They say the NFL is a league for offense. So how, then, was Super Bowl XLVIII decided, and dominated, by a group of tormentors raising hell around Peyton Manning and wreaking havoc for the most potent offense in league history? This is the anatomy of a dismantling
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — An hour after the lopsided Super Bowl conquest no one east of Yakima saw coming, Pete Carroll was bounding across the MetLife Stadium turf, holding wife Glena’s hand, surrounded by four or five cameras and as many security people, going from one on-field interview to the next. I was in this you’d-better-get-out-of-the-way-or-you’ll-get-flattened pack, asking Carroll about his team and the beatdown.
But something stuck in my mind, and I had to ask this first. During the week, I was the pool reporter assigned to cover Seattle practices and distribute whatever news might come out of them. Which, in this week, was precious little.
Carroll’s Seahawks practice to the constant and very loud drone of music, hip-hop and rap mostly. Early in the week, Carroll will sneak in a James Brown or Earth, Wind and Fire tune from his youth, or maybe Michael Jackson. But by Friday, it was mostly unrecognizable to this 56-year-old Springsteen and U2 fan. Luckily, I had Shazam, that app that allows you to hold up your phone when a song is playing, to learn what it is.
Among what was played, I’m guessing at about 90 decibels, for the entirety of Friday’s practice: “Fast Lane,” by Bad Meets Evil, “More Bounce to the Ounce,” by Zapp, “We Own It,” by 2 Chainz, “Last of a Dying Breed,” by Ludacris, “We Ready,” by Archie Eversole, “Ambitionz Az a Ridah,” by Tupac, and “Hold Me Back,” by Rick Ross.
When “Hold Me Back” came on, the team was practicing red zone plays. Important tuneup for the biggest game of their lives, and the last time they’d go full speed before the game. Between snaps, the entire defensive line was dancing on the field. Quarterback coach Carl Smith, 65 and with a bum hip, was even swaying. Carroll saw that, and smiled. Then the ball was snapped, and backup running back Christine Michael pivoted left out of the backfield and went down. A couple of defenders, Clinton McDonald and Bobby Wagner, hustled over to Michael, who was slow getting up, and each took a hand as all three laughed about something. This is what I saw during the week: a team having fun at practice, like it was some dance party, and a team that really gets along. And works at a fast pace.
“I’m glad you saw that,” Carroll said. “That’s real. That’s who we are.”
For those who think music is counterproductive, that you need to have teaching moments at a football practice without having to shout over music, and that players switching jerseys for no good reason (Marshawn Lynch was swimming in tackle Breno Giacomini’s shirt on Friday) is a distraction, I have one score to point out:
Seattle 43, Denver 8.
* * *
After that Super Bowl rout Sunday night, one of the Seahawks’ most respected players, fullback Michael Robinson, thought he had it figured out.
“Football is a game,” Robinson said in the bowels of MetLife Stadium. “A game. Pete has figured that out. He makes football fun. All aspects of it—practices, games. One of our goals is to play at a level other teams can’t match. That’s what you saw tonight. What do you see when you see a team, running around practicing to music all week? They’re loose. They’re full of energy. And that’s what we are. I know it works for us.”
The analysis of this Super Bowl will center, rightfully, on a voracious defense. This was without a doubt one of the best defensive performances in Super Bowl history. This is one game in which stats lie. Peyton Manning set a Super Bowl record with 34 completions, and he threw for a respectable 280 yards.
But Manning managed only 51 passing yards in the first 26 minutes of the game, and by then it was over. Seattle led 22-0 by that point.
Think of what an incredible defensive performance this was. In the 94-year history of the NFL, Denver’s 606 points this season were the most ever. But on a night when weather was borderline balmy for New Jersey in February, the conditions were no excuse. And all Manning could do was manage some garbage yards late when half of America had turned the game off. In my 30 seasons covering the NFL, I can remember only three defensive performances that compare: the Bears’ stifling 46-10 rout of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX, Baltimore’s 34-7 beat down of the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, and the Giants shocking New England—at that point the highest-scoring team in any single season—17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.
This defense had it all. We came in praising the Seattle secondary endlessly, and the secondary played great, putting a halo of punishment on almost every Denver reception. By that, I mean every play, no matter what the route or who the receiver was, had two or three defenders pouncing within a millisecond of the catch. Clearly, Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase should have called some double moves, or more deep stuff to try to clear out the middle of the field. Seattle was so on top of everything Manning did.
