When the star free safety fractured his left leg Sunday night, it rerouted the Seahawks’ narrative. If they are to be true Super Bowl contenders — a label pundits have assigned them with from Day 1 — then the unit charged with scoring must become more dependable.
Keep in mind that winning in February is the Seahawks’ only goal. Nice as division titles and deep postseason runs might be, they’re inconsequential if the season doesn’t end with a hoist of the Lombardi trophy.
That’s why being supremely talented isn’t enough in the NFL. In a win-or-go-home playoff format, being consistent is a prerequisite for success.
Three quarters of the way through the season, the Seahawks’ offense has flashed signs of A-list ability. Russell Wilson has had stretches in which he looked like the league’s MVP. Jimmy Graham has reminded the nation he’s the NFC’s most gifted tight end. Doug Baldwin has shown he can make impossible catches, Tyler Lockett often has been impossible to catch, and in his first game at optimal health this year, Thomas Rawls has shown he can catch fire.
And yet as a whole, the offense has yet to show it can be consistent.
If the Seahawks are to be true Super Bowl contenders — a label pundits have assigned them with from Day 1 — then the unit charged with scoring must become more dependable. Especially now.
Truth No. 1: Earl Thomas is done for the year
When the Seahawks’ star free safety fractured his lower left leg against the Panthers on Sunday night, it rerouted his team’s narrative. As well as Seattle’s defense has been able to cope with multiple injuries this year, this one was particularly devastating.
When defensive end Michael Bennett missed five games due to a knee issue, Frank Clark mitigated his absence by recording three sacks during that stretch. And when strong safety Kam Chancellor missed four games because of a groin strain, the offense was able to put up enough points to beat Atlanta and Buffalo.
But Chancellor’s return against the Patriots showed how much more complete the Seahawks’ D was with him. And by most accounts, Thomas is the more valuable safety of the two.
In other words, points likely will be easier to come by for Seattle opponents now — which puts more of an onus on the offense than ever.
Truth No. 2: The Seahawks have not scored a touchdown in three games this season
And if not for a score in the final minute vs. Miami, it would be four times.
When you have a defense as stingy as Seattle’s, you usually can get away with having the league’s 14th-best offense. It’s just that, if you’re going to average 22 points the way the Seahawks do — you can’t do it by scoring 40 one week and five another.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll was asked if Sunday’s rout of the Panthers confirmed that the dud in Tampa Bay a week earlier was just a bad game. But the fact is, a “bad game” — at least offensively — has sprouted up in every month of the season.
Sometimes it has been Wilson unable to make throws. Other times it has been the running backs unable to move the ball. More than once it has been the offensive line unable to block anyone deciding to rush the quarterback.
And the most frustrating part is that every time it seems the offense appears “fixed,” it has to go right back to the repair shop.
Sunday was a majestic display of offensive productivity for the Seahawks. Rawls rushed for 106 yards and two TDs on 15 carries, four receivers had at least 63 yards, and aside from a throwing a careless interception in the first half, Wilson was on point.
The Seahawks’ 40 points were the most they’ve scored in a game since November 2013, which means that: A) They’ve finally found themselves offensively; or B) They’ll be shut out Sunday at Green Bay.
Truth No. 3: If the Seahawks want to build a dynasty, the window is now
It’s all there for the taking if Seattle can put it together. With no Rawls or Bennett, the Hawks went to New England last month and beat the Patriots on national television. That was the game Wilson inserted his name in the MVP discussion as the offense looked like it was back. But was it?
The thing about a team such as the Patriots, is that they don’t really have “dud” games. In fact, aside from the Seahawks, there isn’t a team with eight wins or more than has failed to score double digits this season. Seattle has done that three times (three points vs. the Rams, six vs. the Cardinals and five vs. the Bucs). That’s concerning.
Here’s what we know: With the personnel it has, the Seahawks’ offense is going to have a huge game again this season. But if the team wants a shot at another Super Bowl win, then it’s going to have to do it again … and again … and again … and again.