The latest Game of the Century was half a day dead when the Seattle Seahawks took the field for the regular-season finale in Atlanta Sunday, Dec. 30. One imagined some of the Hawk players stayed up late in the Eastern time zone, but not necessarily pushing midnight to see the 2007 New England Patriots become the undisputed best team in the history of the National Football League. Perhaps Hawk personnel kept the plasma blasting to watch an otherwise-hated New York franchise (many outside the five boroughs love to loath all sports things New York) fold at home to the Patriots. After all, like the Hawks, the Giants (10-6) already had secured nothing better or worse than a fixed position in the playoffs that commence next weekend, with the Hawks (also 10-6) hosting the Washington Redskins Jan. 5 at 1:30 p.m.
There are differences between the Hawks and the Giants. One is that Seattle lost its final regular-season game to an Atlanta Falcons club that started the day 3-12. The New Yorkers? Actually, they might be giants. Playing for nothing but pride, they had a chance late in the game to prevent what had seemed inevitable: the Patriots' inexorable, remarkable march through 16 regular-season games without a loss. So this month's Game of the Century, unless you've seen a better one, ended Pats 38, Giants, make that GIANTS, 35.
Getting back to what wasn't even the Game of the Day, the Hawks couldn't be bothered to play for pride. Alibis always abound for playoff teams this time of year, usually getting down to "we need to keep guys healthy for the postseason push." It's fine, then, to lose to a disaster of an Atlanta franchise because, ya know, who cares?
The game announcers alluded to a Seattle warm-up for the playoffs. Actually, it looked like a cool-down. The Seahawks played it less for pride than for laughs, hence the Heehawks, as some call them. I thought I lost track of the score when it was Atlanta 120, Seattle 85, though some say the final actually was just 44-41. In any case, it was 17 more points than any team had given up against Atlanta this year.
Who says you need the Hollywood writers for comedy? Try the Hawks mid-second-quarter looking for a play in a third and 40 situation (that's yards, though 40 inches often seems an insurmountable third-down challenge for these guys). Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had the ball stripped, which was followed by a side-splitting rugby scrum that grew funnier every time somebody tried to pick up the pigskin. Each side had chances to recover, but the ball ultimately was thumbed out of bounds and awarded to the Falcons.
Yet, as the fourth quarter approached, the Hawks (with a lot of non-starters playing) actually had a seven-point lead. I suggested to a buddy that "three more oughta be enough for these guys to beat a freaking 3-12 team." I meant three more points (and didn't mean "freaking"), but it turns out it would have required three more touchdowns.
The Seahawks had - make that prompted - the last laugh. Yes, they executed a successful onside kick with less than a minute left. Yes, it would've given them a shot at a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win. And yes, Nate Burleson was ruled offside by about three millimeters, meaning another onside kick that was claimed by the Falcons.
Ah, well, let's just forget this one. Such has been the general sentiment when the Hawks blow one on the road (think of Carolina, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Arizona). One wonders where that leaves them if they ever get to play in the next Game of the Century. At the very least, let's hope they don't wind up against a certain team from New York, because, while the Seattle players will always be the Seahawks, they might not be giants this season.