BY Art Thiel 07:46AM 02/02/2014

Thiel: Super Bowl, season unto itself, finally here

It’s a day like no other for players is the Super Bowl. So much is so different, including the late start time. Take it from former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, owner of 3 rings.

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks played at Metlife Stadium two months ago. They chose the same uniforms they had in that 23-0 win for Sunday’s Super Bowl. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Sunday morning arrived a little cloudy, a little cool, no precip, no wind — a benign, Seattle-like start to what will be the longest day in the sports lives of the Seahawks and Denver Broncos. The wait before kickoff is agonizing, said a man who should know — Mike Holmgren.The coach of the only other Seattle team to make a Super Bowl appearance (in XL in Detroit), Holmgren has three gaudy championship rings — two as offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers (SB XXIII and XXIV) and one as a head coach from Super Bowl XXXI when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New England Patriots 35-21.

“The Super Bowl is a season in itself,” he said recently in a meeting with Seattle-area reporters in the Sportsradio 950 KJR studios. “Coaches like to talk that every game is the same, but the Super Bowl is different. Your emotions are different, your sleep is different. How you pet the dog is different.

“Human beings are in a very stressful situation with a lot at stake. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. (Eastern). That’s one of the bigger challenges — When do we eat? How late do I sleep in? We’re all used to game at 1 o’clock. Your clock is important, and it’s different.”

If there were a coach who is acutely aware of Holmgren’s message, it is Pete Carroll, Holmgren’s Seattle successor once removed (Jim Mora, remember?). He has been vigilant in maintaining a constancy in words and deeds, making sure that a routine that is familiar and reliable to 53 large, amped young men who typically often lack discipline.

“Just trying to stay the same,” he said this week. “We’ve had a strong couple of years here and have played with a really good mindset. I don’t want that to change. We’re really trying to do the things that we always do . . . Stay true to ourselves. If we do that, we’ll be OK.”

Carroll even bothered to choose the same uniform combo — white jerseys, blue pants — the Seahawks wore Dec. 15 when they beat the Giants 23-0 at MetLife Stadium, site of today’s game.

The Seahawks are, by average age, the second-youngest Super Bowl entrant, and the first team since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to have no players with previous Super Bowl experience. Nor have the coaches — Pete Carroll sounded almost prideful when he said he has never attended a Super Bowl in person, saving it for the day when he took his team.

However, his quarterback, Russell Wilson, was at the Super Bowl last year at Indianapolis, one of dozens, if not hundreds, of non-participating players here to do media or just hang out in the intense energy that swirls around the event.

Wilson saw how the pre-game warmups start earlier, because of the long pre-game show. How long the halftime show took, which makes for more than 30 minutes in the locker rooms.

“Just noticing how long the day is,” he said. “It’s really a five-hour day. You’ve got to understand that your emotions, your energy, your adrenaline will be running wild. So you’ve got to make sure you calm down. Make sure that you time it up right.

“It’s still going to come down to a two-minute drive before the half, and at the end of the game. Hopefully, I pull through and win the game for us.”

The week prior to the game is probably the hardest thing to manage because of all the media obligations required by the NFL of the participants.

“You can’t let it intrude — the intrusion that organizations fight is you guys,” Holmgren said, chuckling.  “You need to talk, but as an organization, you try to control that and still do what you have to do to get your message across.

“The more veteran a team, it’s a little easier. If you’ve been through it, it’s easier. If you’re going through it the first time, there’s nothing like it. So you have to talk to your team about it. The worst at the Super Bowl is tickets for family. You have more family than you ever knew existed. You try to insulate the players a little.”

But Holmgren doesn’t think the lack of experience will be much of a factor with these Seahawks, around whom he’s hung around this season as a commentator on KJR.

“These guys are as loose as a group as I’ve been around,” he said. “Having said that, it’s pretty controlled. They understand it pretty well. I don’t imagine it’s that different.

“They probably have more fun than I do. Kinda sad, actually,” he said with a small smile.

