Seahawks lose chances, catches, points, Super Bowl
DETROIT - Matt Hasselbeck angrily unsnapped his chin strap with a hard flick of his right wrist. Steelers linebacker Joey Porter then added to his anger by taunting Hasselbeck from behind.
Seconds earlier, the Seahawks quarterback's wrist had flicked something worse - perhaps the worst throw of his Pro Bowl season.
A woefully overthrown pass far beyond Darrell Jackson's arms landed in Ike Taylor's near the Pittsburgh 15, killing Seattle's chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Super Bowl.
But that wasn't the Seahawks' only lost opportunity in their 21-10 loss to the Steelers. It just happened to be the last one.
"It got to the point where I was taking chances - and that was a chance I shouldn't have taken," Hasselbeck said.
The Seahawks' wondrous, record-setting season ended somewhere beneath an avalanche of mistakes and missed opportunities.
"I told them, they've played better before than they played today," coach Mike Holmgren said outside the Seahawks' locker room, after he lost his second Super Bowl in three tries as a head coach.
"We did some things that were uncharacteristic of us," he said.
Such as four crucial penalties. Two missed field goals by Josh Brown. Three dropped passes, all by tight end Jerramy Stevens - the co-creator of last week's only controversy with Porter. A catch on the goal line with only one foot inbounds. Two calls by the officials that Seattle will be debating all winter, spring and summer.
That mess directly resulted in 18 lost points - including a disputed Steelers touchdown - two lost first downs, 176 lost yards.
And one, bitterly lost Super Bowl.
"We could have dominated the game," said Seahawks linebacker D.D. Lewis, involved in the play that Seattle fans will steam about for weeks to come.
"I really believe we out-physicalled them."
And all Seahawks still believe Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not get the ball to touch the goal-line plane on his 1-yard score with 1:55 left in the second quarter that put the Seahawks behind for good, 7-3. They believe Lewis pushed the ball outside the line as he drove Roethlisberger's shoulders to the Ford Field turf.
"I saw that I pushed the ball back," Lewis said.
Referee Bill Leavy didn't see it Lewis' way. He upheld the call after a replay review. Holmgren then upbraided Leavy on his way off the field at halftime.
Holmgren walked over to Leavy, a fifth-year referee calling his first Super Bowl, and could be seen angrily telling him, "It wasn't even close."
But the rest of Seattle's excruciating night was.
The Seahawks had three crucial penalties in the first half, which cost them 69 yards, a first down and a touchdown. The first flag was right guard Chris Gray holding Pittsburgh's James Farrior. That negated Jackson's 18-yard, third-down catch to the Steelers 23. Seattle punted two plays later.
On the Seahawks' next drive, Jackson was called for pushing Chris Hope away as he broke to catch Hasselbeck's pass in the back of the end zone. Replays showed Jackson extended his arm, but Jackson argued vainly there was no push involved. Seattle settled for Brown's 47-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead - instead of a 7-0 one.
Hasselbeck, of course, didn't think Jackson pushed off.
"But it doesn't matter what I think," he said.
The third flag came while Peter Warrick returned a punt 34 yards to the Pittsburgh 46. Recently elevated practice-squad player Etric Pruitt's holding penalty cost Seattle 29 yards, as the Seahawks began a fruitless drive at their own 25 instead.
And on the last drive of the first half, Jackson got only one foot inbounds near the goal-line pylon while making a catch on Seattle's next-to-last play. Brown pushed a 54-yard field goal wide right on the next play after the incompletion.
The second half brought more Seahawks frustration.
Officials flagged first-year starting right tackle Sean Locklear for holding Kimo von Oelhoffen when Stevens did finally catch a pass - albeit a bobbled catch - of a 17-yard grab at the Steelers 2 with 12:11 left and Seattle trailing 14-10.
Locklear said he pleaded with officials that von Oelhoffen had gotten too good of a jump on him, that the Steeler was offsides. But that, like the Seahawks night, was a lost cause.
On the next play, Casey Hampton bowled through Pro Bowl blockers Robbie Tobeck and Steve Hutchinson for a sack.
One play after that, Hasselbeck threw his game-breaking interception to doom Seattle's last chance of the game and of a suddenly lost season.
Stevens, who had a career-high five scoring receptions this season, somewhat redeemed his poor night with a 16-yard touchdown catch from Hasselbeck that briefly pulled the Seahawks within 14-10 midway through the third quarter.
He stood tall with a stern look on his face while making known he was not affected by the Steelers' taunting - or the mini-furor of last week for saying Jerome Bettis would sadly walk out of Ford Field without a Super Bowl trophy after his final game.
"I can't remember the last time I played this poorly," the former first-round draft choice said. "And it doesn't have anything to do with (the Steelers). It's about me not making plays. It was 100 percent me."
Porter stayed above the fray after the game. Of course, he had a Super Bowl championship to fall back on.
"I'm not going to say anything bad about him," Porter said. "Don't rip him. The guy caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl."