"I feel like I was stabbed in the back."
A lot of older fans will recognize this quote instantly. In a game the Seahawks needed to have to enter the playoffs as the Division Champions in 2004, they chose to run a quarterback sneak to take the lead with a few minutes left in the final quarter of the final game of the regular season. They beat Atlanta to win the day, but that quote soon followed, and was uttered by a disgruntled Shaun Alexander.
He was one yard shy of the league rushing title. He had been the one constant engine in the redzone for years, and yet they called a successful QB sneak instead. Lots of people hang on to that quote as a bitter example why their hatred is the most justified it could ever be. However, I use that quote to bring up the apology that soon followed and the words that helped soothe me as a fan of sports.
In a press conference the next day, Shaun apologized to everyone and said "I don't want anyone to think I'm bigger or more important than this team," but that part isn't important, it was as he expounded upon why he had changed his tune about his emotions following the game he said: (This isn't exact quotes I am going off memory here.)
"I sat down with Mike and we talked, and then my position coach came up and we talked about stats, and then he pointed to 22 negative plays. 16 were -3 yards or worse. You take three or four of those into just no gain and that last play wouldn't have even mattered, and I didn't even think about that."
It was a truly honest moment, and sound logic that always helped me put games that were determined by one play in a little bit of perspective. A game is sixty minutes long, and fifty-five plays on average (at least), and yet everyone wants to destroy the universe based on one (albeit) tough result is far too myopic to let lie.
I tried, I was going to voice this later on a podcast at the end of March, but I had to give my take on it. It seems to me that too many people are living in the four-second play instead of realizing the full scope of what led the team to that point in the first place.
1) Special teams played outside of the norm for the first time under Pete Carroll in coverage. The punt and kick return games have all but dried up since Leon Washington was cut.
2) The offense repeatedly struggled to get out of the gates and find success, always generating more in the second half.
3) The defense gave up another late lead. Denver, Dallas, Green Bay. It's been a trend, and one of the reasons the offense was afraid to score too quickly, and tried to run down the clock before the fateful play.
These three things contributed to that last play. We can destroy the world, stomp our feet and shout to the heavens about how that one play could have been so different, and play it in our minds far too much, but as quoted above it wouldn't have even mattered had plays been made earlier. It need never come to that play.
I would want the team looking at the 59:34 rather than that final :26 because in the end making plays in that 59:34 is how those :26 never happen. It's time to let that play go, it's time to watch this team get better in the 3 areas that let them down on the biggest stage well before that play. It's time to realize that though you can't win in the 1st quarter it still matters and has an affect on the outcome.