But one of the reasons it would have been difficult for Manning to do anything deep consistently was because he couldn’t breathe. Much will be written and said about this game concerning Manning’s continued inability on the biggest of stages not to preform. There was certainly some of that: I detail later in the column how I thought he made some terrible decisions, especially on the final drive of the first half, when Denver was trying desperately to find some spark. So blame Manning. He deserves a good bit of it, especially when he aims a throw that was a poor decision that ends up being intercepted by Kam Chancellor.
But there were so many unstoppable rushers for Seattle, and none more than Cliff Avril, the former Lion. He had just a so-so first season with the Seahawks, but he made an amateur out of Denver right tackle Orlando Franklin. Avril had three big plays in the first half, including two heavy pressures on Manning that aided both interceptions. I was one of the 16 voters for the MVP last night. I voted for Avril. It could have gone to many. I wish I could have penciled in “Seattle Defense.” Because collectively, that truly was the MVP of this Super Bowl.
One other thing about these Seahawks. In the locker room after the game, Pete Carroll whipped up his team as if he were still coaching college kids at USC. He stood in the center of his men, surrounded by players and cameras. The Super Bowl makes strange bedfellows: “The media is so omnipresent that coaches rarely get any significant postgame time with their teams.”
But as Carroll went through praising the vast majority of his roster for its tremendous performance, at the end the players took over.
One yelled out, “We all we got!”
The response from teammates screamed, “We all we need!”
“Then a shout went out. “What’s next?!”
“We not done!”
After almost everyone had cleared out, after midnight, the last bus waited for Russell Wilson to get dressed.
“We work so hard, man,” said Wilson. “That’s the gratifying part of it: Nobody here thinks we’re done. And we really think we have such a great chance here to keep it going. That’s how you distinguish yourself in this game.”
Scary thought for the rest of the NFL. A young quarterback who is afraid of nothing and a young defense that just played a game like the ’85 Bears. Indeed, Seattle is not done.
Get to know the MVP
On Sunday morning, after getting his hair cut, Malcolm Smith visited the Seahawks family hotel. He wanted to say hi to his mother, Audrey. There was no reason for the impromptu drop-by. “He just gave her a big hug,” Malcolm’s girlfriend, Aneesa, said. “She was so surprised to see him.”
“I was mainly happy to see he was healthy,” Audrey Smith said. “No matter what happened in the game, I knew my son was in a good place.”
Smith’s ascent from 2011 seventh-round draft pick to Super Bowl MVP is remarkable. But what’s really remarkable was his just being there. Five years ago, Smith was so ill he could barely digest a meal without having to vomit. He lost nearly two pounds a week.
Doctors diagnosed Malcolm, then a junior at Southern California, with an extremely rare esophagus disorder called achalasia, which affects just one in 100,000 people. He underwent surgery in 2010, and afterward weighed just 200 pounds (he’s listed at 226 now). It’s one of the reasons he wasn’t invited to the combine, and why he fell to the 242nd pick in 2011.
“I didn’t ever think he was going to give up,” said Malcom’s brother Steve, the former Giants receiver who won a ring of his own the first time New York beat the Patriots in 2008. “But after all that, to see him at his low and see him actually want to do this, actually want to persevere?”
On Sunday Malcolm returned a second-quarter interception 69 yards for a touchdown and became the first defensive player to win the Super Bowl MVP in 11 years. “MVP? Of the Super Bowl?” Malcolm said. “I was sure they were kidding me. I said, ‘I want someone official to tell me I am the Super Bowl MVP.”
Just read the papers this morning. You’re all over them.
* * *
On this night, not the Mann.
A bitter disappointment for Peyton Manning, obviously. And when Manning looks back on the tape from this game, he’ll be sick. The unforced errors, starting with the first snap of the game. The mistakes he made in identifying the open receivers. The forced throws. He didn’t have much help—he was pressured from start to end—but he tried too hard to make plays that very often weren’t there.
We saw it late in the first half, Denver down 22-0 and needing something, anything to show flickering life. On first down from the Seattle 27, Manning had a choice: forcing the ball to Julius Thomas—bracketed by safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, or throwing to an open Wes Welker at the 15. That would have been a first down. But he tried Thomas, and it wasn’t close. Incomplete. Meanwhile, Welker, who rarely shows emotion after a pass, threw his arms in the air. Four plays later, on 4th-and-2, Manning bypassed a more open Julius Thomas, in first-down territory, to try to hit Demaryius Thomas. Ball was tipped. Incomplete. There are many times you watched a big moment Sunday night, and every time, seemingly, was to Seattle’s advantage. Manning just looked uneasy.
