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Monday, February 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Blaine Newnham

Hawks perplexed ABC's Madden, Michaels too

Special to The Seattle Times

They shared your frustration.

For a team that hadn't gotten the national attention, the Seahawks were clearly the focus of ABC's nearly four hours of Super Bowl telecast last night.

They saw and echoed what we saw. Despite Pittsburgh's history and hype, the game was Seattle's to lose, not Pittsburgh's to win, even though the Steelers did, 21-10.

Not until the game was history, players spilling on the field, flashbulbs lighting the stadium, did John Madden call the Steelers' unlikely rumble through the playoffs "an amazing story."

The one we — and many million others — saw and listened to and agonized with, was one of the Seahawks giving away the game, if not the officials giving a helping hand to take it from them.

On a recap of Pittsburgh's touchdowns — a long run by Willie Parker, a disputed dive into the end zone by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a trick-'em receiver pass by Antwaan Randle El — Madden said, "That's their whole offense for the day."

Television witnessed one game, history another.

There was the touchdown catch by Darrell Jackson that wasn't as Jackson was called for pushing off Pittsburgh defensive back Chris Hope.

"When you think of a push-off," said Madden after watching the replay, "that's not one you think of."

At halftime, Steve Young, the former 49ers quarterback, said, flatly, "That was a touchdown."

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It wasn't, of course. For all the technology surrounding the NFL, instant replay still comes down to someone's interpretation. There is no instant replay of a pass-interference call, and then, on Roethlisberger's dive into the end zone, there wasn't enough visual evidence to contradict the original call.

But the back-breaker came in the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks threatening to take a 17-14 lead. Jerramy Stevens caught a Matt Hasselbeck pass on the Pittsburgh 1-yard line.

Except tackle Sean Locklear was called for holding.

"I didn't see a hold," said Madden, reviewing the replay. "There may have been holding, but I didn't see it in those pictures."

Hasselbeck ended the drive with an interception and was called for a personal foul for taking down the defensive back, Ike Taylor. Replays showed Hasselbeck sliding under a blocker and the ball carrier.

"That's a bad call," said ABC's Al Michaels. "That's adding insult to injury."

Moments later, the Steelers extended their lead to the final 21-10 on Randle El's reverse pass to Hines Ward.

Everyone seemed to sense Seattle's dominance, the likelihood the Seahawks would take over the game in the second half, especially the crew of former pro stars turned pundit at halftime.

"The Pittsburgh corners haven't covered anyone yet," said Michael Irvin. "Seattle beat this team up and down the football field in the first half."

"They took the swagger away from the Steelers," added Tom Jackson, "and they took the crowd out of the game even though it is 90 percent Pittsburgh."

Madden, chosen on Saturday for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his coaching in Oakland and his down-home analysis on television, was equally struck by the Seahawks.

"You can see Seattle's plan; Pittsburgh doesn't seem to have a plan of offense," he said. "The Seahawks will put the ball in Matt Hasselbeck's hands and then run later."

Once again, TV had the coverage of the game it pays for, the chat with coach Mike Holmgren before the game in which he allegedly told his team: "This is an away game for us. The crowd is 90 percent Steeler fans. The only ones who believe we can win are those in this room."

In the end, the announcers were as frustrated with Seattle as we were, frustrated by the two missed field goals, the dropped passes, getting beat by a trick play.

"They finished the game the way they finished the first half," said Madden, perplexed by the Seahawks' play-calling, clock management and general lack of urgency.

When Jerramy Stevens didn't get out of bounds in the last minute, you could hear Madden throwing up his ample hands even if you couldn't see them.

At the end of the first half, the Seahawks were no more resourceful. They ran instead of passing with time running out, and twice Hasselbeck changed calls by Holmgren, wasting what time they had.

"They made a mess of the end of the first half and the end of the game," Michaels said.

"They can move the ball but they can't finish the deal," added Madden, who ended the day saying, "Getting to the Super Bowl is one thing, but winning it is what you have to do."

The Seahawks didn't, the glum face of Shaun Alexander on the sideline our final image of the great Seattle season.

Comments to Blaine Newnham: e-mail to sports@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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