Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Land of Conclusions: Super Bowl Edition

Alright. It's come down to this.

Gavin and I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to analyze every facet of this game. Offenses. Defenses. Special Teams. Strengths. Weaknesses. Media Reactions. Predictions.

We have tried to present as complete a picture as possible as to what is likely to occur on Super Bowl Sunday. We have examined the statistical tendencies of the two teams and saw the terrific balance and poise of two great groups that definitely belong here. On this stage.

The media have tried to put some ridiculous storylines in play, and have come up with some, well, "interesting" explanations for how the game will play out. Now it's my turn. Here, based on everything we have talked about, are my Fact or Fiction conclusions about the final 60 minutes of the NFL season.

Stevens' statement will impact the Super Bowl: FICTION
These are two teams that are already mentally ready for action. No one needs anything more to be pumped up. The Steelers are playing for Bettis and for the storybook ending. The Hawks are playing for respect and the first NFL championship for a city that sorely deserves one.

A Super Bowl loss would mean failure for the Hawks: FICTION
This has been the single most successful Seahawks season of the life of the franchise. 13 wins. Two playoff wins, including the NFC Championship Game. An MVP in Shaun Alexander. Home field advantage. This was an amazing season, and, whatever happens on Sunday, that fact will not change.

The Steelers will gain 100 yards rushing: FICTION
Analysts are continually overrating the Steelers' rushing attack and underrating the Seahawks rushing defense, who only gave up ONE 100 yard rushing performance to Tiki Barber, and that took five quarters. If Cowher is intelligent, he is going to stay with the passing attack, because that is what has gotten his team this far. Willie Parker is not going to break long runs. Jerome Bettis is not going to find a ton of running room inside.

Shaun Alexander will gain 100 yards rushing: FACT
I say this as fact not as an insult to Pittsburgh's rushing defense, which is also great, but because Holmgren will give Shaun the rock at least 25 times during this ballgame, which, with a so-so 4.0 YPC average, will net Shaun his 100 yards. Do I believe that the Hawks' rushing attack will be dominant? Absolutely not. But it will be moderately productive simply because of our immense offensive line and our overall balance on offense.

Big Ben/Hasselbeck will crack under the pressure of the Super Bowl: FICTION
These are two fantastic quarterbacks who are both playing at the top of their games against what have been great defenses. Big Ben is findiing the open receiver and making extremely difficult throws under pressure, while Hasselbeck is a great decision-maker and has turned into someone who is cool under fire, which the Steelers will be bringing in spades. I see terrific quarterback play on both sides.

The Steelers will not be able to convert as many 3rd and longs as they have been: FACT
Have you seen this stat? The Steelers have recently been converting 45% of 3rd and longs, which is absolutely ridiculous and just can't continue. The Hawks will be bringing pressure and dropping 7 in coverage, so he will have fewer places to go with the football. No, 45%? No.

The Seahawks will make one crucial special teams mistake: FACT
Sorry, folks, but why should this game be any different? We seem to make at least one stupid play in this area basically every game, and have in both postseason games. It might be a Josh Brown miss. It might be a Tom Rouen shank. It might be a Scobey fumble. It might be allowing Randle El to break a long one. Sorry, but it'll happen.

Shaun Alexander will be the Super Bowl MVP: FICTION
Here are my top-5 contenders for Super Bowl MVP...
1. Hasselbeck
2. Big Ben
3. Michael Boulware
4. Darrell Jackson
5. Troy Polamalu
The Steelers' rushing defense is too good to allow Shaun to go off for an MVP-type performance. Just my opinion. Prove me wrong, Shaun!

The Seahawks passing defense will step up once again: PUSH
I can't go either way on this one. On one hand, I don't expect Big Ben to throw for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the other hand, I am scared about Heath Miller, Hines Ward, and the playmaking ability of the Steelers' wide-receivers. So, no, they won't step up like they have the past couple of weeks.

The Seahawks were not respected this week: FACT
If you don't believe that, you might want to peruse the picks on ESPN, CNNSI, and CBSSportsline. It's a tad tilted. I'll just say that. However, if we actually want respect, we need to do one simple thing. Win. You want respect? Earn it. Win.

T.O. was a bigger story than Super Bowl XL: FACT
Do I need to talk more about this? C'mon.

The Seahawks wide receivers will revert to the dropsies: FICTION
I trust these guys now. Joe, Bobby, D-Jack, Stevens, Hackett..... these guys have improved to the point where I feel this is a non-issue now. However, they will need to be on their game, because the Steelers will be hitting them hard. HARD.

The Seahawks are a soft team: FICTION
Sure, I get it. The Steelers are a physical team. Guess what? So is Walter. So is Hutch. So are Tatupu, Manuel, Boulware, Trufant, Hill, Tubbs, Fisher, Strong, Alexander, Joe J., etc., etc. I believe that the Steelers will be surprised by this right off the bat, because you can be darn sure that Holmgren has talked to his guys about this all week long.

The Seahawks will be extremely well-prepared: FACT
This has been a fantastic coaching job by Mike Holmgren, who will cement his claim as a Hall of Famer with a Super Bowl win. The coaching in the NFC Championship Game was the best coaching performance I had ever seen as a Seahawks fan. If the Hawks lose, it will certainly not be because they were unprepared and hampered with a shoddy gameplan. Holmgren knows to attack Big Ben first and Willie Parker second. Holmgren knows how to attack the 3-4 defense. Holmgren knows how to achieve balance. And Holmgren will be mentally ready for Sunday.

Gavin: Pittsburgh will stuff the Seahawks in short yardage situations: FALSE
Interesting stat in the Perfect Preview I linked to below is that the Steelers, on runs to the left side of the offensive line (Jones and Hutch), gave up 4.7 ypc for the year. That is good news for our running game and especially good news for our goal line situations.


Gavin: There's been one good analysis written of why Pitt should win: FALSE
I could write something better than what's out there. I believe the Steelers can win. I just haven't seen it written anywhere outside of "physical" and "Jerome Bettis is super-cool".

Gavin: Our red zone defense and red zone offense will play a big role in the game: FACT
When you score touchdowns and force field goals you win games. Period. We will stop the Steelers at least twice on TD drives.

The Seahawks will end up winning the Super Bowl: FACT
I actually predict a fast start for the Hawks, and a potent performance by our offense. Our defense will be just good enough. Hawks 27-Steelers 20.

Gavin: Our offense will be good enough to support a bend-but-don't-break effort by the defense. Big Ben has a darn good game and he'll be back here soon, but the Steelers leave without the thumb. 100 yards for Shaun, 80 for D-Jack, and a 2 TD game for MVP Matt Hasselbeck. Hawks 27-Steelers 20.

Go Hawks! BAM!!

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