I didn’t see Manning after the game, but Mark Mravic of The MMQB did. He reported:
It was a grim and tight-lipped Manning who stepped to the podium for his obligatory postgame session with the media in blue pin-striped suit and maroon tie with silver stripes. In front of several dozen reporters, boom mics and cameras, he sat looking as perplexed by what had happened on the field as the 80,000 in MetLife Stadium and the 100 million watching at home. Manning’s answers were perfunctory and unenlightening. In truth, he had no answers. And he did not crack a smile. This was a bitter veteran professional doing his league-mandated duty, looking as if he’d rather be anywhere else. You could tell this hurt. “To finish this way is very disappointing,” Manning said. “It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but eventually we have to. I don’t know if you ever really get over it.” Only once in the seven-minute session did Manning betray any emotion beyond grim resignation. He was asked whether this was an embarrassing loss, and you could see the blood begin to boil. “It’s not embarrassing at all,” he said. “I would never use that word. There’s a lot of professional football players in that locker room, who put a lot of hard work and effort into being here and into playing in that game. The word ‘embarrassing’ is an insulting word to me, in truth.”
With that, Manning left the podium and was escorted behind a curtain for a television interview. Some minutes later he was walking away from the Broncos locker room, escorted by a lone New Jersey State Trooper. Passing a small clutch of fans in Broncos gear, he stopped to sign a T-shirt and a hat. Then he continued, hands in pocket, past the celebrating Seahawks locker. Here he was stopped again, this time by Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin. Manning offered McLoughlin his congratulations as McLoughlin offered condolences. A few more yards, one more signature for one last fan, and Manning was gone again through the curtain and out into the night.
Truther of the Week.
Weirdest moment of the night: A 9/11 “truther,” Matthew Mills, 30, of Brooklyn, walked up to the side of the podium where Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith had just begun to live his moment in the sun. On live TV, here’s how it rolled:
Smith: “I always imagined myself making great plays, but you never think about being MVP.”
Mills, hustling past Miami PR czar Harvey Greene and abruptly grabbing the microphone, as Smith’s beseeching eyes looked for help: “Investigate 9/11 … 9/11 was perpetrated by people within our own government.”
Mills dropped the mic like a player would spike a football and exited stage left. The mic got uprighted. Smith paused, looked around and said: “All right.” He looked around again. “Is everybody all right?”
Mills’ stunt happened so fast it fit on a six-second Vine video, as you can see. Truthers are people who believe a massive cover-up is at play and hides what really happened in Lower Manhattan that caused nearly 3,000 people to die in the collapse of the World Trade Center.
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Ten things you need to know about the Hall of Fame vote.
The Class of 2014 was elected Saturday: senior committee candidates Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey, and modern-era picks Derrick Brooks, Michael Strahan, Aeneas Williams, Andre Reed and Walter Jones. My thoughts:
1. Finally, I supported Ray Guy. Big upset. It even surprised me a little bit. I just think as a voter (and a person), it’s important to be open-minded. I do go into these meetings open-minded, and I heard a few different reasons this year, some of them quantifying things like hang-time and inside-the-20 punts more clearly than they had in the past, and his peers, on and off the record, were so unwavering in their support that I thought, “Maybe I’m wrong.” I still have some grave questions—Shane Lechler’s inside-the-20 average, for instance, is far better—but I do understand you compare guys to players in their era. So good for Ray Guy. I’m happy he finally achieves the dream.
2. I did not support Andre Reed. I covered a lot of Buffalo games in the Bills’ prime, and I believe he was a very good receiver but not one of the all-time greats. I like Tim Brown better, and Marvin Harrison significantly better. As I’ve felt since the day I got on the committee more than two decades ago, the 46-member panel is a democracy, and if 80 percent of the group thinks one of the five finalists is a Hall of Famer, then he’s a Hall of Famer, and good for him. But I want to be honest with you, because so many of you care so deeply about the Hall.
3. I like Brooks, Strahan and Jones. Easy picks, all.
4. So, so happy for Aeneas Williams. I always loved the way Mike Martz—who is all offense, all the time—just worshiped the guy and thought he was a huge difference maker on defense for the great Rams teams early this century. Watching Williams, he wasn’t the shutdown corner Deion Sanders was. But he was close—I believe the closest thing to Deion in the game at the time—and he was a very physical player too. Jimmy Johnson thought Williams was a tremendous player, and I thought he was so important in so many big games. Williams beat the post-Jimmy Cowboys in the first playoff game of his life with Arizona, and he intercepted Troy Aikman twice that day. He intercepted Brett Favre twice in the 2001 playoffs, taking both in for touchdowns. I love the fact the committee found an excellent player who played mostly for a losing Arizona team, and rewarded him.
