Monday, February 06, 2006

Instant Classic

Super Bowl XL is an Instant Classic. Ok, so not really. It was actually a pretty poorly played game in most ways. Last year's Super Bowl was really pretty good, except for Donovan McNabb falling apart at the end of the game and forgetting how to run a hurry up offense. The year before, New England over Carolina, was outstanding. So I guess we were due for a bit of a clunker. It's amazing that Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu could both play so badly and yet The Steelers won. The truth is that Pittsburgh has a lot more playmakers on their team, and that depth was really the difference.
Pittsburgh deserved it, no doubt. They got lucky against Cincy, with Carson Palmer going down to injury. I really don't think they would have won that game had Palmer not gone down so early in the game. Kitna had decent success, especially at first, so it's easy to "extrapolate" a big passing game for Palmer. They were certainly used to Pittsburgh's pressure defense. So they got lucky. However, The Steelers played great against both Indianapolis and Denver. Of course they still needed a little bit of good luck (Vanderjagt's missed FG) to counter the bad luck (Bettis fumble,) but they definitely out-played Indianapolis -- who was clearly the best team in the regular season. They played up to the same level against Denver, and crushed them. If they had played anywhere near that yesterday, it would have been more like 42-3 or so.
Without Polamalu's usual explosiveness and with Joey Porter contained by Walter Jones (which I didn't think would happen, but did,) Seattle could really execute the offense. Yet they just kept choking away points. Penalties in the end-zone, missed field goals, bad clock management, etc. I would have been ready to jump off The Space Needle if I was a Seahawks fan. They should have been up by at least 10 at halftime, and the game would have been radically different.
I don't think Roethlisberger's thumb was bothering him yesterday, I think he was just really nervous. And he doesn't have a coach who knows how to calm down a young quarterback. It's the same thing that happened against New England in the AFC Championship a year ago. Bill Cowher is a good coach, but one would have to say that Mike Holmgren could have probably done a better job getting Roethlisberger to play well yesterday. Big Ben certainly has the ability, as he demonstrated against Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Denver. You could just the adrenaline going crazy in him, with him taking on tacklers and throwing hard blocks.
Luckily for him it didn't matter. Big plays from Willie Parker and Hines Ward were more than enough to beat a Seattle team that could not put points on the board despite being able to move the ball pretty much at will.

Side Note 1: It was a good game for ex-Florida Gators. Darrell Jackson played even better than his stats, with two touchdowns taken off the board. Max Starks was also solid for Pittsburgh, throwing a key block on Willie Parker's score. Only bad spot was Maquand Manuel, who had played well for Seattle this year, filling in for Ken Hamlin. Manuel actually was playing pretty well until he got injured in the first quarter and did not return.

Side Note 2: I did not realize until yesterday that Mike Holmgren used to coach at Oak Grove High School. I run by Oak Grove HS every morning, as it's about two miles from my house. I knew that Holmgren grew in San Francisco, but did not know he had coached high school football in San Jose before moving on to BYU.

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