The Seahawks’ loss to the St. Louis Rams continued a frustrating trend of losing games because of their own mistakes. With the playoffs looming, can they clean things up?
Spill a drink, and you have a stain. Drop some papers, and you have some clutter. Neglect your trash can, and you might have a few ants over for dinner.
Annoying as each may be, they’re not overwhelming by themselves. But when they take place one after the other — pretty soon you’re dealing with a full-on mess.
Enter the Seahawks.
Obviously, this team avoided regular-season catastrophe by clinching a playoff spot two Sundays ago vs. the Browns. However, that only moved Seattle inches — not yards — closer to its goal of a world championship. The truth is, the Seahawks are on the cusp of having to make a K2 climb back into the Super Bowl.
And they have only themselves to blame.
Blunder upon blooper upon brain fart has helped define this bizarre Seattle season. Despite a wave of injuries affecting key players throughout the year, six losses through 15 games feels like the maximum allowable number of defeats for a group this talented.
And given how the Seahawks will face a motivated Cardinals team in Arizona on Sunday, it could very well be seven losses by regular season’s end. The consequence? Seattle may have to beat the Nos. 3, 2 and 1 seeds on the road to win the NFC.
It’s not as if history is without sixth seeds that have hoisted the Lombardi trophy. The 2005 Steelers accomplished the feat (Seahawks fans won’t forget that anytime soon) and the 2010 Packers did it, too. But stockpiling road wins against the league’s best generally comes with Elmer Fudd-vs.-Bugs Bunny-like odds.
So how did the Hawks end up here?
First, it’s impractical to assume there won’t be mental or physical gaffes throughout an NFL game — even for teams that rout their opponents. There are dozens of plays involving world-class athletes moving at speeds incomprehensible to those not on the field.
But in the Seahawks’ losses, there has been either a pronounced mishap or a thematic series of goofs that have cost them the win. And they started from the get-go.
In Week 1, as you likely remember, the Seahawks led the Rams by seven with 53 seconds to go. Then, on third-and-five, Nick Foles hit Lance Kendricks for a 37-yard TD pass as Seattle safety Dion Bailey slipped on the coverage.
One week later — and this was probably the most excusable of these examples — the Seahawks trailed the Packers by seven with 6:57 left. Then, on first-and-10 from his own 42, Russell Wilson threw an interception to effectively end the Hawks’ chances.
In Week 5, the Seahawks blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead against the Bengals, as the secondary was inexplicably exposed. The next week vs. the Panthers, another multiple-score fourth-quarter lead was squandered — the exclamation point coming when Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas lined up in different coverages and watched Greg Olsen catch a 26-yard TD pass with 32 seconds to go.
In the Week 9 loss to the Cardinals, the 14 penalties for 131 yards kept Seattle “behind schedule” throughout the game.
And then, of course, there was Sunday against St. Louis, when two bad snaps by Patrick Lewis stifled separate drives, possibly costing the Seahawks points in their 23-17 defeat.
Add all of that stuff up, and it brings us to the status quo. It brings the Seahawks to the point where instead of facing a so-so Washington team in the first round, they may have to face the Packers in Green Bay or the suddenly rejuvenated Vikings.
That might not mean much to the casual observer, who just thinks “playoffs? Check.” — and assume Seattle is all good. In the NFL — the epitome of parity in professional sports — teams need every possible advantage and benefit they can get.
As a sixth seed, the Seahawks won’t have any of those.
It’s still possible that Seattle makes a run and finds itself back in the big game. And if the Hawks do that, it will be one of the Emerald City’s all-time great sports stories.
But if they make a big mistake that costs them a playoff win, it will just be the same story we’ve seen all year.