5. I think Jerome Bettis, 3.9 yards per carry and all, belongs. I believe he’s the best big back of the last 25 years. I saw him outrun Bucs defensive backs once on a long run in Tampa; I saw him steamroll an in-his-prime Brian Urlacher—and I mean steamroll—in a snow bowl must-win game for the Steelers late in the Bus’ career, when he gained 100 yards in the second half against the league’s number two rush defense. He made the final 10 this year, and I hope he goes farther next year.
6. Now for the case of Charles Haley. I strongly believe in him, because I think he’s the most violent pass-rusher I have covered. By that I mean he had some of the Deacon Jones viciousness to him, a fearsome combination of moves, and he has the five Super Bowl rings, which is significant, of course. I cannot speak for the group and wouldn’t intend to, but I have always felt what hurts his candidacy is as good a rusher as he was, he only averaged 8.4 sacks per regular-season. I believe he tilted the field when he played, and sometimes it didn’t result in sacks for him; it resulted in sacks for others, like Jim Jeffcoat when Haley was in Dallas.
7. My sense of the logical 2015 order for candidates who didn’t make it this year, at least at the head of the list: Marvin Harrison, Will Shields, Charles Haley, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Tony Dungy.
8. My sense of the best new candidates for 2015: Junior Seau, Orlando Pace, Kurt Warner. Warner’s candidacy will be very interesting because he was a Super Bowl quarterback for two franchises—and very nearly a Super Bowl winner for two franchises.
9. We met for 8 hours, 59 minutes. That’s an hour or so longer than usual. Longest debates were on Dungy (47 minutes), Guy (44), Humphrey (40), Williams (32) and Strahan (30). I liked the debate. Spirited and passionate. I don’t think the limited time the cameras were in the room limited or bothered anyone.
10. The Hall of Fame is always a hot topic, and very strongly opinionated. Just remember: We come in with a list of 15 modern-era candidates, have a long discussion, and then winnow that list to 10 in a secret ballot. Then we winnow the list of 10 down to five. Then we get the five final candidates, and we vote secretly, yes or no, on them. Re: the seniors: We vote yes or no on them independent of the modern candidates. The two senior candidates each year are picked by a voters’ subcommittee that meets in Canton every summer for a couple of days with two respected legends in the room to give their off-the-record advice.
* * *
Question of the Week
NBC Sports Network’s Erik Kuselias, on Pro Football Talk Live, to New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the most severely punished player in the Saints’ bounty scandal: “If you saw Roger Goodell, and you were face to face, what would you say to him?”
Vilma: “First, hi. Let’s get the pleasantries out of the way. And then, we’ll talk about whatever really he wants to talk about because he was on the outside looking in. I know what happened back then. He didn’t know, he had not a lot of information. Misinformation. I believe he made a mountain out of a mole[hill], but it is what it is. I understand there were bigger things he was trying to instill. Player safety, he was trying to really instill that, but it shouldn’t have come at the [cost] of myself, Scott Fujita, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove—you know, guys that really didn’t have bad intentions. We were good guys. We didn’t have a bounty going. We had guys that would want to talk crazy in the locker room, which is part of football. It’s what we do.’’
Didn’t have a bounty going. Well, define “bounty.”
* * *
Death of a legend
It’s the day after the Super Bowl and all, and I understand everyone’s in a football frame of mind. But the death of 46-year-old Philip Seymour Hoffman deserves your attention. He was found in his Manhattan apartment Sunday morning, expired from a suspected drug overdose.
I think he was the greatest American actor we had today. The range of his characters was just incredible. I mean, who can play A’s manager Art Howe (Moneyball) and Truman Capote (Capote) with equal skill? Well, I’m partial to his Capote portrayal. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. I’ll miss the man for his acting. His three kids will miss their father. Just a sin what drug abuse is doing to so many people in this country.
My five favorite Hoffman films follow. Keep in mind I haven’t seen all of his movies (Along Came Polly is one I must see):
1. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Andy Hanson, an addict, takes down an entire good family in a haunting, disturbing role. The title comes from an Irish saying, “May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” Hoffman (Andy) is such a bad person that he needs that head start.
2. Capote. Hoffman won the 2006 Best Actor Oscar for playing author Truman Capote. His voice and affectations I will never forget.
