51 for LI: Super Bowl XL, An Extra Large Snoozefest
[lead align=”default”]A nice round number today in our Super Bowl countdown at 40 days to go. Perhaps it’s best we try not to remember too much about Super Bowl XL, but we have to, so we will.[/lead]
The Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers met for the NFL’s championship during the 2005 season. For Seattle, it was their first trip to the big game. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, had already won four and wanted “one for the thumb.”
Super Bowl XL: How They Got There
The Seahawks blazed their trail early on in the season and rode the high all the way to the Super Bowl. Seattle was unquestionably the NFC’s best team in 2005, between Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback and Shaun Alexander on the ground. They lost two of their first four games, but went on an 11-game win streak starting against the St. Louis Rams. It wouldn’t end until Week 17 against Green Bay, when the Seahawks rested several key players.
Seattle’s divisional game against Washington was relatively close, but the NFC title game against Carolina was a 34-14 blowout. The Seahawks, a 13-3 one seed, faced only wild card teams in this postseason. Unfortunately for them, the third time was (not) the charm.
Pittsburgh’s path took a much different route. While Seattle had everything locked up early, the Steelers were 7-5 after Week 13 and had to win out to make the playoffs. They did, and none of the last four regular season games were all that close.
The Steelers then had the unenviable task of winning three straight road games to make Super Bowl XL. At that point, only one other team had ever done it, and the odds of a six seed going that far weren’t fantastic.
First, they went on the road and picked up a 31-17 win at Cincinnati. Next, they stole a 21-18 win in Indy to advance to the AFC Championship. This was in part because of one of the more famous field goal misses in recent playoff history, thanks to Mike Vanderjagt. Finally, in the AFC title game, Pittsburgh smashed Denver by 17 to get to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XL: The Game
No mention of the 2005 Steelers would be complete without noting Jerome Bettis, the Pittsburgh running back entering his final game. Of course, those on the outside didn’t know it at the time. The future Hall of Fame rusher and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a pact that Bettis would play one more year and Big Ben would lead Pittsburgh to paydirt. Both held up their ends of the bargain.
If only the game were remembered for good things. This was a 21-10 Pittsburgh victory for their fifth championship, which featured an Antwaan Randle El touchdown pass on a reverse. That’s about it, other than being The Bus’s last stop.
Super Bowl XL: Officiating
Most people remember this game, if at all, for the officiating. The perception was that the Seahawks had a disproportionately high number of calls go against them. Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren famously said after the game they they had to “play the guys in the striped shirts” as well as Pittsburgh.
This article from five years ago goes into much greater detail than we ever will. Make up your own mind, but the fact is that the Seahawks felt aggrieved. Perhaps they had right to be, but ultimately, they lost, sad songs were sung, and life continued.