Seahawks Morning After: Why Seattle is just as poised for a Super Bowl run as last year
The Seahawks have so far avoided the Super Bowl jinx and regained their swagger despite a midseason crisis and a flurry of injuries. Now armed with the NFC’s top seed, now no one wants to play them.
Seattle Times columnist
They stared down the reality of the post-Super Bowl blues. They withstood a midseason crisis that resulted in the ouster of Percy Harvin and intimations of a fractured clubhouse. They overcame injuries to key players and dug out of a hole that once threatened to keep them out of the playoffs.
The Seahawks did all that, gaining momentum and confidence and swagger and esprit de corps along the way. And now, this can be reasonably argued: The Seahawks are just as well-positioned to win the Super Bowl as they were a year ago. If not more so.
That notion would have been laughable after the 28-26 defeat against the Rams on Oct. 19 — the Harvin trade two days earlier still a fresh wound — that dropped them to 3-3. But the Seahawks are 9-1 since then, riding a six-game winning streak and sitting with the NFC’s No. 1-seed in their pocket. In other words, right back atop the list of teams you don’t want to face in the playoffs.
The Seattle defense down the stretch is playing even better than it did last year. Bob Condotta provides the statistical evidence here, but this is more about feel and aura than stats. Despite a reshuffling of personnel, the defense is every bit as punishing as last year, witnessed by the 10 consecutive defeats by Seattle’s opponents the week after playing the Seahawks.
And every bit as intimidating, particularly in concert with the roaring crowd at CenturyLink. Just listen to Rams coach Jeff Fisher after their 20-6 defeat Sunday: “What they have going here is special. You can’t hear on offense. They make you drive the football. They can rush the passer, they can stop the run. When you can’t hear here in this venue, it’s hard to do those things against a defense like that.”
The Seahawks’ offense, perceived as the team’s weak link, actually ranks ninth in the league in total yards, up from 18th a year ago. They are gaining 36 more yards per game than the 2013 squad, with Marshawn Lynch again a peerless force at running back and Russell Wilson a dual threat at quarterback.
Wilson rushed for 849 yards this season, sixth highest in NFL history for a QB, and though his touchdown passes dropped from 26 each of his first two years to 20 in 2014, his seven interceptions were a career low. Despite the loss of Golden Tate and departure of Harvin, the Seahawks’ passing yards per game were virtually identical to last year — 203.1, compared to 202.3 in 2013.
So they’re gaining a bit more on offense, and holding opponents to a bit less on defense — a whole bunch less, if you look at their current six-game winning streak in which they didn’t give up a touchdown in four of those games. The team last year, don’t forget, entered the playoffs with two defeats (to San Francisco and Arizona) in their final four games.
But the biggest reason the Seahawks are poised for a strong run at the first repeat title since the Patriots did it after the 2004 season might well border on the spiritual.
No need to rehash the oft-told tale of their leadership meetings after the Chiefs loss on Nov. 16 that resulted in what appears to be the most cohesive squad in the NFL. Just let this quote for Bruce Irvin sum it up: “I don’t think I’ve been part of a group as connected as I am with these guys — it’s a brotherhood around here.”
They also seem to have found an emotional rallying point, which was elusive early in the season coming off such a sainted 2013 campaign.
It’s hard to be the plucky underdogs when you’re coming off a title, but the Seahawks figured out a way. Struggle early, have everyone tell you that you’ve succumbed to the Super Bowl jinx, and use that to fuel your playoff run. Make yourselves the underdog.
“All you guys kept talking about how you can’t do this, and you can’t get to this point again, and you can’t come back and all this stuff,’’ Pete Carroll said Sunday. “You can. You can do it, and we just did it, to this point.
“We’ll see how we do in the playoffs. We got back to division champs, and that’s pretty rare. I’m really proud of that. That was the challenge. That made me more excited about this year than any year I can remember, because what if could pull this thing together and do something like this? We’ll show that we can, and there’s a way to do it.”
Now the Seahawks have to show there’s a way to take it to the finish. Asked if they were in as good a spot as they were a year ago heading into the playoffs, Richard Sherman shrugged and said, “I don’t know. We’ll see at the end.”
That’s the proper answer.
Even the 2007 Patriots, after a perfect regular season and two playoff victories, found out in their Super Bowl loss to the Giants there are no sure things in the NFL.
But the way they have things percolating now, the Seahawks are most definitely the team to beat. Again.