3. Doubt. What a great faceoff between Hoffman (a priest accused of child molestation) and Meryl Streep (a nun and principal, and his accuser). I love the fact you never really know whether he did it. You think he did, but you don’t know.
4. The Savages. He and Laura Linney are brother and sister caring for a dying dad. When the real world intrudes on people no longer close with a parent and exposes all kinds of old feelings never healed—that’s something so understandable in so many lives today.
5. Moneyball. Art Howe hated the portrayal of the bumbling manager of the A’s when the new baseball way crept into the game. I loved it. Hoffman as a stubborn manager, as so many classic old baseball guys are when asked to change.
Hoffman was great as a nerdy personal assistant in The Big Lebowski, and as veteran rock journalist Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, but his roles were relatively minor ones. That’s why those aren’t included here.
Losing James Gandolfini and Hoffman within eight months … what a bummer if you love great acting.
1. Seattle (16-3). As dominating and intimidating a performance as I remember in a Super Bowl. A total skunking. Seattle is so clearly the best team in football.
2. San Francisco (14-5). Next home game: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., 40 minutes south of Candlestick. And better.
3. Denver (15-4). A few words come to mind. Most apt: embarrassing.
4. New England (13-5). This is not just because I shared a podium with him Saturday night in Manhattan, but the Patriots need to sign free-agent wide receiver Julian Edelman. Last five games of the season: 65 targets, 45 catches. When Tom Brady is throwing 13 passes a game to a guy, and a guy they won’t have to pay Calvin Johnson prices for, the message is simple for the Patriots: Stop going cheap on the receiver position.
5. Carolina (12-5). Congrats to Ron Rivera, the deserving NFL coach of the year.
6. San Diego (10-8). Speaking of good coaching jobs: Mike McCoy, ladies and gentlemen.
7. New Orleans (12-6). My guess is the Saints franchise Jimmy Graham. I don’t see how they reach a deal if he keeps his demand in the stratosphere, and I’d have serious questions about him as a stratospheric player after the no-show he put on this postseason, even despite the plantar fascia.
8. Green Bay (8-8-1). I’d be surprised if Ted Thompson doesn’t take a tackle with one of his first two picks in May.
9. Philadelphia (10-7). Ran into a lot of Eagles fans in Super Bowl week. I think they love Chip Kelly as much in year one as they loved Andy Reid in any of his 14 years.
10. Indianapolis (12-6). The MMQB guest columnist Coby Fleener and the returning Dwayne Allen will give Andrew Luck the kind of two-tight-end combination a young quarterback with a shaky offensive line dreams of in 2014.
11. Kansas City (11-6). Smart thing to be trying to sign Alex Smith long-term.
12. Arizona (10-6). High on Bruce Arians’ to-do list this offseason: Fix the running game. The Cards had one back rush for 100 yards in a game in 2013 (Andre Ellington, Week 8). Not good.
13. Cincinnati (11-6). Six 100-plus QB-rating games, 33 touchdown passes … Andy Dalton’s regular-season numbers are nice, but the Cincinnati fans will remember the playoff debacle into September. Nothing will be good enough for this franchise short of a playoff win next January, and rightfully so.
14. Pittsburgh (8-8). Most important job for the Steelers this offseason isn’t going to be personnel addition. It’s going to be cap subtraction.
15. Chicago (8-8). Be proud of Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Chicago. He’s the 2014 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, and a deserving one, for all the work he does off the field.
The Award Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Russell Okung, James Carpenter, Max Unger, J.R Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, the offensive line, Seattle. Aside from keeping Wilson mostly clean all night (he wasn’t sacked), the line cleared the way for a running game that averaged 4.7 yards per attempt. They kept two dangerous players—Terrance Knighton and Danny Trevathan—from being any kind of factors in the biggest game of the year. Entering the game, you could argue that the line might have been the most questionable unit on the team coming in. It turned out to be a major strength.
Defensive Player of the Week
Cliff Avril, defensive end, Seattle. He contributed to both Manning interceptions in the first half—making Manning throw awkwardly both times. On the first, he had a near-sack of Manning and wound up tackling him as he threw, with Kam Chancellor picking it off. One the second, Avril hit Manning on the right arm, forcing a pass to be popped up and intercepted for a touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Smith. And he was credited with the game-opening safety. I voted Avril the game’s MVP.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Percy Harvin, kick returner, Seattle. He fielded the opening kickoff of the second half, a bouncer, and zipped in and out and in of traffic, sprinting the last 45 yards untouched. And the rout was on. (It was already; this just sealed it). Seattle was up 29-0 just 12 seconds into the second half.