Managing emotions are big in every football game, and more intense when everything is at stake. If Holmgren could change something he could control in the grim 21-10 loss to Pittsburgh in 2006, it was how he handled himself and the team on the sideline.

“If I could change anything . . . I couldn’t change the emotions of the players on the field and sideline as the game was going on. Every (bad officiating) call after the beginning, the sideline would erupt. I couldn’t calm them down, partly because I got upset. I got excited. I didn’t do that very well.

“You are who you are, I suppose. I’d get going, and the player says, ‘He’s trying to get me to settle down?’”

Holmgren has enough veneration for the game that he has always tried to soak up the drama and setting. In 1998, when his Packers were playing the Broncos in San Diego, he went out during warmups when players were stretching, and just before the crew took the field that was in charge of rehearsing the display of the giant U.S. flag for the national anthem.

“I’m looking for where my family is sitting, it’s a beautiful day, I’m looking at all of the fans, and all of a sudden a little guy comes out with a cigar in his face,” Holmgren said. “He says, ‘Get your ass off the field!’ I said, ‘Wait a minute, I’m the head coach.’

“He said, Get outta here.’ So much for soaking in the atmosphere. I almost got run over by the flag.’”

Fair warning to Carroll: Don’t expect the New York guys to be nicer than the flag-rehearsal guys in San Diego.

Prediction

Among all the comparative data pounded into pixel dust in the two weeks of matchup analysis, here’s the factor that stands out to me.

Seattle in its last seven games faced defenses all ranked in the top half of the league in fewest yards given up. In fact, six were against top-eight defenses — the Seahawks twice played New Orleans (No. 4), twice played San Francisco (No. 5), Arizona (No. 6), and the New York Giants (No. 8). St. Louis was No. 15, and the Rams defense is no one’s idea of a sunny stroll in Central Park.

Denver’s is rated 19th with 356 yards given up per game. No. 1 Seattle gave up 273.6. Big disparity.

The Broncos defense is missing five players who combined, per USA Today, for 2,545 defensive snaps this season — end Von Miller (nine starts), cornerback Chris Harris (16, including one postseason game), linemen Derek Wolfe and Kevin Vickerson (11 starts each; Wolfe had a concussion in the exhibition game in Seattle Aug. 17) and safety Rahim Moore (10 starts).

And Seattle offense is adding Percy Harvin.

Seahawks 27, Broncos 24. Start spreading the news.

 


YourThoughts

  • oldcrimson

    AAAAAARGGGGGHHHHH!!! Finally. Breathe, breathe, watch the clock, eat, breathe, eat, pray, check the DVR, eat, check DVR again, and…showtime. No matter what happens, I’ll so grateful to have this team, these guys, and will look back on the experience of this season with tremendous fondness. Thanks for being the scribe of record, Art.
    GO HAWKS!

    • art thiel

      Dunno about scribe of record, but keep reading, crims. And tell your friends.

  • poulsbogary

    The less we hear russel wilson’s name called, the better. If marshawn can go for a buck fifty, game over.

    That being said, I don’t subscribe to this idea that this game is crucial to seaattle’s well being. It’s just a 3 hour football game. When we wake up tomorrow, bertha will still be stuck in that dam tunnel, the machiniists will still be seething over last month’s vote, and the loobyists in olympia will still be looking for ways to stick it to the taxpayer. And art, you will be writing columns about the olympics.

    such is the short memory of today’s sporting world.

    • Tian Biao

      I wish I could look at it that way, but I can’t. This is huge. this is Seattle. We haven’t won anything for decades, and Schultz sold the Sonics, and the Mariners are awful, and . . . etc. This is a huge, giant, enormous game, and the results will stick with me forever. So it may not be crucial to Seattle’s well being, but it is to mine! (and my daughters, who are already steeped in Seattle sports lore, for better or for worse). Come On Hawks!!

      • poulsbogary

        I am all for family memories, but some of us still have to figure out the rent and the electric bill. If a hawks win or the nfl can help me out, then great.

