Blair Miller > WHAT I SAW – Super Bowl, 2013 Season
One Legendary Coach Bill Parcells-ism: “I go by what I see.”
Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by watching.”
This is What I Saw from the past week’s NFL action.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologies for the lateness of this post, which occurred because of illness. I’ll be taking about a week, week-and-a-half off before diving into the NBA. Keep an eye out for TFQ’s 2013 Upside Down Awards for our thoughts on notable players and moments during the season.
Well, that was anti-climactic.
A truly exciting NFL regular season and playoffs managed to provide the two best teams from each conference facing off in…the first truly attention-killing Super Bowl blowout since the Bucs tore the Raiders a new one to finish the 2002 season.
The botched drunken coin toss by Joe Namath was a harbinger of things to come, as snaps flew over heads, tackles got missed, the best passing offense ever was miffed, and by halftime viewers were generally pissed. (In many cases including mine, that last word had legitimate double meaning by the time Bruno Mars took the stage.)
Super Sunday fell on Groundhog Day this year. Peyton Manning and the Broncos must have felt like Bill Murray, forced to endure disheartening defeat over and over. And over.
If this doesn’t get Denver out of the first half, I don’t know what will….
Speaking of movies, Super Sunday was a brutally bittersweet day, with amazing actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death hitting the news. He was 46 years old…one of the most talented actors of his generation or any other having succumbed to an on and off heroin addiction. I want to say that I will always remember him as *insert character name here* but he nailed so many of his roles that too many come to mind to single one out. I do recommend the lesser-known Love Liza – that is, if you like brooding films about people who get addicted to sniffing gasoline after their spouse commits suicide. (It has a beautiful message under the surface…. honest, I swear.) As an admitted cinephile of the highest order, I feel no shame in admitting that the Super Bowl would have felt a bit empty even if the game had been a great one.
But hey – I don’t write this Super Bowl off as a failure. Sometimes blowouts are something to behold, especially when the victor gives such a near-perfect performance that they elevate the standards for what a big-time team performance is judged by. Such is the case this year, and we may never see a defense stifle a future Hall Of Fame player the way the Seahawks shut Manning down.
More to come, but first a look off the field, beginning with a welcome first….
Away from the game(s)
I SAW Missouri defensive end Michael Sam publicly announce that he’s gay mere months before the NFL 2014 Draft, within which he is projected as a mid-round selection. (For what it’s worth, that prognosis abounded online the day after Sam’s announcement.)
I love it. I even wish a potential impact player had come out sooner, and hopefully one with more already-existing currency with the media will come out someday soon. It stands to reason that the dominoes will start to fall faster the more people make their homosexuality public.
The response to Sam’s orientation has been as one would expect during the early stages: The supportive voices are mostly vocal; the more critical and/or homophobic voices cautiously quiet.
I agree with the few skeptics insofar that the lynchpin in the issue will be how Sam is received in whichever NFL locker room he ends up in – and that’s not just because of prejudice of teammates. Rather, recent incidents like the Richie Incognito scandal and the reportedly leaked behaviour of Robert Griffin III serve as raw reminders for owners and general managers that in this day and age keeping locker rooms private isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be, and that Sam’s presence could be seen as potentially inviting misreporting, gossip and/or feelings given off the record, no matter how much his teammates stand behind him.
Let’s just hope that said teammates and employers do stand behind Sam when the time comes. It’s safe to say that many people will be watching closely.
I SAW the Hall Of Fame class of 2014 announced Saturday night.
PROPS to all of them – any player who stands even in the shadow of Canton is a unique specimen.
Michael Strahan was bound to get in sooner or later. He’s the closest thing we’ve seen to Reggie White since The Minister of Defense left this world. But the Brett Favre charity sack to set the single-season record of 22.5 still feels askew.
Not sure I support Andre Reed getting in ahead of Tim Brown or Marvin Harrison.
Walter Jones was truly dominant – and deserving – but somehow it feels weird seeing him in ahead of Tony Dungy (whose race and playing career should be included in appraisal of his contributions to the game) or even Will Shields (who has already waited his turn).
