The Seahawks are 1-2 in Super Bowls now, and both losses were steeped in controversy afterward — XL because of a handful of questionable officials’ calls, XLIX because of one questionable coaches’ call.
But they shared a lot more than that in common.
According to ESPN stats, those two teams were the only ones in the 49-year history of the Super Bowl to come out ahead in turnovers and yards and come out behind on the scoreboard — a stunning stat that tells you the Seahawks certainly were not worse than the teams they lost to in those Super Bowls.
Mike Holmgren’s Seahawks outgained Bill Cowher’s Pittsburgh Steelers 396 yards to 339 and won the turnover battle 2-1. Pete Carroll’s Seahawks outgained Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots 396 to 377 and won the turnover battle 2-1.
Controversial penalties were a huge part of the reason Mike Holmgren’s team lost 21-10 in XL during the 2005 season. Referee Bill Leavy even apologized to the Seahawks several years later.
Pete Carroll’s 2014 Seahawks had the largest negative disparity in penalties in decades, and it continued in the Super Bowl, as officials missed a handful of obvious calls against the Patriots. The most glaring was Malcolm Butler’s tripping of Ricardo Lockette in the fourth quarter, which would have set up the Seahawks at their 40 (Lockette would have gained a lot more than that if he had been allowed to catch the ball).
To his credit, Bill Vinovich’s crew largely let both teams play — each got away with some penalties — but the Patriots got away with more, and that trip was the most glaring miss by his crew.
Holmgren’s and Carroll’s teams probably could have overcome the penalty issues if they had not suffered key injuries on defense.
In XL, safety Marquand Manuel left with an injury, and his rookie replacement made two huge mistakes on touchdowns by the Steelers. The Hawks also lost inside rusher Rocky Bernard in that game.
In XLIX, Jeremy Lane suffered a broken arm on his first-quarter interception, and Tharold Simon ended up giving up two touchdown passes, including the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. And, with Cliff Avril out in the fourth quarter, the Hawks’ pass rush could not get to Tom Brady on his two touchdown drives.
The games shared one other element: The lack of any plays by the tight ends. Jerramy Stevens dropped four passes in XL — all of which would have put the Seahawks in Steelers territory. And offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell didn’t use his tight ends at all in XLIX — a stunning fact considering Seattle’s outside receivers were blanketed for most of the day.
On the surface, Seattle’s Super Bowl losses felt very different — XL very frustrating for all of the things that went against Holmgren’s team throughout the game, XLIX agonizing for the way it ended. But they shared so many other things in common.