Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Blah

Pittsburgh emerged victorious in a rather unimpressive Super Bowl spectacle. XL will be remembered as one of the more forgettable games ever played in the NFL's title game. 21-10. Steelers win by default.

This was not a defensive struggle or an offensive shootout, unless you were keeping track of which team shot themselves in the foot more. That edge goes to Seattle. Both teams made mistakes, but Seattle took mistakes to a new level. The team suffered simultaneous breakdowns on the field and on the sidelines. Poor clock management, bad play selection and failure to execute those plays all culminated in Seattle losing the game in spite of gaining more yards.

Both teams were sloppy. Both teams seemed as though the pressure of the Super Bowl negatively affected their performances. Pittsburgh got a few lucky breaks and a couple of big plays, but they neither dominated with defense nor took control with offense. Boring.

The best Passing performance was had by Antwaan Randle El who hurled a perfect spiral to a wide open Hines Ward for a 43 yard touchdown Strike. Roethlisberger looked terrible, completing only 9 of 21 passes with two whatchootalkinboutwillis interceptions. Matt Hasselbeck was only marginally better completing more passes for more yards, but coming up short when it came to capping drives with scores. Missing two field goals sure didn't help, but where was Mr. Touchdown? Shaun Alexander carried the ball 20 times according to the stat sheet, but I don't remember seeing much of him. Why didn't Seattle ride that pony all game long?

For some reason, Holmgren seemed intent on using the pass to open up the run. Even though Pittsburgh started off poorly, Seattle played the entire game as though they couldn't afford to run the ball. Why not let the league MVP show the world why he's considered to be one of the best running backs in the game? Inexplicable.

Interestingly enough, this game was played in a dome so as not to be negatively affected by weather. The irony is that in spire of optimal conditions, the teams played poorly. It looked as though the ball was slick on the turf was soaked. Passes were well off target all night and players didn't seem all that fast or agile. Aside from a handful of plays, you would have thought this was a preseason game. Both teams looked weak and confused. Watching a dozen old guys scramble for the last piece of garlic bread on the Ponderosa Lunch buffet line might have been more exciting. And what was the deal with the officials? Offensive pass interference? Really? All season long we watch wide receivers man-handle defensive backs and not get called but you get to the Super Bowl and you'll negate a touchdown over a hand check? Yes, Darrell Jackson got full extension on that arm, but seriously can we have a little consistency on these calls? And I'll be really interested to hear the officials explain why Hasselbeck was nailed for a personal foul after making a tackle. Of course, that penalty didn't mean much after Randle El showed us why he should get a shot at playing quarterback, Ward was so wide open he would have scored from half a mile out.

The NFL still provides the best title game around, largely in part because it's a one game deal. It's instant gratification. Instead of dragging the championship out for seven games, the fans get treated to a do or die event that typically lives up to the hype. This year's game left a lot to be desired but it still offered that finality that only the Super Bowl can provide.

But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Why not play the game in the cold? Some of the best games in NFL history were played in extreme conditions. Fans will still come, sponsors will gladly pay through the nose regardless of the venue and the players will happily gut it out. The sloppy performances turned in by this year's combatants proves that perfect conditions don't guarantee a perfect game. Playing an outdoor game in Chicago on a February evening might not appeal to some of the entertainers the NFL might try to book and certainly will scare off prissy celebrities who only want to be seen, but this season's half time show proved two important things: age is catching up with the Stones and lip syncing isn't always a bad thing. The National Anthem was even worse. Can singers be forced into retirement?

It's time to stop trying so hard. People tune in to see the game and if the halftime entertainment is good then it's just icing on the cake. This year we had a double whammy. Bad entertainment and a pretty lousy game.

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