This is the end… my only friend… the end…
The Seahawks showdown with the Rams on Sunday was the most important regular season game in the Russell Wilson/Pete Carroll era of the franchise. Win? The team was almost assured a playoff spot. Lose? The season was all but over.
And let me tell you, they sure lost comprehensively. The final score was 42-7, and that margin in no way flatters the Rams, nor does it overstate the poor performance that the Seahawks put in on Sunday. The Seahawks were as bad as I can remember seeing them in all three phases of the game, and I’ve been watching them since before Rick Mirer was on the scene. And, unless things break really right, the Seahawks aren’t going to be in the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Let’s go through what may be the end of an era, beat by devastating beat:
• Russell Wilson was very bad on Sunday. He was absolutely under duress for much of the game, but even given the massive pressure he was dealing with, he was inaccurate on a number of opportunities to hit for big plays. Also, his offensive line did him no favors, with even stalwarts Duane Brown and Justin Britt looking overwhelmed against an excellent Rams front. That said…
• The receiving corps of the Seahawks was dreadful. Dreadful. Doug Baldwin was invisible, and I continue to believe he has some nagging injury limiting his explosiveness. His route running still creates separation, but he seems a step slow on deep passes, and an inch or two short on the high passes he made his name corralling.
Meanwhile, both Tanner McEvoy and Jimmy Graham dropped explosive passes in the first quarter that turned the game. McEvoy’s was a devastating turnover, Graham’s forced the Seahawks to punt out of their own endzone, leading to one of many Pharaoh Cooper punt returns (aided by uncalled penalties, but, really, who cares). It was bad all around from the Seahawks receivers in ways that I’m still wrapping my head around.
• Jon Ryan has gone full Steven Hauschka… and sadly, I mean that in a bad way. For all the fond memories we have of Hauschka, the reason he’s no longer a Seahawk is that he stopped making extra points last year. Similarly, Ryan has stopped pinning opponent’s deep; every kick is either short or through the back of the end zone.
Special teams play has improved so much league wide, that these sort of fundamental errors are beyond what any NFL team can tolerate. My hope is that Ryan, who is by all accounts (like Hauschka) a phenomenal dude, and a phenomenal member of the team for a long time, rebounds like Haushcka and does it as a Seahawk. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team moves on from him this offseason.
• Pete Carroll looked and sounded baffled in his post-game press conference. His team simply hasn’t performed this way once in his tenure. Injuries are a reasonable excuse for what has happened; let’s face it, to lose five All-Pro caliber guys and still (likely) finish with a winning record is a pretty solid accomplishment for most franchises. But the Seahawks have been better than that during Carroll’s tenure, and I’ll be fascinated to see what happens this offseason. Is he all-in? Does he fire some guys? Does he bring in an heir apparent? Does he step away, knowing the team is rebuilding? It’s crazy to think we’re asking these question two weeks after beating the Eagles and reasserting ourselves in the Super Bowl conversation, but man, those were two bad losses.
• All credit to the Rams. They played really well. Their offensive line and running game destroyed the Seahawks. Todd Gurley is legit. Jared Goff is good enough. Aaron Donald is a force, and their defense is largely healthy. Sean McVay is a phenomenal young offensive coach, and pairing him with veteran coordinator Wade Phillips was as smart a coaching pair-up as this league has seen in a while. As bad as the Seahawks were on Sunday, they’ve gotten away with similarly bad first half performances before. The Rams stepped on the Seahawks throat, showing a killer instinct we’re not used to seeing from opponents.
Every bounce went the Seahawks way the first time they played the Rams; this game was the opposite. The Rams are the better team right now; these two teams at full strength are an excellent match for one another, but the Seahawks are limping and the Rams aren’t. Despite Vegas’ crazy Seahawks favored line, we would have needed every bounce to beat this Rams team and we got damn near none of them. Oh, well.
• Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner sparred in public post game, and both were right and wrong in the process. Earl in his post game interview said Bobby shouldn’t have played given his limited mobility from his hamstring injury. He was right! Wagner was a shell of himself on Sunday, and did more harm than good in terms of run defense. Also, Earl sat out games and let Bradley McDougald play in his place while he recovered from the exact same injury earlier this year, and the team was better off for it.
Wagner then took to Twitter to basically tell Earl to shut up. He, too, was right! Earl shouldn’t have raised those issues in the press. And it’s not as if Wagner playing was the difference in an utterly comprehensive defeat. The whole thing is kinda sad and kinda funny. Hopefully those two can work through this as they are the veterans who will likely still be huge pieces of this team going forward.
• We’re gonna lose some stars this offseason. I would be surprised if the team brought back more than one of Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They might not bring any of those four guys back. That is a ton of rotation for a team that has had an exceptionally stable core on defense for half a dozen years.
• Look, I’m not going to lie to you guys: I didn’t go through a Jim Morrison phase in high school. But I know people who did. And if I had? Well, this would be a real flashback. A good but flawed Seahawks team with star-crossed luck gets shelled late in the season to fall out of the playoff race? That’s very early-aughts, emo Seahawks. That lives in the DNA of this franchise; at the same time it’s not in Pete Carroll’s DNA.
All that said… this team could still make the playoffs. If the (extremely short-handed) Bucs beat the Falcons tonight, the Seahawks basically just need to win out. Really, though? I don’t think it’s going to happen. I just think this team is too broken. But that’s okay. I’ve rooted for good but not great teams before. In 2006, the Seahawks got shredded a few times, and still eked into the playoffs at 9-7. 9-7 won’t do it in this year’s NFC, but that was a fun season (except when Matt Hasselbeck got hurt).
I’m not going to do my full eulogy for the era yet (because the era is only half over… this is a tease for what I’m going to write when the Seahawks are bounced this year… or after they hoist a very improbable Super Bowl trophy…), but I’ll just say, have some fun. We play the Cowboys this week. I hate the Cowboys! Let’s beat them, not to win the Super Bowl, but because beating the Cowboys is fun as hell. And if we lose? Eh! That’s life. Sometimes you lose.