EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Super Bowl MVP was selected with a seventh-round compensatory pick. The quarterback was a third-round choice, labeled as too short. The fill-in receivers supposedly were not good enough. They were too young. And the Seattle Seahawks arrived in New Jersey last week without a player possessing a single play of Super Bowl experience.
Yet they left the Greater Big Apple as champions.
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"None of that made any difference," ebullient Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after his squad clobbered the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII to earn the franchise's first NFL title.
Carroll is right. The perceived obstacles did not matter. They knew better.
But in another sense, this made a tremendous difference.
That was a hungry team with a collective chip on its shoulder, feasting on horse meat.
The Seahawks are tough, talented and smart. But maybe it was a certain determination woven into the fabric of the Seahawks that put them over the top. Doubts were recycled as fuel.
They had something to prove ... at least to themselves. Done.
"Why not us?" Russell Wilson, the 5-11, second-year quarterback, recited again Sunday night.
That's his go-to line.
Wilson will have to come up with another mantra, because that question is moot.
They knew it, too, hardly intimidated by the big stage of their ultimate test.
In their public sessions during Super Bowl week, the Seahawks carried themselves like a team that was secure in the knowledge its time had arrived.
"We knew what we had in that locker room," Percy Harvin said.
Harvin, coming off hip surgery, played 19 snaps in the regular season and was knocked out of the divisional playoff game with a concussion. Nonetheless, the receiver-returner showed up big with a versatile 50 yards from scrimmage and an 87-yard kickoff-return score to open the second half. He might have won the MVP honors that ultimately went to linebacker Malcolm Smith.
"We said all week this game didn't have to be close," Harvin said.
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Harvin described the pregame chatter from a fellow receiver, Doug Baldwin, who made no secret of his contempt for the analysts who questioned whether he, Jermaine Kearse and Golden Tate could deliver the goods.
Sure enough, before the game Baldwin gave his teammates an earful about it, Harvin said.
Hey, the lack-of-respect theme has been uttered in locker rooms for decades.
Now it's Seattle's turn to claim it. Just ask cornerback Richard Sherman, who played at Stanford with Baldwin before entering the league as a fifth-round pick. Now Sherman's an all-pro, the shutdown corner on a magnificent defense that ranks with some of the best units in recent decades.
The Seahawks need to string together a few more dominant seasons to rank in the same league as the Pittsburgh Steelers' "Steel Curtain" of the 1970s. But they put themselves in the conversation for comparisons to the great championship defenses of this era — which include the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But as Sherman pointed out, the unit has another distinction.
"We're a bunch of misfits," he said. Then he rattled off the draft slots of some of the prominent members.
"Fifth round, Kam Chancellor," he said. "Sixth round, Byron Maxwell. Fifth round, Richard Sherman. Fourth round, K.J. Wright. Undrafted, Michael Bennett."
No wonder they play with such angry, hard-hitting violence.
Ken Norton, the linebackers coach, has felt the type of vibe before. Norton won Super Bowl rings in three consecutive seasons during the 1990s with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.
These Seahawks remind Norton of the 1992 champion Cowboys, a team whose headlining "Triplets" (quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin) were just beginning to establish themselves, paired with a No. 1-ranked defense that didn't have a single member named to the Pro Bowl.
"There's a lot of similarities," Norton told USA TODAY Sports. "We were real young; these Seahawks are real young. They thought it was impossible for us (during the 1992 postseason), that it was too early. Same here. But you don't really care. You just have a lot of confidence, and you just play ball."
Now the young and eager Seahawks have laid a similar foundation for sustained success.
The core players are intact. Now comes the challenge of trying to do it again.
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