The Seahawks’ aura has changed. That’s not a rash overreaction to a close loss to the Falcons on Monday night. It has been changing the past couple of years but more glaringly throughout this season, in which almost every game has been a struggle, even the wins.
This is not an obituary for the Seahawks, because it is still too early, and also foolish, to write off this season, as devastating as Monday’s loss to Atlanta was. A team that can hang with the defending NFC champions even while shorthanded and even while making egregious mistakes is still fully capable of a run.
But it is a lament, of sorts. This might be too melodramatic, but it seems as if something tangible, and especially intangible, has changed with the Seahawks, a big-picture transformation of the very essence of the franchise for these past five years.
An era, it feels like, is ending. Or more like an aura.
Maybe it was creeping up on us all along, or maybe it arrived all of a sudden with the departures of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, probably for the season in both cases and possibly forever. The diminishment of the Legion of Boom provides an especially poignant reminder that things just aren’t the way the used to be, and may never again be.
Whatever it was that made this entire group special — and the Seahawks were radiant, brash and endlessly engaging over what certainly must be called a golden era — seems to have slipped past, as happens inevitably in a sport as violent and ephemeral as NFL football. At least, to those teams not named the Patriots.
The Seattle aura has changed. You feel it too, right? That doesn’t mean they aren’t good and can’t be better down the stretch. It doesn’t mean they don’t still have talent, including many key survivors from the franchise’s prime that produced two NFC titles, a Super Bowl win, and the overriding feeling every year that something special, something electric, was always possible.
It doesn’t feel that way so much anymore. That’s not a rash overreaction to a close loss, a result that could have been different if Blair Walsh’s final kick went just a foot or so farther, or if Pete Carroll hadn’t inexplicably bypassed a nearly automatic field goal for an ill-advised fake. It has been changing, maybe imperceptibly in the past couple of years but more glaringly throughout a season in which almost every game has been a struggle, even the wins.
Time, still the only undefeated foe, marches on (and one day will vanquish even the Patriots). Players recede and regress, in Seattle’s case victimized by the harsh reality of a brutal sport. No question the Seahawks have been ravaged by injuries, and that took its toll again on Monday in their 34-31 loss to the Falcons.
The Legion of Boom, already down its two vintage members, lost rookie cornerback Shaq Griffin early in the game. Mike Davis, the latest running back trying to invigorate that struggling position, went out as well, adding to a growing list of injured players that also includes defensive stalwart Cliff Avril.
Of course, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan tried to prey on the depleted Seattle defense, and though his numbers were not sparkling — just 195 passing yards, incredibly snapping a streak of 64 games with 200 or more yards through the air — the Falcons were 9 of 14 on third downs, the key stat in the game.
“Once again, they took advantage of some of the injuries we had,’’ defensive end Frank Clark said. “We got some younger players in there, and they took advantage of that by throwing some stuff over the top. They knew we were a little weaker there. They took advantage of everything they had.”
Once, the Seahawks were able to break a team’s will, especially at CenturyLink Field. Now they have lost two in a row at home and find themselves in danger of missing the playoffs for just the second time in the Pete Carroll era, and first since 2011. The only games that have felt truly dominant were against the dregs of the league, the Giants and Colts. They barely beat the 49ers, another bottom-feeder.
This was almost a stirring comeback win, which might have muted this narrative, at least temporarily. Talking about their fourth-quarter rally, tight end Luke Willson said, “I thought it was pretty vintage us.” But the Seahawks are no longer finding ways to win games like this. They didn’t against Washington, another game with a fourth-quarter rally that fell short, and they didn’t against the Falcons, a game in which they were playing catchup virtually from the start.
It feels like teams aren’t as intimidated by the Seahawks, and once you’ve lost that, it’s hard to get it back. The Seahawks still can be good, they still can win games, they still can even make the playoffs. Safety Earl Thomas insisted, “We’ve still got enough.”
That’s a proud warrior clinging to the glory days, and veteran teammates such as Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Michael Bennett will do all they can to see if they can be sustained, or at least revived.
But dominance is fleeting in the NFL. It was fun while it lasted. It was more than that — it was glorious. You can still hear echoes of that time and see glimpses of the Seahawk era, and aura, when you look at this year’s team. But you can also see the ravages of time, hard at work.