This is a weird Seahawks team that’s currently heading into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This is going to be a Memory Lane post about the Seahawks, so let’s take a little trip.
The 2018 Seahawks were a very pleasant surprise, considering a lot of people thought this team would be starting a massive decline phase after our Championship Window closed, but we won 10 games and were a 5-seed in the NFC. That team was a lot like this year’s version, except I would argue we’re MAYBE a little better this year. That being said, they still had a dominant 27-3 win over Oakland in London as probably their most complete win of the season.
The 2016 season was the last time we made it this far in the playoffs; that was the aforementioned closing of the Championship Window for this team under Pete Carroll. After a somewhat rocky start, we had really significant victories over Carolina (40-7) and later the Rams (24-3) down the stretch to propel us into the second round of the playoffs.
We had plenty of lopsided victories throughout our major run from 2012-2015. Sometimes they come early; usually we get one or two late. But, this team almost always finds a way to put a complete, 60-minute game together in all three phases.
Yet, here we are, heading to Green Bay this Sunday, and 2019 is severely and bafflingly lacking.
It’s not for lack of cupcake opponents, either! The Bengals won 2 games; they have the number one pick in 2020; they played us to the bitter end on our own field and only lost by a single point. The Panthers and Cardinals both won only 5 games; we won in Carolina by less than a touchdown, and we actually GAVE Arizona one of their victories (again, on our home field) by two touchdowns. Cleveland, Tampa, and Atlanta were all on our schedule, and all were 1-score victories for the Seahawks.
The closest we get to a real DOMINATING performance by the Seahawks is either our victory in Carolina (where we were up 30-10 in the fourth quarter before a rash of injuries allowed them to pull it close in the final minutes – with an opportunity to win had we punted back to them on our final drive) or our 27-10 victory down in Arizona in Week 4, which was the only game we won all season that was more than a 1-score game (we LOST three games by more than a single score, and it’s pretty easy to find games where we were simply out-classed).
I won’t downplay that victory over Arizona – it was the only reason why we ended up with a positive point-differential this season, after all – as I wrote the next day, the game was never seriously in doubt. But, there was something less-than-satisfying about the 17-point victory. As unsatisfying as it can be to win by 3 scores, anyway.
For starters, we were up against a rookie quarterback making just the fourth start of his career. #1 overall pick or not, that’s a game you should win. Primarily, though, that Cardinals defense was truly atrocious, and as I wrote about in my post-game blog post, we left points on the field.
It was 20-10 in the fourth quarter when we got the ball back, and that’s with the Cardinals missing two make-able field goals in the first half. It took an 8-minute clock-killing touchdown drive to give the game its final score; had we mucked it up there, who knows where the game ends up?
That’s a far cry from the 58-0 shellacking we gave the Cards back in 2012 (followed by a 50-17 drubbing in Buffalo, followed by a 42-13 dismantling of the eventual Super Bowl participating 49ers … ahh those were the days).
The most points we scored in 2019 was 40 against the Bucs, and we needed every one of them as that was an overtime thriller that required us to come back from 14 points down late in the second quarter.
The fewest points we’ve given up this year was 9, both against a broken and beaten-up Eagles team; and we could only muster 17 on offense each time to get the W’s.
Part of me has obviously belabored the same point: this is TOTALLY unsustainable. We can’t continue to win close game after close game. And, when you figure our opponents only get better from here, the odds of us putting together a complete, 60-minute game in all three phases feels like slim-to-none.
What’s most galling is that these Seahawks CLEARLY have the potential to have gotten this done. At full strength, on paper, these Seahawks are one of the best 8 teams in the league, and that’s proven out with this playoff run. The problem is, the Seahawks have rarely been at full strength, especially when you factor in the “on paper” aspect.
On paper, Jarran Reed was coming off of a 10-sack season; he missed the first six weeks to suspension, took a while to get going, and ultimately never lived up to that lofty ideal. On paper, Ziggy Ansah was supposed to – ideally – give us at least 75% of what Frank Clark did last year; he started the season injured and turned out to be totally finished for his NFL career. On paper AND on the field, Jadeveon Clowney has produced like a guy deserving of $20+ million a season, but he’s dealt with injury issues of his own (that currently still plague him to at least a moderate degree) and missed some games here and there. Injuries to Diggs and Griffin in the secondary killed any chances we had of winning the NFC West and a first round BYE. Our tight end room has been reduced to rubble at times. I’m still convinced everyone on our O-Line has been playing through injuries, and now those chickens are coming home to roost with our older veterans – Brown and Iupati – starting to wear down and miss game time. David Moore missed time early in the season; Malik Turner and Jaron Brown have missed time late; and Josh Gordon was a whirlwind affair that blew up in our faces spectacularly.
The point is, there hasn’t been a single game this season where we’ve been anywhere near full strength; there’s always been at least one or two or a half dozen guys out with injury or suspension or playing through some stuff. But, of course, you can say that about every team. And yet, look through the playoffs at the remaining teams and you’re bound to find at least one or two super-dominating performances.
Look no further than the supposedly-mediocre Packers and you’ll find their schedule littered with double-digit victories.
So, while that part of me feels like we missed our chance to put it all together, there’s a teeny, tiny part of me that kinda sorta feels like we might be due. I know that’s dumb, and prior results have no bearing on future performance. But, this is an 11-win Seahawks team playing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs; SURELY we can do better than a 17-point victory over a God-awful Cardinals team in the first month of the season as our Signature Victory.
Most likely not. But, I’d still like to think so. For what it’s worth – barring any setbacks in practice this week (or any more failed drug tests, etc.) – we should be as healthy as can be heading into this Sunday. There apparently weren’t any setbacks with our most important defenders; Clowney, Diggs, and Wagner all made it through okay. Ansah’s season is probably over, but he also wasn’t giving us anything anyway. Duane Brown is a big question mark – and he’s sorely missed – but Mike Iupati is trending in the right direction, which is huge for our running game and our interior pass protection. His presence should make George Fant’s life easier on the edge. Hollister and Willson are a great duo at tight end, and it looks like at least Jaron Brown will be back this week for a little more help outside (particularly in run blocking at the receiver position). And, sure, the running back room is still in shambles, but Lynch continues to look better each and every week, and figures to have enough game prep under his belt to make more of an impact than the 28% of snaps he played against the Eagles. I know the Packers also sport a stout run defense, but with Lynch more involved, we should certainly see better rush numbers in this one.
Look, if it’s ever going to happen – if we’re ever going to have that bonzer, soul-crushing performance – it would have to be this week. I’m beyond ready to expect this will just never happen for the Seahawks this season, but you never know.