First and 10: Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10
1) You know this was killing them. Tom Brady, on hand for the pregame festivities, and Bill Belichick, doing the Football Genius thing for ESPN, both had a front-row seat yesterday for the confirmation of something they probably already knew: The New England Patriots are a superior football team to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks. Oh, we're not saying they deserved to be in Detroit yesterday - they shot themselves in the foot repeatedly in Denver, the inferior Broncos couldn't help but take advantage, and that's that. Nor do we mean to diminish what the Steelers accomplished, though it probably reads that way - after winning at Cincy, at Indy and at Denver, they ran a hell of a gauntlet. For that alone, they are deserving champions. But . . . these teams just aren't that good. The scattershot quarterback play of Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Hasselbeck had to leave Brady shaking his head and wondering why they were out there playing while he's stuck flipping a freakin' coin. And Belichick must have been rolling his eyes while watching Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren repeatedly one-up each other with stupid decisions. Yesterday's hideous display of alleged football simply had to leave the Patriots with one more kick-in-the-gut reminder of the opportunity they fumbled away in Denver, one thought that will linger until the new season comes around: Dammit, that should have been us.
2) Joe Jurevicius, the Seahawks outstanding possession receiver, revealed he was poised to sign with the Pats prior to the '02 season, but Scott Pioli and the gang instead settled on . . . (drumroll please) . . . Donald Hayes. Yikes. It's a tribute to Pioli that one remembers his bad decisions in large part because they are so few and far between. On the other hand, I'd go so far as to say if the Pats had made two personnel decisions differently in the last four years - signing Jurevicius when they had the chance and, two years later, being willing to gamble that John Lynch, who wanted to be a Patriot, could overcome his neck problem - there'd absolutely be another parade in Boston this week.
3) Now that he's no longer burdened by the professional athlete's duty to remain in tip-top shape, six months and 10,000 Snickers bars from now, Bettis is going to look like Aretha Franklin's stunt double.
4) You hate to see an accomplished loudmouth like Joey Porter vindicated - can someone shoot him in the ass again this offseason, puh-leeze? - but it turns out he had Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens pegged all along. What a fraud: I can't think of an athlete who choked so repeatedly - he dropped four passes - in a big game. You'd almost feel bad for the guy if he didn't have a reputation as a world-class jerk dating back to his college days. Remember, Pats traded up to get Daniel Graham in the first round of the '02 draft in part because Stevens was the other highly-rated tight end on the board, and Belichick wanted nothing to do with the kid.
5) Last word on ol' Stonehands Stevens: Check out K.C. Star columnist Jason Whitlock's suggestion that he might have been up to something more sinister. It's been a few years since I took Mass Media Law and Ethics, but my first reaction to reading this paragraph was that it was borderline slanderous:
The Seahawks did what they could to help the Steelers, too. Jerramy Stevens, called out by Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter during pregame hype, dropped enough Matt Hasselbeck passes that FBI investigators would be negligent for failing to interrogate Stevens today. His third-quarter TD catch has to be considered a smokescreen, clutched with two hands to fool people suspicious of a point-shaving scandal.
6) Hey, has anyone made the thank-god-Mick-Jagger-didn't-have-a-wardrobe-malfunction joke yet? Someone has? Everyone has? Well, okay, never mind then.
7) Seattle's loss must be devastating for Franco Harris - you know, with him being a long-time and legendary Seahawk and all.
8) Got an email from one reader this morning who said, by his count, the refs made eight blantantly incorrect calls, every single one of which cost the Seahawks points, yardage or ball possession. I didn't watch the game closely enough to confirm whether or not this is entirely accurate, but this much was obvious: The men with the whistles were, as was their habit this postseason, brutal. (Somewhere, Asante Samuel nods in agreement.) Where's Guns Hochuli to restore order and set things right when you need him? I know this much: this never would have happened if Paul Tagliabue were alive.
9) Go ahead, Steelers. Enjoy the moment and the glory. You earned it. But make no mistake: That Lombardi Trophy you're cuddling? It's a loaner. You're borrowing it. Mr. Brady and Mr. Belichick will be back one year from now to return it to its rightful place. Understood?
10) As for today's Completely Random Football Card:
"Yo, Matt, throw it! I'm open!"
"Hey, Baldy, look, throw it here!"
"Aw, I'll catch the next one, promise! I was a Rookie Stallion once, you know!"
"One more! C'mon. Gimme one more!"
"Aw, *$&&$, forget it."