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Monday, February 6, 2006
Updated: February 8, 9:51 AM ET
Fans welcome Seahawks home, blame refs for loss

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Despite the Seahawks' disappointing Super Bowl loss, thousands of Seattle fans showed up Monday at Qwest Field to welcome the players home and congratulate them on their season.

Coach Mike Holmgren told the homecoming crowd that some of the officials' calls from Sunday's 21-10 loss still rankled.

"We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers," Holmgren said. "I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

The fans roared their agreement.

"Refs suck!" they shouted in unison.

The focus of the fans' rage, a day after their team lost in Seattle's first trip to the Super Bowl, included a Darrell Jackson touchdown catch that was taken away by a penalty and a disputed TD run by Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger.

One call robbed the Seahawks of a touchdown; the other gave the Steelers a touchdown.

"The officiating left a lot to be desired," said Dale Baxman, a fan who took a half-day off work to attend the rally.

Vicky Phillips, another fan, was more direct.

"I think we need new refs," she said.

But more than griping about the officials, the fans, collectively referred to as the team's "12th Man," turned out to thank their team.

"I'm here to support them, let them know it's all right," said Tracy Rogers of Seattle, who called in sick -- brokenhearted, really -- to join the crowd. The Seahawks estimated attendance at about 15,000 although other observers thought the crowd was smaller.

Teenagers Malissa Dunn, Nickey Horgan and Gena Copley took a parents-sanctioned day off from school to paint their faces blue and green and score a front-row seat.

"We won in our hearts," said Horgan, 15. "We're still No. 1."

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who traveled to Detroit to watch the game, told fans to be proud of the team that won the NFC Championship, has the league MVP in Shaun Alexander and boasts seven Pro Bowlers.

Holmgren and other team officials praised the raucous legion of fans who are known for raising the decibel level in Qwest Field to among the loudest in the NFL.

"We just want to thank you for sticking with us all season," he said.

The entire Seahawks squad took the stage under an unusually sunny Seattle sky.

"I just want to thank you for your unwavering support," linebacker Lofa Tatupu said.

Alexander drew cheers -- and perhaps raised hopes -- with his comments about next year's Super Bowl XLI in sunny Florida. The star running back's contract is expiring and, if the team doesn't re-sign him before March 3, he will become one of the league's most coveted free agents.

"Next year, our last game of the season will be a win in Miami," he told the crowd.