How can the same problems repeatedly doom one team? How can mental mistakes so consistently outshine physical talent? This season didn’t get away from the Seahawks — the Seahawks pushed it away.
This wasn’t about injuries. The Seahawks might have lost some premier players, but that’s not why their season ended before the New Year.
It wasn’t about bad breaks, either. As far as favorable bounces go, the football gods weren’t particularly unjust to Seattle this season.
No, the Seahawks missing their first postseason since 2011 is primarily due to this: underachievement. They aren’t going to the playoffs because, quite frankly, they never deserved to be in them.
Russell’s big year
Russell Wilson ended up leading the NFL in touchdown passes with 34 this season. Most came in the fourth quarter when Wilson threw an NFL-record 19 touchdowns.
Wilson also became the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 30 TD passes and 500 yards rushing in multiple seasons (he also did it in 2015).
“We have so much talent, we have expectations, we have a certain standard going into every season,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said. “For it to end this way is just really disappointing.”
How can the same problems repeatedly doom one team? How can mental mistakes so consistently outshine physical talent?
Historic penalty yardage, absent first halves, dropped balls, missed kicks. This season didn’t get away from the Seahawks — the Seahawks pushed it away.
Seattle’s 26-24 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday exemplified the headaches it has given fans all year. It didn’t matter that the Falcons also won Sunday — which officially knocked Seattle out of the playoffs — because the Seahawks couldn’t help their own cause.
Did you know that the Seahawks managed to score more than 10 first-half points just three times this year? And that includes 10 games in which they scored no more than seven first-half points.
There were times when it looked as if Seattle had one of the more potent offenses in the league — something quarterback Russell Wilson’s league-high 34 touchdown passes would attest to. But when a team is constantly playing from behind, fourth-quarter heroics can only go so far.
That was again the case Sunday, as the Seahawks began the second half down 20-7. The deficit provided no room for error — which is never good for perhaps the most erroneous team in football.
Seattle (9-7) finished the season with 1,342 penalty yards, which was just 16 behind the 2011 Raiders’ NFL record mark. And Sunday, 45 of those yards came … in about the most boneheaded fashion possible.
First there was running back Thomas Rawls, who took a 12-yard pass to Arizona’s 25 late in the third quarter. But after he was flagged for a 15-yard taunting penalty, the Seahawks were moved out of field-goal range and eventually forced to punt.
Then, there was defensive end Frank Clark getting called for roughing the passer early in the fourth quarter, although that eventually led to a Cardinals punt.
Finally, there was linebacker Bobby Wagner also earning a roughing-the-passer penalty, which extended the drive that led to an Arizona field goal and a 26-24 lead.
Sometimes, a high penalty total reflects a certain edge, and isn’t a concern for the coaching staff. That was the case for the 2013 and 2014 Seahawks, who each went to the Super Bowl despite leading the league in penalties.
This year’s blunders, however, weren’t a sign of tenacity — just a lack of discipline.
“I was so disappointed in the three penalties,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “In this season, with the margin of error we had, we weren’t able to overcome that stuff. It’s just an area of our football that has to change. I got to get that done. I got to get that changed.”
It wasn’t just the penalties, though. In the second game of the season, remember, the Seahawks dropped two balls in the end zone, but were able to escape with a 12-9 win over San Francisco. But Sunday, when tight end Luke Willson dropped a pass (albeit underthrown) at the Cardinals’ 5, it likely cost the Seahawks four points as they settled for a field goal.
And then, of course, there was kicker Blair Walsh — who missed three field goals in a three-point loss to Washington, a 52-yarder in the final seconds of a three-point loss to the Falcons, and a 48-yarder in the final minute Sunday.
Game over. Season over. And at this point, it almost feels merciful.
After the game, Wilson said that, at the start of the season, he thought this might be the best Seahawks team yet. That would have been quite the feat given what this organization has accomplished over the past few years.
Instead, given all the potential they had when training camp began, this year’s team leaves behind a more ominous legacy: most disappointing.