There was supposed to be a silver lining in the Patriots loss at Denver last month. Sure, the loss ended any chance of making history with an unprecedented three-peat, but when all was said and done there was some solace in the fact that we could join the rest of America on Super Bowl Sunday for the first time since 2002.
Instead of working about 80 hours in Detroit, we could sit back, grab a beer or two (OK, who's counting?), eat some wings and other artery-closing favorites and enjoy the game without worrying about what we were going to write. There would be no concerns about deadlines or headlines; just the guilty pleasure of joining our neighbors in one of the most truly anticipated days in America.
But like spoiled kids who finish opening their presents on Christmas Day, we're left with just one thing to say: "That's it?"
Our crew here at PFW actually ridiculed some folks who felt the Steelers and Seahawks would be a waste of time. There were plenty of angles worth discussing and rooting for. Would Bill Cowher finally shed his "can't-win-the-big-one" image? Would Mike Holmgren become the first coach to ever lead two different teams to Super Bowl glory? Jerome Bettis going home for (likely) his final game. Local boys Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu, whose fathers played for the Patriots, trying to win it all in Seattle.
And oh by the way, the teams looked to be pretty evenly matched and figured to give us a great show.
Boy, were we wrong. Andy Hart and I both wanted the Steelers to win. Tom Casale and Fred Kirsch were pulling for Seattle. That didn't matter because for the first time since any one of us could remember, we all agreed – the 2005 Super Bowl was one of the worst ever.
Andy and I spent a half hour complaining about the officiating – and the team we wanted to win benefited from many of the calls we complained about. The offensive pass interference negating Darrell Jackson's touchdown was a joke. That play happens at least five times a game without drawing a flag, and they decided to call it on the biggest stage in all of sports?
Jackson appeared to catch another touchdown pass late in the first half when his left foot looked to hit the pylon, but he was ruled out of bounds. In between, Ben Roethlisberger was awarded a touchdown about 20 minutes after the play ended when the official running in first looked like he was spotting the ball and then threw his arms in the air. I actually thought he got in (it was very close), but what did the official see after Big Ben was on the ground that told him the ball broke the plane?
And the call on Hasselbeck after he threw an interception and made the tackle was flat out incorrect. There is no rule that says a player can't tackle the ball carrier below the knees. Since Hasselbeck was called for hitting below the knees, and the player he hit had the ball, is there any other conclusion that can be reached other than the official screwed up?
There weren't as many calls against Pittsburgh, but it certainly looked like Seattle's receivers caught a couple of passes and then fumbled. Jerramy Stevens certainly did at least once. But, as usual, the plays were ruled incomplete passes. Surely this wasn't a day for the zebras to shine.
But as bad as the officials were, the play on the field was far more disappointing. Neither team even approached the level each displayed in getting to Detroit in the first place. Roethlisberger, after a brilliant postseason, looked jittery throughout. He was off target several times, and when he was accurate he got little help from his receivers – especially Hines Ward, who dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass in the second quarter. Ward took game MVP honors but his drops certainly must have made him a difficult selection.
The Seahawks ineptitude was more mental. Sure, Stevens dropped as many passes as Jessica Simpson fielded over the week, but how could anyone explain Seattle's clock management at the end of each half? Hasselbeck looked like a quarterback who never operated a two-minute drill in his life. He wasted at least 35 seconds making an audible at the end of the first half and ultimately wound up settling for a 54-yard field goal attempt.
At the end of the game the Seahawks needed two scores, had no timeouts and less than a minute left. But that didn't stop Holmgren and Hasselbeck from trying to slowly work downfield. Twice Hasselbeck dumped off short passes well in bounds in the waning seconds. Rather than try a field goal with 35 seconds left to get within 8, Holmgren watched his quarterback throw a dumpoff for 4 yards while the clock continue to roll.
Even in victory Cowher didn't completely shed his image. The Steelers got here because the normally conservative coach eschewed his normal run-first, defensive approach and allowed Roethlisberger to sling it around early. Once Pittsburgh had the lead, then he went to Bettis and Willie Parker.
But he changed back to his old ways for the Super Bowl and tried to keep Roethlisberger out of it. Maybe Big Ben would have thrown five interceptions if he came out gunning like he did in Indy and Denver. But maybe he would have matched those performances and gotten into a rhythm early and never made any mistakes. We'll never know.
Bottom line with this game is that neither team deserved to win. It was poorly played from start to finish, and the officiating managed to only further mar a game that had little in the way of aesthetics to begin with. The Steelers made a couple of big plays, and based on those came out on top.
But like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, there wasn't much that was Super about their performance. Even the commercials failed to deliver.
If this is all we're missing, we might as well make plans for Miami next season. What a letdown.