Seahawks Death Week: What Went Wrong?

In tomorrow’s installment, I’ll go over what the Seahawks need to do to improve for next year.  To push themselves over that final hump into an official Super Bowl Contender.  In an effort to not make this post completely redundant, I’m not going to sit here and tell you the positions where the 2012 Seahawks lacked for talent and/or production.  Instead, I’m going to go game-by-game over the 6 defeats.  In those defeats, we will find our truth.

Super Bowl winners usually aren’t perfect.  1972 Dolphins aside, Super Bowl winners will have a down week here and there.  In fact, the 2011 New York Giants had 7 down weeks, which was the most of any Super Bowl winner.  So, in that sense, as long as you somehow make the playoffs, it really doesn’t matter HOW many losses you compile in the regular season.  That having been said, the more losses you have, the more liabilities and weaknesses you’ll find.  Any team can get hot in the playoffs, or find themselves with ideal matchups.  But, usually, if you fall short of your goal to win it all, there’s a reason.  Or, multiple reasons.

The 2012 Seattle Seahawks lost the following games:

  • Week 1 – @ Arizona
  • Week 4 – @ St. Louis
  • Week 7 – @ San Francisco
  • Week 8 – @ Detroit
  • Week 12 – @ Miami
  • Week 19 – @ Atlanta

It’s easy to look at all the quality opponents the Seahawks have beaten (Green Bay, New England, San Francisco, Minnesota, Washington, Chicago, Dallas) and say, “Yeah, the 2012 Seahawks were pretty fucking good.”  But, if they were so good, why did they lose to the likes of Arizona, St. Louis, Detroit, and Miami?

For starters, in every single one of those losses, the Seahawks had a lead at some point.  In all but one of those games (St. Louis), the Seahawks had a lead in the second half.  In all but two of those games (San Francisco), the Seahawks had a lead in the 4th quarter.  And in those other two games (St. Louis & San Francisco) where they didn’t have a 4th quarter lead, they still had an opportunity in the 4th quarter to either tie or take the lead, but came up short.

It’s the mark of a solid, but not spectacular team.  A spectacular team would’ve figured out a way to close, which was this team’s big weakness.

Against Arizona:  11 plays, 80 yards, 4:21 in the 4th quarter, with a freshly-inserted Kevin Kolb carving up this defense.  The Seahawks on offense looked pretty piss-poor throughout most of the game (their first half possessions:  missed FG, made FG off of an Arizona turnover, punt, punt, interception), but they found a way to scratch and claw their way to a lead, only to have the defense gag it away.

Against St. Louis:  let’s face it, this just wasn’t our day.  They scored on a fake field goal, their kicker nailed four field goals – three from 48 or longer – we botched a surprise onside kick, Russell Wilson threw three picks, and the Rams’ defense generally harassed us all game.  Nevertheless, the Seahawks had two chances to score a go-ahead touchdown and couldn’t do it.  I would be hard-pressed to blame the defense on this one.  Not entirely.  Losing this game was a full-on team effort, in every single facet of the game.

Against San Francisco:  again, another team effort.  This was the game of a thousand drops on offense.  Of course, who do you blame more?  The guys who dropped the passes (most egregious being Robert Turbin and Evan Moore), or the fact that Wilson chose to throw to these guys who should in no way be counted upon in the clutch?  OR, do you blame the coaches for putting said bobble-handed players in the game in the first place (when Kellen Winslow Jr. was producing at a high level for your team in preseason, and when Leon Washington has the best hands of all the running backs on this team)?  Then again, the defense REALLY stunk up the joint in the second half.  I know it’s not fair for a defense to be expected to hold a 6-3 lead on the road against a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but they way they were gashed raised some huge concerns that stuck with this team for the rest of the season.  Mainly:  what the fuck happened to our outstanding run defense?

