Going The Rounds: Preseason game foretold Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle’s dominance


Of the hundreds of articles written prior to Super Bowl XLVIII, few mentioned that it was the second meeting between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos in the past six months.

Seattle’s 40-10 rout of the Broncos in an August preseason game at CenturyLink Field was inevitably dismissed. It was an exhibition contest, with the starters playing a half or less, on Seattle’s home turf.

In retrospect, the exhibition game might have contained more significance than initially believed.

Like most people, I was stunned by the decisiveness of Seattle’s 43-8 Super Bowl triumph on Sunday. If truth to be told, I had envisioned a come-from-behind Seahawk victory.

Even without the benefit of hindsight, however. it was clear that this was a favorable Super Bowl match-up for the Hawks.

What the preseason game demonstrated was that Denver’s first-unit defense — much healthier in August than it was on Sunday — was unable to contain Seattle’s often unspectacular offense.

That was critical, because the Seahawk defense can shut down any opponent — even Denver’s record-setting attack. The Hawks were particularly well-suited to disrupting a pure pocket passer such as Peyton Manning who relies heavily on establishing an offensive rhythm.

Since the preseason contest, incidentally, was advertised at the time as a potential Super Bowl preview, this was obviously a good year for the oft-maligned so-called football experts — or would have been had the majority of them not picked the Broncos to win the rematch.

While historical perspective is obviously lacking, Seattle’s defense might rank among the greatest in pro football history. It’s hard to recall one better since the 1985-86 Chicago Bears, the team that had Mike Ditka at the helm and Buddy Ryan as the defensive coordinator.

Combine that with an offense that doesn’t commit many turnovers and a stellar kicking game and you have a championship formula.

The 85-86 Bears failed to repeat to repeat as Super Bowl champions. That begs the obvious question about Seattle’s long-term prospects.

Staying power hasn’t exactly been a trademark of Seattle’s most successful professional teams.

The 1979 NBA champion SuperSonics quickly disintegrated over contact issues and professional jealously, with coach Lenny Wilkens eventually calling future Hall of Fame guard Dennis Johnson a “cancer” on the team.

The Seattle Mariner powerhouses (that term seems strange when used today) of a decade or two ago fell apart when club ownership infamously put the franchise’s business model ahead of on-field success.

There are potential problems that could sink the Seahawks — injuries, the large number of players facing legal or other off-the-field issues, possible rule changes that could legislate against Seattle’s aggressive brand of defense. While they currently rank head and shoulders above such American Football Conference warhorses as the Broncos and New England Patriots, there isn’t much that separates the Hawks from the likes of the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers in the NFC.

But this is a young team with a 25-year-old starting quarterback (Russell Wilson) and not that many key players (Golden Tate, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, etc.) facing free agency. It’s hard to visualize the Seahawks undergoing a drastic meltdown as long as the current management team remains intact.

John Schneider may be the NFL’s best general manager, an executive who has established a remarkable record of filling holes through low draft choices and under-the-radar free agents. Even the acquisition of oft-injured receiver/kick returner Percy Harvin didn’t look so bad on Super Sunday.

Coach Pete Carroll may not be a master strategist, but he has two qualities essentially for success in professional sports. He is an outstanding judge of personnel who is able to inspire a maximum effort from his players.

It is easy to forget that Carroll was ridiculed nationally for benching high-priced free agent quarterback Matt Flynn in favor of the untested Wilson prior to the 2012 campaign. When Wilson struggled in road games early in that season, Carroll wisely resisted the temptation to heed the advice of assorted columnists and talk-show hosts to bench his rookie quarterback.

Although the self-congratulatory nature of Seattle’s 12th Man fan base can get old even to Northwestern natives like myself, it has spawned one cool tradition — the pre-game raising of the 12th Man flag by former players and other celebrities.

Jim Zorn, the original Seahawk quarterback, hoisted the flag prior to the playoff quarterfinal victory over New Orleans. For the NFC championship showdown with the 49ers, I foresaw someone like Hall of Famers Steve Largent or Cortez Kennedy or ex-Seattle coach Mike Holmgren doing the honors.

The selection of Seahawk owner Paul Allen was therefore mildly disappointing — until one realized that the game would have been played in Southern California (if not San Francisco) had not the Microsoft co-founder purchased the franchise from carpetbagging former owner Ken Behring.

Allen deserved his moment of glory. So did the Seahawks.

Rick Anderson: (360) 537-3924 and randerson@thedailyworld.com

 

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