stevens gets remembered in this game for his dropped passes. If that call isn't made it's, "Stevens dropped passes? Really?" 'Cause he would have made two of the biggest catches of the game for the Seahawks (his TD reception, and the catch that led to the go-ahead TD). Anyway, this, to me, was just a bad call.

Finally, Hasselback's "low block." Ok, this call was LUDICROUS. I have no idea what the ref thought he saw, but it just wasn't there. Craziness. Now, you might be justified in asking, "So what? The Steelers just intercepted the ball, and the penalty was not going to change that." Very true, but let's not forget that that penalty gave them 15 yards and put them in the range (40-40) where they could run the Randle El pass to Ward. If they're forced to start on their 25-35 they don't run that play. Remember what I wrote earlier, the Steelers were not lighting up the Seahawk defense, so that 15 yards could have made a real difference in Cowher's play calling. Ultimately this call was terrible, but despite what I just wrote about its significance, I don't think it really altered the game. It may have accelerated where things were already heading, but that's the point: they were already headed that way.

But alas, it was not our day. Congrats to the Steelers. They won. But man, it sure doesn't feel like they beat the Seahawks.


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