Derrick Coleman, fullback, and Jeremy Lane, cornerback, Seattle. For setting the tone in a game the Seattle special teams dominated. On the opening kickoff, Denver speedster Trindon Holliday took the ball six yards deep and got out to only the 14-yard line before getting swarmed by Coleman and Lane. On the next snap, the Broncos messed up the center-quarterback exchange and Seattle got a safety to start the most improbable Super Bowl I can ever remember.
Coach of the Week
Pete Carroll, head coach, Seattle. It was a week when the Seattle coach thought of everything. Like this: On Friday, he had his players exert themselves at the Giants’ training facility—where they practiced all week—and then sit around in the Giants’ locker room for 31 minutes before coming out for a faux second half. Carroll becomes the third coach to win an NCAA national title and a Super Bowl (Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer), and he does it on the same property where he got his first NFL shot, the Meadowlands, as a one-and-done Jets coach in 1994.
Goats of the Week
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver. Manning was suffocated from the second series on, but he threw a terrible interception to Kam Chancellor, then, instead of pulling the ball down and taking a sack, attempted an ill-conceived throw that was picked and returned for a touchdown. Late in the first half, he made two awful decisions (see above) on a series he had to convert into points and got nothing. Yes, Manning was inundated, and his receivers had little room to breathe all night. But he played poorly too. And at 38 on opening day next year, he will still be stuck on one Super Bowl win.
John Fox, head coach, Denver. With 10:46 left in the third quarter, and Denver trailing 29-0 at the Seattle 39-yard line facing a 4th-and-11, John Fox sent out the punt team. I realize the Broncos were not winning anything by that point, but throwing the white flag with 26 minutes left in a four-score game with Peyton Manning your quarterback? Wow. I thought that was a terrible call.
Orlando Franklin, tackle, Denver. Franklin was the turnstile who allowed Avril to make both huge plays in the first half that turned the game. Frankly, Franklin was awful, allowing five quarterback pressures or hits in the first half alone, according to stats kept by The MMQB’s Mr. Pressure Points himself, Greg A. Bedard.
Quotes of the Week
“We’re the best defense ever.”
—Michael Bennett, Seattle defensive lineman, after the 35-point rout of the Broncos.
“It’s just a big horse off my back. I was finally able to give my team something for four quarters.”
—Seattle’s Percy Harvin, who, for the first time in 15 months, finished a game he started Sunday. He contributed 137 all-purpose yards and a touchdown to the 43-8 victory. You can see his comments to the right.
“We really wanted to buy the Mariners, but we were a little too late. Then we turned our attention to the football team.”
—Former Seahawks owner John Nordstrom, walking through the Seattle locker room with a big grin Sunday night.
“None of us heard the snap count. I thought I did, but … There’s no explanation. It happened. Unfortunately it happened. I feel bad for the team.”
—Denver center Manny Ramirez, whose botched snap on the first play of the game resulted in a safety that gave Seattle a lead it never gave back.
“New Jersey sucks! New Jersey sucks!”
—Angry train riders at the New Jersey Transit station in Secaucus, N.J., stuck in one- to two-hour waits for a train, in overcrowded hallways, to get to MetLife Stadium.
“If somebody left IBM and went to Apple, if they were shutting IBM down, do you think that guy would go back and visit? There’s something strange about athletics and what people expect you to do. I don’t know. I wasn’t always a big fan of Candlestick to begin with, even though I played there. It might’ve been the worst field we played on throughout the years. But we had great memories there, yeah. But you know what? I don’t live in the past much.”
—Joe Montana, on radio station 95.7 FM in San Francisco, about not attending the final game in the history of Candlestick Park for a big tribute. The 49ers, of course, traded Montana late in his career, and created ill will between him and the team.
“Suh was uncontrollable. He would constantly do things to show his power over Jim Schwartz, whether it was showing up to team meetings late or whatever it may be. Three different people [told me] the same story, about antics Suh would do just to show his dominance over a head coach … It was more or less Suh just trying to show his dominance, his power—that he was basically untouchable and he could basically do what he wanted to do.”
—Former NFL player Heath Evans, in an interview with Detroit radio station 105.1 FM, causing the Lions to issue a spate of denials, and sources to tell Pro Football Talk that Evans was dead on.
Stats of the Week
MetLife Stadium and the Westin Hotel Jersey City have been very, very good to the Seattle Seahawks.
