RENTON — It is, after all, just a building, if a rather large one — 1.7-million square feet spread over 25 acres off Arizona Loop 101 in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale.
But excuse the Seahawks — or at least their fans — if wondering whether what is now called State Farm Stadium but was previously known as University of Phoenix Stadium isn’t a little haunted.
In just the last five years, the Seahawks have lost a Super Bowl there on one of the most-debated play calls in sports history, participated in one of the most bizarre games in recent NFL history (a 6-6 tie in 2016, the lowest-scoring tied game since overtime was introduced in 1974) and watched helplessly as three of their most iconic players suffered injuries that ended their Seattle careers (Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in 2017, Earl Thomas in 2018. And, well, what happened when Thomas was then carted off the field, maybe the most ignominious and sad ending to a great Seattle sports career ever).
Only four players on the current roster were part of the team for all those games — quarterback Russell Wilson, linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner and center Justin Britt.
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Wright said this week the one that stands out to him the most is the tie, when the Cardinals and Seahawks played 75 fruitless minutes (something that couldn’t happen today — overtime was shortened to 10 minutes after that season).
“A lot of guys were confused like ‘a tie?’’’ Wright said. “We are not supposed to tie.’’
It remains the only tie in Seahawks history.
All of that may make it seem odder that other than the Super Bowl, Seattle hasn’t lost in Glendale since 2012 (though even the wins have been a little strange — when the Seahawks beat the Cardinals 36-6 there to end the 2015 season, Seattle’s four touchdowns were scored by Jermaine Kearse and the “how big of a Seahawks fan are you really?” knowledge-testing trio of Will Tukuafu, Bryce Brown and Chase Coffman).
“Weird stuff can happen here, too,’’ countered Seahawks coach Pete Carroll this week when asked about the Seahawks’ recent history there, before recalling last Sunday’s game against the Saints. “Sometimes, you can get hit right in the nose.”
Indeed, the Seahawks who have been part of all of that history mostly said all they are worried about is the present, and a game Sunday that suddenly looms far more pivotal than one might have been expected a week ago.
“The past is the past,’’ said middle linebacker Wagner. “You’ve got to be where your feet are. You’ve got to be present. You’ve got to be in the moment. A lot of those things that you’re talking about are negative things. You don’t re-live negative things. You try to move on and learn something positive from it. I feel like people need to be more present. That’s the problem. We’re always living in the past. The unfortunate past happened. We experienced that in the past. We learned from it and we’ve moved on. This is 2019. This is our first time going to Arizona. That’s how I treat it.”
The Seahawks certainly need to make the most of the moment Sunday and get what can legitimately be called a must-win if only because it’s truly a “can’t-afford-to-lose.’’
The Cardinals are 0-2-1 under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, with a statistical profile as bad as just about any team in the NFL outside of Miami, ranking 25th in total offense and 30th in total defense.
For all the angst about the Seahawks, Seattle ranks in the top 11 in both total offense (ninth, 390.7 yards per game) and defense (11th, 318.3).
And take out three touchdowns scored by opponents on either punt returns, fumble returns or 3-yard drives set up by fumbles and the Seahawks would also rank in the top 10 in both scoring offense and defense (without those three TDs, Seattle’s points per game allowed drops from 26.3 to 19.3 and would go from 25th in the NFL to 10th).
The good news, quarterback Russell Wilson has insisted all week, is that “it’s stuff that we can control.’’
But they’d better start controlling it.
Seattle may be 2-1, but it’s that sloppiness that has defined Seattle’s season so far. And it’s that sloppiness that is the team’s biggest danger heading to Arizona where the Seahawks know “weird stuff can happen.’’
With the 49ers standing at 3-0 and on a bye this week, and the Rams at 3-0 and hosting a struggling Tampa Bay team, the Seahawks are already in some danger of losing touch with the top of the division if they stumble —especially with a game on tap against the Rams next Thursday at CenturyLink.
It’s not stretching it to say the next week could well determine just how serious of a factor the Seahawks will be in the NFC West this season. The Seahawks could conceivably be anywhere from three games behind the Rams a week from now, or a game ahead.
So, excuse the Seahawks themselves if they’ll try not to get too wrapped up in the team’s recent horrific history in Arizona.
“It’s about this game,’’ Wilson said. “It’s about this opportunity.’’
One that, unlike what has happened a bit too much this season, the Seahawks can’t let slip through their hands.