An Exercise in Wound Licking: Super Bowl XLIX Recap

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A wild and crazy NFL season has come to a close with the Patriots winning Super Bowl XLIX, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including how to cope when your favorite team comes so close.

Super Bowl XLIX Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots

EPA/Larry W. Smith

Will: It seems odd to say now, but there were wide swathes of the first half of Super Bowl XLIX that were really quite drab. The first quarter was scoreless, Tom Brady was dinking and dunking, and Seattle barely threw the ball. For a neutral observer, watching the game felt more like obligation than recreation.

Derek: but i died

Will: Oh, how things changed. The last two minutes of the second quarter saw three touchdowns scored. The second half and especially the fourth quarter were action packed, with the Seahawks jumping ahead and the Patriots fighting back. Jermaine Kearse won the senior superlative for “greatest catch most likely to be forgotten.” Richard Sherman became a reaction GIF for the ages. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick strengthened their respective cases as the GOAT, while Darrell Bevell was simply a goat.

Derek, my former co-worker, my friend, my lone Seahawk fan acquaintance…how are you? How have your emotions progressed from the time of that final pass until now? Did you notice that I’ve put our names in Seahawks colors? Do you even want to talk about it?

Derek: I’m sad, Will. I’m really sad.

I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t know the order or explanation of the stages of grief, but I think I ran through them all at some point. First, I sat down, completely dead inside, and watched everything unfold. I watched the game end and I watched the entire trophy presentation. I can’t say I wanted to. I just did, and I don’t know why.

That turned to anger. We were one yard away. One. I ranted to no one and muttered expletives under my breath. I feared I would erupt if someone said the wrong thing or some kid in class asked me a stupid question. And boy, those two things happened in spades yesterday. I should count myself lucky that I’m not typing this on my phone in the depths of some Korean prison.

I tried to rationalize it. I began to accept it. I looked for silver linings. I even found a few! But it all came back to that one yard. One yard, and Russell Wilson is the first quarterback to win two Super Bowls in his first three seasons. Pete Carroll has the same Hall of Fame credentials as Jimmy Johnson. The Seahawks go back-to-back in a time when that was thought to be impossible, making them arguably the most impressive defending champions in NFL history. Instead, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the greatest QB/coach duo of all time, and the Seahawks lost in a way that makes fear will divide the team and ruin everything they’ve created. All because of one yard.

No, I’m not feeling very good at all.

Will: The interception must be discussed. How do you read it? Was it Darrell Bevell’s fault? Pete Carroll’s? Russell Wilson’s? Ricardo Lockette’s? Or did Malcolm Butler just make a great play?

Derek: lynch but i died

It was idiotic, of course. I’ll illustrate this point with an anecdote involving my girlfriend, who is Korean and had never seen a football game before we started dating in 2013. I’m estimating she has now seen about 10. We didn’t watch the game together, but she visited me on Monday night to hide my knives and poisonous chemicals. We watched the final two minutes of the game, because it wasn’t enough for her to know that they lost. I needed her to know how they lost. We got to the play before the interception, and had this exchange:

Me: What play do you call here, Coach Shannon?

Shannon: A … a running play?

Me: Mmhmm. Anyone in particular?

Shannon: They … they just give it to Lynch, right?

I pressed play, the carnage unfolded, and I was proud of how angry she was. I imagine it was the final time this game will be playing on a TV near me and I feel something other than abject misery.

To answer your question, all of the people you mention deserve some of the blame/credit. Bevell did Bevell things. Carroll didn’t put a stop to it. Russell probably should’ve seen Butler coming. Lockette definitely should have fought a little harder. Butler made a great read and a great play.

Because of his track record, and because it was his call, I’m putting most of the blame on Bevell. I’ve mentioned him twice before on this site: here and here. Here’s a quote from our recap of the NFC/AFC Championships:

The play-calling was questionable at times, but I often feel that way about Darrell Bevell. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was getting mentioned for head coaching jobs at this time last year but wasn’t brought up once this year.

He’ll call a few plays a game that make him look like a genius, then goes a full quarter where it seems like he’s calling plays while texting and driving at the same time.

This was, without a doubt, the quintessential Bevell game. Credit him for some excellent calls, like the pass to Lynch on the wheel route on the final drive and rolling with the hot hands of Chris Matthews. But he made some incredibly dumb ones, naturally including what many are calling the dumbest call of all time. Like Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman before him, that one moment will become his legacy. He was up for head coaching jobs last year, and now he may never get one. The stigma of that call will follow him into every job interview he has for the rest of his career. Does he deserve all of this?

bevell wikiWell … I’m not sure I’m the one to ask. My Korean girlfriend who had never seen a football game 18 months ago knew to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch, and Bevell didn’t. I’ll leave it at that.