Derrick Brooks is the easiest one for me, but I’ve always been a huge fan, back to his days at Florida State on the Charlie Ward-led 1993 national champions. He and Ray Lewis set such a thorough standard in the evolution of their position that the next generation or two of linebackers will be referred to as the next Lewis or Brooks – like the next Michael Jordan or Gayle Sayers or Peyton Manning – knowing full well the meekness of any comparison.
I don’t get Aeneas Williams here. I know the numbers but I just don’t see it. Show me an underappreciated player and I’ll show you one that didn’t make a strong enough argument in terms of dominance. I feel the same way about Jerome Bettis, Kevin Greene and John Lynch, who all fell short this year.
I don’t know much about Claude Humphery except that he was a defensive lineman who was an Eagle and had a shitload of sacks. Turns out he had an estimated 126.5 sacks, which didn’t become an official NFL statistic until 1982, a year after Humphreys’ retirement. Five first team All-Pro nods is pretty damn good too.
Love punter Ray Guy getting in. Why not? Every position should have its best player of all time, and why shouldn’t that person get into the Hall Of Fame. Well, maybe not every position…. Sorry long snappers and punt coverage gunners. Guy might be the only punter for a long time, if not ever. Just look at the bitch of a time Morten Anderson is getting as a kicker.
It’s not surprising to see Charles Haley continue to miss the final cut. His five Super Bowl rings are very impressive, but 100.5 career sacks and just 17 total sacks over three years of his physical prime – age 27 to 29 – aren’t necessarily Hall-worthy.
My heart is torn on Eddie DeBartolo. The Niners dynasties and elite brand was bankrolled primarily by the former owner, and he seems to have had a more influential connection with his players and staff than has been seen to date. But I agree that the legal issues should be heavily considered.
I SAW some pretty damning details about the behaviour of Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, as reported by Heath Evans on Detroit FM station 105.1 FM, refuted by the Lions organization – and then reaffirmed by sources. (Via The MMQB’s Peter King):
“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.”
Okay…I’ll just say that I hope somebody has the nerve to stand up to this guy if this behaviour continues. Who cares how humongous, intimidating or important to the team Suh is? That sort of behaviour isn’t welcome on a healthy team. Allowing this type of behaviour to persist speaks volumes about the allegations of the Lions being undisciplined.
I SAW GM John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan tell QB Geno Smith to “act like a Jet”. Great idea. There goes the kid’s career.
Seattle wins vs. Denver, 43-8
I SAW myself make a number of predictions in our What I Saw, Super Bowl Preview. Much of what I said amounted to “ifs”, like my big miss on any “If the Broncos win, it will be because of…” because the vaunted Clockwork Orange offense got tied down and tortured by the Seahawks defense like Alex was by Ludwig Van and a futuristic British Government.
My god, there must be 14 defenders out there! They won’t stop, make them stop!
But I did end up hitting the nail on the head with the majority of my claims.
For funsies let’s start a look at the first Super Bowl trip to the woodshed in over a decade:
Overall predictions (at least the ones that could be turned into predictions): 11 true, 7 false
Result (Seattle win) – TRUE
Score (24-21) – FALSE
Experience would make for a slow start on offense – TRUE
I think that prediction came true in spades, right from the first play from scrimmage when a miscommunication due to the overwhelming crowd support for the Seahawks (see below) led the shotgun snap to fly past an unprepared Peyton Manning for a safety. Even the Seahawks couldn’t capitalize on two trips deep into Denver territory in the first quarter, settling for field goals on both.
Manning himself credited the noise for snap miscue, but isn’t it ironic that the most seasoned veteran, and king of the presnap moment, no less, wasn’t ready to coordinate line calls with his center in perhaps the biggest game of his life?
Champ Bailey would get burned if caught in man-to-man situations – TRUE
I couldn’t help but notice the future Hall Of Fame cornerback get burned badly a few times, notably when Doug Baldwin beat him up the sideline for the deep pass in the first quarter that set up Seattle’s second field goal.
The Weather – FALSE
The NFL couldn’t have asked for better game-time conditions for on outdoor Super Bowl in the north(east). Keep in mind, though, that one of the biggest snowfalls in recent years came mere days later, so let’s hope this year’s big game doesn’t embolden the league to schedule another Super Bowl in such a climate anytime soon.
