Seahawks Death Week: A Lot To Like About 2015

Last year’s edition of Seahawks Death Week wasn’t a whole lot of fun.  A lot of rage and soul searching went into those posts, as well as a lot of not writing about sports at all.  Just shutting down in hopes of getting to the next month with a clearer head.

This time around, it’s actually not that bad.  When you have a Lowest Possible Moment as a sports fan, any other bad moments you have after that will always pale in comparison.  Oh, the Seahawks lost to the Panthers in the Divisional Round?  Well, at least they didn’t blow a Super Bowl by getting too cute with the play calling!

My point is, yeah, it sucks not having football anymore, but at least I’m not questioning whether I should even follow the sport anymore.  At least I’m not so aggravated that I’m worried about sending myself to an early grave (for what it’s worth, there are many other ways with which I AM sending myself to an early grave, but being a Seahawks fan thankfully isn’t one of them).  If I can get over the Seahawks throwing the ball from the 1-yard line, I can get over this trivial nonsense, because literally everything is trivial nonsense when compared to the Worst Thing In The World.

Yes, there is a lot to pick at with this team, but today I’m going to try to stick to only positive things.  From this point forward.  Probably.

For starters, the 2015 Seahawks won more games than they lost.  That’s always a good place to start.  10-6 regular season record, not too shabby.  Good for a Wild Card berth, which easily makes us one of the top 12 teams in the league, and when you discount the Texans and Redskins right off the bat, you’re talking about one of the 10 best teams in the league.  If this were college, and we’re talking about rankings, there’s an argument to be made that the Seahawks were one of the 5 best teams in all of football.  I know the season didn’t end the way we wanted, but watching quality football week-in and week-out always beats the alternative.

On top of that, I think it’s important that this is a team that you can be proud of.  The Seahawks had to overcome SO MUCH coming into this season!  I don’t know what’s harder, getting over the Super Bowl hangover after you’ve won it all, or getting over the Super Bowl hangover after you lost, but I don’t think there’s anything worse than getting over a Super Bowl hangover after you lost the way we lost last year.  That shit is magnified times a million.  Not only is that your last image of your previous season, but that image is replayed for you over and over and over again, all off-season, and all during the next season.  I wish I had kept a record of how many times we were all forced to re-watch that play throughout 2015, but it had to have been in the dozens.

If the Seahawks had finished around 8-8, I don’t think anyone would have been surprised.  The target was on their backs for a second straight year, the dark cloud of humiliation was constantly hovering, they were tired and fractured and questioning everything they knew about the game of football.  And yet, they plowed through, beat the teams they were supposed to beat, and got stronger as the season went along.  They started the season playing like a mediocre, middle-of-the-road also-ran; they finished the season as one of the best teams in the game.  What ultimately was their undoing – it could be argued – is that their crappy start was too much to overcome.  A Seahawks team – playing as well as they were in December – with home field advantage in the playoffs would’ve been a force to be reckoned with.  Instead, having to go on the road for the duration of the post-season was ultimately too much, and a terrible first half in Carolina did them in.

Regaining the players’ fire and passion for the game makes this one of the best coaching jobs of Pete Carroll and Co.’s careers.

2015 looks to go down as the turning point in the Pete Carroll Era of his Seahawks tenure.  Up until now, the Seahawks have been a defensive juggernaut, with the offense doing just enough to survive.  Not counting the strike-shortened 1982 season, 2012-2014 were the three greatest seasons in Seahawks history from a “points allowed” perspective (we gave up 231 points in 2013, 245 in 2012, and 254 in 2014).  Obviously, those were all best in the NFL for those respective years, and 2015 was no different, as we gave up 277 points, good for 6th all time in franchise history (non-strike year edition).

The offense the last few years has been pretty good, of course.  But, in 2015, the offense made a huge leap forward, scoring 423 points, good for second all time in franchise history.  256 of those 423 points came in the final 8 regular season games, or nearly 61% of our total output.  That coincides with the huge leap forward in Russell Wilson’s play (and, by proxy, the offensive line).  And, when you talk about 2015 being a “turning point”, you can’t forget that this was the season where Russell Wilson elevated his game to the next level.  Where, if he can keep it up for the long haul, he’s looking at a probable Hall of Fame career.