Three times in the last three seasons—before playing the Giants in 2011, before playing the Giants again in 2013, and before playing this Super Bowl—the Seahawks stayed in the relatively new hotel eight miles from MetLife Stadium. Seattle won the three games, 36-25, 23-0 and 43-8.
Score: Seattle 104, Foes 33.
Seattle intercepted Eli and Peyton Manning 10 times in the three games, and was intercepted twice.
Seattle forced 14 turnovers in the three games and turned it over four times.
I heard from those on both sides of the fence about Morten Andersen’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Some of you thought he was nothing special, simply a long-time compiler. Some thought the leading scorer in NFL history deserved a spot in Canton. I’d say the former outweigh the latter.
Four things you should remember about the Copenhagen-born kicker:
• At age 47, competing in his last season in the NFL, Andersen made his final 16 field goals.
• In his last two seasons, at 46 and 47, Andersen made 45 of 51 field goals.
• Andersen has 110 more points than any other player in NFL history.
• The sport is called football.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Political Bedfellows of the Week:
Mitt Romney and Dick Cheney watched the Super Bowl in Jets owner Woody Johnson’s suite.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Distance from New York Giants’ practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J. (where I covered Seahawks practice as a pool reporter Friday), to West 27th Street in Manhattan (where I hosted an event Friday evening): 8.4 miles.
Time it took me to drive the 8.4 miles Friday at 4:37 p.m.: 1 hour, 53 minutes.
So Saturday was our Hall of Fame voting day in Manhattan. We cast our ballots in a ballroom on the second floor of the media hotel, the Sheraton Times Square. Lunch was brought in midway through the proceedings. Specifically, box lunches for the 46 voters and Hall officials. A description of my lunch:
• Chicken breast on focaccia.
• Lays Classic chips (small bag).
The cost: $102, including tip.
Per box lunch.
Cool event Sunday: breakfast with Roy and Cathy Gruss, of Missoula, Mont. They won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Super Bowl from Bose, and part of the trip (Bose is a sponsor of The MMQB) was a meal with me. So we met at 9 a.m., on the East Side of Manhattan, and Roy, wearing his Montana Grizzlies jacket, and Cathy told me their story of the weekend.
Roy is 61. He is the Missoula County Public School Food Service warehouse manager. He had never been to New York, and he had no plans to go. Ever. Actually, he had never been east of Chicago before, except for Florida. When he and Kathy landed at JFK Airport Thursday evening, they were picked up in a Mercedes sedan (“Amazing leather seats—we sunk right into them!” Roy said) and dropped off at the Renaissance Hotel Times Square. On Friday, they ran into Troy Aikman at the hotel. In an elevator, they saw Randy Moss and said only, “Hi.” Said Cathy: “We didn’t want to bother him.” They walked a lot. Ten blocks north of the hotel and back. Ten blocks east of the hotel and back. Ten blocks south of the hotel and back. They sampled as many Irish bars as they could. “Black and tan’s my beer,” Roy said. “I like beer. Too many beers, too little time.” At home, he’s partial to Moose Drool, a Missoula brew. And Saturday night, Cathy fell asleep before midnight, but the din from the Jay-Z concert nearby seeped through the window of their sixth-floor room. “I loved it,” said Roy.
“This trip,” said Roy, “has been a total lightning bolt. Amazing. A couple of times I said to friends, ‘You know what I think I’ll do this weekend? I think I’ll go to New York for the Super Bowl!’ My friends have said to me, ‘You sure you want to take your wife? I’m available.’ ”
“Let’s just say,” said Cathy, “this is a little bigger than a Montana Grizzly game.”
“What,” I asked, “would you guys be doing today for the Super Bowl if you didn’t come here?”
“We’d be at the Eagles Lodge for a pot luck,” he said. “Eagles Lodge 62. Maybe about 150 or 200 people would show up. The day starts about noon with a cribbage tournament. For the food, someone would bring elk sausage, somebody else wild-game chili, and we’d probably bring some smoked Rocky Mountain trout, from my own smoker. It’s fantastic.”
The Grusses were scheduled to return to Montana on Monday. “I have work Tuesday,” said Roy. “I’ll be up Tuesday morning at 3, into work by 4:30. Everyone here has been so nice. You hear things about New Yorkers, but the people have been wonderful. But we’ll be ready to get home.”
Good to meet you, Grusses. Thanks for the company.
Tweets of the Week
“‘Uncle’ – Broncos”
—@DrewBledsoe, when it was 36-8.