What do you think? Was Bevell’s call a fireable offense?

Will: I understand anyone with that sentiment, but I don’t think so. Beyond Wilson and Lynch, it’s not like this offense is bursting with talent. Doug Baldwin and company are nice players, but I would be surprised if any Seahawk receiver makes a Pro Bowl. They did well to make it to the Super Bowl with the allotted skill position talent. Bevell just boned the call.

Which has a greater absolute value: the ecstasy of last year’s victory or the pain of this year’s defeat? Is this the most painful sporting moment of your life? What can you compare it to?

Derek: Unfortunately, it’s probably pain of this year’s defeat. As wonderful as last year felt, it almost seemed a little too easy. The game last year was never close, and I briefly thought “Wait, that was it?” I thought it would come down to some late heroics like the NFC Championship. As strange as it is to say, it was almost disappointing that it was a blowout. The lack of drama made it anti-climactic. Don’t get me wrong, that game was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it was satisfying to watch the Seahawk defense shut down the vaunted Bronco offense. I also don’t dislike the Broncos, so the blowout didn’t give me the special satisfaction that a blowout of a team like the 49ers would.

I don’t hate the Patriots like I did in 2007, but losing to them was worse than losing to the Broncos would have been. I’ve mentioned before how angry it makes me when people refer to Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis as Super Bowl champions. Now I’m going to feel the same way whenever someone discusses the Brady/Belichick legacy. I’ll always think about that one yard.

Was it the most painful sporting moment? Yes, I think so. Football is my favorite sport and the Seahawks are my favorite favorite team. I detailed all of their horrible losses last week, and this one was the worst. The Hornets have sucked too much to have anything near that big of a stage. The only things that comes to mind are various World Cup losses (those always seem especially painful) and Armanti Edwards’ final game at my alma mater, Appalachian State.

Football makes these kinds of games especially great or especially terrible. I’ve heard references to Bill Buckner in the ’86 World Series and the Spurs blowing Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. But those were both in Game 6. Their teams got to play another game, and they couldn’t seal the deal. No such luck in football. Just seven months of listening to people talk about that play.

One. Yard.

What if this is it? Brett Favre won the Super Bowl in 1996. He went back in 1997, and lost to the Broncos. He played 13 more years and never went back to the Super Bowl.

I’m not sure what I would compare it to. When I think about it, I end up realizing I’m a psychopath. Was it like getting a winning lottery ticket that was covered with ricin? No, that’s silly. It’s a game! That I wasn’t even playing! Why do I care so much? None of these guys even know who I am. Why does it bother me? Then I start buzzkilling myself for being so tied up in something that doesn’t matter, but I think about that one yard again and the process restarts.

Winning was so much more fun. It was easier justifying happiness over a great win than sadness over a horrendous loss.

Care to throw a Cleveland spin on this? Earnest Byner has crossed my mind once or twice.

Will: The similarities to the Fumble game are striking, but this reminds me more of another Browns tragedy, the infamous Red Right 88 call against Oakland in the 1980 playoffs. The Browns were at the 13-yard line, trailing 14-12. Rather than run the ball before kicking a field goal, the Browns ran the eponymous pass play. Coach Sam Rutigliano told quarterback Brian Sipe to throw it in the lake unless he had a wide open man. Alas, Sipe threw an interception on a pass intended for Ozzie Newsome. The Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks’ mistake feels worse because it was in the Super Bowl, and they were but a single yard away. This probably isn’t helping. I’ll stop now.

What were you thinking as the skirmish broke out after the Pats took their final knee? Did your baser instincts prevail as you rooted for mayhem? Were you embarrassed to see the Seahawks instigating a conflict? Were your eyes fixed on the business end of a bottle of soju?

Derek: I hadn’t kicked into the anger stage yet. I was still mostly dead inside. I silently shook my head as it was going on.

I was probably more infuriated when I checked Twitter, because people were breaking out the word “class.” I’ve reached the point of getting angry whenever someone calls out another team or fan base for a lack of class. I know it’s irrational, but I’ve heard so much righteous indignation and high horsedom (if my team horrendously loses the Super Bowl, I get to make up words) in sports debates over the years that I tense up whenever I see or hear it. Every team employs a jerk or two. Every fan base definitely has its share. You want to call Bruce Irvin a punk or a sore loser? Fine. But the whole “this entire team/fan base has no CLASS!” argument joins “it is what it is” as a first ballot Hall of Famer in my Irritating Sports Cliche Hall of Fame.

