The Elephant in the Locker Room: Losing the Super Bowl on a Penalty


By Greg Wright

This is a team that never quits, that never gives in. That epitomizes a never-say-die, take-no-prisoners approach to every minute in every game. 

That’s what I wrote the day before the Super Bowl. How ironic.

Sad to say it, folks, but the elephant in the locker room — the fact which no one in football is talking about except (ever heard of them?) — is that the Seahawks did not lose the game on the interception Russell Wilson threw in the closing seconds.

The Seahawks lost because they ultimately squandered the opportunity to score another 5 points immediately afterward.

Here’s where they stood with 20 seconds left on the clock:


With the ball on the 1-yard line, the Seahawks have the chance to score a safety — and then with 18 seconds on the clock and one time out remaining, get the ball back with the free kick following… time enough to move downfield and get in field goal range.

What — I’m crazy, you say? What are the odds of that happening, you ask?

Slim to none, of course.

But the odds were slim to none in the NFC Championship against Green Bay when they needed a TD, a successful onside kick, a second TD, a two-point conversion, a coin toss, and an OT TD. But they got all that… and it was beautiful to watch the absolute determination, confidence, and discipline with which the Seahawks executed all the plays necessary to make that happen.

So it was with pure dismay that I watched, with absolutely everything the Hawks had played for the entire season on the line, this happen on Sunday:


Of all the times for a senseless, undisciplined pre-snap penalty. Neutral zone infraction on Michael Bennett for a five-yard encroachment penalty. Totally taking the bait of Brady’s hard-count and the center’s head-bob, precisely intended to draw the Seahawks offside.

Grade-school stuff.

So just as a refresher, this is how things work in the NFL: If Tom Brady fails to get the ball entirely out of the end zone before he’s down, that’s called a “safety.” The defense scores two points.

Following a safety, the team trapped in their own endzone is then required to free-kick the ball back to their opponent, which very often results in a field goal for the opponent because of the excellent field position that a free kick typically yields.

So this game was definitely not over when Wilson’s pass was intercepted.

And with all the accountability this week over that pass call on second down from the 1 yard line, which has been admirable, where’s the accountability been for the Seahawks’ dismal failure on their final defensive stand of the season? How about a few words of explanation or apology from the ever-chatty Bennett?

Mind you, now, I’m not a fair-weather Seahawks fan, and I think they played a marvelous game in which the attrition of injuries, the game of inches, and a style of officiating which oddly favored Patriot aggression barely did them in. They truly showed they can go toe-to-toe with the greatest in the game, and that they are no fluke or flash in the pan.

But someone’s gotta say it.

The Seahawks hurt themselves with pre-snap penalties all season long, and none was worse than the one that wrapped the Super Bowl.

Kudos to the Patriots for exploiting the Hawks’ weakness when it mattered most.

And thanks to the Pete Carroll and his team for another terrific season of football. For my money, the 2012 season has been the most thrilling of this run so far, and the 2013 season yielded the coveted ring.

But 2014 was pretty dang good, too.

It’s relatively no hardship to be quibbling about one play in a Super Bowl loss. We could, after all, live in Cleveland.

Go Hawks!


2 Responses to “The Elephant in the Locker Room: Losing the Super Bowl on a Penalty”
  1. About time says:

    I’m glad someone else is thinking this too. There has been no talk about it anywhere else.

  2. wanker says:

    I think that anytime it comes to 1 make or break play, you can look at the course of the game and find a handful of areas that could have been better executed, called by the officials, or a case of bad luck happened. Injuries hurt bad, losing Cliff Avril, and Jeremy Lane hurt, but also the magnitude of injuries that the LOB were playing with was unfathomable.

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