“Defense wins championships!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #okthatsenough!”
—@JustinTuckNYG, after it got to be 22-0 some 27 minutes into the Super Bowl.
“At halftime, Ted Nugent is going to shoot Joe Namath’s coat.”
—@AlbertBrooks, the comedian, in the first half of the Super Bowl.
“Worst part of radio row at SB – how everyone interviewing u looks around for who they can grab next instead of engaging the conversation!”
—@kurt13warner, the former quarterback and current NFL Network analyst, on the chase for guests at the Super Bowl Media Center Radio Row.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think we know now why GM John Schneider committed so many resources and so much money to deal for Percy Harvin. Harvin and the Jet Sweep. Harvin and the kickoff return. Harvin and being healthy. His speed is a revelation. Before his score to start the second half, the Seahawks called a kick-return they hadn’t called all season. And teammates said to Harvin on the field, “See you in the end zone.”
2. I think the poise of Russell Wilson is something to behold. Did you see him once get tight? He had two early overthrows. After that … wow, for a 25-year-old player on such a grand stage. I loved his early roll to the left and throw across his body to Golden Tate, lasered to the sideline for a gain of 10 and a first down.
3. I think this is the way Wilson talks, either to us or to his coaches or teammates: “We knew we’d get here. We knew we’d bring it. We brought it.” That’s what he said at his locker postgame to quarterback coach Carl Smith. But it could have been to the beat guy from Spokane too.
4. I think it’s not too much to ask that Peyton Manning and Manny Ramirez figure out how to get the snap right on the first play of the Super Bowl. Or is it?
5. I think the best candidates for the road team against Seattle in the NFL season-opener Sept. 4 are:
a. Denver. Ratings bonanza. Peyton Manning’s revenge. Or attempted revenge.
b. San Francisco. But I think the Niners would try to open Levi’s Stadium at home on Week 1. And they certainly wouldn’t want to open the year in their House of Horrors, where they’ve lost three times in the last two seasons.
c. Green Bay. Nothing like Aaron Rodgers and the Pack for some good ratings in the lidlifter.
d. Dallas. Jerry Jones never met an extravaganza he didn’t like.
6. I think the first thing I look at, when a team in a baseball city wins the Super Bowl, is the baseball schedule. Especially when stadiums are next door to each other. That wrecked the home opener for Baltimore last year. Good news, ’Hawk fans: Mariners at Rangers, 5:05 p.m. Pacific Time, on Sept. 4.
7. I think the NFL has to re-think its love of mass transportation and abandonment of cars at a Super Bowl, particularly at a venue where fans are so used to driving. And the Meadowlands is a driver’s paradise. When fans are still waiting to get a train or bus home two hours after the game, you’ve got a problem—especially when some of said fans have paid thousands to attend the event.
8. I think you might not have known it, but this was the earliest-arriving crowd in Super Bowl history. Scared off by the dread of long train and security lines, fans began teeming in at 2 p.m., and 80,000 of the 82,529 had cleared security 75 minutes before the game.
9. I think next year will be Charles Haley’s year.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Pete Thamel was right: Best sports event in New York/New Jersey over the weekend was Duke-Syracuse college hoops.
b. I still cannot believe the Philip Seymour Hoffman news.
c. Dying to see Gravity.
d. I’m really hoping the ridiculously unseasonable day Sunday won’t cause too many NFL owners to pound fists on tables and say, I want the Super Bowl in my town!
e. Look, what happened here is the NFL got lucky. Very lucky. Tell me the chances of it being 56 in mid-afternoon, with no wind, in East Rutherford on Feb. 2, historically. Six days earlier it was 7 degrees in mid-afternoon. So don’t tell me now the NFL should put Super Bowls outside in the north because this day proved you can. This day the NFL got a perfect window is what it proved.
f. New York/New Jersey swallowed the Super Bowl. If you live on the East Side of Manhattan, as I do, there was no indication anything different was up on Sunday.
g. Coffeenerdness: Gregory’s Coffee … brought a few media guys there for a quick booster during the week in Manhattan. Very good lattes.
h. Beernerdness: Guinness is best served colder than the Irish like it. I know that because at a Super Bowl event Thursday night in the city, the bartender told us they were serving at normal American beer temperatures. Not trying to be revolutionary, but it’s just better colder.
i. The MMQB doesn’t go into hibernation now just because the football season is over. We’ll be daily throughout the offseason. Only shorter, thank God.
The Adieu Haiku
Goodbye to football.
It was a very good year.
And Seattle reigns.