        • art thiel

          Maybe your landlord will forgive the rent for a month.

      • art thiel

        It’s an important moment emotionally in our civic timeline. If you care, it’s cool. If you don’t care, it’s cool too.

    • art thiel

      I think we all know a win changes nothing in reality. But we all live in our emotions, and the fact that ignites passion is that Seattle will be the champion of the most important sports league in America. It’s OK to allow yourself to feel good, Gary.

  • oldfan

    I just the same point (in responding to the previous article) about the Hawks having faced better defenses than this over the last 2 months. You’re a wise man, Mr. Thiel.

    I’ll repeat my prediction here: Hawks by 8.

    Go Hawks!

  • Will

    27-24 Seahawks seems right … but Manning could go nuts perfect and win 35-17. Fingers crossed for your best guess.

    And, while it’s “just a game” …. The Seahawks as Champions would be a big deal for Seattle and the Pacific Nortwest. Winning is a contagious condition for everyone.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think Manning can be held under 21, but Wilson/Harvin will be able to top it.

  • PokeyPuffy

    Agree with the prediction and analysis Art. Those strength of schedule thoughts crossed my mind as well as I spent my own jittery weekend watching the Conference Championship game on DVR. It was a whopper of a game. The San Francisco pass rush was furious, Wilson was sacked multiple times, he was called for intentional grounding as a ran for his life. And yet he was able to make the plays needed to win, while the Hawks D tightened the vice grip in the second half with turnovers, strips, etc.

    Not once in all the hype in the last week has anyone mentioned how dominant the NFC West is. I imagine SF, Arizona and the Rams could all handle Denver. Here’s hoping we give Denver a special NFC West welcome to the super bowl with our intensity and put this away early

    • art thiel

      Keep that DVR’d game. You should replay it for years.

  • cwu91

    Enjoy the game Art. I was fortunate to be able to attend the NFC Championship, despite the long commute south from Alaska. It’s fitting that former division rivals are competing today….this nearly happened in 2006, and I remember watching that game from qwest field play out in the run up to the game against Carolina.

    34-23, Hawks

    Wipe that smirk off Elway’s face and be done with it.

    Go Hawks

    • art thiel

      Alaska is huge Seahawks country. Know the place from Ketchikan to Barrow, and the party will be no harder anywhere if there’s a Seahawks win.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    In most cases you would say a meaningless preseason game means nothing.

    Not Always.

    When the Broncos met us late last summer the exhibition game we played with them had a seasonal feel. It was clear both teams had amped up the intensity. Final score?40~10 Hawks. It moved John Elway to the point he had a minor meltdown in the locker room over their travails…. I can see him telling them this is a team that was a preseason favorite to make it to the SB and you guys fell on your face. He was quoted as saying this is NOT Bronco football. Guess what?It is when you are playing an elite defense.

    Why? Because they dont match up well against such a tough defense.
    Arts points are clear. We are the better team. We need to just go out and show that and i think we will do that in grand style.

    Hawks 31~17.

    Go get it guys! Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      In fairness, Manning played 1-2 series. But Elway didn’t yell for no reason.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        And on that thought part of it is Elways pride. He is well known down here in Grays Harbor since several of his uncles still live in the Aberdeen/Hoquiam area. He absolutely hates to lose to Seattle period. He was that way as their QB and he is that way as the Bronco head honcho now.

        John better get used to it as Seattle will put together a complete game for the victory and much to Mister Es chagrin he will be handed the 2nd fiddle tonight.

  • Big

    Rush, hurry, and sack Manning. Play solid, hard hitting D.

    Take care of the ball on O. Protect RW. Unleash the Beast.

    The above = victory for the SeaHawks.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    We beat em worse than we did in preseason…poor Peyton looked as shell shocked as I have ever seen him.
    SB48 champs…congrats to our guys!

    Go Hawks!

  • Mike G from Alaska

    My God, everyone was wrong……..