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Seahawks drop the ball

Seattle outplayed Pittsburgh, but still came up short

Posted: Monday February 6, 2006 1:18AM; Updated: Monday February 6, 2006 2:38AM
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Seahawks tight end Jerramy Steven had three crucial drops in Seattle's Super-Bowl loss.
Seahawks tight end Jerramy Steven had three crucial drops in Seattle's Super-Bowl loss.
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DETROIT -- On Jerramy Stevens' well-tattooed body, high on his left arm there is a drawing of a closed fist surrounded by the words "Carry the Weight."

Sunday night's Super Bowl loss is going to be one heck of a burden for him for a long, long time.

The NFC champion Seahawks, in their minds, had Super Bowl XL in the proverbial bag, almost from the start. They moved the ball. They handled everything the Steelers threw at them -- the zone blitz, big Ben Roethlisberger, Jerome Bettis, just about everything. If not for a couple of weird plays, a couple of bad calls, a couple of stupid penalties, a few dropped balls, Super Bowl XL would have been no contest.

"It's tough when, physically, you win the game," said wide receiver Darrell Jackson, "but in the mental game, they won."

The Steelers won on the scoreboard, too, 21-10, in one of the uglier Super Bowls in recent memory. It was a Super Bowl that hinged on those few big plays, with just about all of them going Pittsburgh's way.

There was the tiny push-off that Jackson gave safety Chris Hope in the end zone during the first quarter, which resulted in a pass interference penalty that negated a touchdown. There were critical drops by Stevens -- three of them. There were the scrambles by Roethlisberger that somehow ended up as completions, including a 37-yarder that set up Pittsburgh's first touchdown.

There were funny calls by the referees, like that pass interference on Jackson and the touchdown call on a Roethlisberger run -- though it appeared the big QB was down before he stretched the ball into the end zone.

Missed field goals, two of them. Holding calls, including a killer one in the fourth quarter that squashed a touchdown opportunity. Near catches. Badly thrown balls by Seattle Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

"We made the plays," Jackson said. "But somehow, some way, they got called back."

What really ate at the Seahawks after the game was that, in a lot of ways, they outplayed the Steelers. They had 396 yards to Pittsburgh's 339. They had 20 first downs, to Pittsburgh's 16. They had fewer turnovers.

But the Steelers still managed to win with just three touchdowns, all of them carrying a story of their own. The 37-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Hines Ward came on a third-and-28, and was followed three plays later by Roethlisberger's funky dive.

The Steelers' second touchdown came on a freaky 75-yard run by Willie Parker early in the second half. It was completely uncharacteristic of the Seahawks' run defense on this night; on Pittsburgh's 32 other runs, including several Roethlisberger scrambles, the Steelers gained just 106 yards.

And Pittsburgh's last touchdown came on a trick play -- a toss to Parker, a handoff to Antwaan Randle El and a 43-yard pass to Hines Ward.

"I think it was clear it wasn't one of our best games," linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. "But I don't want to take anything away from them. They earned it. Yeah, there's frustration. But that's the way the ballgame goes."

Nobody better symbolized the Seahawks' frustrations or their inability to make -- or stop -- big plays when it counted than Stevens, the 26-year-old from Olympia, Wash. Stevens had been pulled into a hyped-up verbal spat with Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter earlier in the week, so all eyes were on him from the start.

A dropped pass early in the second quarter seemingly rattled him, and even though he caught a 16-yard TD pass from Hasselbeck in the third quarter -- Seattle's only touchdown -- a couple more dropped passes proved to be fatal.

In the final moments, Stevens had to submit to taunts from Porter as he slowly and dejectedly walked off the field. "There's nothing he could possibly say." Stevens said. "What can he say? I didn't make the plays. I know that. What can he say?

"I don't have a reason or excuse. I just didn't make the plays, bottom line."

Stevens will take most of the heat for the loss, but the rest of the Seahawks know it wasn't just him. There were plenty of bad plays, plenty of missed opportunities, to be spread around.

"I felt like we moved the ball all day. We just couldn't finish. That's what it comes down to," said center Robbie Tobek. "It was a little frustrating, not being able to finish. That's something we haven't done all year."

In a nearly deserted Seahawks' locker room after the game, Stevens answered every question then stood up quietly, turned his tattooed back to the room and stood there, gathering his belongings.

The weight of this loss already seemed to lay heavily on his shoulders.