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After A Super Close Loss

Posted Feb 2, 2015

As Cardinals can attest, it takes time to shake off what could have been in Super Bowl

Living with the loss: Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner leaves the field after Super Bowl XLIII, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner leaves the field after Super Bowl XLIX..

The letdown is immense, especially when you are so close to winning.

A Super Bowl loss can leave a team reeling. The Seahawks now know that feeling, moving down within a yard of taking a second straight title and having it taken away in an instant. The Cardinals understood that all too well after Super Bowl XLIII six years ago.

Sure the parallels aren’t exactly the same. The Seahawks were on offense as the clock ticked down, still in control of what would happen, before Russell Wilson threw his fatal interception. The Cardinals celebrated Larry Fitzgerald’s amazing 64-yard touchdown catch-and-run to take the lead against the Steelers in their game, but then, there was two minutes, 37 seconds left on the clock in a three-point game. In an NFL world where both teams scored touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half Sunday night, 2:37 is an eternity, looking back on it.

Regardless of how it happened – whether it was a fantastic read of a slant pass or toe-tapping by Santonio Holmes, or even three straight incompletions from the 5-yard line in the final minute, which is how the 49ers were gut-punched after the 2012 season – the aftermath is not easy.

The Seahawks even had a ring on the résumé already, yet it didn’t stop many players from openly questioning the final playcall that didn’t go to running back Marshawn Lynch. In a close loss, you’re grasping for answers. It may not be the final play, even. For the Cardinals, it was hard not to wonder about how they not only got points at the end of the first half but somehow allowed James Harrison to rumble 100 yards the other way on the final play of the second quarter.

The scabs never quite heal.

Both teams always have in place an elaborate party at the team hotel for after the game. It makes so much sense if the team wins. If it loses, it’s a much more muted affair, a place to drown sorrows. (It’s not like you can pull the plug on it last minute.) I remember heading down to the Cardinals’ party after Super Bowl XLIII, and all anyone was talking about was what if – all the while not sure exactly what to say when you came across a coach or player.

On the plane the next morning, it’s the realization that, regardless of how great the ride was, changes were coming. Even though nothing had been officially announced, it had long been out there that Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley was leaving to take the head coaching job of the Kansas City Chiefs. As Haley climbed on the plane Monday, he was being congratulated about what was to come. Ken Whisenhunt granted me a short interview to talk about the aftermath, but it definitely wasn’t a subject he wanted to delve too deeply into. Not then.

As with the Cardinals, the Seahawks’ coordinator positions will be a topic of conversation heading into the offseason. Not only did Haley leave to become head coach of the Chiefs, but Whisenhunt let defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast go as well.

For the Seahawks, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is like Haley, heading to Atlanta to take the head coaching job with the Falcons. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell – who was the last to interview for the Cardinals’ head coaching job in 2013 before Bruce Arians showed up to nab the position – will be under fire for a while for the decision to pass the ball on the New England 1-yard line. There will be a week or two where this all must sink in.

Again, the Seahawks already winning a title eases the pain. But this is the other side of reaching the Super Bowl – the next season, and the prep to get there, is already here. The Scouting combine begins in just a couple of weeks. Free agency is only a month away. In the Seahawks’ case, the rumblings about a new contract for quarterback Russell Wilson and how it will impact their salary cap will take root.

The Cardinals were one of the few success stories of recent Super Bowl losers, not only improving on their record from the season before (the Cards won 10 games in 2009, after going 9-7 in 2008) but actually winning a playoff game. A year later, the Cards’ quest to reach another Super Bowl ended in New Orleans against the team that would eventually win the title.

The Seahawks are built to keep winning. They are already listed as favorites in the entire NFL to win the championship in 2015. That’s well and good, but it doesn’t take away the sting yet.

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