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Monday, February 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Pain of missed chances won't leave Seahawks anytime soon

Seattle Times staff columnist

DETROIT — This loss will gnaw at them the rest of this winter. It will follow them into offseason workouts. It will haunt their dreams.

The Seahawks will wake up out of a sound sleep in a cold sweat and remember the dropped passes, the missed field goals, the punt that rolled dead on their 2-yard line, the penalties.

They will look at the game film later this week and realize they should have been ahead about 24-0 at halftime. They will see that they kicked the Pittsburgh Steelers up and down Ford Field.

They will see Walter Jones burying Joey Porter deep into the artificial surface. They will see Jerramy Stevens running open in the middle of the field, time after time after time.

But they will also see the blizzard of mistakes and they will wince at what might have been.

"We stubbed our foot a couple of times," wide receiver Joe Jurevicius said. "And that's all I have to say on that."

In a game that will be remembered for its lack of artistry, the better team didn't win Super Bowl XL. The Seahawks lost, 21-10.

"It hurts," center Robbie Tobeck said. "It really, really hurts."

The Hawks outgained Pittsburgh by 57 yards. They held the ball six minutes longer. They had six more first downs.

Matt Hasselbeck, the losing quarterback, played well. Ben Roethlisberger, the winning quarterback, was awful. It was the worst performance by a winning quarterback in the 40-year history of this game.

Roethlisberger was 9-for-21 passing. His rating was 22.6. He threw two interceptions. But the Steelers are the world champions. The Steelers made three plays. That's all. But that was enough.

"You can talk about Xs and Os, this and that, story lines, all of that's well and good in the week leading up to it," Tobeck said. "But on game day, it's who makes the most plays. We were prepared for what they showed us. But, you know, execution."

The Steelers' defense bent. The Seahawks' offense broke.

The Steelers couldn't cover Stevens, but he covered himself. He dropped three passes. If he had caught all three, the Seahawks would have won. Pittsburgh's Hines Ward was the game's MVP, but Stevens was as much of a factor in the Steelers' win as Ward.

It was the Seahawks' game to win. And they lost it. This was their chance to take a championship back to Seattle. And they dropped it.

Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda.

Guard Chris Gray was flagged for a drive-stalling hold on one possession. Wide receiver Darrell Jackson and tackle Sean Locklear were victimized by bad penalty calls that cost the Seahawks two touchdowns.

Josh Brown missed long, but makeable, field goals from 50 and 54 yards. Jackson didn't recognize a blitz, leading to an incompletion late in the first half. Peter Warrick failed to catch a punt and allowed the ball to roll dead on the 2. And Hasselbeck threw a fourth-quarter pick from the Steelers' 27, after the Hawks had driven 71 yards.

"I can't really say much," offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said. "What can you say?"

A loss like this can leave you speechless. It can make you grope for answers that don't exist. It can make you look at your perfect game plan and wonder how it could have unraveled so badly.

"When it comes down to it, they threw the ball and ran the ball on three plays better than we did," Tobeck said.

Three plays were enough to win a Super Bowl.

Roethlisberger scrambling, then throwing across his body, across the field, to Ward on a third-and-28. Willie Parker breaking loose, one time and only one time for 75 yards, the longest run in Super Bowl history. And Antwaan Randle El throwing a perfect reverse pass to Ward for a 43-yard touchdown.

"I felt the whole game we were going to win the game," Tobeck said. "I felt we were moving the ball on them, but it was a little frustrating not being able to finish the drives."

The Seahawks made the kind of mistakes you can't make in a Super Bowl. They didn't handle the enormity of the event. They beat up the Steelers, but they couldn't beat them. In their biggest game, they played their worst game.

"I'm more disappointed in how we played in certain areas," coach Mike Holmgren said. "I think we were careless with the football and we had way too many penalties."

They did so much this season. More than any other team in franchise history. They won 13 games, 11 in a row at one point. They won the NFC Championship Game for the first time.

Running back Shaun Alexander won the rushing title and was the league's MVP. Seven players are going to the Pro Bowl.

But the Seahawks could have won it all. They are better than the Steelers. But the mistakes they made on game day will follow them all the way to next summer, all the way to training camp in Cheney.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

First-time teams
The Super Bowl hasn't been kind to first-time teams, as the Seahawks discovered Sunday. Only eight of 26 teams that have played in the Super Bowl for the first time have won (in four of those games, both teams were first-time entries):
Year First-time team Result
1967 Green Bay Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10
1968 Oakland Green Bay 33, Oakland 14
1969 New York Jets Jets 16, Baltimore 7
1970 Minnesota Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7
1971 Dallas Baltimore 16, Dallas 13
1972 Miami Dallas 24, Miami 3
1973 Washington Miami 14, Washington 7
1975 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6
1978 Denver Dallas 27, Denver 10
1980 Los Angeles Rams Pittsburgh 31, Rams 19
1981 Philadelphia Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10
1982 San Francisco San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21
1986 Chicago Chicago 46, New England 10
1987 New York Giants N.Y. Giants 39, Denver 20
1991 Buffalo N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19
1995 San Diego San Francisco 49, San Diego 26
1999 Atlanta Denver 34, Atlanta 19
2000 Tennessee St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee 16
2001 Baltimore Ravens 34, Giants 7
2003 Tampa Bay Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21
2004 Carolina New England 32, Carolina 29
2006 Seattle Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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