When the Seahawks step onto Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, they will return to the scene where their shortcomings were exposed last year. Have they fixed what was wrong with them?
It was where their defense, considered the best in the NFL at the time, got picked apart like second-stringers.
It was where their quarterback, already an Emerald City legend, had the worst game of his career.
It was where one of the more impressive streaks in league history got snapped like a two-ounce twig.
And if you didn’t know already — it all happened there on the same day.
When the Seahawks step onto Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, they will return to the scene where their shortcomings were exposed last year. It was Week 13 vs. the Packers when it became clear they simply weren’t a championship team.
Now the Hawks head back to the scene of their most lopsided loss in six years with the chance to answer this question: Have they fixed what was wrong with them?
If the details of that defeat are a little fuzzy, here’s the recap:
1) Playing without free safety Earl Thomas, Seattle watched Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers complete 18 of 23 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns — good for a 150.8 passer rating.
2) Russell Wilson threw a career-high five interceptions and missed on a number of easy passes that could have kept the score close in the first half.
3) Falling 38-10, the Seahawks lost by more than 10 points for the first time in an NFL-record 96 games.
If something went right for Seattle that day, it was lost amid an ocean of awful.
Of course, it would be one thing if the Seahawks had snapped back into top-tier from in the weeks that followed, but that didn’t quite happen. Yes, they beat the Rams 24-3 in their next game, but that win was overshadowed by Richard Sherman’s sideline rant over the offense throwing the ball from the 1-yard line. The next week they fell 34-31 to the Cardinals.
The week after that? The Seahawks barely beat the 49ers, who finished with the NFL’s second-worst record. Then they struggled through the first three quarters vs. the Lions — who were ravaged by injury — in the first round of the playoffs. And finally, they got trounced 36-20 by the Falcons in the NFC divisional round.
In other words, after going 96 games without losing by more than 10 points, it took the Seahawks just five for it to happen again.
Analyzing what went wrong for a team that reached the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year would be a luxury for most fan bases — but the Seahawks aren’t most teams. The talent on the roster suggests that, over the past five years, this is a dynasty-caliber team falling shy of dynasty-level results.
So is this the season they return to their Super Bowl ways? Is that window open wide enough to slip a Lombardi Trophy through? Well, that a depends …
It depends on health, for one. Thomas might not have single-handedly been able to stop Rodgers, Carson Palmer or Matt Ryan last year, but it’s clear his absence was felt. The best teams can overcome the loss of superstars (see: 2016 Patriots, Rob Gronkowski), but if an injury comes at a key position, it’s hard for most teams to still excel.
It depends on Wilson, too. Russell had the NFL’s top passer rating in 2015, when he put together what might be the best five-game stretch for a QB ever. Last year, however, injuries and a tenuous offensive line slowed him through much of the season. That said, his mobility had returned during the tail end of the season, and yet there still were moments of inconsistency. Can he play at an MVP level? Because the Seahawks might need him to.
And it also depends on the offensive line. This has been the biggest area of concern for the Seahawks for a few years now, and the situation got even more precarious when left tackle George Fant suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Seattle’s offensive identity used to lie in its ability to run the ball. But last season, suspect blocking (and suspect running backs) rendered them NFL’s the eighth-worst running team.
The Seahawks made plenty of additions during the offseason. They brought on running back Eddie Lacy, traded for All-Pro defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and selected offensive lineman Ethan Pocic in the second round of the NFL draft.
They also return a healthy Thomas, a lighter Wilson and one of the most ferocious front sevens in league history. Will it be enough to get them back to the top? We might get a glimpse of that Sunday.
The Seahawks’ decline began at Green Bay last year. Their resurgence might start there this year.