The 2013 Seahawks had quite a large number of things going against them. Playing in the toughest division in the NFL primary among them. There were also injuries/suspensions: Unger, Okung, Giacomini, Irvin, Browner, Thurmond, Wagner, Wright, Rice, Harvin, and I’m sure a number of others that I’m forgetting all missed various amounts of time last year, and yet somehow the Seahawks overcame. It can be argued that a difficult schedule will actually make you a more formidable opponent come playoff time. The caveat, of course, is that you still have to be good enough to MAKE the playoffs.
I’m in no position to comment on the locker room environment of that 2013 squad; while there are reports that Harvin was a problem last year in addition to being a cancer this year, it seems pretty obvious to me that the locker room environment is probably worse this time around. Guys getting paid, other guys being jealous of those guys getting paid, disgruntled stars not getting enough touches or making enough plays, it can all come to a head and boil over if the team isn’t winning. When you factor that in, along with the NFC West being just as tough – if not moreso – than last year, and the injuries that are currently piling up (Okung, Unger, Wagner, Maxwell, Lane, Marsh, Coleman, Miller, Willson, Chancellor, etc.), it can be argued that the adversity the Seahawks are facing now is the greatest it’s ever been.
The expectations for this team were off-the-charts when the season started. Now, seven weeks in, the Seahawks are 3-3 and in third place in the NFC West. If the season ended today, the Seahawks would have to leapfrog TWO teams just to crack a Wild Card spot. It may be time to temper our expectations as our world seemingly crumbles down around us.
But, here’s the truth: the Seahawks do have a chance to not only get back into the divisional race, but even the race toward the top two seeds (who get a first round BYE). When you think about the best teams, it boils down to your overall record, your record within your conference, and your record within your own division. Obviously, losing to the Cowboys and Rams is less than ideal. To have a realistic shot at winning the division, the Seahawks are probably going to have to win the rest of their divisional games. Thankfully, they get to play the 49ers and Cardinals twice each, and the Rams at home in Week 17. The possibilities are limitless, as long as we’re able to take care of business.
As for the rest of the conference, it might be a tougher road. The victory over Green Bay is perfect. If they happen to lose their division to the Lions, that gives us a little security, if we manage to have the same record as the Packers at season’s end. The defeat to Dallas hurts just as bad as the Packers game helps, of course. At this point, we’re either rooting for the Cowboys to fall apart (like they usually do), or win their division running away (we do, after all, play the Eagles later this year, which could give us a tie-breaker over them if we win).
Want to look at another potential tie-breaker opportunity? Look no further than this Sunday in Carolina. Yes, they’re leading their division now, but that’s not guaranteed. I could see the Saints or even the Falcons go on a second-half run to overtake the Panthers. If that happens, we’ll want to have this win on Sunday to ensure an edge over another potent NFC club (of course, the Panthers DO have that tie on their record, so it’s probably a moot point, as we likely won’t have the same record as they do at season’s end; nevertheless, beating the Panthers helps our overall conference record, and that’s what’s REALLY important at this point. That, and not falling too far behind the other teams ahead of us).
No one said repeating as champions would be easy. Nevertheless, I think this is more difficult than any of us imagined. We play 10 more games over the next 10 weeks. We’re on the edge of making a big run, but we’re also on the edge of falling completely apart. You’d like to think the worst is behind us. With the tumor removed, maybe we can Fresh Slate this thing and start anew.
You know what will go a long way in determining the Seahawks’ fate? Altering our expectations and adjusting accordingly. The 2014 Seahawks aren’t what we thought they’d be. They’re not the 2013 Seahawks by damn sight. We’re not going to step onto the field and blow you away like we did in the Super Bowl. Our defense isn’t going to wear you down and create multiple turnovers per game. Our crowd isn’t going to affect opposing offenses like it used to. And, we’re not going to utilize Percy Harvin and his big-play potential like we thought.
It’s a new team, and we all need to realize that. Not just the fans, but the coaches and the players as well. The coaches need to realize that the OFFENSE is ahead of the defense, and not the other way around. It’s going to require more precision in our offensive execution. It’s also probably going to require a little more hurry-up, and not just when the chips are down and we’re losing by three scores. The offense is going to need to get out to fast starts, especially on the road. We’re going to have to help out our defense a little bit.
Obviously, the defense isn’t living up to its reputation. The sacks aren’t there, the pressure isn’t there, and that means the turnovers aren’t there. How do we remedy that? I think it DOES mean we have to blitz more. We can’t just stay back, play zone all game, and rely on the talent of our superstars. They’re not producing like we expect, which means we have to make adjustments. Manufacture pressure any way possible, even if that means taking guys out of coverage and throwing them headfirst into the quarterback (not literally, of course). Will that mean possibly allowing extra big plays here and there? It might. But, look at what’s happening now, without all the blitzing I’m advocating! They’re getting those big plays anyway, and they’re KILLING us in the red zone!
Blitzing should help. Scoring early should help (with the thought being: you take a big lead, you force the other team to pass more to catch up). We can’t remain stubborn and do only what worked in 2013. We have to adapt to what other teams are doing to us. If our defense is struggling because other teams are playing hurry-up and not allowing us to substitute players, then flip it on them and have OUR offense play hurry-up for the same reasons. It’s not rocket science, it’s just football.
Yeah, we’re getting the best effort out of everyone we play. But, that’s no excuse for us not giving OUR best effort. If we can improve upon that – knowing that we can’t afford to lose too many more games, or else our season will be over before we know it – then we might make it through the fire tougher than ever before. The kind of adversity that comes from a mediocre start after a Super Bowl-winning season is what determines whether or not you’re truly destined for greatness. Either the Seahawks start picking each other up and showing the rest of football WHY they’re the defending champions, or they become just another statistic.
Just another Super Bowl participant who fails to make the playoffs the following year.
I don’t want to hear any more excuses. I don’t want to hear about injuries, I don’t want to hear about the refs, and I don’t want to hear about locker room chemistry. Are you a championship football team or aren’t you? That’s what I want to know. It starts this week. This game against Carolina is as “must win” as a game in October gets. Because you know what happens when the Seahawks aren’t good enough to win a game on the road against a mediocre Panthers team? You give up on the Seahawks being a legitimate threat in 2014 and you seriously start to wonder about their prospects going forward.
I don’t want to think about that right now. I don’t want to think about all the holes we have on this team and all the potential holes we’ll have after a loss to the Panthers. I don’t want to think about how Russell Wilson is literally the ONLY good thing about this team in the coming seasons, because for as fabulous as he is, he can’t do it all.