Will: What will your enduring memory of the game be?

Derek: Lots of choices. The call. The interception. Sherman’s reaction. K.J. Wright constantly in soft coverage on Gronk as I wondered if Dan Quinn was thinking more about the Falcons’ draft board than Wright’s well-being. All good choices. But, as you might have guessed, the lasting image is this:

one yard

Will: You probably didn’t find this funny, did you?

Derek: It was funny. It also hurt a lot. Kind of like the Onion article with the headline “God: ‘F*** Russell Wilson.'” Here are my aforementioned silver linings:

  1. I saved some money. I spent an embarrassing amount on Super Bowl stuff last year. I have no regrets, as I was prepared to do it again this year, but it will be nice to put the small fortune toward something else.
  2. Percy Harvin will get less money. He played enough games for the Seahawks this season to get paid for their success. If the Seahawks won, he would have gotten more money. As Richard Sherman played with torn elbow ligaments that will require Tommy John surgery and Earl Thomas played with a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum, I couldn’t help but wonder how much less injured Harvin would have to be to miss the game. At least he’s finally done profiting from the Seahawks.
  3. The team is young, and most of the core is tied up through the foreseeable future. Let’s just hope this isn’t the sort of loss that rips the team apart. Plus, the 49ers look to be imploding, so maybe the NFC West won’t be as tough as it has been in the past few years.

Let’s Drown Your Sorrows in Our Gambling Winnings/Losses

Time to review our wagers. We did not actually put money down on any of these, as gambling is ungentlemanly, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t delight in (or weep over) our picks. Maybe that will help. Results are shown in red. Correct picks feature an asterisk.

Will either team score in the first six minutes of the game? Yes (-105) or no (-125)?

Derek: And they still managed to hit the over.

Will*: The Seahawks shut them out for six minutes! That’s something, right?

The first touchdown of the game will be passing (-160) or something else (+130)?

Derek: The last touchdown of the game was passing, too. *drinks lighter fluid*

Will: Yes, the pass was thrown, but there was surely some running involved as well, no? I’ll give this one to Vegas on technicality. 

Will there be overtime? Yes (+500) or no (-800)?

Derek: Yes, there was no overtime, because Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown on the Seahawks’ final offensive play, and Tom Brady couldn’t get the Patriots in field goal range. *swallows match*

Will: There there, friend. There there.

Will there be a defensive or special teams touchdown? Yes (+150) or no (-185)?

Derek: Remember when Kam Chancellor returned that interception for a touchdown three weeks ago? That was cool.

Will: Let’s just move on.

Idina Menzel’s rendition of the National Anthem will be over 122.5 seconds (+105) or under 122.5 seconds (-145)?

Derek*: Also a close call. I’ll thank her for winning me some fake money by watching Frozen again at some point in my life.

Will: I’m a little bummed about missing this one, but I think I’ll be able to let it go.

More crotch grabs: Marshawn Lynch (-120) or Katy Perry (-120)?

Derek: But one football was defecated. What were the odds on that?

Will: Tough game for crotch grabbery. Strong game for ball poopery.

Will Katy Perry show cleavage during the halftime show? Yes (-800) or no (+450)?

Derek*: I was getting worried for a little while there. Thank goodness she changed outfits five times.

Will: The only thing better than owning an actual printing press is betting on Katy Perry showcasing the goods.

Who will the Super Bowl MVP thank first? Teammates (+175), Does not Thank Anyone or Mention Any on List (+200), God (+200), Fans/City (+700), Coaches/Owner (+800), or Family (+800)?

Derek: Wasn’t it his family? I don’t know. I picked God, and I don’t think he mentioned God once.

Will: I couldn’t make this one out either. It wasn’t whatever I picked. Props are dumb.

Finally, the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning head coach will be Orange (+150), Clear/Water (+250), Yellow (+400), No Gatorade/Liquid Bath (+500), Red (+650), Blue (+700), Green (+900), or Purple (+900)?

Derek: Good call! The Seahawks used orange last year. I might have known that when I picked it this year.

Will*: I could not be prouder of this. “Correctly picked blue Gatorade” will be on my tombstone.

New England (-1) vs. Seattle

Derek: Everything is stupid.

Will: My perfect postseason died in the Super Bowl. Yours did as well, albeit for different reasons.

I hope y’all enjoyed the game a bit more than that. Thanks for reading.

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