Wilson has always been good.  You don’t get to back-to-back Super Bowls if your quarterback isn’t good.  But, take a look at his numbers this year compared to an average of his numbers from 2012-2014, and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

  • 2012-2014:  265/417, 63.5% completions, 3,317 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, 6 Fumbles
  • 2015:  329/483, 68.1% completions, 4,024 yards, 34 TDs, 8 INTs, 3 Fumbles

I mean, that’s a massive increase in production.  If he matches those numbers – or hell, if he manages to get BETTER – you’re talking about a consistent MVP candidate every year for the next decade.  2015 will go down in Seahawks lore as the year Russell Wilson started to put it all together.  Just think, we’re right at the start of his prime!  And he MIGHT be even better than anything we’ve seen to date!

Wilson’s improved play obviously trickled down to the receivers.  Doug Baldwin was the primary beneficiary, and it’s nice to see him start to get the recognition he deserves.  78 receptions, 1,069 yards, and 14 TDs were all career highs, the 14 TDs tying him for the league lead with Brandon Marshall and Allen Robinson.  11 of those 14 TDs came during an all-time great outburst of production over five games, from Week 12 thru Week 16.  Here’s to hoping it continues, and the Wilson to Baldwin connection goes down in Seahawks history with the likes of Krieg to Largent (or, I guess Zorn to Largent, I can never remember who Largent did more with).

2015 was a markedly down year for Marshawn Lynch (and sadly, probably the last for him in a Seahawks uniform), but it saw the rise of Thomas Rawls, before he was tragically cut down with a broken ankle in Week 14.  Before that, in somewhat limited action, he ran for 830 yards and a 5.6 yards per carry average (both leading the team).  As this was his rookie season, we should still have him under team control for the next few years.  If he recovers from his injury and returns to form, the offense doesn’t skip much of a beat if the team indeed lets Lynch go.  Rawls is still a rookie, and has some stuff to work on (mostly his hands in the pass-catching part of his game), but there’s a lot to like about where this team is headed as we enter in the great unknown of a Lynch-less future.

Speaking of other exciting, productive rookies, Tyler Lockett was an All Pro returner who just so happened to quickly integrate himself into the offense as the team’s third receiver.  He finished his rookie season third on the team in yards with 664, and second on the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns with 51 and 6 respectively.  His speed is among the best in the league, allowing our offense to take out the top of opposing defenses; even when he’s not catching long bombs, he’s a weapon other teams have to plan around, opening up options underneath for guys like Baldwin, Kearse, and Graham.

Speaking of Kearse and Graham, I thought they were wildly successful in 2015 and I hope to have both back in the fold going forward.  Kearse is a free agent, so it’s unknown at this time what his market is going to be.  It’s also unknown how much the Seahawks are willing to allocate to him, with so many other needs on the roster.  Kearse isn’t flashy, but he’s gotten better every year.  He’s got reliable hands and a good rapport with Wilson.  As Baldwin ascended to become one of the top receivers in the league, Kearse sort of supplanted him as Wilson’s security blanket.  You’re not going to get a ton of big plays out of him, but he runs good routes, and he’s physical.  As a fan since his UW days, I could understand it if the Seahawks moved on, but I have to admit I’d be a little heartbroken to see him in another uniform (maybe watch out for the 49ers on this one; he seems like a guy who’d be right up their alley as they try to replace Anquan Boldin).

Graham, on the other hand, caught a lot of shit early on this season.  Well, partly Graham, and partly the offensive coordinator.  I always liked the move to bring Graham in (though, I’ve come around on the point that the Seahawks should probably build up their receivers from within, as opposed to trading or signing for big name studs); I thought Unger was poised to continue breaking down (he ended up playing in all 16 games for the Saints, but he is getting up there in age), and I thought we could get by with the guys we had in camp along our offensive line.  But, when the team struggled out of the gate – and the offensive line played like a turnstile – it was obvious all around that the team had miscalculated some things in their off-season plan.  Letting Unger and Carpenter go proved to be a major setback, much more glaring than we ever could have anticipated.  And, with the Seahawks struggling to get Graham the ball through the first five weeks of the season, the whole thing looked like an unmitigated disaster!  But, I’ll say this:  Graham’s numbers improved as the season went along and everyone got more comfortable with everyone else.  The offensive line settled down with Patrick Lewis, giving Wilson time to throw, and Bevell finally figured out the right plays to call to get the most out of our Pro Bowl tight end.  While Graham’s touchdown numbers never came around, he had big games against the Panthers, Cowboys, and Steelers before he was lost for the season with a torn patellar tendon.  On the plus side, he should make a full recovery, and the hope is for his rapport with Wilson to get better and better.  If we can just figure out how to get him the ball in the red zone, there won’t be any stopping us!

This post is already starting to balloon on me, so instead of cramming the defense in today, I’ll save that post for tomorrow.  In spite of my negativity towards that unit, there is still a lot to like about that side of the ball, for 2015 and going forward.

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