Seattle must address Denver’s recently superb pass protection – TRUE
And did they ever. I can’t recall the last time I saw Manning have to step up in the pocket so often, holding the ball a few extra beats longer than his timing-oriented style prefers.
The Seahawks D & turnovers would overshadow the team’s offense – TRUE
I’d say that winning the turnover battle 4-0 and putting up the most dominant defensive performance in a Super Bowl since the 1985 Bears pretty much seals those predictions. Personally, that was the most impressive team defense in my lifetime thus far, in part because the Zolak-led Patriots didn’t pose nearly the threat to Chicago back then as Peyton Manning did for Seattle this year.
Wes Welker wouldn’t have his usual cushion while running routes – TRUE
The Broncos receiver’s third try at the Super Bowl wasn’t a charm, and most of his 8 receptions for 84 yards came in garbage time. In fact, the only impact Welker made on the game was in getting cranked by Kam Chancellor early in the game. That hit set the tone for the both sides. Maybe he can take solace in the fact that his boss, John Elway, lost three before getting his first championship win.
John Fox could become the first head coach in the NFL to win a Super Bowl on a second try that came at least 10 years after his first SB loss – FALSE
Not even close.
If the weather’s bad and Denver wins it will be thanks to Knoshown Moreno – FALSE
I’ll count fence sitters as false since I did well in predicting the game. The weather didn’t require a big day on the ground for Peyton Manning’s team, like it did in his first Super Bowl win. And, like most of the Broncos offense, Moreno couldn’t get going against the stifling Seattle defense.
Marshawn Lynch will be a big factor if Seattle wins – FALSE
It just goes to show you the unpredictability of a single-game final, that Beast Mode didn’t have to be productive – 15 carries for 39 yards (2.6 average) and one rushing touchdown – in order to the Seahawks to win…and win big. In other words, Maybe Lynch could have figured into the game more significantly, but he never had to.
Demaryius Thomas (and Decker) could be big – TRUE
Thomas was pretty much the only player in orange to have a very good stat line: a Super Bowl-record 13 receptions for 118 yards and a TD, accounting for 40 percent of Peyton Manning’s completions. However, I’m tempted to make this one a “FALSE” because of Eric Decker’s awful day – just one catch for 6 yards – and Thomas’ unforgivably lax hold on the football when he coughed up a fumble to give the Seahawks great field position yet again.
Julius Thomas would be shut down – TRUE
Well, I suppose that 4 receptions for 27 yards isn’t being “shut down” nearly as much as Decker was, but it’s a pretty quiet game. That makes sense against one of the best defenses in the NFL against tight ends. (Seattle’s defense had the league low in ESPN’s QBR for passing to tight ends…I just don’t like QBR. The stat is somewhat confusing, traditional passer rating is already so definitive – see ColdHardFootballFacts.com if you don’t believe me – and I resent a media conglomerate trying to force a new stat into the mainstream.)
Denver’s inexperience against elite defenses would hurt them – TRUE
To be fair, I also pointed out that the average rank of offenses that the Seahawks faced this season was 23rd. But I also said that the Broncos’ having not played against an NFL defense ranked higher than 7th overall would be more significant.
Pot Roast could cook up a weak left side of the Seahawks)-line – FALSE
I remember Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton making a good tackle early on in the game, and thinking “uh-oh”. But as the final score would indicate, Denver’s defensive tackle didn’t figure into this game – noticed or unnoticed.
Richard Sherman can be beaten with some double moves – FALSE
Well, according to Sherman himself the Seahawks cornerback could have been beaten on such plays if Peyton Manning & Co. had ran them – and that was because, again according to Sherman, the Seattle defense had figured out Manning’s hand signals during the first half. However, as cerebral Manning is the offense he commands employs few formations and/or alignments, opting instead for live adjustments based on read. However, to an unusually fast defense like Seattle’s that’s just translation for: We [Seattle] can just dictate what they’ll do by showing them our technique, and then try to keep up.
It worked, even without deciphering Manning’s signals.
