Take a collective sigh of relief…it is finished. The 2013/14 NFL season has drawn to a close and our beloved Seattle Seahawks find themselves the newest champions. Being a life long Washingtonian my struggles, our struggles, have been well documented. Apart from a NBA title in 1978/79, which I barely remember, our major sports franchises have been a test in futility. There have been close calls, e.g. the Sonics running into the Michael Jordan buzz-saw and the Seahawks losing to the Steelers and referees in 2005. But this year was different….
There were high expectations that started even before the season got going. Many prognosticators predicted Seattle and Denver would be fighting it out in the super bowl this year. Several even anointed Seattle the champions before the first snap; frankly this is a position that we are just not accustomed to…but I think we could get used to it.
Fast forward to February 2014…if we were given the option to draw up the scenario we would most like to see I am sure it would be the most prolific offense of all time against this years best defense; number one against number one. This would answer the question everybody loves to ask, does offense or defense win championships? I think we got our answer this year with a resounding exclamation point.
First of all lets get this out of the way, Denver did set two records in this game, most completed passes by a QB and most receptions by a receiver. That was the extent of Denver positivity on the evening, two meaningless records. Everything else on this evening, on the world’s biggest stage, was Seattle…and all things Seahawks.
It was Seattle’s night from the opening coin flip, which by the way I enjoyed with the impromptu catch by referee Terry McAulay, to the final anti-climatic play. Seattle deferred to the second half which meant that we were going to see the match-up everybody was waiting for right out of the gate. Let the games begin!
Seattle’s defense took the field and without even breaking a sweat was up 2-0 within seconds of the kick-off. Chalk one up for the 12th man, even thousands of miles away from Seattle. The explanation later would be that the center couldn’t hear the count and hiked it prematurely because of the crowd noise…way to make your presence felt 12th man. A few plays later we were up 5-0, but what was more telling was that Denver’s defense couldn’t stop Seattle’s offense. Seattle moved it pretty easily; Denver’s defense was obviously not San Francisco’s defense, nor any other NFC top-tiered defense. Since Seattle has been raised on a steady diet of tough defenses this season going against a very mediocre Denver defense didn’t scare Seattle in the least and it showed. The Denver crowd realized it was going to be an up-hill battle.
Surely the next Denver possession would allow us to see this vaunted offense come to life; after all, crowd noise or not, I am sure there were a few jitters and this next Denver possession would get the juggernaut going. Three plays later and a huge hit by Kam Chancellor and it was another punt to Seattle. Here is the take away after Denver’s first series, they had no idea how hard Seattle would hit them but they learned pretty quickly. The first pass to Demaryius Thomas resulted in a Chancelor hit, not a tackle, a hit. Thomas picked himself off of the turf after landing two yards behind where he caught the ball; Thomas realized today was going to be an up-hill battle.
We can’t overlook the first chance that Harvin had a chance to touch the ball. A sweep play, a la collegiate offenses and playgrounds everywhere, put the ball in Percy Harvin‘s hands, with a bolt of lightning he was 30 yards down the field before Denver knew it. Denver’s defense realized it was going to be an up-hill battle.
Seattle mixed up the plays very well in this game. There was no stagnant play calling, no ruts, no complacency that has plagued them at times this season. They ran Lynch and tried to get him going. When Seattle realized Denver was keying in on him they didn’t stick with him, they varied the plays up. What was evident was that Wilson had time in the pocket and there were soft spots in Denver’s secondary that could be exploited. For all the mentions of Terrance “pot roast” Knighton prior to Sunday’s game he was noticeably absent from the spotlight. I can’t remember his name being mentioned one time the whole evening. For a much maligned Seattle offensive line they did a remarkable job of protecting Wilson this evening. No sacks. No QB hits. Denver’s defensive line realized it was going to be an up-hill battle.
And for a moment lets talk about balance on this team. We saw scores from Seattle’s running back, two different receivers, a kick off return, an interception return, two field goals and a safety. Seriously, if that is not balanced I don’t know what is. Most teams you can pinpoint where their points are going to come from and hone it on them, for this team on this evening there was no indication where the next score was going to come from. Denver’s coaching staff realized it was going to be an up-hill battle.
Going into this game there were many things going in Denver’s favor; the weather conditions were perfect, they were healthy, they had momentum, they had a historic offense, they had the backing of 90% of the country, they had the perennial favorite in Peyton Manning and they had almost all of the ESPN analysts picking them to win. After the first two Denver series the nation realized it was going to be an up-hill battle.
If I would have said that the score was going to be 36-0 midway through the third quarter who would you think would be winning? It certainly had to be the most prolific offense in history right? It could never be the over-matched Seahawks with their ‘appetizer’ receivers…right? Las Vegas realized it was going to be an up-hill battle.
I like Peyton Manning as a person and a player. He has never come across as arrogant, belligerent or anything other than professional. It is hard to dislike the man. In fact if he wasn’t playing for the opposing team against my beloved Seahawks then I probably would have rooted for him as well. But on this evening I wanted…no, I needed him to perform poorly. He was under constant harassment the entire game. I talked in my last article about moving him off of his spot during the game…I don’t know if he was ever on his spot this game. His feet were dancing so fast in the pocket I thought he was the reincarnation of Fred Astaire. He was hit so many times while throwing the ball I thought maybe he was trying to give all the Seahawk players a ‘high-five’ just for making it to the Super Bowl. Manning realized it was going to be an up-hill battle.
One of the keys of this game obviously was going to be the turnovers. Seattle needs them. Denver can’t afford to give them. I am not sure if Carroll and company conducted some sort of Clock-Work Orange experiment on Seattle’s defense but they were ripping, tugging and pulling at the ball every time they got close to it. The Seahawks ended up with two interceptions and two recoveries out of four total fumbles. Even when Seattle’s secondary gave up a large gain to Demaryius Thomas it was negated because Byron Maxwell stuck his hand in and knocked the ball away as Thomas was running down field. The statisticians realized it was going to be an up-hill battle.
I will grant you this, this game was an unfair matching of two teams. In Seattle you had a team that was indoctrinated by their coach, the team bought in and was committed. They were a team that didn’t know they weren’t supposed to win based on their experience and age. And when a team isn’t aware they aren’t supposed to win they can let their youthful exuberance take over and create havoc and panic in the other team. The Seahawks were a collection of young cast-offs, players that didn’t belong in discussion of the NFL elite, players that had character flaws, players that had “grit”, young men with a chip on their shoulder…these were the kind of people that Carroll and Schneider sought out (with the blessing of Paul Allen). Give these guys a reason to play, give them structure, give them an environment that they can grow in and watch them flourish. All they needed was a chance. They became a family on the field; you could see it in their actions and how genuinely happy they were to be around each other. Dr. Carroll-Schneider (think Frankenstein) composed a monstrous team of discarded players who loved being around each other. Denver was a collection of old players looking for a ring, that’s all. No buy in, just a belief that a future hall of famer would be enough. So you see, it was unfair…just not the way you thought it would be.
As this magical season winds down and we turn our attention to the Mariners it is hard not to think about where this team will go to from here. There are a few key players that Seattle needs to work on retaining. There is a lot of scouting and evaluation that will happen in the next two months in advance of the draft. In fact during Carroll’s press conference Sunday night he mentioned that he and his staff were going to meet Monday to start discussing what needs to happen for next season. The Seahawks are in good hands. At this point the only thing left is to repeat the question the Seahawks asked during their Super Bowl victory celebration in their locker room Sunday night…what’s next? Go Hawks!