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This Year, It's a Game, Not a Drama
by John Blagtas on Feb 03, 2006
Monday Morning Quarterback
This was a poorly played game. I fell asleep in the first half and the level of play was truly uninspiring. If either of these teams had faced any of the recent champions, it would have been blowout city. I was particularly surprised to see how bad Roethlisberger performed.
All in all, the game kind of went like we thought. Besides being underwhelming in every way, the zebras deserve some spite. They missed two calls that went for Pittsburgh and could have changed the game.
The first call was the push off in the first quarter that erased a touchdown. I'm sure the ref saw Jackson's extended arm and that was enough, but it was both players grabing and pushing. On a busted play, you've got to let that one go.
The second and most devistating call was the fourth quarter hold that negated a Seattle completion to the one yard line. If that's a hold, you might as well call it on every play. Bad, bad call. To add insult to injury, it was quickly followed-up with an interception that all but sealed the game for Pittsburgh.
It's been a long season for 49ers fans. The rookie QB turned out to be...a "rookie" in every sense of the word. As for the rest of the league, we saw the souring effects a bad apple can have on the team in Philly and the end of a memorable run by the Pats -- they'll be back. Sadly, the Colts watched as a season of hope, with a revitalized team defense, turned into a season of tragedy and ended a run that would have most likely placed them in this extra large game. But as cosmic forces of fate played themselves out, Seattle and Pittsburgh were able to make their dreams become reality.
How Did We Get Here?
Seattle seemed to gain, week by week, with each Shaun Alexander touchdown. They started gradually, going 2-2, before the winning started. Still, by mid-season, despite cruising toward home field advantage, one had to wonder what was to come. Slowly and surely the Seahawks rolled on, taking all comers and dishing out a healthy portion of Alexander. Finally, the predictions of a Seahawk team making a memorable run were coming true and, in these playoffs, they have proved to indeed be a team of destiny.
The same can be said for the Steelers who shredded through the first nine games with a
7-2 record. But a lingering injury to Roethlisberger suffered earlier in the season, kept the team from building any continuity. Then a three game slide brought Pittsburgh to the edge of missing the playoffs all-together. At that point, with a 7-5 record, the defense seemed to take it upon itself to lead the way. And with a clean sweep of the last four games, the Steelers squeaked by a streaking Chiefs team. Now in the playoffs, the Steelers game has become easier. The offense has come around; not pretty or dominating, just making plays when it matters. But remember, the swarming defense has been the light that has taken the rest of the Steelers out of the dark.
What To Expect?
This year's Superbowl is the all about Xs and Os. It's West Coast vs. 3-4 zone blitzes. No T.O. freak show. No Tom Brady pretty boy. Most people don't even know the name of Seattle's quarterback. This year there are no "Smurfs", no "Fridge", no Rice, and, sadly, no "Sweetness". Sure there's an old "Bus" and an up and coming Alexander, but more than ever, this year, it's about the game.
For simpletons like myself, that's more than enough, but without the sound-bites, what does this game boil down to? Besides turnovers, which are the ultimate game changer, many will state that it comes down to Pittsburgh being able to stop Alexander. I'm not so sure that they can. In Superbowl games -- particularly because turnovers are so crucial -- it always comes down to the quarterback. Hasselbeck and Holmgren have to be thinking of how to bust a few quick hitting passes early to counter Pittsburgh's blitzing defense.
That approach with be mixed into an overall take-what-the-defense-gives-you, offensive game plan. How Alexander rushes will determine a lot and Holmgren will definitely have a few "special plays" but in the end, Seattle's hope rest on Hasselbeck's shoulders. Pittsburgh will counter with an opportunistic defense that always seems to be in the opposition quarterback's face and Roethlisberger, a steel-nerved quarterback who, much like Hasselbeck, gets the job done. Offensively, the Steelers are a little more conservative -- they take what you can and don't push it. But with Bill Cowher coming out of his shell as his confidence in Big Ben grows, it wouldn't be out of the question to see a more open Steeler game plan.
Talent wise, the teams are very closely matched. It's obvious the winner will be the team who executes better, and has less penalties or turnovers. For Pittsburgh, the key will be 2nd and Long, and for Seattle it will be First Down. These are the downs when each team has thrived. The biggest difference is on defense. The Steelers live to play defense; much more than the Seahawks. In the end, that's the difference and the game.
Prediction: 20 Pittsburgh - 17 Seattle Seahawks
by John Blagtas on Feb 03, 2006