"What it is controlled cool, in a way. Always have the situation under control, even if losing. Never betray an inward sense of defeat." -Arthur Ashe
"One botched play and our season's over." -Coach Owens
At a time like this, with the circumstances of the Hawks' first loss almost ponderous in their enormity, fans can be excused if they lose perspective. Losing perspective and questioning a team's heart is natch for the mercurial sports fan, convinced of a win after a dominant quarter or a loss after a blunderous two. More than a few of whom thought it was over after the Cardinals had staked a 17 point lead in the second. Things sure looked grim at the time, the Cards were dominating field position, had just ended an almost breezy TD drive of 3:31, and with 5:50 left in the second quarter, the Hawks had been outgained almost three to one: 174-60. Seattle's offense was fresh off the second of two three-and-outs in their last three drives. Shaun Alexander had rushed for five yards on six carries. Clancy Pendergast looked Belicheckian in his ability to know the Hawks' calls, stuffing the box on runs and blanketing receivers on passes. But the Hawks battled back. Had it not been for guts, heart, nerve, determination, grit...Seattle wouldn't have been able to break our hearts in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. A broken season does not a broken heart make, though.
Every Super Bowl winning team in the last three years has lost a close game late: A sucker punch, a befuddler, a game "good teams don't lose". Peyton Manning and the Colts watched Rob Bironas nail a 60 yard field goal to ice a week 13 loss to the Titans in 2006. Steelers' fans could be forgiven if they questioned their teams' heart in 2005. After suffering a week three come from behind victory by the Patriots on an Adam Viniateri field goal within the two minute warning, Pittsburgh would watch its 2005 squad lose two more in overtime. A year earlier it was that Pats squad that was recovering from a perplexing loss. Wunderkind quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception to the then 2-11 Miami Dolphins to set up a late Derrius Thompson TD reception. Brady's response, "It was just a bad play."
As it was when Alexander ran into Matt Hasselbeck and Mack Strong whiffed on his block, a bad play. It does not mean that the Hawks are chokers or losers or can't get it done when they need to. Just as allowing 431 yards doesn't erase the Hawks defensive dominance over Tampa Bay. A Buccaneers offense that spent Sunday carving up one the NFC's title entrants from last season, the New Orleans Saints. Had Seattle been blown out, or a key player injured, perhaps some of the rampant pessimism among the Hawks faithful would be warranted, even justified, but though tough losses sting extra, they count no more in the standings. So man up Seahawks fan, time to show a little heart, the season isn't lost and it's way too early to give up on true contender in the soft NFC and the ever softer NFC West.