Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Into The Flood Again

Watching the Seattle Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday night was about as fun for me as watching the Phillies win the World Series in 2008.

This game made me angry. But the more I thought about it, I wasn't angry that the Seahawks, who knocked the 49ers out of the Playoffs two weeks prior, won the game. I was angry at the Denver Broncos, who put forth one of the more pathetic efforts I've ever seen in a Championship game. The Seahawks earned every bit of their resounding 43-8 victory, which was a team effort from the top down. They were the better team on the field and the results showed. I can't take that away from them, much as it pains me to do so.

The problem with the game was that the Seahawks came out and played the game like they were playing in the Super Bowl. The Broncos seemed to move around like they were playing a Week 2 matchup against the Gnats or some similarly terrible team. The Broncos looked comically disjointed, while the Seahawks defense just completely overwhelmed them. The first snap of the game went over Peyton Manning's head and ended up a Safety for the Seahawks, and the Broncos never recovered.

Scant consolation that it was, I had to think that the 49ers probably helped the Seahawks win the game as resoundingly as they did. The Broncos kind of waltzed through their AFC Championship game with the Patriots without ever really being seriously challenged. The NFC Championship game was an all-out war, a life-and-death battle that seemed Operatic in execution, with ebbs and flows in momentum, tragic injuries and a down-to-the-wire finish that I still haven't gotten over (to wit: when asked by a friend if I had plans for the game, I said I hadn't, primarily because I just had no juice left to get excited for the game. I'd burned myself out on the 49ers playoff run). It's not farfetched to think that the pace and intensity of the 49ers game elevated Seattle's play to a level that the Broncos were completely unequipped to match. Richard Sherman, in a rare display of credit to the 49ers, indicated as much on Sunday, saying that the "NFC Championship was the real Super Bowl."

Lost in the hoopla of the Super Bowl itself, and the Sherman hijinx (and Colin Kaepernick's rebuttal) is the fact that the 49ers went into an impossible place to win in Seattle and were one play away from coming away with a win. But they didn't make that play, and instead the Seahawks went on to the Super Bowl and did what the 49ers couldn't do last year: Win it. Richard Sherman said "the 49ers were the second-best team in the NFL," which is hard to argue with, but that's not going to make anybody on the 49ers or anyone who roots for the 49ers feel any better.

This rivalry is only going to get more intense going forward, and certainly Sherman and Kaepernick have become pretty outspoken about it. Certainly, Kaepernick showed a good deal of leadership and moxie by not taking things lying down, but now he's got to go out and back it up. He's got to be the one to kick the door down if the 49ers are going to break through in Seattle. Beating the 49ers in the NFC Championship and then going on to win the Super Bowl gives the Seahawks a serious leg up in this budding rivalry. The 49ers have been on the doorstep 3 years in a row but haven't broken through yet. Though crowned heads roll, I'm certain that neither of these teams are going away and their two matchups will be the most highly-anticipated games of the season. But the difference now is that the Seahawks are going to be coming in as defending Super Bowl Champions, while the 49ers are just a really good team that can't finish the deal. Don't think the 49ers won't be reminding themselves of this at every turn.

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