Russell Wilson will need to be more than a game manager for Seattle to win – TRUE
A lot can be said here – about Russell’s Aaron Rodgers-like footwork while throwing on the move; about Russell’s uncanny maturity and leadership; about the fact that Russell has, so far, been much better than his NFL stats often convey (unless, of course you’re apt and you value passer rating and know that Wilson is the only NFL QB in history to have a passer rating of 100 or better in each of his first two seasons).
Let’s just say this:
Super Bowl QBs With At Least 200 Yards, 2 TDs And A 70% Completion Rate
|Super Bowl||Quarterback||Result||Super Bowl MVP|
(ESPN Stats & Information)
Percy Harvin would be an X-factor – TRUE
4 touches resulting in 137 all-purpose yards (an 87-yard kick return for a TD, 2 rushes for 45 yards and 1 catch for 5 yards) would be a factor in general, let alone an X-factor. It wasn’t just the numbers on Harvin’s rushes that were important. The speed he showed early in the game on an end around was unlike any Denver had seen since T.Y. Hilton for the Colts, and it surely affected the Broncos’ game plan early on.
I predicted that the oft-injured Seahawk might leg out a key special teams TD like Desmond Howard did for Green Bay back in the day. Well, Howard waited until later in the third quarter to score his, while Harvin legged his out to start the second half.
Which brings us to some more thoughts about the game….
I SAW the 12th man travel very well.
Seahawks fans sounded home field-type loud at times when Denver’s offense was on the field. You could even hear a noticeable positive reaction from the stands when Seattle S Kam Chancellor came back after being helped off the field earlier.
Say what you will about the acoustics in Seattle’s stadium. Their fans are clearly for real.
I SAW Denver QB Peyton Manning not tuned into the game for the first half.
It wasn’t just that the Broncos offense epitomized getting off to a bad start. Twice.
Clockwork Orange came out ticking backwards – literally. After a botched shotgun snap resulted in a safety on their first play from scrimmage.
TRIVIA BOMB: It was the fastest first score in Super Bowl history, taking just 12 seconds off the clock, faster even than it took Devin Hester on his opening kickoff against Peyton Manning’s Colts. (It took Hester 14 seconds.)
So now Peyton Manning has now been scored on faster than anyone else’s team in Super Bowl history…twice.
How’s that as a bad vibe for a guy in the Big Game?
By the time the first quarter ended, Denver had gained just 11 yards and became the first team in the history of the game to fail to convert a first down in the opening fifteen minutes of a Super Bowl. They even became the first team to be shut out at halftime since the Ravens did it to the Giants in the 2001 title game.
In other words, the Broncos flubbed their first shot, and couldn’t find a psychological foothold afterward because of the physicality that Seattle took to them. I mentioned last week that Denver hadn’t been hit in the mouth like Seattle would hit them, but it was the combination of great defense and a discombobulated offense collaborating for a first half blowout. Things couldn’t get worse for the Broncos.
Then Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown.
“And two’s your change, and we thank you.”
In the second half the Broncos’ ability to tackle fell apart, making some decent receivers look elite.
Overall, it wasn’t just Seattle’s physicality that beat Denver. It was another factor I mentioned in our preview post: Speed. Meticulous preparation for in-game timing is so crucial for Manning, and the speed and intensity gets ratcheted up, might that not upset his timing? Might this mean that Manning isn’t a good playoff quarterback?
Something to think about.
I SAW Broncos QB Peyton Manning get asked during his postgame press conference if the blowout loss was “embarrassing.”
Manning clearly took that comment to heart, and though he responded diplomatically it was clear that the assertion pissed him off.
Let’s consider two things. 1: Denver lost by 35 points in a Super Bowl that wasn’t even close.
2: See below.
I SAW Broncos receiver Wes Welker tell reporters on Sunday night (via NFL Network) that the loss was “embarrassing”.
THAT’S IT FOR THIS NFL SEASON OF “WHAT I SAW”, PIGSKING FANS, BUT WE’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE! STAY TUNED FOR THE UPSIDE-DOWN AWARDS, “DEEP POSTS” TEAM POSTMORTEMS AND NBA NEWS IN OUR COLUMN “HIGH POSTS” – HERE AT TFQ.