Thomas Rawls was a beast on Sunday. But the Seahawks offensive plays were otherwise conservative.
Thomas Rawls was a beast on Sunday. But the Seahawks' offensive plays were otherwise conservative. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

The Seattle Seahawks, despite being 2-3 after losing a heartbreaker 27-24 to the Bengals in overtime in Cincinnati, are not bad. Right now though? They’re heartbreaking. The Seahawks are a Michael Haneke film. In their last six games (including the Super Bowl) they’ve blown late leads in four of them, and come an inch away from blowing a lead in a fifth. Through three quarters they’re the Pete Carroll-Legion of Boom-Russell Wilson Seahawks. Then in the fourth they morph into the early-Mike Holmgren-era Seahawks, when Matt Hasselbeck was still figuring stuff out. Those Seahawks were too snake-bitten to put away their opponents, and lost some absolute crushers.

The question I have is why is this happening? And why now? Has anything changed? I’ll acknowledge that this run could just be a fluke; close games frequently come down to luck, and teams’ results in them are statistically volatile. But let’s set that aside. What could be going on?

Maybe the problem is conservative offensive play-calling. While Thomas Rawls was a beast on Sunday, putting up 169 yards (unbelievably, more than Lynch’s best one-game total with the Seahawks), in the fourth quarter the team seemed to keep beating the dead horse of inside counter runs on first down. And while the offensive line was not the dumpster fire they were against Detroit, it’s a big ask for them to keep plowing open holes against a very good Cincinnati front seven when they know what’s coming. Seattle became predictable, and they stopped getting into third and short, so they stopped scoring. This isn’t new for this team, who pride themselves on the ability of their run game to put teams away, even if the current roster isn’t set up to do so.

But really? Twenty-four points should have been enough against the Bengals. The bigger question that this game opens up for me is whether or not the simplicity of Seattle’s defensive scheme makes it easier to exploit later in games. The 2013 iteration of this team was able to overcome a lack of complexity through constant quarterback pressure. That squad had a bench full of Pro Bowl-caliber pass rushers they could rotate in. But with less depth, it’s possible that quarterbacks are able to find holes as the game goes on against Pete Carroll’s famously stingy pass defense.

But that doesn’t really hold water either. Of the four losses in these games in question, Andy Dalton and Nick Foles both made spectacular throws to double-covered tight ends that catalyzed their teams’ respective game-tying drives. And the other two games were against Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady,, the two best quarterbacks in the league. They make opponents look foolish on the regular. Also, the Seahawks are fairly deep at pass rush right now.

Which brings me back to flukiness. Sure, I’d love to see the Seahawks open things up on offense with a lead, and I’d love to see them get a game-sealing pick every single week to ice games against good opponents. And I’d really love to see them stop making boneheaded coverage lapses and giving up penalties. But those things won’t all happen. Also, with only four or five NFC teams playing particularly well, the Seahawks are one good break away from being right back in the playoff hunt.

Still though, I’m gutted after this week’s loss. I don’t think this team is a bunch of chokers or whatever talk radio bullshit will be spewed in the coming days, but (cue different talk radio bullshit) the aura of the Seahawks is tarnished. (Can you tarnish an aura? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.) What matters is that with a well-rested, undefeated Panthers team coming to town after a bye week, I’m a little scared. The Panthers always play tough against the Seahawks, but the last four times they’ve matched up, the Seahawks have managed to beat them at the end. Those were Pete Carroll Seahawks teams. This team? This team isn’t winning close games like a Pete Carroll Seahawks team.

So here we are, heading into week six, needing to find out what kind of Seahawks team we’ve got on our hands. If only I could think of a season where that happened and the Seahawks still ended up one play short of a Super Bowl championship.