If it hadn’t already been apparent midway through the season, then it certainly was with four minutes left in the NFC championship game.
It’s not easy being the king.
The Seattle Seahawks learned as much in a year filled with potential pitfalls, not the least of which was a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Green Bay Packers.
There’s a reason it’s been a decade since a Super Bowl champion returned to defend its title. Actually, there’s several.
It wasn’t just the monumental comeback required of the Hawks to win the NFC championship against Green Bay.
It was everything that led up to it: the relentless scrutiny, the “disease of more” and anything else “sources” could cook up.
Remember Week 1, when the Hawks bulldozed the Packers on Thursday night and everyone declared them sure-fire favorites?
Remember a week later, when San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers carved up the Seattle defense and left some wondering if the Legion of Boom had lost a step?
How about a few weeks after that, when Dallas running back DeMarco Murray ran wild inside CenturyLink Field in a 30-23 Cowboys victory?
Disgruntled wide receiver Percy Harvin was traded a few days later, a fake punt sealed a loss at St. Louis after that, and suddenly Seattle was a meager 3-3.
Soon enough, stories leaked out about a divided locker room, Marshawn Lynch being unwilling to board the team bus because of the Harvin trade, and quarterback Russell Wilson not being “black enough.”
And that was just seven weeks into the season.
It’s easy to understand how some teams might crumble under such pressure. Most do.
That the Seahawks survived it with their quarterback crying tears of joy following a miraculous comeback against Green Bay, is a testament to what Seattle has become under head coach Pete Carroll: the best franchise in the NFL.
Now the symmetry of this Super Bowl matchup could not be more perfect.
Standing on one side is the NFL’s marquee franchise of last 15 years (New England) and the greatest quarterback of the past 15 years (Tom Brady) — deflated balls or not.
It’s the same franchise that was the last to go to two straight Super Bowls back in 2004-05, and the same franchise Seattle came back to beat two years ago in the regular season and signal its arrival as a team to be reckoned with. (“You mad bro.”)
Win this and the Hawks will establish themselves as the new power franchise, with a quarterback whose career trajectory will start to look a lot like a certain golden boy from New England.
A lot at stake for one night in the desert.
Then again, there’s been a lot at stake all season.
Heavy lies the crown.
At the very least, the Hawks carried it well.