Against Detroit:  a total, 100% botch-job by the defense.  Matthew Stafford threw for 352 yards and 3 TDs (and ran for another).  Granted, Calvin Johnson was held mostly in check (3 catches for 46 yards and 0 TDs, though a number of helpful drops that would’ve pushed his – and Stafford’s – numbers even higher), but that just meant Titus Young was free to run wild (9 receptions, 100 yards, 2 TDs, including a back-breaking 46-yarder in the second quarter just when the Seahawks were starting to impose their will upon the semi-hapless Lions).  At this point in the season, the Seahawks opened things up for Russell Wilson and you could see it paid off.  He had one of his best games of the season (236 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) as he led his team (on the second of back-to-back road games) to a 17-7 first half lead.  The defense gave up the aforementioned 46-yard TD to Young in the 2nd quarter, then gave up Stafford’s TD run early in the 4th quarter.  All was not lost, though, as Wilson led the team on a 12-play, 87-yard touchdown drive with five and a half minutes left in the game to take a 24-21 lead.  That should’ve been it!  But, it wasn’t.  Detroit prattled off a mammoth 16-play, 80-yard drive to close things out with 20 seconds remaining.  Unreal.

Against Miami:  the running game was completely shut down.  So, while Wilson had a decent game (21 of 27, 224 yards, 2 TDs), the offense still couldn’t manage to do much of anything.  We pulled the game even right before halftime at 7-all in an UGLY first half, then took the lead in the third quarter 14-7.  Then, in the fourth quarter, Miami’s offense somehow became unstoppable.  Miami managed 217 yards through three quarters, then somehow rampaged for 227 yards and 17 points in three 4th quarter drives to seal the deal!  What?  The game wouldn’t have even been as close as it was if Leon Washington didn’t run back a kickoff for a touchdown to let the Seahawks momentarily re-take the lead.  Can’t possibly say enough bad things about the defense in this game.

Against Atlanta:  well, we all know what happened against Atlanta.  Offense struggled early, came on late.  The team as a whole did just enough to earn themselves a hard-fought road win.  Then, the defense gagged it all away in a matter of seconds.

Notice a theme?  4 of 6 losses – including the pivotal final playoff loss – happened because the defense couldn’t shut things down when it mattered most.  Who do we blame here?  Was the defensive coordinator (Gus Bradley, who is looking like a shoo-in to be a head coach somewhere else in the very near future) taking the foot off the gas pedal?  I think that’s part of it, sure.  Was it inexperience in a defensive unit as a whole?  I also think that’s part of it.  I think as this unit matures, they’ll be less prone to finish games in such a bitch-like fashion.

Where did this team REALLY go wrong, though?  See:  the five regular season losses.  Particularly, see:  the three divisional losses.

I refuse to blame our woes entirely on the fact that we were stuck on the road in the playoffs, but I think it was a big part of it.  Give this team home field advantage, and I guarantee you things are different right now!

Had the Seahawks simply won two of those NFC losses (say, Arizona and Detroit), we would’ve been 13-3, with a 10-2 conference record.  A 13-3 record with a 10-2 conference record would’ve put us in the #1 seed over Atlanta (who also was 13-3, but had a 9-3 record in the NFC).  A #1 seed would’ve pushed San Francisco into the 5-seed and a date with Washington.  Meaning:  the Seahawks would’ve hosted either the 49ers or the Redskins with a hobbled RGIII this past weekend.  Given our home dominance, I’d say that’s no contest, either way.  Then, the winner of Atlanta/Green Bay would’ve also had to fly all the way out here only to get pummelled into submission by the 12th man.  Chris Clemons would likely still be healthy, and we’d be strolling into a Super Bowl matchup with New England.

You hate to pin all your Super Bowl hopes on having home field advantage, but it REALLY makes things a lot easier.  I would venture to say that this Seahawks team was good enough to get to the Super Bowl regardless of venue; they just weren’t good enough last Sunday.  But, if they can fix just that one thing – taking the #1 seed by closing out the games they’re supposed to close out – I don’t see why the 2013 Seahawks couldn’t be the REAL team of destiny.

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