The Seahawks are 2-3 after a sobering overtime loss in Cincinnati and looking very fallible. Is Seattle falling from champion into the NFL’s teeming middle class?
You can still twist your perception of the Seahawks’ season any way you want, up to and including seeing them twisting in the wind. Or flying another flag.
Hey, two overtime losses and a lead in the fourth quarter on the road against Green Bay is not nearly as dire as it seems. They’re an eyelash away from 5-0. Simmer down.
Yeah, but they’ve lost their killer instinct, and they’re one blown call against Detroit from being 1-4. Time to panic.
The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. But it’s time to face a sobering thought: the Seahawks’ days as a dominant, feared, intimidation-inducing powerhouse could be over.
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It’s a league, don’t forget, that’s designed to produce just that result, one built on the concept of perennial hope. The NFL wants to keep the powerhouses rotating, because that also keeps the doormats rotating. So everything is legislated toward parity, from the salary cap to the scheduling. So far, only the Patriots have been able to conquer those forces on a consistent basis.
Throw in the inevitable fallout from that plague known as Super Bowl hangover — forestalled by the Seahawks last year, but a very real phenomenon — and you have a team that’s suddenly become fallible. Which is quite different from one that will fall.
Looking at the remaining schedule, it’s possible to envision a path to the playoffs. But they are now downgraded from their former exalted status as a sure thing. They are, until proven otherwise, among the teeming masses in the NFL’s great middle class, battling to move on.
And I wouldn’t bet against them proving otherwise. As a team that seems to need adversity and outside doubt, real or imagined, as a galvanizing force, it has now created both for itself. The Seahawks have a history of breaking through such turmoil and coming out blazing on the other side. You need to look no further than last year, when they were mired in a similar 3-3 malaise, only to win nine of their last 10 and then advance back to the Super Bowl.
But right now the Seahawks are a team whose defense couldn’t hold a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati, and whose offense can’t figure out a way to integrate Jimmy Graham. They have a formidable divisional foe in Arizona that already has a two-game cushion and could yank away one of their biggest postseason weapons, the home-field advantage.
One of their cornerstone players, Marshawn Lynch, is battling injury at an age when bounce back is not guaranteed. Quarterback Russell Wilson is struggling to operate behind a developing offensive line.
Mostly, you have to wonder if all the distractions and allures that come with winning one Super Bowl and nearly another — endorsements, financial entitlements, a national spotlight — have drained just enough of the Seahawks’ vaunted fire and intensity to push them from the pinnacle.
The will to be great, and do great things, is elusive, and fleeting. Human nature takes care of that. The NFL tends to take care of the rest, by making it so expensive to keep your core players that you can’t sustain quality depth around them.
The Seahawks have hoped to get around that by virtue of superior scouting and continued shrewd player acquisition. But that’s an extraordinarily difficult route to navigate continually. You can’t keep churning out middle-round draft choices and undrafted free agents who turn into stars (though the Seahawks appear to have done it again with running back Thomas Rawls). Or if you can, you’d be in a very rarefied group.
The Seahawks of this era already have carved their place among the NFL’s legendary teams. In 20 years, authors will be writing paeans to one of the most colorful groups ever to grace the landscape, a dominant force that ruled the league for a time.
The question is whether that time is still now.