One hesitates to characterize Sunday’s gruesome loss to the Bears as rock bottom for the Seahawks, because the Detroit Lions come to town in a week. So it can indeed get worse.
But that’s a technicality. Everyone who watched this game, who saw the Seahawks blow a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter … at home … to one of the lowliest teams in the league … which was starting its third-string quarterback … knew what they were watching.
Namely, a once-proud team that is broken so badly it is unrecognizable. The Seahawks can no longer pretend they are anything but one of the worst teams in the NFL, one whose legacy can’t hide the warts and flaws.
That’s what the Seahawks’ 5-10 record says, loudly and clearly. But what speaks that hard truth even more definitively is the across-the-board failures that keep cropping up, week after week.
A bad season officially segued into a disastrous one when this monstrosity of a 25-24 loss to the Bears concluded with an errant Russell Wilson pass, under duress. That came after Chicago had driven 80 yards for the go-ahead score, after Seattle had gifted them that opportunity with an ill-timed sack and botched field-goal attempt.
Chicago had lost eight of its previous nine games. The Bears’ dysfunction was manifest. This should have been a gimme, a temporary salve to the deep cut of being essentially eliminated from playoff contention a week earlier.
Instead, it turned into the most starkly painful and potentially symbolic moments of the Pete Carroll era. Afterward, a subdued Carroll called it “about as disappointing a loss as we’ve had.” Wilson said, “We definitely should have had this one.” Linebacker Jordyn Brooks said: “It hurts. This is a game we’re not supposed to lose.”
But there are no longer any games you can legitimately say the Seahawks are “supposed” to win. The only remaining thing for the Seahawks to cling to is the fact that so many of their losses are by close margins. But that just reinforces the sea change that has taken place with this organization, which can no longer rely on Wilson or anyone else to pull it out of danger.
“Typically in Seahawk history, the ball bounces our way,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “This season, it hasn’t. Look at Seahawks history and how many close games they win. This year, we haven’t won enough of them. That’s clearly why we’re in the position we’re in.”
The entire Seattle season has had an “end of an era” vibe to it, but this game felt definitive. There’s little question that major changes in personnel, philosophy and leadership must take place. The only question remaining is the will of the people in charge to acknowledge that reality.
Otherwise, we’ll have to get used to what Sunday represented: a game that had absolutely no playoff ramifications and was essentially meaningless, once you get past the intrinsic measuring stick of pride. The Seahawks in the Wilson era have so rarely had the experience of playing out the string — one game at the end of the 2017 season, essentially — that it was a stark reminder of how dreary that position can be. And how focused the Seahawks as an organization have to be on making sure it doesn’t become a regular occurrence.
Oh, there was a modicum of entertainment value to Sunday’s game, mostly brought out by the elements attached to a once-a-decade snow game in Seattle. And if this had been a must-win game for playoff qualification or seeding, imagine the sheer intensity of the final 10 minutes.
But instead, it was two teams going nowhere, playing a sloppy game that happened to go down to the wire. The main reason for engagement was to root for guys on your fantasy team. Think of an extra-innings Mariner game against the Orioles in mid-September after both teams had been mathematically eliminated.
It reinforced how good Seahawks fans have had it, with season after season of games that crackled with significance all the way to the end. But that’s not a birthright. Such relevance has to be earned. And for the Seahawks, it now must be regained.
To his credit, Carroll refused to blame this loss on either the weather or the short turnaround from their Tuesday game against the Rams. What he did blame was himself for a game the Seahawks could have easily put away on offense down the stretch, and could have put away on defense with a stop on the final drive.
“I feel like I have to do more,” Carroll said. “I feel that at a time like this, I gotta find ways to help our guys do more, so that we don’t get in a situation where we even give them a chance.”
The most striking play was the 13-yard sack Wilson took on third down as the Seahawks were driving toward a put-away score in the fourth quarter. Jason Myers then missed a 39-yard field goal that was extended from what would have been a 26-yarder had Wilson thrown the ball away.
Carroll said that Wilson should have done just that — “We can’t take a sack there.” Wilson said he was just trying to make a play, knowing that they were in field-goal range either way.
Bottom line is that the Seahawks, whose ability to finish games has been their calling card, have completely lost that skill. And Carroll again put that on himself.
“I’m not calling out players for not responding; I have to respond better,” he said. “I’ve got to do more for them and help them more.”
He added, “Maybe that’s the coach’s ego, but I have to do better.”
The Seahawks, at least, should now know the full extent of their predicament.